All posts by df beta

Learn something, heal your health

I love learning things about how the body works. And I live for online summits on this topic!  I learn valuable takeaways from each talk that have helped me advance my journey back to health.

The Immune Defense summit starts Monday July 24th! Lots of good speakers in here, including Izabella Wentz, Dr. Tom O’Bryan being among my favs.  

You bet your bottom I will be listening and taking notes!

If you want to listen along too, click here to check out the summit for yourself!

If you’re too busy, I will be listening to select talks and disseminating the information in future posts. 

Here’s to your health!

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Top ways I calm my ass down

I recently went to a new naturopath  and one of my concerns was my twitchy eye.  I wondered if it was a sign of adrenal fatigue.

She had me do a relaxation technique and lo and behold, the twitching just disappeared instantly.

The conclusion –  if a relaxation technique helps it go away, it’s stress related and not adrenal fatigue related.

I said “So in other words, I need to calm my ass down”. We laughed and then she said “Yes”.

HA!

Whether it’s managing a twitchy eyebrow, slowing down (or reversing!) an autoimmune disease, or stabilizing mast cells, I’m thoroughly convinced that calming my ass down has a profound impact on my health.

I am a spazz case.

I go from completely asleep to awake and in full body panic in 30 seconds flat.

The fight or flight response in my body goes off hundreds of times a day. It’s no wonder my body is attacking itself.

So through trial and error and many decades of spastic behavior, here are my top ways to calm my ass down (when I remember to do so DOH!):

  1.  Being present.

Mindfulness is becoming mainstream more than ever and it’s a good thing. Generally our anxieties are either about what happened or what’s about to happen.

In the present moment, RIGHT NOW, those things I worry about are not happening.  Everything is more or less fine RIGHT NOW. I’m alive, I’m here; those things really don’t exist here when I stop and think about it.

One of my greatest teachers of mindfulness (although he does not like the word) is Eckhart Tolle. If I’m REALLY having trouble being present because something seems so urgent or terrible or despairing, I like to find a YouTube video of one of Eckhart’s talks (and thankfully there are LOTS), and his truth speaks to my spirit and stillness sets in.

2.  Magnesium.

I take a specific blend of magnesium and taurate which is great for relaxing the muscles and body in general as well as being good for your heart.  I take this one:

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I really notice when I forget to take it.  My eye twitch comes back, and generally speaking I become more anxious.

I also have heart palpitations that make an appearance in the absence of this stuff.  It’s one of my must haves.

3.  Going outside.

I don’t know about you, but rarely has there been a day when going outside didn’t make it better.  Especially when I’m stressed out and too “in my head”.

Getting in tune with nature and the magnitude of it all helps to put things in perspective.  And the fresh air helps clear my head and probably my body too.

If I’m in the middle of turmoil (whether real or inflated), going for a walk helps reset my attitude so that I can better deal with what is happening.

Going for a walk while listening to Eckhart is even better!

 

 

 

How I used Al Anon to help me heal from Hashimotos

Part of my journey to Hashimotos came from the culmination of several forces in my life.

One of the trigger events I believe was a nervous breakdown that exemplified the amount of emotional stress I was carrying around with me.  And this emotional stress largely came from growing up in a disfunctional home (which I later came to know was an alcoholic environment).

There were no brawls or drunken fights but there were lots of unspoken rules which I carried on to my adult life and they wreaked havoc on every part of my being.

You don’t get an autoimmune disease overnight. Yes, there are a lot of factors involved – genetics, gut health, trigger events.  But emotional turmoil can easily affect the development of such a thing.

Luckily, after my nervous breakdown and way before I was diagnosed with Hashimotos, I found Al Anon. And through it, I acquired many tools that taught me the meaning of sanity and emotional equilibrium.

Today I will share with you the things Al Anon taught me that helped me manage and reverse Hashimotos.

1. ODAT – One Day at a Time.

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I don’t know about you but a large part of my anxiety and emotional turmoil came from stressing about the future or the past.

