Five Things I Learned on the Autoimmune Protocol

Deciding to take on the Autoimmune Protocol was not easy for me. Here I am eleven months in to it though and it feels much like it did after having been gluten free for at least as long. It is sort of just second nature for me now. I have reintroduced most foods like green and red peppers, tomatoes, pepper and other spices, eggs and some grains like rice and corn (always organic, and only occasionally), legumes, peas and some seeds (only occasionally). I have not reintroduced any nuts because they had started to create an immediate reaction on my tongue and throat. 

I reintroduced eggs in the form of carob brownies. That was a big mistake. I should have reintroduced them the way suggested in all the autoimmune books out there where you take a small amount, wait 15 minutes then add a little more. I just don’t usually have the patience or the time to do such a thing so I just go with the flow. I made these brownies from a recipe I had found via google and ate half the pan in 12 hours. It was a small pan and only two eggs were in the whole recipe so I thought it would be fine. Nope. It was not. I found myself extremely irritable and really irate over little things the next day (like in the 13th and 14th hours of consuming these brownies). I flipped out on my kids over a power cord that had gone missing. I couldn’t stand to be with myself. It is hard enough to be a parent and then you throw in all this autoimmune stuff on top of it. Man, I feel sorry for my kids. So, knowing that the eggs were the only new ingredient that I had not eaten in 8 months means that they are more than likely a forever no food for me. A couple weeks later I ate some gluten free crackers with hummus. Turns out they had egg yolks in them (no wonder they were so good) which I realized after eating them when I read the package. Same thing happened again except not as intense. 

I have not yet reintroduced eggplant mostly because I only eat it once or twice a year in a Paleo lasagna dish from the Everyday Paleo Italian Cuisine cookbook by Sarah Fragoso.

I have learned a lot about myself these last eleven months. I have a strained relationship with food that goes back many many years. Doing this elimination diet has taught me a lot about that relationship and also: 

I needed to eat more vegetables and particularly greens. 

I am one of those people who uses carbohydrates for energy way better than fat. I took an Organic Acids Test with a friend who is studying with Dan Kalish and she discovered my cells can’t convert fat and protein to energy as well as they can carbohydrates. This, combined with my Hashimoto’s means I should be eating way more quality carbohydrates than I was. If I am being honest with you, most of my diet consisted of proteins, fat and sweet potatoes with a vegetable in the evenings at dinner. This here speaks volumes to my relationship with food. I know better for goodness sake, I am a Nutritional Therapist. More than half my plate at each meal, including breakfast is veggies which has helped me feel so much better, especially when it comes to the energy I am feeling. 

2. I need to practice better self care. 

I had gotten pretty good at allowing myself to sleep in when I didn't’ sleep well the night before. I didn’t worry too much about the laundry piling up and not getting folded for weeks.I let myself be okay with that or at least I tried. If I was too tired after cooking a meal or batch cooking for a few days worth of food, I just let the kitchen be dirty. I left the dishes unwashed until the next morning when I knew I would have enough energy to clean up. Sometimes my husband would take care of it if he was home. That would always be an extra bonus. I worked really hard on not feeling like a failed wife and mother if the house was a pit. I knew I had a lot on my plate and still do with three kids, a husband who travels for his job, owning my own business and all the other stuff that comes with life. What I wasn’t good at was forgiveness. Forgiving my body for being in dis-ease. Forgiving myself for getting my body to the point of dis-ease. I needed to work on just letting go. On not taking shit so personally all the time. I had to let go of wanting to control all the outcomes. Of wanting to control how my body was behaving. Letting go of my kids not being little people anymore but kids who need to grow themselves and make their own decisions and their own mistakes. I had to work on letting go of all the stuff my husband did or said that irritated me. I had to learn to respond to things, life, better. I have had to work on not sweating the small stuff. I am a work in progress. I am okay with that most days. I have started to meditate more and that has been so helpful. 

3. I need to forge and nurture friendship. 

I am an introvert. I am also a homebody. I don’t love crowded places all that much. My close friendships are few and far between with my best girlfriend living 4000 miles away. This makes it a little hard to go out for coffee (or tea for AIP) on a whim. She did just come visit me though so we are both a bit recharged for the time being. My therapist tells me that it is important for me to work on relationships so that I can remain “recharged”. 

I changed my diet six years ago. I started out being just gluten free, then dairy free, then more Paleo except I ate a ton of organic corn chips…. These changes brought about changes in relationships too. My parents quit inviting us over for dinner. My friends thought I was on some freakish health kick. They probably thought, “oh boy, here we go again..”. I lost some friends. They quit asking me to go out for girls night. Some other things happened too that broke up my core group of friends that had nothing to do with me and so I was really starting over in the friendship department and after I started looking after my health and going to school for nutrition, I just didn’t work to keep those relationships good. I found new friends who thought more like me when it came to health and wellness. I have to work to keep and maintain those friends which I am never really super good at so here is to changing that about myself! Growing and nurturing these friendships so they are stronger will be key to maintaining some sort of wellness. Community is important for everyone but most especially when you are working on getting well again. 

4. I need to learn balance. 

Being so restrictive with a diet like the autoimmune protocol can lead you down a path to disordered eating. You have to be able to find a happy medium. I found myself worrying about every little thing I ate. I stressed out over how I was going to do this or that when i could only eat these few things. First of all, I had to look at this from a whole different perspective. There really is a lot of foods you can have on the autoimmune protocol. A lot of vegetables. A lot of starches. A lot of fish. A lot of offal. I don’t like fish, seafood or organs and have no plans in the immediate future to make any of them a regular part of my diet. I know it is key to healing on AIP. I am not there. I don't’ tell my clients they have to eat it but that they should. I also tell them I don’t eat it. 

