My Health Journey

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Enough with the Gluten-Free Haters

Just to warn you, I am going on a rant today.. feel free to read. Or don’t. This is just something I have to get off my chest.  And in case you are new here, I have Hashimoto’s disease and am gluten-intolerant (but I do not have Celiac’s— there’s a difference!).

Lately, I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that gluten-intolerance is not real. That it’s a fad. That it’s all in my head.

And frankly, it pisses me off.

Many of the people who have said this bring up the fact that the doctor who’s published a study in 2011 finding that many of the participants benefited from a gluten-free diet. But he decided to retest the study (as any good doctor should) and limited some of the variables even more. After doing the second study, he is quoted as saying “In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.” The study found that FODMAPS reduced the gastrointestinal symptoms and fatigue in the participants who were on that diet versus just a gluten-free diet. {Read more about this here or just Google “gluten-intolerance not real”.)

As the article states, FODMAPS are largely found in bread products so when you adopt a gluten-free diet that cuts out bread products all together, you are cutting out those FODMAPS which could really be what is bothering you, not necessarily gluten.

So it is possible that someone is not actually gluten-intolerant but may be experiencing reactions to FODMAPS. Does that mean they shouldn’t adopt a gluten-free diet? I don’t think so, but many people are using this study as a case against being gluten-free.

But why?  Why does it matter so much to people whether gluten-free is beneficial or not? if you are doing a gluten-free diet, and it is making you feel better, then clearly something is working.  Even if it is technically the FODMAPs being cut out, not the gluten itself, the point is it is still helping you feel better.

I think that’s been the biggest thing that has irritated me lately.  Why does someone else get to tell me how my body works?  Unless you are my doctor or have somehow pulled a Freaky Friday and are now living in my body, how do you know how I feel when I eat something with gluten in it? And let me tell those nay-sayers, if there is anyone who was more opposed to accepting that I needed to be gluten-free, it was myself.

I still try to convince myself I will be ok and eat something I shouldn’t.  And then within minutes I feel yucky and bloated and tired, even depressed sometimes.  I wish it wasn’t that way.  I resisted for nearly two years after being diagnosed that I could still eat the same foods. Being from a Greek family, I love pasta and bread, and all that other deliciousness.  Then you have my husband’s side which love all things Southern-style (breaded and fried).  It SUCKS not being able to eat those foods that I love.

However, I don’t think this is just a gluten-diet issue. Even though it’s more common now, I remember the backlash that came when a lot of people adopted a vegetarian/vegan diet (or even more recently, the Paleo diet).  Maybe it’s just because “gluten-free” is such a buzzword these days and talked about constantly in the media, people feel they “know” what gluten-intolerance is and feel they can make comments on your personal choices.

They other thing people tell me is that it’s just a fad.  And I can see where they are coming from on this— but the assumption that ALL of us who choose to eat a gluten-free lifestyle just because it’s “cool” is absolutely absurd.   I am sure there are many who are trying it because they have heard about it and figure what can it hurt to see if it helps them feel better. Or that just because you are limiting gluten in your diet, that you are a hypocrite if you occasionally cheat.  Sometimes you have a moment of weakness and cheat (unless you are celiac, cheating is not really an option since you’ll get extremely sick).  For someone like me who is gluten-intolerant, I will probably feel crappy pretty soon after eating whatever the non-GF food is, and will probably be bloated.  But as long as I get back on track, I am not going to have a horrible reaction so I might choose to indulge once in a blue moon.

There’s also a lot of talk in the media about how companies are marketing towards those of us that are gluten-free by creating products that fit that dietary need and making lots of money on catering towards this market.  And yes, I am sure that there are many people getting on the gluten-free bandwagon just because it is the “newest thing.”

What I don’t really understand is why people see this as a bad thing.  Now, let me make a point to say that I am not dumb and I do not to think most of these companies are doing this because they actually care about the food they make and care about the health of their customers.  I know that the majority are doing this because they can make money off of it (though there are several companies out there that are not doing it just for the pay-off).  But it provides those like me with gluten-sensitivities— and especially those with Celiac’s disease— more options, why is that a bad thing?

My mom’s cousin was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (same thing I have) in the 80′s, and she has talked about how hard it was to find anything to eat, especially at restaurants.  Because of major increase in public demand for GF foods, restaurants, food manufacturers, and even companies in the health/beauty industries are now offering GF options.  This is awesome for anyone who is gluten-sensitive.

