Sunday, February 5, 2012

Heading back to safe territory

Oh, if only I could learn a lesson in a day, or a week – life would be grand. But sometimes life has to unfold for months or years before I can look back and see the big picture and – if necessary – see where I lost my way.

Over the course of the past couple months we’ve moved away from GAPS and toward the Body Ecology Diet, meaning we added quinoa and buckwheat to the rotation. We also did a coconut trial that went down in flames. My family went through a lot of stress this winter and overall we’ve been on a downward slide since the fall. Ellie’s been complaining of stomachaches on a regular basis (which has frustratingly not been resolved by removing coconut, though she is much improved).

And the last straw was that this past week blood work showed that I am well on my way to being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. 

My body is creating large numbers of antibodies to attack the thyroid; my thyroid numbers themselves are still good, but it’s not a good indictor of my overall health. Being told I have or am developing an autoimmune condition was a shock to the system and caused me to look back and take a hard look at where we’re at.

I was so excited to add quinoa and buckwheat and at first they really did seem fine. It was one of those slow slides that’s virtually impossible to see while it’s happening. But I have been more and more tired lately and suffering from a host of strange symptoms (which I now know are associated with Hashimoto’s) and just banging my head against the wall wondering what has gone wrong. And the same goes for Ellie. More tummy aches, more fussiness.

On Wednesday I met with our nutritionist and she suggested that the Paleo diet might be what works best for us long term. She inquired about whether I could give up the quinoa and buckwheat and I adamantly said “NO!” Being that attached to a food always gives me pause – it’s something to notice and watch and wonder about the reason why. That night we had quinoa with dinner and shortly thereafter I was lying down on the couch, practically asleep, when normally I am up doing dishes or playing with Ellie. I had an a-ha moment. I realized I am tired of feeling tired. And if giving up quinoa and buckwheat is all it’s going to take to feel well, and then I could do it. I’ve certainly done it before.

Unfortunately I haven’t yet experienced that brilliant health breakthrough I was expecting because on the very same day I decided to go back off grains I started an egg trial. The first couple days seemed fine and then slowly I got more and more tired. I’m at the point where I’m wondering if eggs need to go in the permanent “no” list as well. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Since Ellie was born I’ve gone from having absolutely zero diet restrictions to feeling like a prisoner in my own kitchen because our diet is so restricted and we have to eat at home 99% of the time. I know I’m being a bit fatalistic about all this, but there really does have to be a grieving process with you loose a food, or loose progress you once thought you had made. Going backwards is incredibly frustrating. And it’s worth noting that I don’t regret the changes we’ve had to make. I was not healthy before Ellie was born – I just had no idea why. So the changes her arrival brought have been a Godsend, just a really challenging Godsend.

Over the past couple days I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably have to eat a modified version of the Paleo diet for the rest of my life. I’m calling it Paleo because the thought of going back to GAPS makes me want to rip my hair out (though of course those two diets are nearly identical as far as what foods are and aren’t allowed).

I admire the people who can see the health benefits they derive from a certain diet and jump in 100% joyfully. I read so many blogs of people on GAPS or Paleo or a gluten-free, casein-free, or anti-Candida diet and they just seem so damn blissful about it. Maybe I’ll just never been that kind of person? Maybe I’ll begrudge this diet 'til the day I die? But then again I realize that as long as I’ve been on this diet, I still have not felt well. So how can I be a huge fan of a diet that’s a lot of hard work if the end result is not me feeling great? When I was nursing Ellie I was just too restricted and was simply not eating enough calories, particularly because I had to be very careful about fats. When I weaned her I just became reckless about adding things like quinoa, buckwheat, dried fruits and now eggs – all things that drained my adrenals, taxed my digestion and caused me to feel worse and worse.

So I’m hoping that I am turning a new leaf. There have been periods of time where I’ve seen a glimpse of really vibrant health that’s possible on Paleo. I’m committed to feeling better, whatever it takes. I haven’t come this far and worked this hard to give up now. I’ll start out committed and unhappy about it and hope that the happiness follows.


  1. Oh Annie.. I'm so sorry. I know GAPS isn't easy and when you have a condition such as thyroid, gall bladder, etc. I know it can complicate things A LOT. I hope you can find a happy medium in feeling well and eating what makes you feel your best. It's a journey, that's for sure... I'm on GAPS, about to redo intro, and I hope I can get some more healing in...
    All the best,

  2. Annie, I am so sorry to hear that you girls are struggling. When my daughter wakes up a lot at night (she's never slept through the night, usually wakes up every 2 hours), I always think of you and tell myself that the night when she can sleep really well has to be just around the corner. I am sorry to hear about your Hashimoto's. I've had 3 episodes of Hashimoto's before my daughter was born and my endocrinologist warned me to expect another one after giving birth. And she was right. In my previous attacks my thyroid managed to somehow get back to normal without any medications. After I gave birth, I had to be on medication for a year. I also started the paleo diet and have been off the medication for 6 months now. I still have some antibodies, they just don't make as much trouble. I found the information on helpful. He's done a lot of research on Hashimoto's (his wife has it).
    It was the same case with me, I thought I was healthy before I had my daughter. And then, my health started falling apart. I try to look at this way: if this happened to me and does not happen to other moms, then I think I might have not been as healthy as I thought to start with. This might have been brewing another 10 years if I didn't give birth and I could have been worse off in the long run. So, I try to look at the bright side: our all family will be much healthier once we are through this challenge. We will have more happy years to enjoy together :) I hope you and you girl start feeling better, soon. Hang in there!

    1. Magda - Thanks so much! Yes, GAPS gets really complicated when you throw thyroid or gallbladder into the mix. And Ellie and I have both! I need to be eating high fat to support my energy and Ellie needs to be eating less fat so she is still not eating GAPS staples like beef, coconut and ghee. Such a lot of work.

      Jana - So funny that you think of us when you're up in the night! It is nice when you're up holding a kiddo in pain in the night to know that there are many, many other mamas up doing the same thing at the same time. Thanks for sharing your experience with Hashimoto's. Funny, I was doing some research online tonight and just came across Chris Kresser's Web site - he has some interesting information up there! I agree with you 100% that this wake up call Ellie's birth caused made me look at my own health, her health, and the health of our society honestly. I will always be grateful for that gift. We will definitely have more happy years to enjoy together! Love that!