I have not had a health relationship with food. I was/am addicted to sugar. I was/am a snacker. I like junk food. I still snack and eat some junk only now junk food consits of sweet potato chips or plantain chips. I maybe snack too often still but usually it is when i am stressed or when I have not eaten enough and am still hungry. What I am working on is not feeling bad or guilty about eating something. The stress of that just makes healing take longer because your cortisol and adrenal glands get involved in stress and they contribute to my already screwed up system. We are all works in progress, right. Strive for progress, not perfection. 

The other day I went out for lunch with a colleague and friend. We ate at a really high quality restaurant that sources locally when possible. I ordered a chicken curry dish. It had peppers and rice and I ate it full well knowing that I may have some issue later but I didn’t stress about it. I enjoyed it rather than stress about what was on the menu. Sometimes I found myself in a restaurant, usually with family, where my choices were few. I look back now and see that sometimes I took it personally that there were few items on the menu for me to eat. Now I see how ridiculous that is but I am pretty sure I am not alone in that thought process. Not taking it personally any more but that doesn’t mean I don't’ get a little frustrated when the menu sucks. 

5. I will not and cannot identify as being sick or having an illness. 

I do not want to let my autoimmune diseases get in my way of living. I don’t want them to take over my life so I don’t let them have top billing. I am me first. I am a mother, a wife and a business owner. I am a Nutritional Therapist. I am living with Hashimoto’s and Psoriasis but they do not own me. They do not take over my life. Sometimes they remind me to slow down. To eat a little better and to relax but they will not be me. 

Does Being on The Autoimmune Protocol Suck?

Autoimmune disease comes in all different forms. I have been on the autoimmune protocol for about 11 months.  I spent a whole year before going on it contemplating whether or not I should do it.

It is daunting. Overwhelming. A. Lot. Of. Work. All that cooking. I got used to it. 

I had questions. What will I be able to eat? Will I be able to go out to eat? Will I be able to have any fun? What will a social situation look like? I adapted. 

I have had such a love for food my whole life. It was my friend when there was no one else. It was love. It was comfort. It was my everything. It was the way I showed love or that I cared about someone. I cooked for them. I baked. I loved to bake. Bread, cake, cookies, brownies, muffins, more bread, more cake. What my kids didn’t eat I did. I love sweet things. I love chocolate. I loved sugar. None of this is allowed on the autoimmune protocol. So, you bet, I took a long damn time to decide to do this knowing what I would have to further cut from my diet. We can be positive and say, “Look at all the good stuff you CAN have.” Well. You can have a lot of stuff. Lots of vegetables. Veggies up the wazoo. You can have beef heart! And Liver! Yum! Do you hear the sarcasm? When 39 years of your life is consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD), this feels like kind of a big deal. Especially if you have emotional ties to food. 

I know I am supposed to be eating those nutrient dense offal things. I am not because I can’t get past the idea of what it is. The texture even. Gah! No thanks. 

When I did this. I was all in with what needed to be restricted. But I was not adding in any offal. So I didn’t and you know what? I still felt really good. My thyroid numbers got better. Then, as I started to feel better I added some foods back in. Not in the “proper” way but in a way that worked for me which was like this: You put pepper on that meat? Okay. Let’s see if I have a reaction to it…. No reaction. Okay. Pepper seems to work.  

One day in August I made plantain brownies with carob. The recipe called for 2 eggs. I ate half the pan in about 12 hours and had a major reaction but it wasn’t how I expected. Not even 12 hours in to eating those brownies did I become so irritable that I could not even stand myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was raging. My poor kids. So, no eggs for me. I reinforced that idea when I mistakenly ate some gluten free crackers that had egg yolks (no wonder they were so good) as a snack before bed and the next day became increasingly irritable. That really bums me out. I liked eggs. I know that I dot’ want to live life in a state of constant rage though so I am willing to cut them out. I am not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong. I am actually a little pissed. I have a pity party every so often and do the whole “why me?” thing but then I let it go. The more I do that the worse it gets. 

Now it is 11 months in and I have let some things slip. I have a vegan gluten free bread every so often and some Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers on occasion. They don’t seem to wreck my digestion and if I don’t eat them every day it seems to be fine. 

I have decided that if I am so restrictive with my diet, I am unhappy. I do my very best most of the time and on occasion I do enjoy something off the protocol and I don’t feel bad for it. I still always eat gluten free but occasionally have some dairy. Dairy and I don’t get along so if I have it, it is usually just a tiny bit. Like a lick of ice cream or a dab of butter. I definitely feel better when I stick closer to the protocol. I have not reintroduced peppers or eggplant but have done well with some of the nightshade spices like chili powder. I am not so sure on tomatoes though. I have to do a "real" reintro to know for sure. That would mean just eating tomato instead of adding tomato in to a recipe and wondering if that is what has caused the issue. I'm not very diligent about doing a proper reintro of a food. I let life get in the way. 

The real killer for me is sugar. I am addicted and I have intense cravings which are related to a yeast overgrowth which I am working on killing off. Too much sugar has resulted in me having to deal with psoriasis and this last go round with it gave me two new patches to deal with. Needless to say I got really mad when these popped up. I first got mad at myself for eating stuff I know is bad for me and then I got mad that I just can’t be normal. That is the most frustrating part for me. I just want to be like every one else sometimes and I can’t. When I look back on my life though it seems like I never have been able to be like every one else. When I try to be I find Idon’t feel like myself. So I have come to realize that my path is to take the road less traveled and see what I find. For me that is this new life of stress management, sleeping when I need to and eating so that I don’t continue to stay sick. Being well means different things for different people and my mission is to help you figure out what well means for you. 

What do you do that makes you feel good?

What I ate for a week on the Autoimmune Protocol

I remember knowing in my gut that taking on AIP was inevitable if I really wanted to feel good. It took me quite a while to come to terms with giving up more foods and not feeling angst over the decision. When you love food, when you were an emotional eater, this can be a real struggle. So in light of that, I thought I would just share what my meals looked like for the past week starting with last Wednesday. 