I probably could write for days about my frustrations with this but I will wrap it up.  I just want to reiterate that whether someone is choosing to be gluten-free or because they have been diagnosed with gluten-intolerance, it is their body and they should be able to nourish it in the way that they feel works best for them.  If you know someone who is gluten-free, be supportive of them.  You don’t have to go buy a bunch of GF items to have when they come over, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their diet, but do it in a way that it doesn’t feel like you are criticising them or discouraging them.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to email me (sophi[at]simplysophisticatedblog[dot]com) or comment below! I love talking to people about being GF, I just don’t need the hate.  ;-)

Health + Life Update

***In case you are new here, I have Hashimoto’s disease and PCOS.  Feel free to check out my posts about it herehere, and here.

In my last health post, I mentioned that I was starting a new thyroid medicine and doing progesterone cream in order to get my cycle back on track, so I figured I’d start out with a follow-up on those two things.

The new thyroid medicine, Tirosint, has been working great! I am feeling so much better– no longer foggy and tired all the time [though they are still occasional bouts of fatigue].

I have also been using the progesterone cream some, though I’ll admit I forget a lot of the time.  I did finally have my period in mid-April [three months after the last one] and then again in mid-June [only 2 months between them this time!!!].  I am really hoping this means my cycles are starting to regulate out.

I’ve been off the pill for almost 9 months at this point.  I am still fighting some occasional depression too.  I’ll be fine one week then really down and depressed the next.  I’ve got an appointment with my therapist next week to talk about this and make sure everything is ok.  I really don’t want to go on an anti-depressent, but if it will help, I will definitely consider it.  It just worries me to be on something like that since we want to get pregnant.

Even with the thyroid medicine working to help with the fatigue and fogginess, my weight just wasn’t budging.  I had put on about 15 lbs. since coming off the pill and I was not even close to my ideal weight before that gain, so I was definitely frustrated and very unhappy with myself.  I was doing Weight Watchers and going to hot yoga, but the scale wasn’t budging.

I talked to my doctor about it and we decided to start me on a weight-loss program they offer there.  I will probably talk about it more once I am done with it as I want to make sure I can keep going with it, but for now, I will tell you that it is working great! I got most of the initial gain off, which is AH-MAZING as I’d been doing Weight Watchers for months and had only lost 2-3 lbs.  This program is also really good for me because it cuts out all dairy and wheat products, which I needed to do but just hadn’t be able to fully get on track with.

Other than that, the biggest change for me has been going to part-time at work.  After months of being unhappy in my current position and being stressed-out all the time, Jeff and I decided it would be best for me to look at going to part-time.  I talked to my boss about it and after a couple of weeks of discussing my options, an opportunity came up that I couldn’t resist.  I have been managing the convenience stores at the college here in town, and this new position will still be with the same company, I will just be doing all the pricing/menus/register-related stuff for the dining on campus.

I’ve been on the part-time schedule for almost 2 months now, and it is incredible.  Financially, it sucks a little— we’re definitely having to tighten up on the extraneous spending— but I feel like I can breathe.  I enjoy my job more now, I have time to spend with friends and build those relationships more, I have time to clean and keep up the house, I could keep going on and on about how much I love it.

Well, I think that is all for now.  What’s been going on in your life? Please feel free to comment or email me! I’d love to hear about it!

Health Update

*Warning:  If you are a guy or just really don’t care for personal details, you may not want to read this post. I’m delving into some very feminine issues.*

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I haven’t been feeling good for a while now.  I had switched thyroid medications at the end of the summer, then I came off birth control in October and it seems like it was just downhill from there.  I have been exhausted all the time.  My mind  was in a fog.  I have been gaining weight like it is my job //read: 15 pounds in 6 months // and I am having very irregular periods.  I was also fighting a mild depression {which may or may not have been brought on by my hormones being out of whack from coming off the pill… I’m not sure}.

After several months of hoping that everything would regulate on its own, I finally made an appointment with my doctor.  The depression had alleviated already, but I was still tired and foggy all of the time.  I had been taking pregnancy tests every couple of weeks but they all came back negative.  Still, I wanted to have her do a test to rule that out not surprising— it was negative too.  Since it wasn’t pregnancy, she suggested we switch my thyroid medication again to see if that would help my energy levels.  She also prescribed me a topical progesterone cream in hopes it will get my period going {I haven’t had one since Christmas}.

