I have attempted to write an update a couple times since going off the GAPS diet, but it just hasn’t gotten done. A lot has happened in the last two and a half months since I stopped GAPS – which I have to say is one of the best health decisions I have made. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like if I was still walking that path. (That is not to say that it is a bad way of eating, but it was most certainly bad for me). Apparently, my body really needs grains, or raw milk, or both. I’m not sure, but putting those back in my diet pulled me out of a pretty scary decline. The power of food. It’s just crazy to me that omitting particular whole foods can have such a profound effect on a healthy diet.
The first day off, I drank about a quart of raw milk and had some potatoes at dinner. I continued to drink a lot of milk. A couple days later, I had some rice. Then I had some quinoa. Within just a few days, there was a noticeable improvement in how I felt. I regained some energy and came out of the crushing fatigue and brain fog I had been living with. Within a couple weeks, the leg cramps were gone. Eventually, I realized my memory problems were diminishing, and while I still experience brain fog, it is not as debilitating as it was. I actually didn’t realize my memory had improved until I had some days where I was doing worse again, and I just couldn’t retrieve words adequately or complete thoughts. I have had memory problems for a few years now, and it seems to be worse during times of stress. My body was under significant stress this summer. The neurological tingling and twitching has lessened a little, but unlike the cramps, it has not gone away. So, I am still very tired and have a lot of days where I feel irritable, apathetic, achy, but undoubtedly, I am in much better shape then I was over the summer. I can get through my days. I can do school with Jonas. I can take care of my kids. I can keep the house from falling into complete disaster. It is still a disaster, just not a complete one!
I look forward to the day when I start feeling good again, when I feel like I am doing more than just getting by, when I no longer feel like an old woman….when I feel like myself again. I look forward to the time when I can more profoundly engage mentally, emotionally, physically with my husband…when everything about me is not so dulled by the fatigue and all the other things that go along with this. I am blessed that he is a gracious and understanding guy and that he is my best friend. I just long to be able to do and be more in our relationship. By the time he gets home, there is really not much left of me and just engaging in simple conversation can take incredible effort. I look forward to the time when I have the energy and stamina to be a fun, involved mom. I know I am a good mom, and I am certainly doing the best I can in these circumstances, but I long to enter into my childrens’ fun, their creativity, their precious thoughts more fully. I long to have the energy to be silly and free with them, the patience and calmness to let them make messes without it being a big deal, the mind and interest to listen, fully present and engaged, to their rambling stories and thoughts. I do try, and I do enjoy them, but my children often feel like a chore to me these days, and that makes me sad because I am living the life I longed to live – being home with my family. It’s just that I am so completely drained. I have so little to give and I covet alone time, time when no one needs anything from me, time when I don’t have to do anything or be anything. That is not my natural self; it’s just how I am because of my body’s current state, and I hate it. I don’t want their childhoods to pass me by like this. And while I look forward to growing old and gray with my husband, I don’t want to waste these prime years of our lives, feeling 90 already. Oh, how I just want to live life well with my family! How I long for life to sparkle again.
I know God is trying to teach me greater reliance as I struggle through this. And I know I am often resistant. Perhaps that is what this whole thing is about. Just a lesson that I need to learn, one I keep dodging. Why is it so hard to give up control. So hard to let go of expectations of what my life should be like, how I should feel, what I should be able to accomplish. My many miscarriages taught me that God is trustworthy even when life is heartbreaking. They taught me that I can have peace and rest when I am grieving. That He is closest when I am the most broken and helpless. They taught me that He really does use all things for good. I trust Him in this current situation. I do not doubt there is a reason; I do not doubt His love and goodness. But I have a hard time unclenching the fingers that hold on so tightly to what I think I should be able to do and control. I have a hard time just letting go and letting him take care of me. I have a hard time asking for and accepting help from others. I am definitely getting better at lowering my expectations of what I can accomplish – and doing it with less feelings of guilt – so I guess that is a small triumph. There are so many things to say about all this, and I’m not going to go into any more details right now. I would like to flesh out my thoughts on this more fully, but that is a different post.
I finally got in to see the doctor my mom wanted me to go to with Jonas. He determined that I didn’t have any food intolerances, which, until GAPS, I never suspected I had, but once I was on the diet I started getting paranoid about. So that is a blessing. He thought my problems are mainly hormonal and not food/gut related. He specifically suspected my thyroid and progesterone. He ordered a hormone profile (saliva test) and thyroid panel (blood). I received the results and he was right about the thyroid and progesterone. My estrogen is also very low and my DHEA isn’t ideal. I have an appointment next Friday to talk things over.