Wednesday- 

Breakfast: celery root soup and a pork patty with sweet potato hash browns mixed in. 

Lunch: a big salad with turkey (I buy half a turkey breast and roast it and eat it all week long or my kids take some for their lunches), roasted sweet potatoes, olives, plain broccoli slaw (bought at the store, pre shredded), olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Dinner: baked pork chops with salt, garlic powder, onion powder and italian seasoning with roasted brussels sprouts, and fennel with bacon and garlic. 

Thursday- 

Breakfast: A protein smoothie (Designs For Health Pure Paleo Protein- technically not AIP), frozen banana and a handful of frozen cherries with coconut milk and Vital Proteins gelatin or collagen

Lunch: Salad with chicken, sweet potatoes, olives, broccoli slaw, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Dinner: Hamburgers, roasted sweet potatoes, sauerkraut, roasted broccoli and bacon

Friday- 

Breakfast: protein smoothie just like the day before. Celery root soup. Pork patty mixed with shredded sweet potatoes. 

Lunch: A great big salad with turkey, olives, leftover veggies from last nights dinner, broccoli slaw, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Dinner: Beef soup. I have an Instant Pot and so I cut up a beef roast like a bread and butter roast or an arm roast in to bite sized chunks. I turned the Instant Pot to sauté, added some coconut oil and sautéed the meat in batches until it was browned. I added chopped carrots, celery and onions and sautéed them a bit as well then added garlic, salt and a bay leaf and chicken broth (water would work too). 

Saturday- 

We were working on getting our house ready for sale so it was a busy day but I planned for it and had some good food ready to eat. 

Breakfast: Bacon and a pork sausage patty with shredded sweet potatoes and a protein smoothie. (I knew I would need the fuel for all the painting we were doing). 

Lunch: Hamburger salad. This is where I make my big salad with the olives, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and the other stuff but I put a burger on top and add sauerkraut to it. 

Dinner: Venison steak bites and Applegate organic 100% grass fed beef hot dogs. I didn’t take enough steak out of the freezer and everyone was starving because of all the work we did so we had steak and an entire package of hot dogs. The best part about this was my girls made dinner (mostly my ten year old who loves to cook). Steak bites are just venison steaks cut in to bite sized chunks and cooked in a cast iron skillet over a medium high heat until they are about medium rare.  The other best part about this dinner was that my daughter said the food tastes so much better when you cook it yourself. LOVE that! 

Sunday-

More work on the house. 

Breakfast: pork patties with shredded sweet potatoes and a smoothie with protein powder and Vital Proteins gelatin. 

Lunch: Another big salad with chicken, olives, broccoli slaw and roasted sweet potatoes. I should mention that the potatoes are usually the white or purple ones, not the orange ones. They roast up nicer and have a less sweet taste in my opinion. 

Dinner: Beef soup and a salad for me. My non AIP family fended for themselves. 

Monday- 

Breakfast: Beef soup

Lunch: I bet you can guess. A big salad. Basic same formula as every other lunch. 

Dinner: My teenage daughter and I had burgers cooked in bacon grease with a side salad and I had sauerkraut on mine. The other two kids go chicken wild rice soup from the co op because I didn’t feel like cooking. 

Tuesday- 

Breakfast: A protein smoothie and two pork patties with shredded sweet potatoes. These meat patties are my new favorite thanks to a friend bringing some over and sharing with me. She got the recipe out of a cookbook that called for chicken but I have a whole pig in my freezer so I have been using a pound of ground pork with one white sweet potato about the same weight and combining the two with salt, garlic and I had some lemon thyme I harvested and dehydrated from my garden so I added that. They are fried in a cast iron skillet and are freaking delicious. I reheat them in a skillet so they crisp up again each day. So good. 

Lunch: Big salad. Aren’t you bored of that? This time though I made beet salad and added that to it with some micro greens (little sprouts of kale and pea shoots). The beet salad is equal parts shredded beets and carrots with sliced dandelion greens. The dressing is olive oil and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. 

Dinner: Beef sirloin steak seasoned with salt, cooked carrots and roasted sweet potatoes. 

All delicious and so good for healing. It is not always fun to have to cook everything I eat from scratch but for as good as I feel now, it has been worth it. I feel better and better every day and miss all those foods I didn’t want to give up less and less. 

As you can see from my weeks worth of food that there is not a lot of gourmet dishes being cooked up at my house. I eat a lot of the same things and that is okay. I don’t like fish but that would be an excellent thing for you to add in to your diet. I also have not ventured in to the offal or organ meats that everyone says is so important to getting well. I don’t envision a time when I will be sitting down to beef heart or kidney for dinner. Maybe liver some day with the key word being some day. 

When you are first starting out with this you just have to cook what you have the energy for and go from there. 

Have a question about this weeks worth of food or about how to begin on AIP? Leave it here and I will help you out. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

Week Three on AIP (Autoimmune Protocol)

I failed a bit this week. I enjoyed some chocolate and a Coconut Secret coconut bar made of chocolate, coconut, coconut sugar and mint. I really enjoyed it, twice. Plus I had a truffle. They all were good. I have not had any flares or issues except now that I think of it, I have had disturbed sleep this week. See how it pays to pay attention to your body and how it is trying to speak to you. I was unprepared and hungry with the first coconut bar and the rest is history. I am an addict and sugar is my drug. 

Over the last week I ate well aside from the coconut bar slip ups. I ate a lot of salads, I made chicken bone broth in my Instant Pot and then chicken soup which always disappoints my family because they like to have noodles and there are no noodles on AIP or Paleo. They ate it only because it was the only option and it was delicious. When the AIP cook is cooking, you get what you get. 