I’ve now been on the thyroid medication for about two weeks, and so far it seems to be working a lot better than the previous one. I definitely have more energy and I don’t feel like I am walking around in a fog.  I haven’t started the progesterone cream yet because I had to find a pharmacy that compounded it.  I am really hoping it gets my cycles going again.  I know, I know. What girl in their right mind wishes for their period?!  If you have always had regular cycles, it might be hard to understand.  Trust me when I say it sucks.  It makes you feel all bloated and just plain yucky.

Well, I think that is all for now.  I am supposed to have a follow up appointment with her later this month, so I will try to do an update after that.

If you have been in a similar situation, do you have any advice for me?  I would love to hear from you.

The Battle, Part 2: Treatment

A few months ago, I posted about being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.  If you haven’t read that post, I recommend you go read it here then come back to this post.

With Hashimoto’s disease, if I eat gluten, my immune system sees it as a poison and starts attacking it.  That in itself isn’t really a bad thing, but then my immune system starts attacking my thyroid because the hormones produced by it look very similar to gluten.  This throws off the thyroid production and usually causes hypothyroidism (underproduction of the thyroid hormones).  With that can come abnormal weight gain, tiredness, hair loss, cold intolerance, etc.

Hashimoto’s disease doesn’t have a cure, but it does have treatments.  One of which you might have guess: reducing the gluten in my diet (quick note: when I use the word “diet” I am not referring to a weight-loss diet, I am just talking about my daily food intake).

However, I really struggle with being completely gluten-free.

I really love food, and thanks to my Greek roots, I really love pasta and bread.  Can you get a lot of these foods in gluten-free versions? Absolutely!  Do they taste as good?  Sometimes, but most of the time, they leave much to be desired.  A lot of restaurants still don’t offer gluten-free options.  Unless you want a salad… every day… at every meal… 

And gluten is in EVERYTHING!  Not just in food, especially food you wouldn’t expect (like soy sauce.  who knew?), but in things such as makeup, body wash/lotion, medicines, etc.

Since I am not allergic, just intolerant, I don’t worry about that stuff ^^^  for right now.  I’m just trying to focus on the gluten in my food, one day at a time.  Really, one meal at time.  And I mess up constantly because I have a serious lack of willpower.  Did I mention that I really like food???

It makes it even harder that I work in the food-service industry.  Being surrounded by food combined by my lack of willpower works out well for me [insert very sarcastic tone]… But the good thing is more and more people are becoming aware of food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, etc., so more options are becoming available.   If only Bojangles’ would come out with a GF biscuit.

Not only am I supposed to be gluten-free, but I am also supposed to be dairy-free.  Can you guess how this is going?! 

I am not just lactose-intolerant though, I am casein-intolerant (casein is a protein in dairy that looks a lot like gluten to your body, so of course it makes sense that I would be intolerant to that as well) too.  I’ve never been much of a milk drinker, so that part isn’t hard.  However a lot of recipes use milk, so I usually just substitute it with coconut or almond milk.  With cheese, I try to get cheeses that aren’t made from cow’s milk, such as goat or sheep cheese.  My body seems to not have as many issues digesting that type of dairy.  And as for yogurt, I really love Greek yogurt, which I also don’t seem to have as many issues digesting (something about the yogurt-making process makes it easier for the body to digest than just straight milk from what I understand).

Some other things I am doing is taking a thyroid pill (my doctor prescribed Nature-Throid for me) and vitamins B12 and  D3 every day.  Along with the intolerances already mentioned, Hashimoto’s (combined with the PCOS symptoms I also have) make it hard for my body to absorb these vitamins directly from my food.  I sound like so much fun, don’t I?!

Anyway,  I think this post has gotten a little lengthy, so I am going to stop here.  If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.  I am sure I will talk more about this in the future as I am always learning and adapting to this lifestyle change.

Also, here are a couple links if you are interested in some more gluten-free reading:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/05/health/gluten-5-things/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/business/food-industry-wagers-big-on-gluten-free.html?_r=0

http://www.celiaccentral.org/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/

http://www.g3free.com/

***Note: I am not an expert on any of the below information nor would I ever claim to be.  I am just posting on my experience, what my personal doctor and I have discussed, what I have personally researched, and what I have found that works for me.  Every person is different and I am not medical professional, so please keep that in mind and make sure to talk to your doctor before implementing any changes to your diet/lifestyle.

