Saturday, March 31, 2012


This post is so personal to me that I've been having trouble figuring out how to write it. I'm just going to take a deep breath and type, so here it goes...

There is something that is absolutely freeing about validation. This condition (Hashimoto's) has the ability to make you question if you are in fact sick.  You sometimes wonder if you're making it all up in your head.  Hashimoto's has you going in many different directions emotionally, physically, and even mentally that you often feel like a hypochondriac or a whiner who simply can't get it together. I have struggled with friends, doctors, and even myself on this journey because people don't react when they hear a disease with a funny name and it isn't high up on the autoimmune chain. I mean, I take an Anatomy and Physiology class and it isn't even mentioned in Endocrine or the Lymphatic chapters. Thankfully, I have been validated and I have found out that it is not all in my head.

I went and got a second opinion, which was a struggle within itself.  My first Endocrinologist (let's call him Dr. H.) was a jerk.  He used terms on our visit that he knew I wouldn't understand and when pressed for information, he visibly became irritated.  He blatantly told me to stay off the internet and that my continued symptoms were either from being a mother with 2 kids (because mom's are naturally exhausted to the point that they can't lift their heads) or I had another autoimmune disease.  I actually heard him sigh when leaving the office at our last meeting.  He made me feel like it was all in my head and that the fatigue I had along with hives, joint pain, and weight gain was simply a fluke. I really wish I could punch him in the jaw because he never took the time to really look at my case.  He just looked at my blood work and the numbers were within normal range and that was the end of it.

Shortly after my visit with Dr. H., an Army buddy of mine came to visit and I discussed my case with him and he told me a story about his sister (who has passed) that broke my heart. He impressed upon me that I needed a second opinion and if it didn't feel right, then to trust my instincts. I had heard other people say this to me, but sometimes it just feels different coming from someone you've been to war with. I mean, over a year in Iraq with a person who's seen you at your worse, who knows you've burned poop, and who has slept through mortar round attacks with you is pretty high on my list, so I listened.

I went to my family doctor (Dr. S.) and she listened to my case and tested me for everything under the sun.  At that point, she thought I possibly had Lupus. She sent off a request to my insurance company to approve me for a second opinion and they approved it, but sent me to a doctor within the same practice as my first Endocrinologist.  Frustrated, I called my insurance company and explained to them that that wasn't going to work and the customer service rep told me to go online and find another doctor and call them back. Here is where I go thyroid on her. I repeated her request to me to impress upon her that surely she didn't want me to hang up the phone, get on the internet, find another doctor, call back and get another customer service rep whom I would have to explain the whole situation to over again and wouldn't you know it she actually had a computer there and could do that herself.  I had the approval within 3 minutes. I'm so tired of people not caring anymore. Dr. H. and the customer service rep simply don't care that I'm sick and that I need their help. It just takes too much effort for them to do their jobs.

Here comes the validation and I'm actually crying as I type this out. I go see Dr. O (the second opinion) and he asks me why I am there. Huh? I tell him that I keep telling my first endocrinologist that I still have symptoms and he thinks its environmental or another autoimmune disease and then I go a step forward with my explanation because I can sense I'm going to get the same crap I've been getting and tell him that I am young, I have two children, and all I want is to be able to play with them. I ask him to help me. What has happened to the healthcare system that I have to ask a doctor for help? He looks at me and wouldn't you know it, he actually takes a second look (second opinion, duh) at my file and finds something. He got excited and I was a bit taken aback I must say. He says to me, "your cortisol levels have never been checked according to your file, we have to check them because the Levothyroxine (my medication) may be making you feel worse if you have adrenal fatigue or failure".  He goes on to say, "your initial labs would appear to be normal because adrenal failure sometimes masks itself as hypothyroidism". Wow, really!?! He warns me that adrenal failure is rare, but it's worth checking.  I must point out that Dr. O is the first doctor to really listen to me and I think he is an awesome doctor, but his staff sucks. They called me about 4 days later with results, but when I called back to the office, they informed that they were unable to locate my file and simply never called me back.  I continued to call almost everyday and sometimes they picked up the phone and sometimes they didn't. The day before I was going to go up to the office and go thyroid on those chicks, I called and they told me that the doctor wanted to see me and if I could come into the office at 10 a.m.  By this time, it had been almost 2 weeks of waiting.  They really suck.