We tend to eat pretty simple and this week was no different. I made a couple meals for my kids while my husband was traveling that we don’t have often. They had gluten free pepperoni pizza and I made a pizza out of no mato sauce (I don’t have a link to one that I have tried and loved) and the Russ’ Flatbread recipe from The Paleo Approach Cookbook. I added artichokes, kalamata olives and onions to it and baked it until crisp. It was good but it was way too much tapioca starch for me. I ended up with a rock in my gut and a headache the next day. We also went out to eat one day and I was not sure if I would have any thing to eat so I brought along some Epic bars but they had prime rib on the menu so I had that with some veggies for dinner and it was delicious. It was not grass fed but this is one of those situations where you do the best you can with what you have, eat it, enjoy it and move on. I did just that and was quite happy afterwards. 

When on the Autoimmune Protocol we can eat a very large amount of vegetables. They are not only filling but you cannot usually over do it and there are so many different things you can do with them. They are also loaded with fiber. 

Why is fiber important?

It keeps you regular. It slows down the release of insulin and you may find your inflammation levels go down. It feeds the bugs in your digestive tract and keeps the bad bacteria or pathogens in balance. The fiber that is best for your digestive tract was talked about in Episode 12 of The Real World Paleo Podcast and it is the prebiotic fiber. This is fiber that you cannot digest but the good bacteria in your gut thrive and grow on it. This can help regulate your immune system which is what we autoimmune sufferers are after, right?

The bugs in your gut play a crucial role in your immune function. You have many different kinds of cells that work to keep you healthy. Some of these are called immune cells and more specifically things like natural killer cells, T cells and more. If your gut is off, so will be your immune cells. Your immune system launches attacks on unknown organisms or things they mistake for non self (like your thyroid which results in autoimmune thyroid issues).

According to the USDA Americans consume around 12% plant foods and about 63% processed foods. No wonder we are all sick!  Fiber comes from plants only. When you embark on the Paleo diet and then the Autoimmune Protocol you find yourself eating all kinds of new veggies and even acquiring a taste for them. I used to hate beets and squash (I prefer certain squashes over others still) and even sweet potatoes were gross to me. Now, I eat those things regularly and even have a taste for them. I prefer my beets raw and shredded on a salad or made in to a salad of its own. 

Eating foods in their whole form will keep you healthy and help reduce any risk of type 2 diabetes as well as keep cancer at bay. Fiber and whole foods help reduce your risk of heart disease too. It doesn’t matter where the fiber comes from as long as it is from vegetables and plenty of them. 

How will you get your veggies in?

I did not love veggies. I grew up eating carrot and celery sticks and canned corn and peas. Not a lot of variety on the dinner table at my house. We might have had salad on occasion too and I love salad now but it gets old eating that every day for lunch. I didn’t eat broccoli until I started dating this guy (my husband) and he made it for me. 

The options are endless

  • Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon or shredded and made in to a cole slaw like salad.
  • Cauliflower roasted, made in to soup or the ever popular caulifried rice. 
  • Butternut squash roasted with cinnamon, made in to a chili or a soup, made in to noodles. 
  • Green Beans roasted, steam sautéed, added to soups. 
  • Carrots can be shredded and put on salad, roasted, steamed, used in soups or eaten raw. 
  • Root veggies like parsnips, rutabaga and the like can be roasted, mashed, made in to “fries”, or used in soups. 
  • Greens like chard, kale, or beet greens can be sautéed, used in salads or soups. 
  • Asparagus are great roasted with olive oil and lemon. 
  • Broccoli is great roasted. 
  • Sweet potatoes can be mashed, baked, fried, sliced and baked, made in to chips or fries. 

You can take just about any veggie you want and put it on a salad. 

As I have said before your options are endless with this diet and vegetables. You can include Acorn squash (great stuffed with pork and spices), beets, plantains, taro, yams, cassava, tapioca, yucca. These are all what you might call more dense because they are starchier. You may do well with some and not so well with others. 

  • Any greens like arugula are great options to add to salads. Basil is another good addition. 
  • Onions, leeks, shallot, green onions or scallions and garlic all all flavor enhancers. 
  • Artichokes, avocados, fennel, zucchini, radishes.  
  • Bok choy, cabbage, celery, chicory, cucumbers, water chestnuts, kohlrabi and many many more. 

So with that, I leave you with a recipe for my beet salad that I have adapted from my NTA instructor. It is delicious and I dare you to give it a try. It is fantastic for your liver and gallbladder. 

Beet Salad also known as Liver Gallbladder Salad

  • 1 large beet shredded (in a food processor is easiest)
  • 2-3 med carrots shredded
  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens or cilantro chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt

Combine shredded beets, carrots and either cilantro or dandelion greens in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients (oil, acv, lemon juice) and mix well. Add to bowl of veggies tossing until combined and sprinkle with salt taste. 

This gets better after a couple days in the fridge.

In health, 

Stephanie

Tell me in the comments what your favorite vegetable is and how you like to cook it. 

The Importance of Sleep in Chronic Illness

I have been having lots of trouble sleeping over the last couple of months due to a change in my thyroid medication. It has been so frustrating for me but also for my entire family. You know the old saying, “If Mom isn’t happy, then no one is happy”. That could not have been more true for me over the last couple of months. One can only go so long without sleep. I was averaging two nights a week of only about 4 hours of sleep a night. Not enough for anyone to function properly on, that’s for sure! I become irrational and downright awful to be around when I don’t get enough sleep and it takes me a couple days to recover from a night like that. Once I am starting to recover it would happen all over again. It has been a never ending cycle of misery for everyone. 

I have slept well the last week or so and really feel like a totally different person. I attribute this feeling to a few things. First, I was sleeping through the night, duh. Second, I started the Autoimmune Protocol about 6 weeks ago and last, I went on a sugar detox with my RESTART class so I have not had any sugar for the last two weeks (only a green banana, half a grapefruit or a green apple for fruit each day). So I have been sleeping really good for the last week. I am so grateful. 

Since I was having issues with my sleep and I know lots of people with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s also have problems sleeping I thought I would dive in to the subject for you. 

