A Health Update {Hashimoto’s, pregnancy, fertility, and food}

19wkbelly

It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about my health here, and I know some of you might be curious how things are going with treating my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) naturally, and how it has affected my pregnancy.

Quick background: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in summer 2013, after years of not being able to find any answer to why I felt completely awful so much of the time. This diagnosis lead to massive changes in my already “healthy” diet. Over the previous years I’d been vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, avoided processed and refined foods, done detoxes, and yet still had very little energy and got debilitating headaches more days out of each month than not.

Once I learned the root cause of all of these problems, I was quite determined to learn to manage it naturally and very much wanted to avoid the need for any medication. I began researching a ton and found that much of what I’d always known to be true in the realm of nutrition, actually wasn’t (at least not for every person). In the midst of all of this I was also trying to conceive our third baby, and after 1.5 years of trying was diagnosed with PCOS. I learned that hormone balance depends on an abundance of healthy fats, and that I needed more quality proteins to help keep my blood sugar stable. I was told to avoid gluten, as it increases inflammation for people with autoimmune disease, and as I dug deeper I found that same to be true of legumes, sugar, dairy, and grains in general. All signs pointed to a grain-free, primal (paleo) diet, and I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t eaten any gluten at all since January 2014, and permanently quit dairy and corn a while after that upon seeing so clearly how much they affected how I feel. I rarely eat sugar (refined white sugar, almost never) or legumes, and I have gone many stretches being completely grain-free. This has been such a huge change, and definitely not always easy. I miss lentils and bread, but when I think about how I used to feel when eating them frequently, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

ultrasound

So back to pregnancy. After over a year and a half of trying to conceive, even with all these dietary changes my progesterone was still low, so I was put on a natural compounded progesterone. We found out in late June of last year that I was pregnant, just weeks after starting the hormone treatment. At 8 weeks, it ended abruptly in a miscarriage. I don’t know, and will never know, if Hashimoto’s was to blame at all, but after it happened I became a lot more careful with my diet, avoiding inflammatory foods and increasing healthy fats and veggies. In January, after more months of overusing pregnancy test strips and wondering if it would ever happen, once again I was faced with two little pink lines. This time felt so different though. The anxiety that had surfaced after my miscarriage attacked with a vengeance, and I fought it every day with prayer, faith, and essential oils. When I passed the 8-week mark where I’d been last time, and especially when I reached the 12-week mark where risk is considered much lower, I began to relax. Twelve weeks happened to come almost exactly when I’d been due with the one we lost, which was bittersweet but also healing for me. With the second trimester came the end of my constant nausea, and I entered the phase of truly enjoying this pregnancy.

My morning (read: all-day) sickness in the first 12 weeks made it basically impossible to stay as strict with my diet as I had been. I still avoided gluten, sugar, dairy, and most legumes, but added some grains back to save my sanity. Protein-rich foods often made me feel ill by simply thinking of them. Even now, I’m eating rice or a piece of millet bread here and there, and simply trying to listen to my body and discern what it needs on any given day. Sometimes that’s a big green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, banana, avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes it’s sweet potatoes, or raw coconut oil chocolate, or some eggs or grass-fed beef. Most of my cravings have been along those lines, though sometimes it’s for things like donuts or ice cream and I’ve had to find creative healthy ways to satisfy that!

breakfast

Pregnancy can affect thyroid problems pretty drastically at times, and for the first time I have needed a low dose of thyroid medication. I don’t love being on it, and am hoping to be able to stop after baby comes, even if it means getting even more strict with food for a while. I truly believe that the body can heal itself, but I don’t want to do any experimenting with thyroid levels while I’m pregnant.

Despite that, this has overall been the best I have ever felt while pregnant. I have more energy than I remember having with the boys, much fewer headaches, and most significantly much fewer digestive problems. My first two pregnancies involved almost constant tummy issues—painful indigestion practically ever time I ate—and now it’s pretty rare and usually directly linked to slipping up and eating something I shouldn’t (like some corn chips, hummus, or peanuts).