Trying to plan out events or micromanage things that were out of my co trial left me a nervous wreck.  Obviously. Because things never turned out how I “planned” them.

Learning to live one day at a time, or in the beginning – one minute, one second at a time, was challenging but became easier with practice.  And my anxiety level decreased greatly.

In turn, my immune system had a chance to rest because it didn’t get the signal to “fight or flight” constantly.

A tested immune system is a more balanced immune system, hopefully one that does not attack its own tissue.

2 – Focus on yourself.

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In my adult life, I had gotten into the bad habit of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to manage everyone’s problems while neglecting myself.

Oh there was martyrdom galore!

Lots of feeling sorry for myself.

One of the things Al Anon taught me was to keep the focus on myself.  Instead of trying to manage someone else’s life (most likely when they would prefer that I butt out!), I can instead turn the focus inward and ask myself if there is anything I need.

Am I hungry? Lonely? Tired?

I can instead take care of my own needs and make sure my well being is taken care of.

My immune system appreciates not being run ragged and self care always feels nice.  I eat better, am more rested, and am happier overall.

3 – Attitude of Gratitude.

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It is very easy to get down in the dumps for me when I don’t feel well.

The worse I feel physically, the worse I feel emotionally.  And it becomes kind of a self perpetuating cycle.

When my hair was falling out and the fatigue made me feel 60 instead of 30, I was not a very positive person.

One of the things Al Anon teaches us is to look for the silver lining in each situation, even the most seemingly hopeless.

The trouble with the pit of despair (at least for me!) is that once I’m in it, it’s really hard to claw my way out. If I catch myself getting down and starting the downward spiral, I can MAKE myself practice gratitude and stop the descent.

It’s definitely counterintuitive and not something I WANT to do in that moment. But I ALWAYS feel better afterwards and magically the spiral has dissipated.

If you yourself are suffering from a high load of emotional stress, it is crucial to get a handle on it to begin your road to recovery from Hashimotos (or ANY autoimmune disease).  Al Anon is a tool that is available to everyone, whether they grew up in an alcoholic home or just a very disfunctional one.  You can find a local chapter here:

http://al-anon.org/find-a-meeting

I wish you luck on your journey to wellness and happiness!

Quick and easy dental health

As someone who has an autoimmune disease, I’m always up for ways to lessen the load on my immune response.

I was recently listening to Dr. Tom O’Bryan’s talk during the Healthy Gut Summit (if you haven’t heard of this great online event, check it out here: http://healthygutsummit.com. It is a WEALTH of awesome info!).  I remember him speaking about how germs get into our bodies.  There are multiple pathways.  Our bodies have great defenses normally but things go awry after a couple decades (or with misuse) and weak spots develop. One of these is a leaky gut (intestinal permeability), hence the need for a summit.

I was surprised to hear him say that another pathway was through our gums.  He said “if the water is pink when you brush, you have gingivitis”, and you gotta get that outta here.  That germs can get in your bloodstream through gingivitis and wreak havoc in your body (and potentially trigger an autoimmune attack).

WHOA.  This whole time I’ve been eating super clean and taking vitamins and reducing stress and doing positive self talk and I missed this big whammy.

But sometimes I need that biochemical imagery to get something through my head.

That biochemical gem follows closely behind my favorite advice from a dentist.

Since I’m a bit of a rebel, the whole “floss and brush twice a day” never made a huge impression on me. I needed a why. A more impressive, biochemical answer than just “to keep your teeth and gums healthy”.

Finally I met my current dentist who explained that it’s not about flossing or brushing.  The point of the exercise, he said, was to break up the colonies of bacteria which were trying to take root.  Furthermore, he said that when our gums bleed, it’s because our body can sense the bacteria trying to take hold and it sends more blood to the area to fight it off.

Now this I get.