Most people are not sleeping enough. That includes everyone, not just those of us with thyroid problems. The average amount a person sleeps per night has gone down around 2 hours from 50 years ago. 

Adequate sleep is imperative to avoid chronic illness. It is more important than your diet, exercise and stress. Sleep also helps you heal when you are sick. There are studies to show the role sleep plays in healing from breast cancer- you need to sleep when fighting such an illness. 

While you are sleeping, your body, including your brain, is detoxifying. While you sleep, your brain cells get smaller to increase the space between them so the toxins can easily be flushed in to the blood and filtered through the liver and kidneys. If you are not sleeping long enough or deep enough this waste can build up effecting your brain health and function. 

You might remember from science class the five stages of sleep that go in a cycle. We start at stage one when we first fall asleep and also when you can wake up really easily. You then move on the stage two which is a deeper sleep where your brainwaves slow down. Next you fall in to deep sleep with slower brain waves. Stage four is similar to stage three but has only slow brain waves. Stages three and four are the hardest to wake someone up in. Lastly, you have REM sleep and your brain waves get faster, almost as if you were awake. This is when you are dreaming. This cycle continues through the night. 

How do you ensure a good nights sleep?

Listen to your body. Your brain has a clock (circadian clock) which controls hormones in your body that tell you it’s time for you to go to bed. Those electronics and tv shows you have on while its dark out mess with those hormones that tell you it’s time to go to bed. It is time to get in tune to your body. 

How much sleep do you need if you have an autoimmune disease?

Probably more than you think. The average adult needs seven to nine hours per night. If you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s you may need nine or ten. I have been getting seven to eight hours and feeling pretty good although, too many days of that I am dragging. I have always needed at least 8 hours of sleep. With chronic illness, it is probably more like nine or ten. I don’t make for a good late night date. That’s for sure. 

How do you know if you are not getting enough sleep?

  • you need to set an alarm to get up in the morning
  • you may have to force yourself to get up after the alarm goes off
  • you sleep in on the weekends or when you get a chance
  • you get less than 7 hours of sleep a couple times per week.

If you are getting a half hour less each night than your body needs, it can affect your weight and your metabolism. 

Not getting enough sleep affects your cravings, insulin resistance, mood and your overall health.  It affects your ability to think clearly, remember things, make good decisions or any decisions, and eat more among other things. 

The biggest issue for Hashimoto’s sufferers is how lack of sleep screws up your immune system and can make things worse. That could mean your antibodies remain high or get higher rather than reducing when your diet and lifestyle are otherwise perfect. That is how important it is that you get to sleep. 

Your body also cannot repair itself like it needs to when you are not getting enough sleep. Tissue repair happens during sleep and your regulatory T cells (cells that help regulate your immune system and fight off autoimmune disease) can work on keeping you healthy. If you are not getting enough sleep, you don’t have enough of these cells to keep autoimmune disease in check. 

If you have an autoimmune disease, you need to make sleep a priority. 

  • Sleep in a dark, cool room (65 degrees is ideal)
  • Use a white noise machine
  • Get a alarm clock that wakes you with light
  • Try sleeping on your back with your head and knees supported
  • Wear blue blocking glasses when the sun goes down 
  • Re-evaluate how much time you spend on social media at night
  • Do something relaxing before bed rather than watch tv such as talking to someone at home, read a book, take a bath
  • Develop a nighttime routine made for rest and relaxation
  • Go to bed early and wake up early. This is ideal. 
  • If you are doing everything right and you still can’t sleep, you may want to re evaluate what you are doing.  

Take a look at your diet. Are you eating enough? Having low blood sugar in the middle of the night will play a role in your waking up and not being able to fall back asleep. 

How is the stress in your life? If you are like me, you are stressed out because you are not sleeping enough! Stress also screws with your immune system so it is imperative to manage it which is a whole other blog post. 

  • Are you exercising at all?  It will help you sleep better. Get out and go for a walk at the very least. 
  • Meditate. Listen to Episode 9 of my Real World Paleo Podcast to learn about how to meditate. 
  • Cut the caffeine out for a few weeks to see if that helps
  • Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein, fat and whole food carbohydrates by eating real whole foods and cut out the processed foods. 

I hope you are all sleeping well. Working with me, we can discover what you need to do to get the best nights sleep you can. Fill out the contact form on my website and I will contact you within a day or two about what we can do together. 

Sleep well. 

In Health, 

Stephanie

 

Hashimoto's or Hypothyroidism Controlling Your Life?

Sunday night I took half of my NatureThroid because I had forgotten to take it during the day. I took it right before I went to bed and found myself wide awake at 1:30 in the morning. I never went back to sleep. This has been a regular pattern in my life for the last couple of months. I don’t want to commit to doing anything I don’t have to for fear I won’t sleep well and then won’t function well as a result. I just can’t take not getting a good nights sleep. 

My thyroid has been sluggish for at least a year. Higher TSH (the highest it has been is around 7 so not terrible but I still don’t feel optimal), normal T3 and lower T4.  I had been doing everything right or so I thought.  Turns out that even though my consumption of sugar is not much at all I STILL have trouble balancing my blood sugar. My problem is that I just don’t eat enough and I have fallen in to a vicious cycle. 

Why?

Because I have to cook everything from scratch. I am currently following the Autoimmune Protocol to see if I can help my body function better. Being on the Autoimmune protocol means you are cutting out all grains, nightshades (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants along with some other more obscure things that I probably wouldn’t eat), eggs and nuts. What I am left with eating is really a lot of great for me options including fish which I hate. Never have liked fish and when you are on such a restricted diet you are left with having to make everything from scratch. 

