Autoimmune Protocol Diet

So this thyroid thing I have….we don’t know what it is yet, but the doctor suggested early Graves’ disease.  I joined several facebook groups with people who have been diagnosed as hyperthyroid or Graves’ so I could talk to others about it.  I had very little knowledge about it other than the first few 50 page search results of google that are very generic “This is Graves’ diseases…here are the signs and symptoms….”.  It is a little intimidating to hear from people who have had this disease for years and still don’t have their thyroid levels in check, trying everything under the sun to help them feel better.  I had heard several times about a diet that had helped – The Autoimmune Protocol Diet.  I checked it out.  The science behind it made sense, and there were small studies that had shown it’s effectiveness in helping to reduce symptoms and even heal certain autoimmune diseases.  I researched the heck out of it.

It became apparent that it was worth a go.  Also, in the meantime, Chris had an annual checkup and was told he needs to adjust his diet and exercise more (he already walks everyday on his treadmill desk whilst he works).  So this seemed like a good time to start thinking about a healthy diet.  In particular as Chris had Guillen-Barre syndrome last year and suffers from vitiligo, both automimmune diseases.  Healing a leaky gut made sense.  Figuring out if there are foods that trigger our tiredness and give us upset tummy would be a good thing.

What is the AIP diet?  Basically kiss goodbye to gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, seeds, alcohol and all nightshade plants such as potatoes and tomatoes.  Yikes.  But it’s all about being nutrient dense.  It’s not a weight loss diet, it’s about healing and improving overall health.  We do this for 30-60 days to reset the gut and let it heal, then slowly re-introduce foods one at a time and observe.  My brother has celiac disease (I was tested and do not have it) and my mother can’t tolerate soy or eggs so I know how hard it can be to figure food out, especially when going out to restaurants.   We figured if we do it together that we’d be more likely to stick at it.

Along with the diet we decided to get back into the routine of regular exercise before breakfast and work (eeeek to 5AM wake ups!!!).  I subscribed to Beachbody on Demand and we decided to give PiYo a go.  We tried it many years ago and enjoyed it’s low impact way of getting the heart rate up with minimal equipment.  It’s a 2 month programme.  We started the PiYo for a week before starting the diet.  I wouldn’t recommend starting an exercise programme and a diet all at once, your body will kill you!

Maybe we should have waited for two weeks before starting the diet, but actually, we started to feel the effects quickly.  Chris lost several pounds in two weeks.  I needed to keep my weight stable which I was managing well to begin with.  Probably because the Methimazole is a drug that slows down the metabolism and so putting weight on is easy to do.

We bought a cookbook called ‘The Idiot’s guide to Autoimmune Protocol Diet’ and it was great in laying out recipe ideas.  We realized to stay on track we would need to do A LOT of food prep.  A diet of fresh meat, fish, vegetables and fruit can be delightfully tasty, but the preparation needed to make it tasty is insane.  Not cool when you are both working parents to a two year old (who is a picky eater BTW).

So fast forward and we are now six weeks into the diet and exercise and we have both stuck to it.  Well, whilst traveling for work I had a hard time being completely pure to AIP, but I definitely didn’t make a conscious decision to eat things non compliant to the protocol.  I had to eat something and couldn’t starve myself for this diet.

I have noticed a few improvements already….

  1. My poops are awesome!  I have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome most of my adult life and finally my poops are what I expect to be mostly normal.
  2.  My skin has felt softer, although my skin has become clearer over the recent years I am still breaking out around my period time of the month.
  3.  Fewer cravings and hunger.  Snacking has reduced significantly!  the first couple of days on the diet were hard, but then it never became an issue.  Now, I tracked my calories intake for a couple of weeks and realized it can be hard to keep the calories up!  So there have bene a few days when I have been ridiculously hungry and I suspect my body was actually hungry, rather than snack type hungry.  Not sure if that makes any sense!
  4.   Muscles!  I have muscles!  I have become leaner overall.  My legs are feeling like rocks, my arms are less bingo wings style and my abs are becoming defined.  (People who know me a probably rolling their eyes because they tell me I’m slim anyway – yes, on the slim side, but not toned or strong!)

Just a couple more weeks and we will be starting to do some reintroductions of certain foods.  I am looking forward to reintroducing almonds and eggs.  And the occasional glass of wine.  Each reintroduction of a food type can take a few weeks so, this isn’t a quick process.  But I’m feeling good about it all.  I just wish I’d done this sooner.

From scratch Home made AIP meals and snacks

A ‘Grave’ Situation

My new primary care doctor is thorough, for which I am glad.  At my annual workplace medical she examined my thyroid and asked me if she could run one other test that wasn’t on the list my work requires me to do.  I said ‘of course, whatever you think is necessary’.  But then my test results (TSH and Free T4) came back showing I had a hyperthyroid and she wanted me to see an endocrinologist to figure out why. Cue Dr google.  What is a hyperthyroid?  What does it mean?

Turns out I had all the symptoms I had put down to postpartum and getting older in general.