I went back to the office with both children in tow.  The doctor comes into the office and of course that's when my most of the time well-behaved children turned into devils.  All of the sudden, my daughter was dying of thirst and my son wanted to do laps around the doctor's office.  Once I got them settled down, Dr. O gave me my results. My cortisol was abnormally low and my ACTH was low as well, which means my adrenal glands are not functioning correctly and that is why I feel bad. I actually began to cry in the office. I was finally validated and I had blood work to prove it. He went on to tell me that my antibodies were high, the normal range for thyroid antibodies is from 0 to 34 and mine was 1636. Dr. O looked me in my eye and told me that my immune system is killing my thyroid and that's why I feel so bad, couple that with the adrenal issue and I'm literally on a roller coaster inside of my body. He also told me that I needed to do another biopsy because he was concerned that there could be a presence of follicular carcinoma (cancer) and to be safe I should be tested once again. I could have hugged him and I can't begin to tell you how many times I said thank you. It felt good and bad at the same time. I finally felt like I wasn't crazy.

Dr. O is very thorough and he is retesting my cortisol and ACTH just to make sure this is what really is going on. He told me that the numbers suggest that something else is wrong and I may have another autoimmune disease where my body is attacking my adrenal glands. The funny thing is, that's exactly what Dr. H said, but never bothered to do the testing even though it's all in the endocrine system and he is an Endocrinologist.

The past few days have been weird for me. I am sad that my body isn't working correctly, but I am happy to have found a doctor that stopped and looked at my situation in its entirety.  I've had blood drawn for everything, but never cortisol or ACTH and it never came up on my own radar. I think about the people who don't have insurance or who have been suffering for 10 and 15 years with this issue and the doctor's simply don't do the testing. I'm incredibly thankful. I now know that it's not all in my head. I'm not depressed as one friend suggested. I'm sick and I'm not ashamed to say it any more. My body is not functioning properly. I'm not a whiner. I guess the moral of this story is to never give up. If it doesn't feel right, then move to the next doctor and the doctor after that, until you feel like you're being heard and help is being offered. And so, the journey continues...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How I do it...

I've heard it a thousand times.  How can you be gluten free or have a whole foods diet on a budget?  Most people think it is too expensive to eat healthy and it is expensive, but not as much as people think. The truth is, our grocery bill has not changed very much.  I'll admit that it has gone up about $30 a month, but that's because I've added a butcher into the mix. So, how do I do it?

Step #1 - I plan my meals out in 2 week increments

It takes a lot of planning, but we spend about $150 to $180 every other week on groceries.  That adds up to about $300 to $360 per month, which is below the amount that a family of four receives on food stamps. Take a minute to let that sink in. The average family of four on food stamps gets a little over $400 for food, so it is quite possible to eat healthy on a tight budget.  Now, why did I mention that? Well, because eating foods that are not whole isn't about expense to me.  It is more about convenience. When you are gluten free, soy free, dairy free, or even sugar free (which I am not all of those things yet) you have to COOK or bake to cut cost. It's just that simple. The days of handing your child an Eggo waffle are GONE. I don't cut coupons. I shop at Earthfare and my grocery bill is not crazy, but I no longer have the convenience of processed food. I will admit there is not a lot of variety when doing this on a budget and it takes me a good amount of time to plan our meals in advance.

Here is an example of my 2-week menu plan (I've added links to some of the recipes too)

Sunday 3/18
Cheese Cubes
Monday 3/19
Eggs w/toast
Left-over Rogan Josh
Chicken w/rice and carrots
Tuesday 3/20
Paleo Chicken Nugget w/Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday 3/21
Cheese Cubes
Thursday 3/22
Blueberry Muffins (Gluten Free) Yogurt
Quinoa Salad
Chicken w/rice and carrots
Friday 3/23
Fruit Salad
Cheese Cubes
Saturday 3/24
Banana Bread or Pancakes w/paleo sausage
Quinoa Salad
Curry Goat (Paleo)