I don’t have the energy to do that. So, I don’t eat much at all. I could. There are lots of really wonderful things I could make but my energy is next to nothing. My storage iron or ferritin is low which doesn’t help. I don’t have pernicious anemia. My B12 is fine. I think my energy problem is related to me not managing my blood sugar as I said before. I also have a gut feeling I am living with a heavy metal burden due to a mouth full of amalgam (mercury) fillings from childhood to adulthood. I had all my fillings removed (safely) and replaced in 2014. The vapors from amalgam fillings are breathed in by you when you eat or drink anything and that mercury can accumulate over the years. So I have a liver very busy with heavy metal removal and blood sugar balancing with no time to make sure my thyroid hormones are being converted. 

Enter AIP as my last resort. I didn’t want to do it. I had done it for three weeks last April when suggested to do so by my chiropractor. I went to him for his thyroid protocol which did nothing for me at all. He put me on the Repairvite diet for three weeks and said I was fine and if my energy didn’t come back he didn’t know what to do but check my thyroid again. The only thing he did that did help me was put me on oxygen which was much needed. With low iron and low blood pressure I was in need of some oxygen. I did enjoy that but other than that, seeing him for 6 months regularly (3x per week for a month and then weekly after that) did nothing at all for my thyroid. Nothing. 

I am tired of spending money on people who do nothing to help me feel better were my thoughts for a long time. Then I started thinking. Do I want to be sick? I keep calling myself sick. My thyroid isn’t working right so I can’t do this. I can’t eat this, I can’t go here. I had become my disease. I don’t want to become my disease. Do you? It sure seems easier to identify with having hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s than it does to stand up and put out in to the universe that I just don’t want to be sick anymore. 

I am not saying that will make everything better but if you change your thoughts about all the crappy things that come with being hypothyroid and having hashimoto’s maybe your life will change too?!  

You may be tired and have no energy but don’t make that who you are. 

Your hair might be falling out but don’t make that about you or this disease. 

Your joints ache? Feel the ache and get up and do something anyway. 

Don’t let hypothyroidism and hashimoto’s take over. Don’t let it get you. 

I would be in a lot worse shape than I am had I not taken control of my life and what I could do to minimize the effects of this “disease”. I let it have full control over me the nights it kept me up, even this past weekend when I was up from 1:30 in the morning on. I vowed that day not to let it take control of me like that again. 

Gosh, my stomach was growling when I woke up at 1:30. I didn’t eat much the day before. My body was hungry and it was letting me know.  That is where I was going earlier with the whole AIP thing. I didn’t have anything prepared to eat. That is the biggest mistake you can make when making changes in your diet. You have to be prepared and I wasn’t. I didn’t have the energy to do it. That was the problem. I let the “disease” take over and tell me to just lay around and do nothing, or sit on social media. That is so much easier than making some food to eat. 

When you have Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism you HAVE to make changes to your diet. It is a must. It is easier to ignore that fact though and continue on with the same old ways. If you want to feel better and minimize those days when it takes full control over your life then you have to make changes. There is no magic pill. No potion. No one sized fits all answer for your problems with this “disease”. 

You can take control of your life and how you manage your chronic illness. Don’t let it manage you! 

Let’s work together to get you clear about what real health is for you! Fill out the contact form and let me know what your biggest issues are. 

Live your life empowered! 

Stephanie 

 

10 Things You Need To Know About Autoimmune Disease

1.)  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates around 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. It is estimated to be at least 50 million people by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. The reason for this is that the NIH statistics only include 24 of the over 100 known autoimmune diseases afflicting people. More well known autoimmune diseases are conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, Graves disease, pernicious anemia and psoriasis. 

2.)  Autoimmune disease is one of the top ten leading causes of death, especially for women.         Around 12 million people suffer from cancer and 25 million from heart disease. Autoimmune disease is the 3rd leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. They run in families but not all members of a family will have the same disease and women are more likely to have one than men. 

3.)  Autoimmune disease is when your immune system attacks your cells (self) instead of protecting you from invaders (non self) like it is supposed to do. What happens is that your immune system develops autoantibodies against your own cells. Antibodies are a very important part of your immune system. It is their job to attach to certain proteins in cells that are foreign to the body (non self) like viruses, parasites or bacteria. This signals other cells in the immune system that an attack should be launched. In autoimmune disease the body attacks the foreign proteins (non self) but also creates antibodies against the body’s own proteins (self). These are called autoantibodies. You can develop them and still not develop an autoimmune disease. In order for that to happen, your body needs to not have destroyed or suppressed autoantibodies like it is supposed to. Your immune system then needs to attack and there must be so much damage to your cells and tissue that symptoms of a disease have developed. Why does this happen?  There are a lot of similarities (and a lot of differences but we are focusing on similarity here) between some proteins in all species and this is where the problem lies. Sometimes these triggers cause the body to make a mistake. That is it. It can really just happen by accident. 

4.)  You don’t have a lot of control over the genetic component to autoimmune disease. There can be inherited mutations and one person may inherit many autoimmune genes or gene mutations and someone else can inherit only a few. Whatever you inherit really is affected by whether or not your environment turns those genes on. Did you or do you have an infection?  What kind of toxins are you exposed to daily? Do you have exposure from amalgam fillings? How about prescription or non prescription drugs? What about your hormones? Do you have an imbalance in your beneficial bacteria? 

Removing environmental triggers that promote the production of autoantibodies is crucial. It can be a bacterial infection like those that cause pneumonia or kidney stones that will make you more susceptible to an autoimmune disease in your future. It can be consuming gluten that causes an autoimmune disease. It is, of course, the major factor in celiac disease but gluten plays a large role in many autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, gluten should be one of the first things you look at. 

Genetics may play a role in how likely you are to get an autoimmune disease but how you live your life can determine whether or not those genes get turned on. 

5.)  Once you have an autoimmune disease you are more likely to develop another one. The reason for this is not fully understood but it is thought that genetic factors and/or environmental triggers play a role. After the immune system has started attacking a protein in the body it can learn much easier how to launch an attack on another one. If the immune system is overwhelmed and can’t tell the difference anymore, it will more than likely create another or different autoantibody

6.)  Getting a diagnosis can be challenging. Many of the symptoms for any given autoimmune disease are so similar. They are things like headaches, muscle aches/pains, joint pain and fatigue. These kinds of symptoms can be related to stress, working too hard or lack of sleep. The other problem is that autoimmune disease affects several systems in the body and it affects everyone differently. This means that two people with the same disease can present completely different symptoms. Finding a good practitioner who knows what to do with a diagnosis of autoimmune disease is fundamental to your healing especially if you don’t know where to start. 

