Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Health History & Update

Well, here it is!  The long-awaited post about how my health has been!
Warning: this is a bit more serious than most of my posts.

I have illustrated this post with photos from BEFORE I got sick. These are from my idyllic childhood in beautiful Minnesota with a family who loved me (still does!)

I love reminding myself that I am still that fearless girl and that I am now working to strip away all the illness to be that curious, energetic, joyful, creative little girl again!

me as Wonder Woman (8 years old) - I made the bullet-blocking
wristbands and amazing cardboard tiara myself!

Striving to live a healthy life has been challenging for me, folks.
For many, many long years, it's been very challenging.
On and off I have had to fight to get myself off the couch at all for weeks at a time.
I have had checklists to help myself do things that should have been no effort at all, but which were overwhelmingly difficult with my level of fatigue.
I had to limit everything in order to have just the slightest bit of energy left for my sweet husband at the end of the day (and often I still failed).

in the hammock while camping with my family

Since 1999, I have been diagnosed with a variety of things.

The solution to the first one (Celiac Disease in 1998) left me eating no gluten - and my diet changed drastically.

The "solution" to the second one (endometriosis in 1999) left me with no uterus, no ovaries, and a lifetime of the wrong levels of hormones in my body.

The third one (hypothyroidism) left me relying on artificial thyroid hormone every day.

The fourth one (Crohn's Disease in 2012) laid me out flat for a few years and really broke me for awhile.

God has generously provided me with friends and family members to encourage me and provide me with love and support.  They have helped me be brave when I didn't want to keep trying anymore.
I have learned to ask for help from Jesus and from my key people when I need to reset my mind and emotions.  God's Word (the Bible) has become a Source of hope and courage to me.
I have learned to choose every activity with purpose and intention rather than falling into relationships or mindless busyness.
It is a blessing to realize that I can no longer do everything, and God will provide for me to do the things He wants me to be doing.
I have been forced into focusing my extremely limited energy and time on the missions I believe God has for me on this Earth: loving and encouraging the people around me as He would love them and making the world more welcoming for people with special needs.

I have loved cats my whole life

While I am blessed and grateful to be learning these important life lessons, I have never stopped looking for answers to WHY I've been so sick and WHY I am so limited.

A year and a half ago, I changed my diet again, removing all animal products (yes, I became vegan or plant-based), and for the first time in at least 10 years, I felt GOOD.  Not just "not sick," but HEALTHY.  Vigorous, creative, positive, hopeful, sharp.  I felt like me again.  It felt like brushing off years of dust that had accumulated on a coffee table and all of a sudden I could see the beautiful wood shining through.  In six months, though, that hope was snatched away as I again fell into deep and incredibly discouraging fatigue.

I couldn't figure out why I was sick again because my blood tests kept showing nothing.
I dejectedly thought that perhaps I was just meant to be an extremely low-energy person and perhaps I should work harder on learning to be content in every circumstance.
But I decided to try again anyway.

Because veganism led to such excellent results for me, I had trouble respecting any doctors who believe that nutrition doesn't affect health outcomes, so I decided to search on www.plantbaseddoctors.org for a doctor who might be able to help me sort through possibilities from a similar perspective.

I've always loved colorful matchy outfits, too!

At the very first visit, the doctor looked at me and said that she believed she knew what was wrong and that she would be able to help me.  I cried on the way home.
After a battery of tests (that no other doctor had ever done), her suspicions had been validated:
I am extremely iodine deficient and hypothyroid.
One of my ratios (T3/reverse T3, two different thyroid hormones) was the lowest she's ever seen.

In spite of taking thyroid replacement medication for many years, the hormone wasn't getting into my cells, so it wasn't doing the job.  It's also possible that the type of hormone in the medication is not the kind I need (I may need T3 as well as T4), and therefore it wasn't doing the job.  My doctor told me it's called intercellular hypothyroidism (in scientific journals also called "tissue hypothyroidism").

In addition, I am iodine deficient, meaning my thyroid has no iodine with which to make thyroid hormones even if it wants to!

(I had noticed almost every single symptom of hypothyroidism was really bad again, but since my numbers kept coming back normal, I assumed my symptoms must either be in my head or from something else.)

I would wear this suit (in an appropriate size!) today!!!
though it sort of looks like I peed myself - it's from the pool water, I'm sure!

The reason I felt so great initially when going vegan was because I pretty much got rid of all traces of Crohn's, even in my blood tests (though of course I'm very careful about what I eat so as not to have symptoms again), but I ran completely out of iodine (I didn't know I needed it or that I was low on it to begin with!)  According to the urine test, I also have higher levels of bromide in my system than I should.  Bromide is a toxic chemical used as pesticide (and sometimes in a different form in bread as a "dough conditioner"!) that blocks iodine receptors and therefore prevents absorption of iodine.

I started first on a regimen of five "companion" nutrients that are necessary for getting rid of bromide and promoting good iodine uptake and thyroid function (pink Himalayan salt, which helps wash out the bromide; liposomal vitamin C; selenium; zinc; and magnesium).  Three days after starting that, I began taking iodine itself.  That was two days ago.

thank you, Dad, for making stilts for me and for holding me up!!!
(in metaphorical as well as physical ways!)

Already, I feel a fog lifting.
I feel as if I don't have to FIGHT quite as hard to have a positive mindset.
My brain is working better.
I am still recovering from the flu, and I am by no means energetic and healthy yet, but I have hope that I CAN be healthy and energetic again, and that makes a lot of difference!
I will keep documenting the changes I notice.

I may need additional tweaks to the program. As my thyroid gets the iodine "food" it needs, it may perk up and produce all the thyroid hormones it needs.  I might not need any thyroid medication at all.  OR my thryoid gland might not be able to catch up and I may need to change the medication I'm taking to one that provides a wider range of thyroid hormones rather than just one.
Either way, I feel extremely blessed and grateful to have a logical plan and a doctor who believes she can help me get back the health I lost.

I would wear this outfit today (once again, in an appropriate size!)

I pray that this is a fork in the road of my life and I can walk on from here
with mens sana in corpore sano (= a sound mind in a sound body).

Here are some more resources for you if you'd like to read about this topic . . .
here's me doing the research - ha!

Tissue-level hypothyroidism:

"normal" TSH levels are not enough:

Iodine supplementation for those who are deficient helps decrease cholesterol levels:

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