My progesterone came in at 26 pg/ml. The normal lab range for a woman my age is 75-270. My estrogen is also very low: less than 0.5 pg/ml, and the normal range is 1.3-3.3. DHEA is below average, but within range. My cortisol levels are right where they should be, so my adrenals are likely okay, though I know that sometimes struggling adrenals will keep pumping out cortisol to try to keep up for a while, but I don’t think that is probably true in my case. My TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) came back at 0.663 uIU/ml which is very low. The functional range is 1.8–3.0. Typically, a high, not low, number indicates hypothyroidism because the pituitary gland pumps out extra TSH as it tries to send the message to the underactive thyroid to produce more hormone. Many conventional doctors will only test for TSH which is woefully inadequate because while it can be an indication of thyroid dysfunction, it really only measures what the pituitary gland is doing. For a list of important thyroid lab work, go here. My Free T4 is perfect (T4 is the inactive form that must convert to T3, the active form), but my Free T3 is low – 2.6 pg/ml. The functional range is 3.0-4.0. I was also tested for antibodies (indicative of Hashimoto’s, and autoimmune form of hypothyroidism) and that came back negative. Thyroid is complex and there are many different combinations of low/high/normal numbers that can create hypothyroidism. The combination of low TSH (below 0.8 according to Stop The Thyroid Madness) and low T3 (I am pretty sure I saw a number somewhere, but I can’t find it now) indicates low thyroid function. Specifically, it can be a sign of hypopituitarism (low functioning pituitary gland), especially if other hormones are low. So, I am guessing that my problems originate in the pituitary gland, and that my thyroid, ovaries, and adrenals are healthy, but they are not receiving proper messages from the pituitary. Unfortunately, if the pituitary gland is damaged, there is no way to recover its function. The most common causes of damage are head injury and tumor (most often benign). So, if my doctor believes me to have hypopituitarism I will need to have an MRI to rule out the possibility of a tumor.
I am pretty familiar with hypothyroidism, but had never really given thought to low progesterone before. Reading about its symptoms sheds additional light on my problems. It wasn’t B12 like I originally thought, but low progesterone and hypothyroidism share a lot of the same symptoms with B12 deficiency. I am the type of person who likes to try to fit all the puzzle pieces together – figure out why, how when….But I don’t think I will necessarily find those kinds of answers, so I am trying to focus on understanding the problem and what should be done about it. I wonder specifically how these deficiencies possibly relate to my miscarriages. After the first three, my doctor ordered basic blood tests, and they must have checked my progesterone at the time, but everything came back “normal,” which makes me think it was not the cause of my losses, yet it makes sense if it were. But see, here I am, trying to work through things that I probably will never get answers to. In this case, I think it is best to simply say that God gave me those trials and walked with me through them for my own betterment. I don’t need to know the physical cause of the miscarriages, even if I want to.
As I have been reading about progesterone, these are some of the things that have most stood out to me:
- Helps to maintain nerve functioning and protect against deterioration (the reason for the tingling I have been experiencing for the last several months?)
- Keeps blood clotting levels stable (I think I mentioned that I have experienced a few blood clots in the varicose vein on the inside of my knee. The first, when I was pregnant with Nolan 1.5 years ago, became so big and painful that I couldn’t walk without limping. The ones I’ve had since then have not been nearly as serious).
- Stimulates collagen production which increases skin elasticity (Though I have a youthful face, I have noticed an increasing amount of facial wrinkles, and maybe I’m wrong, but mid-30’s seem a little young for wrinkles. The last couple years I have also noticed vertical lines on the flesh of my finger tips. I read in the past that it is often a sign of adrenal fatigue due to loss of collagen).
- Extreme physical and mental fatigue because it hinders the function of the energy-producing organs
- Pain: headaches or migraines, jaw pain, lower back pain, or chronic joint and muscle aches even when there has been no physical exertion. Apparently, this is because progesterone deficiency has been linked with abnormally low production of the body’s natural painkillers. (Since Nolan’s birth, I have experienced more and more body aches. It started with my lower back. Then I started to develop some joint pain, most noticeably in my elbows and thumbs. My forearms also ache sometimes. I have never been one to get headaches – maybe one a year – but since my problems this summer, they have become pretty frequent. They are not debilitating. They come and go a lot of days).
- Infertility, miscarriage, and low libido of course.
- Mood swings, irritability, foggy thinking etc. (Umm, yes. I just want to be my laid back, happy, perceptive self again!!)
- Help normalize blood sugar levels (I have to eat every couple hours or I just feel terrible. This is one of the reasons I really suspected adrenal dysfunction).
- Dry Skin, dry eyes, brittle nails, cracked heels.
- Slow metabolism, cold hands and feet, low body temperature.
- Memory loss and lack of mental acuity (both thyroid and progesterone aid in mental acuity and lack of both makes decline in mental sharpness more severe).
Many of the above are also related to thyroid dysfunction. In addition to the above, the main thyroid related symptoms I experience are:
- Less stamina and energy than others
- Exhaustion in every dimension–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Inability to concentrate or read for long periods of time (sad and frustrating considering I have a degree in literature)
- Wanting to be solitary
- Need naps in the afternoon
- Intolerance to both heat and cold
- Eating to relieve fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness when moving from sitting or lying to standing
- Numbness and tingling
- Absent or diminished perspiration
- Easy bruising and slow wound healing
- Varicose Veins
- Gritty, achy eyes
- Ridged, peeling nails
- Hair Loss
- Lack of motivation and loss of interest in normal daily activity
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Chest pain
I hope I don’t sound like too much of a complainer. I find it hard to remember back to exactly how I was feeling if I don’t make a record of it, so it is helpful to me to sort some of this out here.
There’s a lot to say about Jonas as well, but I will save that for later.