7.)  Managing inflammation in autoimmune disease is key. In many cases, treatment for managing inflammation has been done with immune suppressing drugs like corticosteroids. They can be helpful for some for a short period of time but are not without side effects like weight gain and depression. They also interrupt your bodies own mechanisms for managing inflammation. 

Diet and lifestyle factors are often overlooked and play a huge role in managing inflammation. You can manage inflammation by removing inflammatory foods from your diet, taking a look at the toxins you are exposed to daily, heal your gut and manage your stress. 

8.)  Leaky gut is the one thing all autoimmune diseases have in common. About 80% of your immune system lies in your intestines. The lining of your intestines is a single layer of cells that protect the rest of your body from anything entering your digestive tract. The space between each cell in the lining is like a door that occasionally opens to allow communication with the environment. Our intestines have the largest amount of contact with our environment because the average adults gut when laid out measures around 3000 square feet. So, besides digesting your food, the gut is also responsible for moving molecules between the cells- but only for a moment. The cells open to allow the communication and then close right away. A protein called zonulin is what regulates the permeability of the junctions between the cells. It acts almost like a key unlocking a door so it can be opened. The two most important factors in zonulin unlocking those doors are gluten and gut bacteria. So consuming gluten based products regularly, having something like Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth,a parasite or an overgrowth of Candida can be a contributing factor to higher levels of zonulin and therefore more permeability. This permeability allows for undigested proteins to enter your blood stream and/or lymphatic system where the immune system then begins the process of developing antibodies against the foreign invader and sometimes your own cells. When you have leaky gut (intestinal permeability) your under constant attack.  

9) You can heal your gut. It takes time and effort but is so worth it. Healing leaky gut is important for managing your autoimmune disease. There are many things that contribute to leaky gut and all must be considered when creating a health plan with a practitioner. How clean is your diet? Eating whole foods, and organic when possible is extremely important. I recommend going to www.ewg.org and looking at their list of the  Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to know which foods you can buy non organic with reasonable safety. 

Find the root cause or the source of your leaky gut and remove it. Doing so will calm down the immune system so your body has a chance to repair and rest. Find out if you have an infection or parasite that is wreaking havoc on your immune system. One of the most important things you can do is take a look at the role stress plays in your life. Are you in a constant state of stress? Do you have down time? Do you have any hobbies or do anything fun?

10.)  There is help for you no matter your condition or autoimmune disease. Nutritional Therapy can help you on your path to wellness. We work with each patient individually and tailor a program that is just for you. You may be put on herbal therapies tailored to your bio individuality and your specific condition and your adrenal glands and nervous system will be supported with nutrients and herbs because stress plays such an important role in managing autoimmune disease.  Contact us today for an appointment.

What could you have in common with 27 million Americans?

Thyroid problems affect around 27 million people in the United States. It is possible that you can have problems with your thyroid even if your doctor has tested you and the results came out “normal”.  Your thyroid is your body’s engine and it decides how fast or slow your internal systems work.

When it is doing its job you feel great. When your thyroid decides it’s time to hit the brakes you feel the weight creeping on, no matter how hard you try to keep it off.  You are tired ALL OF THE TIME no matter how much sleep you get. You can’t remember things or think clearly anymore and you think it’s just a part of getting older or busier with life. You’re not able to go to the bathroom regularly possibly and no matter the weather you are always freaking cold.

 

Possible signs your thyroid is off (hypo): 

  • morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses
  • depression
  • sensitive to cold weather
  • poor circulation in your hands and feet
  • muscle cramps
  • easily catch colds or viruses and recovering takes longer
  • your cuts heal slowly
  • you don’t have enough stomach acid affecting digestion
  • your skin itches and is dry
  • you retain water (edema)
  • the outer 1/3 of your eyebrows are either gone or are thinning

You may have one or several of these symptoms all pointing to hypothyroidism and your TSH tested by your doctor can show normal.  The thing with the lab ranges in conventional medicine are that they are based on the labs taken in prior years from sick and healthy patients. So all those people who went in for a thyroid test and had “normal” labs but left their doctors office still feeling like crap and for all those who had slightly elevated TSH levels but not high enough for the doctor to decide to put them on medication, your levels are compared to theirs. 

So here’s the thing, testing just TSH is not enough. I will explain more in a bit but first let’s look at the way things are supposed to work. 

  1. Your thyroid produces T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothryronine)- only about 7% of what is produced is T3. 
  2. Thyroid hormones travel through the blood stream bound to proteins that take them to your cells. 
  3. Once they are dropped off at your cells where they do their work they are called “free”
  4. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone used by the body
  5. T4 is supposed to be converted in to T3. This mostly happens in the liver but the conversion takes place in other cells like nerve cells and muscle tissue like your heart. 
  6. Your body uses about 60% of the T4 produced. Some of the T4 is changed in to rT3 (reverse T3) making it unusable. Another 20% or so becomes active in the gut by your healthy bacteria. Your thyroid function depends on the healthy bacteria in your gut. 

Here is why TSH is not enough to know if your thyroid is working properly. TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. It is a hormone released by your pituitary gland (your brain). This should not be the only test looked at to measure a functioning thyroid.

Let’s look at the possible tests that can measure thyroid function.

