Wednesday, April 9, 2008

About us and this blog

(I apologize if this reads a little choppy. It has been cut, pasted, and edited from things I've written elsewhere along my journey. I'm trying to consolidate everything here now.)

In April of 2006 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's/Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and am going through the journey of finding health again. I also have symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (another autoimmune condition), avoidant peronality disorder, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, PCOS, IBS, restless leg syndrome, rosacea and adult acne, and Bipolar tendencies. Autoimmunity means that my immune system is making antibodies that target and destroy parts of ME. My sister, mom, grandma, and countless others up the family tree have the same set of health issues. I recognize now that all these diseases and illnesses and autoimmune issues are just various labels that we try and apply to all these varied symptoms and issues. The root cause is the same, that is why there is so much overlap between the symptoms of all these labels.

The year and a half from October 2004 until my diagnosis in April of 2006 was a major struggle for me. It was like one day someone just threw a switch and my life changed. I wasn't me anymore. Even my personality seemed to change over that time period. I became more and more withdrawn, moody, angry. I became socially awkward. I battled depression and irritability; loss of energy and strength in my muscles. I was often lost in brain fog. I suffered from extreme fatigue and daily aches, pains, and stiffness. I gained over 50 pounds. In short, I turned 29 and by the time I hit 30 it felt more like 90.

But then I started fighting back. I started reading everything and anything I could on hypothyroidism, autoimmunity, nutrition, digestive health, etc. My first step towards better health was discovering the Schwarzbein Principle. A plan for healing metabolism written by Dr. Diana Schwarzbein. Basic concept is to help balance the endocrine system through nutrition; you eat healthy, unprocessed, and balanced meals. This helped me to learn exactly what my protein and carb needs were and what a balanced meal was. It also helped me to learn that my adrenal glands were severly burned out from all my sugar, caffeine, etc useage while I tried to cope with the thyroid symptoms. Schwarzbein's balanced nutrition lifestyle made a big difference in my energy levels and mood but I still felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle. Her books luckily also gave me the first glimmer that gluten may be problematic for some people.

My research eventually led me down a path that uncovered a long theorized (but hardly mentioned by mainstream doctors) connection between sensitivity to gluten and autoimmune thyroid disease. And no, you don't have to have full blown celiac disease (with all its gastrointestinal symptoms) in order to be gluten sensitive and have it destroy your health. Many with autoimmunity have what is termed silent gluten sensitivity. Molecular mimicry between the gluten and your own body tissues triggers your body to start making antibodies against itself, but doesn't always cause noticeable digestive symptoms. A similar process can occur and connections have been made between dairy and Rheumatoid Arthritis as well. It is believed by many that those suffering from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, PCOS, irritable bowel syndrome, crohn's disease, MS, autism, bipolar disorder, and other similar issues are probably being affected by a host of food sensitivities, most notably gluten, dairy, eggs, citrus, soy, and/or sugar.

But it didn’t end there. I slowly discovered through doing elimination and rotation diets that many foods were problematic for me. This led to uncovering theories on leaky gut syndrome. Undigested food particles were making it through the gut lining and creating food sensitivities. It wasn't the foods that were the problem (anything commonly eaten could end up creating a sensitivity), it was my gut lining that was the real problem. In my quest to heal these issues, I came across something termed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). It focuses on healing the intestines from damage caused by gluten and other improperly digested foods. It is basically a gluten/grain free, starch free, refined sugar free, and low lactose diet.Only things that are easy to digest are consumed, no complex sugar/starches. When I made this switch, the weight started coming off even faster, the puffiness in my face went away, my joint pain began to fade; I was slowly getting my life back.

But something was still causing me trouble. Some days I was just so worn out and tired. Then I came across copper overload and wow, the lightbulb was on! I went back over the food journal I was keeping and my really bad fatigue days correlated with days that I had eaten high copper foods, or days that I had eaten a lot of moderate copper foods over a short time period. Once I began following the protocol for copper overload, my tired days came few and far between.