***Another note: there is a big difference between an ALLERGY and a SENSITIVITY.  I am sensitive, not allergic, to the things I mention above.  I also use the words “sensitivity” and “intolerance” interchangeably (though I am sure this is probably an incorrect use of the English language lol).

 
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Color Me Rad

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Aren’t the port-o-potties a lovely backdrop?

Last week,  some coworkers and I participated in the Color Me Rad run/walk here in town.  It was a blast and very well organized!  Considering there were close to 9000 people there, that was a VERY good thing!

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Some RAD ladies!

One of the things I like most about this run/walk is that it isn’t timed, and that it is suppose to be FUN!  The main goal is to get people to be active, whether they are running it or just walking it.

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post-run… errr, walk…

So many other races can be very competitive and though there is nothing wrong with that in of itself, it can be intimidating.  We just walked it and enjoyed every minute of it!

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another post-walk

Have you ever participated in Color Me Rad or some other sort of run/race?

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My _______ is better than yours.

Is it me, or does it seem like there is a lot of this mentality going on in our world lately?  And if you have noticed this, are you just about completely fed up with it like I am?

There are lots of areas that I see this happening in, but one of the main areas I’ve really noticed lately is within the exercise realm.  I’ve mentioned briefly that I practice Bikram Hot Yoga, which I completely love. One of the main things I love about it is that they truly are judgement-free.  It doesn’t matter where you are in life, whether you have any experience with yoga, what your weight/height/health currently is, they welcome you in and make you feel so comfortable.  The teacher reiterates over and over that yoga is a PRACTICE, it’s not perfect.  Every time you come to class your body is different, and sometimes it’s feels easy and sometimes you have no idea why you came.  But no matter what, after class, there are fellow yogis there encouraging you and congratulating on a great class.  For me personally, this is what keeps me going back week after week.

a Bikram yoga class

However, just because I love Bikram yoga, that doesn’t mean I think it is for everyone or that I think my workout routine is better than someone else’s.  But I get on Facebook or Twitter and see comments and statuses that just make me cringe.  Instead of building each other up, they call those who don’t do their form of exercise “weak,” “fat,” “lazy,” etc. They even talk about other forms of exercise as being lesser than theirs (“well, this isn’t Zumba, we actually workout!”).  Excuse me?!  I’ve done Zumba and it is exercising! I’m pretty sure all forms of dancing are considered exercise. So what if it isn’t the form of exercise you do?  Why does that matter?  We are not all the same — we have different personalities, beliefs, hobbies, etc. so why would the way we choose to exercise (if we choose to exercise at all) be any different?  Some people love to run, some like weightlifting, others like yoga, and some don’t like exercising at all.  And you know what?  That is their choice and who am I or any one else to judge them?

When I searched “judging” in Google Images, this saying kept coming up over and over. Does it disturb you as much as it does me?

 

So instead of tearing each other down, how about we start building each other up? And not just with exercise, but with all aspects of our lives?  I know that exercise might be trivial in comparison to other things, but that’s just one small area that we can start with.

Just thought this picture was cute.

 

 

The Battle, Part 1: Diagnosis

Over the last 8 years, I have struggled with my weight.  As a teenager, I could eat anything and everything I wanted, and I was a size 0 (actually I got down to a 00 at one point).  But around the time I turned 18, things started to change.  I started gaining weight, which most people, including my doctor, attributed to “The Freshman 15″ but I probably gained a good 30lbs in one year.  However, I was living at home while going to college, so my diet relatively hadn’t changed— I wasn’t living on campus eating in the dining halls every day.  There were other changes that started happening at the same time too.  I started losing a lot of hair.  I would take a shower and clumps of hair would fall out (thank goodness I have a TON of hair).  I also started noticing the hair on my face was thickening and darkening (attractive, I know). I also was tired all the time, which again didn’t seem too big of a deal, I mean what teenager doesn’t like to sleep?!  