I like to imagine the naughty bacteria setting up camp on and in my gums and wrap my head around the fact that I need to stop those suckers at all costs.

The best tool I have found for quickly busting up those colonies of bacteria is an oral irrigator.  This was the suggestion of my dentist so I can’t take full credit for it 😉

BUT let me tell you, that thing works WONDERS.

Case in point:  I had slacked off on my dental care as of late and when I heard Dr. O’Bryan talk, it sure prompted me to jump into action.  Especially because I had noticed pink water when I brushed lately.  No Bueno.  So I brushed off the oral irrigator and went to work.  This is the one I have:

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Waterpik Kids Water Flosser

http://www.amazon.com/Waterpik-Water-Flosser-Kids-WP-260/dp/B004Y99EO6

 

It’s actually a kid one. But I like it and it works great for me.  The nice part about this countertop model is that I can fill the reservoir with whatever type of water I want.  I also have a shower model that screws right into the shower hose and you’re pretty much stuck with whatever temperature and pressure is coming out of there, which can be good and bad.

This model, the Waterpik kids water flosser, takes up less counter space than the typical “adult” models and holds less water but it’s plenty for me and super easy to fill up with more water.  And honestly I think it was the cheapest one at the time of purchase which is why it came home to me.

It has 3 settings and I can tell you in my months of steady water flossing, I never even thought about using the 3rd one. It feels a bit like sandblasting your teeth (and gums) at that pressure.

I also like to put a couple drops of peppermint oil into the green chamber. Peppermint essential oil is antimicrobial and also freshens breath.  I love the minty clean feeling I have after this routine.  My peppermint oil came from TJ Maxx so it might not be the best quality but it still does the trick.

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So back to my freakout about germs getting into my bloodstream through my poor bleeding gums.  Out came the Waterpik, in went the warm water with peppermint oil.

And although my gums were happy about this (I’m assuming), man was that water pink.  Even red.

BUT here is the amazing part.  As bad as that was, my water flossing tonight, the second night in a row was about 1000 times better than the red disaster last night.  Literally, there was no red, my gums were not burning from being soooo darn irritated by those dang germs, there was only a little pink water.  Man, was I ecstatic about this.

This little gadget has made such a difference in my dental health, I recommend it to anyone who tells me they have bad teeth or at their dentist all the time.  Because I used to be one of those people too.  And really, I think just about any water flosser will do the trick.  The trick of irrigating those lovely gums and pressure washing them.  It’s kind of like taking a fire hose to those colonies which are trying to set up camp and getting them outta there!

In good dental health, take care!

 

 

 

This one thing is not like the others

It turns out I’m the anomaly.

The problem most people have during Hashimotos is not the problem I have.

Its taken some time and trial and error to figure this out.

Partly because I have not found ann affordable doctor who is also knowledgeable about all things Hashimotos.  The closest I have come is Dr. Kharrazian, who I follow and read his books (and love pretty much anything that he comes out with) but who is not my personal physician.  Sadly.

BUT. Back to this anomaly.

From reading countless posts from poor women who are really suffering from this disease, there seems to be a common thread of being medicated with synthetic T4 and receiving not so stellar results. Basically their symptoms improve slightly, if at all, but not in a lasting fashion.

A lot of these patients beg their doctors to make the switch to a natural dessicated thyroid medication, some with luck.  Others are refused.

In case you are new to the world of thyroid hormones, this is how it breaks down:

Natural dessicated hormones are usually collected from a pig thyroid.  These contain various combinations of T3 and T4.  T4 is the “slow release” version of thyroid hormone.  T3 is the “ready to use” version.  T4 will get converted to T3 at some point in your body.

So the natural hormone medications have both ready to use energy and slow release energy in them.  This works well for a lot of people.

