Let me start this journey with you by telling you the story of how I discovered the paleo lifestyle and how it literally changed my life. In 2014, after giving birth to my second son, my life slowly began to tailspin. In my first couple months post-pardum I became increasingly exhausted and found myself constantly on the couch. I assumed that this was just what it felt like to have two babies under 18 months and to basically “buck up”.
After a couple more months, however, I knew without a doubt there was something deeply wrong. I was so exhausted that I would just lay in the middle of the floor and pass out. I could not find the energy to get up to feed my boys, change their diapers, or even get myself water or food. My body literally felt as if it had shut down. I had huge unexplained bruises all over abnormal places like my stomach and butt that I should have remembered getting and couldn’t. My ears are pierced and were bleeding and oozing constantly, something that has never happened, and I could not get them to stop for weeks no matter what medicine I put on them. I couldn’t remembered anything at all, including how to say words, which was so incredibly frustrating and embarrassing. I would be in the process of saying something, picture the word in my mind….and then only be able to say the first few letters even though I could see the darn word I wanted to say!! Feeling stupid was an understatement for me.
I began to gain weight…about 20 pounds within one month. People said it was just the baby weight and it would come off…..except I had already lost all my baby weight within the first month. I was eating the exact same as I had a month before, but gaining weight rapidly. I am not someone who fluctuates….ever. I have been at the same weight since I was 18 aside from pregnancy, and I was a personal trainer….I knew it didn’t add up. My hair and eyebrows started to fall out, I was freezing constantly, even in the sun, my once strong nails were breaking off constantly, my joints and muscles throbbed all day long from nothing, my skin became pale and puffy, my motivation for life slowly started to trickle away.
Eventually I became overcome with guilt and shame. I wasn’t able to hack it as a mom. I couldn’t take care of my boys, and I didn’t want to anymore. I literally just laid in the middle of the floor day after day and cried my eyes out as I felt the guilt smother me for not having the energy to even sit against a wall as my oldest asked me to play with him. It was gut wrenching and I felt so ashamed to let anyone know how helpless I had become.
I decided then to go to the doctor to have labs run to see if it was just in my head. I was extremely lucky in that my doctor immediately discovered I had Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and chronic mono. I know so many get tested and come back within the “normal range” in the beginning of their journey, that was not me. After discovering that I now had an autoimmune disease, my doctor started me on a thyroid medication that I was to take for the rest of my life. This was incredibly disheartening to me. I have always been a “healthy” person with no medications or long term illnesses, so to discover that I had a chronic autoimmune disease that as she put it, “will continue to attack your thyroid to the point where it will become completely destroyed” was pretty devastating. I did, however, know that my life as I knew it was no longer in existence, so I decided to take it out of pure desperation.
After just a couple days of being on the medication, I began to feel off-balance. After another couple weeks, I was so dizzy I could no longer walk up and down the stairs in our house without leaning against the wall as I walked. I called the doctor, and she decided to double my dosage of the medication. A week later, my husband came home and found me passed out in the middle of the floor. My two little boys were crawling around the upstairs, baby gate wide open, completely unsupervised. We went straight to the emergency room, where I was given a stern talking to about the importance of getting enough sleep as a new mom and taking a good quality multivitamin. I was also diagnosed with vertigo, and given medication to help with dizziness that could cause nausea. I took the first pill, puked, and threw it away.
We went back to my doctor, who did an examination of my ears and decided the vertigo was caused by a completely random tumor she found inside my ear. I was sent to an Ears Nose Throat specialist, who determined that the tumor was actually just a water droplet. He removed it but informed me that it would have no effect on the vertigo. He was right. I decided to try a different doctor who specialized more in thyroid disorders. I could no longer drive due to the dizziness and nausea, so my husband had to take over all errands and transportation for the family and me. I got put on a wait list, and finally got into the next doctor. She ran more tests and decided I needed to switch medications and do some hormonal therapy replacement. A few nights after switching medications I started running a fever. I could not break it, no matter what I tried. Eventually it got to 104.5 and I started to shake. The shaking turned into what felt like uncontrollable convulsions. They continued throughout the night with the fever, so my husband took off yet another day from work to take me back to this doctor. She did a full examination of me and informed me that I was allergic to pork and was having a reaction to the new thyroid medicine because it came from a pig. I eat bacon….I eat pork…I have never had an issue. When I explained this to her, she told me she could no longer help me. She suggested I try eating gluten free because there is a link to gluten causing attacks in patients with autoimmune diseases.
At this point, I was beyond frustrated and depressed. I found another doctor, this time an Internal Medicine doctor and got on her wait list. Although I was beyond angry at the last doctor’s response to my puzzling reaction to the new thyroid medicine, I decided I was miserable enough to try anything….so I committed to going gluten free. It was hard…..real hard. I was a girl who LOVED her bread and dessert. I had a shirt in college that said “I love carbs” and I was proud of it! I was so angry that I had to go through this and couldn’t just eat “normal.” I started to feel isolated from normal society and began turning down social invitations to dinner or parties because it literally hurt my heart to know I would go and watch everyone else eat food I love, while I sat by and ate carrots that I had brought in a baggie. Eventually though….it started to help. My dizziness began to subside and after a few months, I was able to drive again. My energy was still beyond low, but I could now sit against a wall with my eyes open and watch my boys play.
I ended up going through an additional 4 more doctors and medications in search of answers and healing before I decided it was time for me to be my biggest advocate. Nobody cared as much as I did about regaining my life. Nobody was going to lie awake night after night thinking about what life used to be like and dreaming of getting it back. It was time for me to make it happen. I committed to myself right then and there that I was going to turn my life around. I refused to believe this is what the future was going to hold for me and my boys, even though all of the doctors had said it would. I began researching for hours and hours, month after month. I learned about the paleo diet and saw how it had helped people just like me get their life back. I decided to do it….but to start on a much stricter form of paleo called The Autoimmune Protocol diet. It took out any and everything that could cause gut inflammation even in the most sick individuals. I dove in headfirst…no nuts, seeds, grains of any sort, dairy, sugar, artificial sugar, caffeine, soy, alcohol, dried fruit, processed food of any sort, eggs, chocolate, gums (guar gum, tara gum), nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, mustard or mustard seed, all chili’s including spices), tapioca, any vegetable oils, over the counter medicines like Advil, and all herbs from seeds. The first 3 days I felt like I had the flu. I had massive migraines, body aches, chills, vomiting and stomach upset. It was so incredibly painful and I never thought it would end. I questioned what in the world I was doing and fought myself all day on my desire to end the pain instantly by stopping this crazy madness! I had no idea that the detox from the food I was eating would have such an extreme effect on me….how scary. After the first 3 days the pain went away and after a few more weeks, I started to feel a difference. It took about 3 months for me to feel 75% of my old self, which I honestly wasn’t sure I would ever feel again. I slowly began to reintroduce different foods back into my diet until I landed on a full paleo diet.
It been over four years since the start of my journey with Hashimoto’s. It has definitely been the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but as insane as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Without this illness, I wouldn’t have become the strong and healthy person I am today, which is thousands of times stronger than I ever dreamed I could be! I have control over my health, my body, and my future….and I am on top of the world! I am no longer a victim of my disease and it is my hope and prayer that I can use my pain and personal struggles to help inspire you to take control of your life too whether it be an autoimmune disease like me, or a desire to be healthier. Thanks for reading!