Supplements are also pretty important when growing a human, and must go far beyond a simple prenatal vitamin.
I take a prenatal multi recommended by my nurse practitioner (who treats my Hashimoto’s). It contains methylfolate instead of the standard folic acid, which is absorbed much more readily by my body.
My other dailies are: fermented cod liver oil (one of the very best sources of essential fatty acids and vitamins A & D), a quality probiotic, curcumin (turmeric capsules, for inflammation), a special thyroid supplement from my nurse practitioner, and a magnesium/calcium drink.
I also use various essential oil daily according to what I need. One of my favorites is the Gentle Baby blend, which is specifically for pregnancy and babies. The book Gentle Babies has been a great resource for figuring out which Young Living oils can be used while pregnant.

gentlebaby

I think that just about covers it (for now anyway). What a wild ride this has been! I’m so thankful for all the knowledge I’ve gained and help I’ve received that has helped this pregnancy along so far and helped me grow the healthiest baby possible, and feel as well as possible so I can enjoy every moment of this. Now at 24 weeks, I am deeply aware of the magic of being her home for these months, her nourishment and protection. Every kick and squirm I feel is so very precious.

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hello, I’m a canary.

detoxwater

I can’t believe my last post on this blog was nearly a year ago. Suddenly I’ve had an urge to write publicly again lately, about things other than art and photography (which of course I do over here). I think Instagram is largely to blame for my absence here. It’s so easy to snap a photo and type out a little blurb about what’s happening in my life, and press share. Instant gratification. But I’ve got more on my mind these days and for some reason I have this innate pull to share it with whomever wants to listen. So here I am, once again. Hello :)

Ten months since my last post also means ten months since finding out I have Hashimoto’s. It’s been quite the journey, to say the least. After months of the strictest eating plan I’ve ever followed, my headaches were more frequent than ever and I felt awful. I spent the last few months of last year eating mostly healthy but with no restrictions. I was traveling, working quite a lot, doing the holidays thing, and I knew something had to change again at some point but I just wasn’t ready. In January I began reading more about Hashi’s and knew that gluten really didn’t have a place in my life anymore, and that it would have to be permanent. Apparently gluten and my thyroid look too similar to my crazy immune system, so when I eat gluten it creates antibodies to attack it, which then get confused and attack my thyroid too. So I made peace with saying goodbye to wheat, and honestly it hasn’t been as hard as one would think.

While this seemed to help some, I was still not feeling great. I saw an endocrinologist for the first time, and then received a recommendation from a friend for a nurse practitioner she sees for Hashi’s, who specializes in functional medicine. I made an appointment right away, and I’m so thankful. She confirmed my gluten-free decision, and prescribed a 10-day detox program, a daily circumin supplement (to reduce inflammation in my body), a predominantly alkaline diet, and then another blood test in a few months to see if my antibody levels decrease. So that’s where I am now. I loved the detox program. It wasn’t easy, but I felt so clear and just better. It’s been over a week since it ended, and so far I still haven’t eaten dairy or sugar because I just feel so much better without them. I’ve had coffee only once since, which is huge for me. I really enjoy coffee. But I’m trying to make it a once-in-a-while treat rather than a daily thing I depend on.

So right now, my diet is predominantly plant-based. I eat more vegetables and legumes than I ever have before. Fruit, some gluten-free grains, some fish and eggs, and sometimes poultry. I’m trying to purchase organic/wild caught/cage free whenever I can, and my current challenge is doing this while sticking with a reasonable food budget. (I’ll write a whole post on that endeavor soon.)

I do still get headaches, but they’re not as bad or as frequent since I did the detox. And there’s an obvious link between them and either lack of water or increase in stress. I read somewhere that people who have autoimmune diseases are like the canaries in the coal mine for everyone else. Things that everyone else should do, we just pay a much bigger price for ignoring them. We’re sensitive, so we have to take extra care with how we eat, what toxins we’re exposed to, our stress levels, sleep quality, and basically every area of self care. My body forces me to slow down and care for myself, and if I don’t I inevitably crash- unable to care for those who need me or keep up with my work and other responsibilities. Lots of people, when they hear how I eat now, say they could never do this, that they love bread and cheese and sweets coffee way too much. Trust me, I love them too. But the alternative for me is feeling exhausted constantly, in pain almost all the time, and consequently short on the patience and energy required to raise tiny humans, run a business, and live my life. Now, for the first time in years, I am myself more often then I’m not. I’m enjoying playing with my kids, and I have the energy to do the things I love. It’s amazing. Giving up those foods and changing my lifestyle doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore—it feels like an incredible gift.

beach

 

I’ll be back soon. (for real this time!)

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