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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Learning how to eat, again.

© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography
© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography

I know I said I was back, and then I left you hanging ;)

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with photographing awesome peeps in love and raising babies, and also for a while it felt like I’d hit a dead end on the path to ridding myself of headaches.

Then I heard about food sensitivity testing, which led me to a local natural health practice that offers such a test. After meeting with a practitioner there, I had a lot of blood drawn (like, I nearly passed out), and today I met with her for the results. Which led me back here, to this blog, because I’m just starting to process everything and it’s simply too complicated for an Instagram or Facebook post. I know it will be of no interest whatsoever to many out there, but writing always helps me process things.

The tests that were done were basically a full workup and hormone panel- vitamins, thyroid, and on and on- and a food sensitivity test called LEAP-MRT.

Much of my regular health labs came back good, but it’s been determined that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign entity, eventually resulting in severe hypothyroidism. It can progress over the course of years and even decades, and often in the beginning it isn’t detected because thyroid levels themselves will remain in normal range. The true test for the presence of the condition is a thyroid antibody test, which isn’t included in routine bloodwork. In all my years of seeing doctor after doctor for my headaches, most of them ordered blood tests, but this practitioner is the first who’s ever checked my thyroid antibodies. Even before true hypothyroidism occurs, symptoms can begin to show up and are often written off as unrelated and without apparent cause. It tends to be genetic, and my mom had it before finally having her thyroid removed last year. Mine is in very early stages still and does not require any thyroid replacement medicine. My nurse practitioner is optimistic that following the diet they’ve outlined for me will do a lot to keep my levels in check.

Hashimoto’s and food sensitivities often go hand-in-hand, so it turns out that the MRT results could help with it and my headaches (it’s likely the two are closely connected anyway). The foods I’m reactive to are broken into high and moderate reaction levels. For the next three months, I need to avoid all the food from both categories, and then I can challenge by moderately reactive foods one at a time. I wont bore you with the entire list, but suffice to say that for the next three months I have to avoid dairy, gluten, soy, rice, quinoa, oranges, onions, shrimp, walnuts, and several other foods.

The nutritionist I met with suggested I learn about the Paleo diet and the recipes that go along with it, and loosely follow that since there are so many grains on my “no” list. So here I go into entirely new food territory, re-learning how to eat (and shop, and cook). I’ve been pretty overwhelmed thinking about it today- knowing that I have to find alternatives for so many things I’m used to eating, and wondering how I’m going to organize our meals when I have to eat so much differently from my family. But I know I’ll find a groove with it, and if it leads to feeling well and being pain-free it will certainly be worth the effort.

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