Examples of natural dessicated thyroid medication brands are: Armour, Naturethroid, WP throid,  as well as a few others.  A good comparison can be found here on the Stop The Thyroid Madness site:

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/armour-vs-other-brands/

To contrast, synthetic thyroid hormone medication usually only includes T4. This means that the “ready to use” part is missing and only the “slow release, yet to be converted piece is what remains.  For most people, this is not effective treatment.  Some people have issues converting T4 to T3 in their bodies.  For them, having a ton of T4 floating around but not being able to effectively convert it to T3 will not do diddly squat for their symptoms.  Examples of synthetic meds are Synthroid, Levothroid, Tirosint, and other levothyroxine containing products.

Like I said though, I’m an anomaly.

I had stumbled upon an endocrinologist who was willing to prescribe me Armour from the get go.  Some people fight their doctors tooth and nail and switch several times to find a physician willing to prescribe this.

I should consider myself lucky.  I did, actually, because he is an excellent physician in many ways.  But it wasn’t right for me.

The combination of T4 and T3 sent me into a two month long ordeal. I suspect it’s because I was low normal to begin with.  And although I had symptoms (like being practically frozen), the T3 in Armour was too much for me.  When I took it, I had heart palpitations that took months to go away after stopping Armour.

Another awful side effect was the crippling anxiety that came along with it.  I remember during this time period thinking, I understand now why people kill themselves.  When I say crippling anxiety, I mean such a mental state that I wanted to escape it desperately. I have never before experienced such a thing, but I believe it to be representative lot of too high thyroid levels in the body (at least in my body).

This left me feeling like a paradox.

On the one hand, I definitely didn’t feel “normal”.  Something definitely wasn’t right.

On the other hand, I also wasn’t off the charts.  So the medication we tried was just too much.

What options does this leave me with?

After months, my thyrotoxicosis symptoms (anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations) were finally wearing off (thankfully!!) and I had found a functional medicine practitioner who was a nutritionist, I thought why not give this route a try?

After all, I am a proponent of natural things if at all possible.  And with being “low normal”, maybe it was possible to stabilize my thyroid function with diet alone.  Because a high percentage of T4 gets converted into T3 in the body by multiple organs including the gut, going the nutrition route instinctively made sense.  Since then I have learned that the body is more complex than I ever imagined it could be and a multitude of factors can inhibit this conversion.

Next, we’ll dive into the beginning of the nutrition protocol that I began with.  Stay tuned 🙂

 

Where do I begin?

Well at the time, I didn’t really want to begin.

Or need to.

I mean, I wasn’t feeling completely awful. Yes, my life had taken a turn for the worse and I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. But I’ve learned the hard way that we need to reach a certain threshold of pain, whether physical, mental or emotional, to be willing to go in a new direction. And I wasn’t there yet.

At this point in the diagnosis process, I had a thyroid ultrasound that looked like beeswax, full of holes where my thyroid had been eaten away by my immune system. But my thyroid levels were low “normal”.

I also did not test positive for thyroid antibodies.  What this means is that my antibody levels were low enough to be undetectable.  I took this to be good news.

I am hopeful that what this means is that we caught this monster early enough to be able to make a dent in it and bring it to a grinding halt.

And because medication only brings thyroid hormone in the blood to an optimal level for a limited time, I wanted to find a more sustainable way of managing my newfound disease.

After much googling, I stumbled upon Dr. Kharrazian who wrote a book called

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? when My Lab Tests Are Normal

This book changed my entire understanding of Hashimoto’s and for that I will forever be grateful to Dr. Kharrazian.  By the way, I am not paid to endorse him or his book, I just really love anything he has to say regarding Hashimoto’s and find it to be based on real patients and their symptoms as well as successful management of said symptoms.

So if you have Hashimoto’s and have no idea where to start, I highly recommend his approach.  It’s very detailed but understandable by regular people.  I especially enjoy the thorough explanations of what takes place in an auto-immune situation on a cellular level.