  • Tiredness – I was struggling to get up in the mornings, feeling exhausted having just slept;
  • Heart beating hard and occasionally very fast, I’m always on the verge of feeling like I’m catching some kind of cold;
  • Pain in my neck I’d put to sitting funny at my desk;
  • Chris had noticed I was always warmer than him (very unusual because I am constantly cold!!!), I was feeling warmer in the office despite it being very cold!
  • When I got sick it was taking me a lot longer to shake it off. I caught a summer cold and the sore throat persisted for over two weeks.
  • Random sore throats that would come and go quickly. I have a toddler who exposes me to all the germs in the world??!
  • Also hand and feet numbness which has been going on for two years, my old doctor ran tests back then, nothing conclusive, decided it was probably postpartum arthritis and I would get over it soon when I stopped breastfeeding. It never went away.  It just never got worse.
  • My new doctor told me off for being underweight, I told her that was not true the scales in the office must be off, my clothes hadn’t changed. Actually I had lost 5lbs and hadn’t noticed so I was close to being underweight on the BMI scale.
  • Finally, the last thing was that I was getting quite short tempered and easily irritable. At work one day recently I slammed the phone down.  I was really mad at someone who wasn’t listening to me.  Everyone came to ask me what was wrong!  It just wasn’t like me.

None of these things I felt worth mentioning to my doctor at my workplace medical because on their own are little thing, but in hindsight perhaps I should have.  I did mention being slightly tired but put it down to being a parent of a toddler.  When in reality, Aviana sleeps incredibly well and is not a little night terror, there is no reason really why I should be tired.

The endocrinologist I was referred to was not available until November (I was referred in July), I thought that was an insane amount of time to wait so I called around looking for a doctor who would take on a new patient sooner.  Eventually I found one who was available in September so I asked my doctor to send a referral to this one.  Like magic, she managed to get me an appointment with the specialist for the following week.

So the following week, the endocrinologist asked me a few questions and took an ultrasound of my thyroid.  He explained that there were a few things that can cause hyperthyroidism and we needed to investigate all of them.  He did an ultrasound and ruled out any masses – my thyroid was swollen on the left side – just where I’d felt the pain in my neck and ignored it.  I also was now able to see what my primary care doctor had felt – my thyroid was clearly swollen.  I just thought my neck was getting fatter!  I had some more blood tests taken and my TSH levels were getting lower and my T3 and T4 levels higher, only just slightly abnormal.  Another test, TSI, came back normal – this was the test that would have given me a clear diagnosis of Grave’s disease.  The endocrinologist told me my symptoms weren’t that bad because many people with advanced hyperthyroid would be sat shaking, anxious, heart racing with their eyes bulging out.  So whatever it was it was caught early, most likely its early onset of Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid.

The endocrinologist emailed me to say I had a choice (I have a choice?!): to wait and be monitored or to start taking a drug that would help control my thyroid.  Of course, given a choice I will always try the non-drug route.  But then in that time period I also found out my father had a stroke because his thyroid had stopped working and has been on thyroid medications since.  I mentioned it to the doctor and he changed his mind and told me given my family history, he would prefer I took the drugs.  OK so not much of a choice now.  So here I am on 5mg of methimazole every other day.  This is a very low dose given my blood test results.

Chris picked up my prescription and the pharmacist told him that these drugs take some time to get used to and can have some nasty side effects, they printed a detailed sheet for him to give to me.  That made me feel nervous.  I did some research online and many of the side effects included nausea, headaches, upset tummy, weight gain and pretty much all the other reactions someone may have to drugs in general.  I joined a support group on facebook and learned that it is best to take the medication with food before bed.  The first day I took it I was at a party, 20 minutes after taking the tiny pill I suddenly felt like the world slowed down, I couldn’t feel my heart beating as hard or fast that it felt really strange.  I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest.  Chris told me I looked like I was stoned.  But that didn’t last too long.  Over the next few days I started to feel less tired, I had more energy and my heart was not pounding as hard.  I guess I was ill after all, I just hadn’t noticed it.

I bought a fitbit to help monitor my heart rate.  I’ve been taking the medication now for almost four weeks and my resting heart rate has come down a little bit….however I have started to do exercise again as I have felt like I’ve got my energy back, so maybe that’s related to the exercise or a combination of the drugs and the exercise.  In general, I haven’t any side effects – I put the weight back on immediately, but not excessively and I sometimes experience nausea a few hours after taking the pill, but it’s not terrible.

I spent a bit of time researching the thyroid and infertility.  It turns out that your thyroid can mess up your fertility.  I took a look back at my TSH levels that my primary doctor tested every year for my annual medical and there were high-normal.  My Reproductive Endocrinologist never tested my thyroid, but if she did or looked at my annual results from my primary care physician some RE’s would have considered my TSH levels for fertility too high and may have given me drugs.  Perhaps this all explains my unexplained infertility after all?  I found out that thyroid tests are now included in the standard workup at the clinic since I least went 4 years ago which I am glad about.  But that doesn’t really matter right now as we are not planning to TTC.  Our frozen embryo remains on ice.  Even if we did want to TTC, the drugs I am on currently are toxic in the first trimester so that would be problematic. Plus I would have to get my thyroid levels back to being normal before getting pregnant.

Oh did I also mention that thyroid problems are relate to IUGR?  May be another explanation for something so unexplained in my life?

My next monitoring appointment is Friday.  I’m hoping for positive news that the drugs are working and I don’t need a higher dosage.