But I still wasn’t completely healed. I had to stick to a strict rotation diet or I would quickly become sensitive to new foods. If I ate too much of something, it would start to give me problems. My leaky gut wasn’t healing yet. The next step in my discovery process was discovering digestive enzymes. If the problem is foods not getting digested properly, then the solution is to help the foods be digested. Digestive enzymes do just that. I tried a few brands that didn’t work for me and then I discovered Houston brand. Houston enzymes are making a big difference in the foods that I am able to eat and are healing my body. Then I discovered just how much people with my set of health issues have in common with autistic spectrum disorders. Autistic kids are healing their guts and their minds with digestive enzyme therapy. Wow.

I later came to terms with the fact that my son had some borderline autism spectrum disorder traits as well as hyperactivity and other behavioral and emotional issues. I slowly realized that this was related to not only my own health problems but to his chronic diarrhea as well. My healing journey became a quest to heal my son as well. All diseases really do begin in the gut!!

My problem was at its roots a lack of beneficial gut flora and overgrowth of opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, etc (which created all sorts of malabsorption, messed up chemical pathways and hormonal imbalance, etc) passed to me by my mother, passed to her from her mother, and I then passed that along to my children! This chain of passing dysbiosis and chemical imbalance through the generations was created when my grandmother's family moved away from the farm when she was in utero; they abandoned traditional healthy foods for heavily processed, nutrient-missing, sugar laden ones which altered my great grandmother's gut flora, body chemistry, overall health etc. This burden was then passed through the generations.

Silently these underlying issues lurked, often giving subtle symptoms and hints of their existence, but needing some trigger to truly unleash the life-altering symptoms they were capable of. In myself, my grandmother, and mother, it waited until our 30s when the fatigue, pains, depression, and anxiety really started setting in and our lives began to fall apart. For my son, (and for many children of his generation), it is being unleashed in childhood.

I believe the trigger for my son and I was when we were exposed to cortico-steriods (which I took two summers in a row for severe poison ivy inflammation along with antibiotics, while he was still breastfeeding) which wiped out any good flora that we had left and pushed us over the edge into full blown disease. I finished the second round of cortico-steroids and antibiotics in late August of 2004 and by October of 2004 my mental issues were mounting so high I was scrambling to figure out "what the hell was wrong with me." By November of 2004 the weight was starting to pile on. I have no doubt this is the same time period when my son's issues got worse as well, but I was so caught up with my own stuff at the time that I didn't notice.

Enzymes helped my son to heal some, but the true healing for him came from doing SCD strictly, starting with the intro and then SLOWLY advancing with new foods, feeding only that which was tolerated by his gut. I experienced further healing from doing this as well. Yogurt or some type of probiotics also proved essential to making progress on this diet. Now my husband has jumped on the bandwagon of healing as well.

I started a photo journal on July 10, 2006 and moved it over to this blog format on April 9, 2008. My goal when I started the photo journal was to motivate myself on my health journey. Here is what I wrote of it when I created it, "It shows how the weight piled on so quickly, and it will celebrate my progress as I lose weight. While I do not believe you have to be thin to be beautiful or to be healthy, in my case the weight gain was part of a disease process that threatened to take my life away. Watching the weight come off is an affirmation to my battle against autoimmunity. It is something I can visibly watch transform, a sign of the transformation and healing within. I am beating autoimmunity....." I'm pleased to say that the journal did in fact tract my weight loss back down to a healthy new me and I do believe that I've beaten autoimmunity! You can go back and read through the old photo journal posts that I've moved over here for archive purposes and watch my journey as it unfolded. You can also read through some of my old Live Journal posts, where I tried to come to terms with my escalating mental issues. Who knew the mental issues would be followed by such increasingly physical ones as well. I've also included journal notes from my fitday food log that I began just after starting the SCD. I share all these posts as a way to reach out to others who may be dealing with the same issues or taking similar journeys. It was hard to share some of the darker moments, but I hope it will help others out there who are experiencing their own dark moments. I hope this blog will inspire and enable people to find their own paths to healing.

You can start at the beginning of my journey by clicking on year 2008, month of April, in the blog archive located along the right side of the page.

Now the focus has shifted away from me some (although my healing journey still continues), and more on my son and just recently my husband. This blog will track our adventures on SCD as a family and will hopefully help spread the word that ALL DISEASES BEGIN IN THE GUT! You don't have to suffer with your chronic, degenerative diseases, (be they mental, physical, or both), anymore. Healing can happen if you are willing to work hard enough for it.

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