Then at 19, I stopped having my period. I knew I wasn’t pregnant (I did not have sex until I got married).  After 5 months without a period, I made an appointment with my family doctor, who sent me to have an ultrasound done and to see a gynecologist.  When the ultrasound results came in, the gynecologist, who was male and I had never had another appointment with before, told me I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).  He told me that I would never get pregnant without fertility treatments.  I was devastated! I have wanted kids as long as I could remember.  I accepted this diagnosis and went on birth control (as I was told by my doctor that was pretty much the only option) so I could start having regular periods again— by this time it had been over 7 months since I’d had my period.  Some of my symptoms did go away, including the loss of hair on my head and the thickening of hair on my face).  I even lost a little weight, but not much, and the fatigue did not get better at all.  As the years went by, I really believed there was something going on with my thyroid, especially based on research I’d done and people I had spoken with, but my thyroid levels kept coming back “normal” (there is a HUGE debate in the medical field about what is normal… I might delve into that another time) so my doctor kept saying nothing was wrong.

Flash forward 6 years… I am now almost 25 years old.  I am still exhausted all of the time and struggling with my weight.  I feel yucky all of the time. I can’t think of a better way to describe it but I just didn’t feel right.  I actually tried Metformin in a desperate attempt to lose weight, but it DESTROYED my stomach.  Ironically, I did lose weight, but that’s just because I wasn’t able to digest anything I ate lol.  I came off of that within two weeks because it made me so miserable.   Anyway, at Thanksgiving that year we had some friends join us for our family get-together.  The subject of thyroid issues came up while  talking to my friend, Sally, who recommended I go see her doctor.  Her “doctor” is actually a FNP (family nurse practitioner) but she focuses the whole picture, not just one symptom, and she is also very educated on thyroid issues.  I pretty much called her office the next day to set up an appointment!

It took a couple of weeks to get in, but I went in for my first appointment about a week before my 25th birthday.   I went in to my first visit hoping for the best, but expecting to be given the same small 15 minutes of time then be told again that I had PCOS.  However it was nothing like that.  I spent nearly 1.5 hours at the office, and I spent an hour of that just with the FNP alone!  She sat and talked to me about every symptom I had been having and how I came to be diagnosed with PCOS.  After about 45 minutes, she told me that she doesn’t believe I have PCOS.  Well, she said I have PCOS symptoms, but that she thinks there is a lot more going on than just PCOS.  She tells me she thinks I have a thyroid issue and she wants me to get bloodwork done.  I willingly oblige as I am getting hopeful we might have an answer.

Now comes the waiting part again… the bloodwork had to be run, which took over a week, then with Christmas and New Year’s, I finally get to go back in early January to find out my results.  When I went back for my follow-up, I spent another good hour with my FNP. She actually SHOWED me my bloodwork results, going through each test and result one-by-one, explaining what each one was, what the result was, and whether it was good or bad (to me this was a big deal because at most doctors’ offices you see the doctor all of 15 minutes, and they never show you what your results are or take time to really explain them).  She explained that my B12 and D3 levels were extremely deficient, which explained some of the fatigue I had been having.  Then she showed me my thyroid levels and said that they were “okay” but not really okay.  She said that though it showed normal right now, it probably fluctuates a lot.  Finally she showed me a test she ran for a specific antibody called antithyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) antibody.  The antibody should only be within a range of 10-50.  Mine was 392!  She explained to me that my immune system was attacking my thyroid, a condition called Hashimoto’s Disease.   There is no cure for this autoimmune disorder, but there are ways to treat it.  One of the major ways is to reduce the gluten in my diet.  My body sees gluten as a poison, so it starts attacking it when I eat anything with it.  The antibodies are raised to fight off the gluten, but then they start attacking my thyroid because the hormones the thyroid produces look very similar to gluten (at least they look similar to these antibodies).  My FNP put me on a thyroid medication called Levoxyl (I can only use this specific brand-name medication because a lot of thyroid meds contain gluten– crazy right?!).  I also started taking 8000+ IUs of liquid Vitamin D3 per day, and 5000+ mg of  sublingual B12 (I think that’s right— I need to look) so that it would absorb directly in my bloodstream.  Note: I don’t still take this amount. This was just to get my levels back up to normal. 

So with this diagnosis has come relief and challenges of course.  I really struggle with cutting out gluten (what can I say, this Greek girl loves food!).  I will talk more on this in Part 2.  But I am happy to have an answer and the changes I am making have had positive results so far.  I am definitely feeling better overall than I have in years.

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