Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Well hello there, Thyroid

It's been awhile since I've heard from you. And I can't say I'm all that upset about that. You are the thorn in my side, the little (except not little) thing I like to forget about when you're behaving yourself. But for whatever reason, you've chosen now to remind me that you're really the one running the show. Well, technically, you're just my immune system's puppet. Let's back up a minute.

If you haven't heard the story, it's been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes my immune system to attack my own thyroid gland. The thyroid, in response, goes into overdrive and starts pumping out way more thyroid hormones than my body needs. The results of this - weight loss, difficulty sleeping, tremors, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, rapid pulse, and fluctuations in mood, are due to the major disruption of such a critical organ of the endocrine system. I was diagnosed after a routine physical at my doctor's office, when I mentioned to my doctor that I thought I was having heart palpitations. She did an EKG in her office that day, which didn't return much info. After a round of blood work, a radioactive uptake scan, and a thyroid ultrasound, the diagnosis came back: Graves Disease. It was a bitter pill to swallow at 27 years old, knowing that this disease would never go away, and the best I could hope for was remission. Remission, of course, was what I was hoping for. My new endocrinologist, Dr. Boring (not his real name ;), wanted to destroy my thyroid right off the bat using radioactive iodine. Baring that, he wanted to cut it out. No thanks. I'd like to keep that important little gland, thankyouverymuch.

Over the years, I've been on and off different drugs to depress the function of my overactive thyroid. Interestingly, pregnancy put me solidly into remission, as the hormone cocktail resulting from growing a person worked in my favor. But each time, the postpartum period, and the stress of breastfeeding, being awake all night, and going back to work all combined to mess up that peaceful state of equilibrium. After getting tired of fending off Dr. Boring's attempts to convince me to part with my thyroid and take synthetic hormone replacement for the rest of my life, I found a new endocrinologist who was comfortable with long-term medication therapy to keep it in check. This worked out well for several years, especially as I was able to go off my meds a year and a half ago as my disease went into remission on its own. But alas, it seems all good things must come to an end, and even my new doctor now feels like it would be in my best interest to destroy or remove my thyroid.

Here's the thing though. Getting rid of the thyroid isn't getting rid of the problem. The problem is my immune system. By removing the thyroid, you're removing the cause of the SYMPTOMS, not the root of the problem. My doctor acknowledges this, yet remains firm that there isn't a way to address the immune system component. I've known for a long time that there is a way to reset the immune system and calm its inflammatory response. I just haven't wanted to do it, because it requires sacrifice. A lot of it. And as a working mom of two, I just don't feel like I often have that much more to give. But I think we've reached the point where I have to try.

Enter the Paleo Diet. If you haven't heard of it, eating Paleo means eating a diet free of inflammatory foods such as grains, dairy, and refined sugar and focusing on whole, healing foods like fresh produce, meat (OMG so much meat), nuts, seeds and spices. I've been avoiding it for years because the very idea of giving up grains and dairy terrifies me. No fresh homemade bread? No hot bowl of steel cut oats, or air-popped popcorn with the kids? No fresh yogurt, cheese (CHEESE?), or cream in my coffee? I'm still wrapping my head around all of these losses. But, I've come to the point where healing just has to take priority over bread. Sorry, bread :( I still love you. The healing will happen, hopefully, from healing my gut, which is the source of everyone's immunity. Many people with autoimmune disorders have a "leaky gut," which allows toxins to pass into the bloodstream, which in turn, sends the immune system over the edge and it does wonky things like attacking the body's own organs. Some people are lucky enough to be able to reintroduce grains and dairy after a time on the Paleo Plan. Some aren't. Only time will tell for me. So I figured in the meantime, I'd blog the journey, and I hope you'll follow along. I need all the support I can get!

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