Sunday 3/25
Pancakes or Scones (Gluten Free)
Quinoa Salad
Left-over Curry Goat
Monday 3/26
Eggs w/paleo sausage
Fruit Salad
Tuesday 3/27
Gluten Free Pasta w/Fruit
Chicken w/rice
Wednesday 3/28
Granola Cereal or Gluten Free Chex
Gluten Free Pasta/ w fruit
Chicken w/rice
Cheese Cubes
Granola Cereal
Quinoa Salad
Curry Chicken
Cheese Cubes
Banana Bread
Quinoa Salad
Banana Bread
Paleo Chicken Nuggets w/Sweet Potato Fries
Not really sure

Step # 2 - I write out my grocery list according to what I am going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks. 

Most people I know write their lists and then plan their meals, but in my opinion that will lead to more trips to the grocery store and more money.  If you sit down and write a menu plan, then you can look at recipes and actually save yourself from buying multiple ingredients or ingredients you will use for only one item.  For example, in my menu plan there is somewhat of an Indian/Carribean theme. That helps with buying seasoning, veggies, and other things needed to make meals. You aren't going to save money if your meals are all over the place, especially if you're just starting to change your eating style. Also, select days of the week to have certain items.  For example, we eat chicken (poor mans meat) Monday thru Thursday, Friday is vegetarian, and Saturday and Sunday include beef, goat, or something else crazy my husband likes.

Step #3 - Count out the items you will need

The hardest part for me when changing over to gluten free/paleoish was running out of food before the next scheduled trip to the store.  Now, I actually go through my menu/recipes and count out how many eggs, pounds of chicken, granola, or bananas I'm going to need.  It's time consuming, but it saves yourself from going to the store multiple times and you won't deviate from your menu.

Step #4 - Get a Pinterest account

If you're anything like me, then you want to try new things and even get quick go-to recipes.  Before I changed the way I ate it was quite simple to whip up a meal, but now I want to see what other gluten free people are doing and try out those recipes. In order for me to keep them in order and save the ones I like or want to try, I pin them to my pinterest account. It's quite easy and it will help you get organized.

Step #5 - Relax, but get informed!

It's quite easy to get overwhelmed, but the best thing to do is to take it easy.  I eat this way because I feel better when I do.  My health depends on my diet.  That isn't the case for everyone and if you just want to make changes because you're tired of processed food or for any other reason, then go slow and start eliminating things one at a time. My item now is gluten and I seriously need to incorporate more leafy greens and other vegetables to my diet. I'm working on it, but the plan is to go slow and not overwhelm myself to the point that I give up.

If this is about your health, then you need to inform yourself about all of the things food can do to you. For example, I just learned that certain raw veggies can inhibit thyroid function. WOW! I thought eating raw veggies was the best thing you could do, but that isn't true for everyone. 

Step #6 - HELP ME!

I need help.  I'm new at this, so if you have any tips then give them to me.  If you find a book that will be beneficial let me know.  I don't know everything and honestly, I'm doing this for myself, but also for my children.  I'm the 5th generation of women in my family to have a thyroid disorder.  That tells me that my children are predisposed to going through the same things and if changing their diet will help them, then that is my job as their mother.  I'm beginning to ramble, but I think you get what I'm saying. 
Next time I'll break down cost and show receipts.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yesterday was HARD

The girl I sit next to in my College Algebra class is an idiot.  Yes, I said it.  She is a complete idiot and I am going to tell you why.

I had a rough day Tuesday.  I just couldn't seem to get it together.  I had to be in a completely different part of the city 30 minutes after I dropped my daughter off at school for a cortisone shot in my hip. It wasn't going to happen.  I ended up calling a friend to sit with her in the school parking lot until it was time to drop off.  Thankfully, she was more than willing to help, but because I was so off I totally ended up wasting her time and was late getting to the school.  I suck at this friend thing right now.  I was late to everything, but the kicker is that I got my shot, picked up my daughter, cooked dinner, didn't eat it, and then rushed in my car to make it to my 6 p.m. class for school and realized that I hadn't eaten since breakfast.  I mean I hadn't even had a snack.  That is the wrong answer for my body or anyone with thyroid issues.  You've got to eat! I knew I would be late to class if I stopped and when you're gluten free, you simply can't stop at the local drive-thur.  I drove on over to Earthfare to pick up some gluten free snacks and a beet juice and actually made it to school on time.  Here is where the girl I sit next to in my class comes in.

