May 30, 2014

going gluten free: introduction

Today marks my fourth day of following a gluten-free diet. But don't confuse me for a bandwagon jumper. Just a few months ago, I scoffed at the idea of going gluten free and thanked the Lord that, while I may have a myriad of health issues, celiac disease isn't one of them.

Then I learned I have a thyroid condition called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and that changed everything.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) between my sophomore and junior years of college. I had some scary symptoms that made my doctor suspect diabetes, especially since my dad has Type I, but the results came back pointing to the thyroid. I was told that I would have to take an inexpensive pill every day for the rest of my life, have lab work done once or twice a year, and that would be that.

And it was...until it wasn't. In 2010, I started having some weird symptoms—tingling hands, heart palpitations, anxiety, extreme fatigue, headaches, light headedness. I wore a heart monitor and had a brain scan. Everything came back normal. My doctor was mystified. I began seeing a chiropractor, who diagnosed a neck sprain. For a few months, I saw him three times a week, and I still see him once a month. He also had me start taking an iodine supplement called Iodoral. Almost immediately, I began to feel better.

Flash forward to the fall of 2012. Following an ill-fated two weeks on birth control (prescribed because of extremely painful periods), during which time I was constantly nauseous and emotional, I began to feel "off." Besides fatigue, heartburn, and fairly frequent abdominal pain, I couldn't really pinpoint what was wrong, but I knew something was. Every once in a while, my doctor (by this time a different doctor than the one who diagnosed the hypothyroidism) would adjust my thyroid meds—sometimes up, sometimes down—and she "diagnosed" me with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after an abdominal ultrasound didn't turn up anything alarming. She also tested my Vitamin D, which was very low. Supplements helped me feel some better, but I still knew something was wrong.

Then in October 2013, she ran a full thyroid panel and discovered my thyroid antibodies were high. She said this meant I had Hashimoto's, and we would regulate my meds by how I felt, rather than what the regular thyroid test said, for a while. She also recommended I stop taking the Iodoral. She didn't make a big deal about Hashimoto's, and I started feeling better once I stopped the Iodoral.

By April of this year, I was feeling horrible again, and I'd gained 10 pounds since October, though my eating habits and activity level remained the same (which is to say that I didn't really exercise—I wanted to, but I hadn't had the energy for it since starting to feel bad in 2012, but I didn't gain any weight until I stopped taking the Iodoral). When my blood work showed that my thyroid antibodies were still sky high (999), she referred me to an ENT. I had an ultrasound of the thyroid done, and it didn't show any suspicious nodes, which was good news. The bad news was the ENT couldn't really do anything for me, but he did take time to explain Hashimoto's. His recommendation was that I switch to name brand Synthroid (I had been taking a generic ever since my initial diagnosis), recheck my labs in three months, and then possibly see an Endocrinologist.

At this point, my frustration level was sky high. I had pinned my hopes on the ENT having answers, and when he didn't, I wasn't sure what to do. I thought about making a nuisance of myself and demanding a referral to an endo, but I'm not that girl (yet, anyway). What was I to do? I knew I didn't want to wait around anymore, but I had no idea what my next step was. Then, one night, I was on Facebook, and one of those Someecard pictures popped up in my feed. I can't remember what the photo was, but it had been shared from a page called Hypothyroid Mom. I clicked through to the page and found ... hope.

The women posting on Hypothyroid Mom are women just like me. We don't share all of the same symptoms, but someone mentioned each and every thing I deal with. It sounds crazy, but never before had I considered that there are other people who can truly understand what I'm going through—because they're going through it, too.

After finding Hypothyroid Mom (which is also a website), I started reading everything I could about Hashimoto's. There's a lot of conflicting information out there, but one thing that most people agree on is that a gluten-free diet can really help those with Hashimoto's to feel better. (I'm not talking about regular MD's here—the consensus across the board from patients and more "natural" doctors is that most doctors don't really understand Hashimoto's and treat it completely based on lab work.)

I truly believe God led me to the Hypothyroid Mom Facebook page. I had reached the end of what I knew to do, and this page has pushed me to start learning about my condition and take control of my health. I honestly don't know if going gluten free will help me, but why not give it a shot? I'm tracking my symptoms, what I eat, and how much I exercise each day. So far, I haven't really seen a difference, but it is just the fourth day. I'll post again next week about how I'm feeling and what I'm eating.

Until then, if you also struggle with thyroid issues (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, or Graves'), I'd encourage you to sign up for the Thyroid Summit. It starts June 2, and it's free to watch. I'm sure I won't watch everything, but I plan to view the presentations that pertain to me.

Here's to better health and surviving Hashimoto's!


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