Another great thing I found thanks to Dr. Kharrazian is the Hashimoto’s 411 support group on Facebook.  There are several Hashimoto’s support groups on Facebook but I found this particular group to be the most helpful and not as judgemental and bossy as some of the other groups (just from my own personal experience).  Those ladies (mostly ladies 🙂 are FULL of buckets of knowledge about this disease.

So now I was armed with knowledge.  Thanks to the lovely people at Hashimoto’s 411, I found out there was a special type of doctor called Integrative or Functional.  These doctors go through special training to take the entire body into consideration instead of looking at it through the lens of a particular organ or body part (urology, cardiac, etc).  The idea is that everything is interrelated and can affect everything else.  I strongly believe in this concept in my own life so it made perfect sense to me to seek out this type of treatment.

According to Functionalmedicine.org:

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership…functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors …In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

After lots of phone calls, I finally struck on a nutritionist who was also a certified functional practitioner who was not too awfully far away from me (a few hours).  I should not that this field is relatively new and while there are lots of doctors listed in a 100 mile radius, not all of them align with my particular issue.  So weeding through the list and getting someone to actually call me back was an arduous task.

I found this to be the case with most things regarding this disease.  There is no clear cut “best” option.  There are many paths, many providers, many opinions, many courses of action.  In the end, the only way to know if some path will help is to try it (after some prayer and meditation on it lol).  This is, in a way, terrifying.  What if, by going down this particular path, I’m wasting the chance to fix this problem at THIS point in time with some other remedy?  I’m certain this is a malady facing lots of patients with chronic or urgent issues to address.

I guess we just make the best decision we can with the best information we have at the time.

And hope for the best.

Wait….. let me back up a little

This began in the summer of 2013.

I was 60 days into P90X and I was feeling increasingly exhausted.

(For those of you not familiar with P90X, it is a high intensity fitness program where 6 days a week you are working a different part of your body.)

I was so fatigued, that I was postponing workouts to the next day, and finding myself days behind and trying to catch up.  I was so tired, I literally had a hard time standing up during the workout or even finishing it.  Being tired during the workout, and also afterwards, should have been my clue that something wasn’t right.  I mean, exercise is supposed to make you feel better, not WORSE!

To make matters worse, I was getting periods about every 2 weeks.  Prior to this, I could set a watch by my cycle, it was extremely regular and predictable.  So for it to freak out like this, it definitely (FINALLY) made me take notice.

I am a big proponent of natural routes if possible, so I sought advice of my voodoo doctor chiropractor who advised me that my thyroid was overactive, which was responsible for my symptoms.

Looking back, this made sense.  Our thyroid is like a gauge on our metabolism.  When it speeds up, everything speeds up – digestion, energy usage (which explains why I was exhausted), female organ activity, etc.  I was unknowingly telling my body to speed up metabolism by loading it up with tons of activity.  At the time, I was also at the height of my 3rd year of triathlon training.  My body was being overworked like crazy.  And it couldn’t handle the load.

Here I was telling my body to speed up, and speed up and speed up until the speedometer was broken.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

P90X is a wonderful program that has brought a lot of people awesome fitness levels.  I adore Tony Horton and his positive attitude throughout the program.  He has helped thousands of people lead more positive and productive lives by shedding fat and getting into shape.  It was, however, not right for me.  In my body, what it did was kick my Hashimoto’s into high gear.

In my body, it was part of what I have come to know as the trifecta of Hashimoto’s.

  1.  In order to develop Hashimoto’s, there is usually a genetic predisposition.  Something about this could also be the reason why so many more women get Hashimoto’s than men.
  2. The second thing is that the gut, our wonderful armor from the inside, has to be compromised in some way.  For me it was eating an overabundance of wheat, eggs, sugar during my overtraining.  I was HUNGRY!  I also have decades of sugar abuse under my belt that I’m certain didn’t help the situation.
  3. The final piece is a trigger event.  For me, that trigger event was physical stress from overtraining as well as emotional stress from life in general.  I am super great at taking on the problems of the world, and apparently killing myself in the process.

 

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