She's a nice girl, but she is an idiot.  I don't tend to judge people and I've withheld my comments to her about drinking more than one soda in a three hour period while being pregnant. I've ignored her comments about how she's taking her size 0 jeans to the hospital with expectation that she will be wearing them home.  I have even been so kind to ignore that she has yet to find a place to live with her boyfriend and child even through the due date is approaching.  I've ignored these things, but I have offered her help by giving her my pack and play along with some clothes.  It's the right thing to do, but she made me mad the other night.  This girl, takes one look at my beet juice and says, "WHAT'S THAT!".  I calmly explain to her what the ingredients are and she points to her McDonald's Strawberry and Banana smoothie and says, "Strawberry Banana smoothie, this is just as healthy but I bet it doesn't taste like THAT".  I simply looked at her, but I'm thinking in my head that she has no idea what's in that "smoothie" because I've never seen a real strawberry or banana in McDonald's before.  Oh, and I know that's not all she got from McDonald's. I'm pretty sure there was a burger to go with that, maybe some fries, or possibly some chicken nuggets. You see, I'm not downing her for what she eats.  Before, this happened to me and even when I was pregnant with my first child I made trips to fast food joints too, but I knew that it was bad food I was eating and I knew to never make a comparison of my food to someone else's choice. Since when did it become okay to put down healthy food? Since when did it become the norm for individuals to stick their noses up at natural drinks and why am I considered a food snob or abnormal if I say I don't eat fast food, chips, or soda?

It gets worse though. I started to feel bad in class that evening and of course the girl attributed it to my beet juice.  I gave her the "look" because I was over it and I was trying to get in my head from preventing a full on anxiety attack.  My chest was getting tight and my heart was beating fast.  I could feel myself getting hot and I just wanted to get out of there.  My hormone levels must have been all off from not eating and it was catching up to me.  I hadn't eaten in a total of 9 hours and hadn't got the food in my body in time to save myself a crash.  I'm proud of myself for staying in class though and not going off on my classmate.  I'm extremely proud that I stayed after class to go over material I didn't get and was the last person to leave.  I'm learning that a lot of times I have to push through this condition and not let it control my life. The next day was terrible and I was on the couch most of the day.  I had to cancel a study group and actually dragged my family out of the house at 7 p.m. to do groceries because that's when I began to feel better.  It sucks that my normal is different now, but I have a whole lot to be thankful for.  My husband is helpful and my kids are understanding when I say mommy is having a bad day.  My sister is always there to hear me out, I can be vulnerable with her and not feeling like a total cry baby. I have a friend that makes me laugh until I cry no matter how I'm feeling. I have a whole host of mommy friends who are pulling for me and that makes me feel good.  I know some people go through this alone and I am thankful that I don't.  I am even thankful for the idiot I sit next to in class because I know she genuinely isn't trying to be an idiot she just doesn't know any better.  Maybe I should tell her about my blog!?!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Did I tell you I was gluten free...?

Gluten and Hashimoto's don't mix.

I didn't believe the hype at first. I mean, if you have this disease and have googled it at least once, you're going to see something about going gluten free. I have heard people say that they feel sooooo much better and that their energy levels have improved so much.  I decided to give it try and it didn't do any of that for me; however, the porcelain king and I are no longer friends because of the gluten.  I noticed after going on Levothyroxine that every single time I ate I would have stomach cramps and later on in the night I would have diarrhea.  Initially, I thought it must be attributed to eating something bad, but I noticed that rest of my family never got sick. I thought to myself that it must have been the medication and went off of it for about a week or two.  I just got sicker and broke out into hives. Let me just say that hives suck. It is an intense feeling to have your skin betray you.  Your skin feels hot and it burns.  It itches and you look like the elephant man. After that attack, I went back on my medication and decided to go gluten free.

Here is the science according to Sarah Marshall from

Gluten disrupts immune function and causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can then cause leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut occurs when small fragments of gluten pass through the lining of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. These indigested fragments of protein can lead to autoimmunity and go on to harm body organs and tissues.