  1. TSH as talked about above. 
  2. Total thyroxine (TT4) measures the level bound with proteins and the levels not bound with proteins. This one doesn’t tell you much unless you measure the amount of T3 taken up by the cells or T3 uptake. 
  3. Free Thyroxine Index (FTI) tells you how much thyroid hormone is free or not bound with a protein. 
  4. Free Thyroxine (FT4) measures the amount of active T4 in the blood. This will be low if you are hypothyroid. 
  5. Resin T3 Uptake (T3RU) measures how many proteins are in the blood for binding to the thyroid hormone
  6. Free Triiodothyroxine (FT3) measures what is not bound to proteins and available for use by the cells. 
  7. Reverse T3 (rT3) measures the amount of inactive T3. More T3 becomes inactive when we are facing stressful situations both emotionally and physically. 
  8. Thyroid Binding Globulin (TGB) measure the amount of proteins in our blood bringing thyroid hormones to the cells. 
  9. Thyroid Antibodies (TPO Ab and TGB Ab) will measure whether or not your immune system has produced antibodies against your thyroid indicating Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease. 

If you have Hashimoto’s, in addition to the symptoms listed above you may also have the following: 

  • heart palpitations
  • inward trembling
  • increased pulse rate even when sedentary
  • feeling nervous or emotionally stressed
  • insomnia
  • night sweats
  • trouble gaining weight

 

Your inability to stay warm, chronic constipation, irregular periods or weight you can’t get rid of- these are signs from your body that something isn’t right. The systems within your body are speaking to you, maybe even yelling at you. When your thyroid slows down, so does everything else.  It is not all in your head. 

In Hashimoto’s the body attacks and destroys its own thyroid gland. Your immune system is running the show, not your thyroid. It is called Autoimmune Disease. Dr.’s generally don’t test you for it because it doesn’t change how they will care for you. They are going to give you your prescription and monitor the slow decline of your thyroid and adjust your medication accordingly. That is the standard practice. It is what they are taught.

What they are not usually taught is that you can manage your symptoms very well nutritionally because when you have Hashimoto’s you can do things to calm your immunes system the heck down. 

Around one in five people suffer from an autoimmune disease and it is estimated that around 30 million of those are women. The most common autoimmune diseases are thyroid related. That is around 7% or the U.S. population. 

If you suspect you may have Hashimoto’s you can ask your doctor to test your antibodies. If he or she won’t do it, find a doctor who will. It may take some leg work depending on where you live but you can find one. 

The test can show up as negative if your not having a flare up because your immune system can swing. If this happens, ask to have it tested again in a month or two.

Your thyroid can go from over active to under active from week to week or month to month. It can be because of a trigger such as a stressful event or even for no reason at all. Every time thyroid tissue is damaged the hormones stored there are released in to the blood stream causing a flood of hormone which will speed things up making you feel hyperthyroid.

Having this happen along with being gluten intolerant (you probably are), having celiac disease or being diagnosed with pernicious anemia is a sure fire sign you have autoimmunity. 

If you have Hashimoto’s then there is a good chance some of your thyroid has been destroyed so you will probably have to take your medication for the rest of your life. I lived with hyperthyroidism for ten years before being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s so I am one of those people.

Everyone is different so how your body decides to react will not be the same as someone else. 

Most cases of hypothyroidism are also Hashimoto’s cases. The reason for this is not clear but it is clear what you can do to help prevent further flare ups. 

Like I said earlier, there is a good chance you are gluten intolerant. Every time you consume gluten you are causing an immune response in the body.  The gluten molecules are very close in molecular structure to those of the thyroid gland. So close that your immune system has trouble knowing which one is which.

How in the world does this happen?

If you have an Autoimmune disease you have increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Around 80% of Americans are genetically susceptible to gluten intolerance where gluten will damage the intestinal tract causing little openings where the undigested gluten can reach the blood stream. Some of us have the ability to repair that damage better than others. If you are one of those who can’t repair the damage as well then you end up with an autoimmune disease. 

When your immune system defines gluten as the enemy, your time with bread is over. Every time you consume anything with gluten in it, your immune system is on high alert. You will be inflamed and your thyroid tissue is attacked. This inflammation can show up in a variety of ways like achy joints, rashes, respiratory issues etc. Again, it is all depending on how your body wants to react. Everyone is different.

Gluten isn’t the only big player in Hashimoto’s but it is a pretty big one. Some other things you will need to look at are: 

  • blood sugar imbalances
  • your stress level- lifestyle is huge for managing this and any autoimmune disease
  • vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • how toxic your environment is- your liver plays a role in converting thyroid hormones which it can’t do if it is over burdened with toxins and sugar
  • whether or not you are on birth control pills or your hormone production in general
  • besides gluten, what does your diet look like
  • are you making enough stomach acid
  • do you take or do you need probiotics

If any one of the above is out of balance you have work to do. Getting these things in balance is key to managing autoimmune disease. 

Managing your blood sugar is important for more than just thyroid function. Most of us have too much sugar in our diets which affect our thyroid and other hormones including those that manage stress such as cortisol. 

Cortisol is a key player in your stress management too. Do you take time for yourself? Do you exercise to manage stress? Do you do yoga or meditate?

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies play a role in how well your body can do the things it needs to do for good health. If you are not digesting your food because of low stomach acid or eating the Standard American Diet you are deficient in not only vitamins and minerals but in nourishment in general. 

We live in a toxic world. Your liver must be the one to clean up all the crap we take in through what we breathe, eat and put on our body. 

Birth control pills create too much estrogen in the body which makes your pituitary (brain) tired and creates too many proteins for your thyroid hormones to bind to. This means you won’t have enough thyroid hormone floating through the blood to do its job. 

Remember that some 20% of thyroid hormone becomes active in the gut in the presence of healthy bacteria there. If your gut flora is out of balance which is the case for many people, then you will have less active hormone to work with. You will also have the possibility of digestive issues of all kinds. 

You may be one of the 27 million Americans with thyroid problems but you don’t have to be one who is suffering through it. Or maybe you know someone who has hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s and they don’t know what to do.

Share this article with someone you care about. There is help out there and there is someone who genuinely cares that can help them.