When someone is sensitive to gluten, his or her immune system treats gluten as a foreign object and attacks it. This causes inflammation within the body, which in turn leads the body to attack the thyroid. In this case, many people find that after removing gluten from their diet, their symptoms decrease significantly

Reference:  S. Marshall, Gluten Sensitivity and Hashimoto's Autoimmune Disease, from

Going gluten free isn't that bad, but it leads to other stuff.  I've never been one to eat out of a box, so I literally have had to educate myself on how to make gluten free meals that my family will eat. Gluten homemade food is awesome and it feels good to not have a tummy ache all of the time, but like I said it leads to other stuff.  When you eat this way, a bell goes off in your head and you realize how you feel is directly tied into how you eat. Interesting...right!?! I started to notice that gluten free flours (coconut, almond, millet, sorghum to name a few) are extremely low in preservatives. They don't last forever like the regular old unbleached flour, which in turn means they don't last forever in your body. That's not a hard concept to comprehend, so if I help my body out by putting things in it that it can break down better, then I may just feel better.  Eureka! 

Well, that's what I'm trying and have been doing for about 2 months now and I must say that I don't have ANY extra energy, but for once I feel confident and proud of what I put in my body and my children's bodies. We do not eat "naughty" vegetables or fruits, we do eat meat that is grass fed and that does not have hormones or antibiotics, we are gluten free, and soon to be sugar free.  We eat food that will actually spoil one day. I like to say that we are Paleoish. I still eat rice, beans, and an occasionally piece of cheese, but I am a work in progress.  

How do I do it? I will put that all in this blog in the coming days and even show my crazy meal plan calendar, grocery list, and how much we spend.  We surprisingly don't spend a whole lot of money, but we have cut out a lot too. I'm doing this so I can hold myself accountable for my choices too. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How this all began...

I come from 4 generations of women on my maternal side that have had a thyroid disorder.  I don't know why I never thought to educate myself on thyroid disorders because my genes are a clear sign that a diagnosis of Hypo or Hyperthyroidism was highly likely.  I simply never thought it would happen to me.  I simply thought of their issues as being minor and a direct correlation to their poor diet or high stress, but that changed early last year.

At the beginning of 2011, my husband looked at me and asked if my throat was swollen.  I never noticed and dismissed it as nothing.  I went in to have my annual OB/GYN appointment and the doctor asked if I had my thyroid checked. I told her no, but I had this nagging feeling that something was about to change in my life. She ordered the blood work and everything came back normal. I felt awesome. I wasn't tired or jumping off the walls.  I couldn't possibly have a thyroid condition. I was working out 3 days out of the week and running over 4 miles a day three days out of the week, sometimes running twice a day. I had just started taking 4 online classes at the local community college. I was an active stay at-home mom.  I was competing in races.  I was super-mommy.  Hell, I even have a cape to prove it.  Are you noticing something?

Two months later, I go in to see my regular doctor because I felt really ill. Guess what she says to me, "Mrs. H., have you had your thyroid checked?". Instantly, I tell her that I had and everything came back normal.  She then tells me that she feels a lump on my thyroid and orders more blood work along with an ultrasound. That's when I started to worry.  The ultrasound showed I had a large nodule on my thyroid along with several small nodules. My doctor then ordered a biopsy because that would put her at ease that something strange wasn't going on. The biopsy came back indeterminate. What exactly does that mean?

Three months after the biopsy I go to see an endocrinologist and he tells me that my T3 and T4 are normal but another part of my blood work, thyroid antibodies are high.  The nodule, indeterminate biopsy results, and blood work give me the diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. HUH!?! I couldn't believe it. How did I get an autoimmune disease within the span of such a short amount of time. He put me on 50 MCG of Levothyroxine to see if the nodule would shrink and I felt fine until about 3 months after seeing him. I was no longer running because of an injury, but I was always tired all of sudden. I also gained about 10 pounds in what seem like a night. I then broke out in hives. It seemed like my body was on a roller coaster and when I asked my regular doctor she said this is what happens when you have a thyroid condition, but we will work together to figure out how to get you back to you. On the other hand, my endocrinologist said my numbers were normal, so I obviously must have something else wrong and so the journey has begun to getting back to me.