Monday, November 5, 2012

Beyond Whole30

This post is an update on the lasting effects of my Whole30 experiment.


If you recall, my concerns going into the elimination diet were depression, fatigue, foggy brain, and accelerating hypothyroidism.  I had started to address my health more generally by adding in exercise on a regular basis.  This was a great start, and greatly improved my day to day overall health, but the Whole 30 diet revealed more steps I could take to improve how I felt, and actually start to manage my hypothyroidism beyond just taking a replacement hormone.


Now that it's been a month and a half since I finished, here's what my regular diet looks like:



  • Much less sugar.  In fact, I really only consume honey or maple syrup in my coffee or tea, or occasionally I use one of those two in a baked treat, but more often I use dates to sweeten muffins, etc.  (This would, of course, not include my Halloween candy binge, which I paid for for days afterward.  Boo to weak self-control.)  I am much more aware of how sugar affects me, even though I didn't think I really ate much before the Whole30, and that's (usually) sufficient motivation to stay away.  I definitely notice that the more sugar I eat, the more I continue to eat.  Sugar is evil.  But sooo delicious.
  • No gluten.  Limited grains.  I seem to be ok with gluten free oats.  The jury is still out on other gluten free flours.  Sometimes they seem ok, other times I'm doubled over by stomach cramps and feel blah.  Still working on that one.  I tried making some sourdough breads because new research suggests this might be safe for people with a gluten intolerance.  The theory is that the sourdough starter breaks down the gluten to a point where it doesn't set off an allergy response in the body.  Maybe my starter is still too young to really do the job properly, but my experiment with sourdough was a complete flop, resulting in intestinal pains and roller coaster emotions.
  • Limited dairy.  Cheese, butter, and greek yogurt.  Anything more than that, and sometimes just too much of those items, and my stomach feels heavy and upset.
  • More vegetables.  Something's gotta replace those grains!
  • Relatively high fat and high protein.  We're not talking french fry fat, but foods like avocados, olive oil, and coconut in its many forms.
  • Rare feelings of deprivation.  People shake their heads at me when I tell them I have to be gluten free, but it's just not that bad.  I'm even learning how to manage restaurants without stress.  When I'm staring a fluffy crust pizza in the face, and then I look at my deflated gluten-free pizza, I feel pretty sorry for myself.  But honestly, that's one of the few times.  I eat great food, I'm rarely hungry in between meals, and I never feel uncomfortably full after meals.  Now that we're moving in to soup season, I know I'll wish for a slice of crusty garlic bread to go with a hot bowl of tomato soup, but I'll work on it.  There are options out there.
And here are my results:

  • No depression.  EXCEPT when I've been playing around with different grains, or I forget and don't read labels. Then I feel terrible.  A few days later, the gluten is out of my system and it's like a heavy, gray cloud blows away; the sun comes out and I feel great.
  • I am slimmer.  I definitely lost some weight from all my running around, but dropping gluten seems to have reset my metabolism so my body processes food more efficiently and doesn't hang on to fat cells. Yep, it's fantastic.
  • No more stiffness in my neck and back.  Interestingly, that stiffness/pain comes back when I've eaten gluten for a meal or two.  And from the sourdough too.
  • Actual lab-tested thyroid improvement.  I don't just feel better, I am getting better.  Just last week, my doctor confirmed that my blood tests show I should drop down on my replacement thyroid hormone.  
  • Clearer skin.  When I eat gluten, sometimes that's the first way I know.  Within 12 or 24 hours my face starts breaking out and it always clears up after a few days of clean eating.

A word about my blood tests:

I changed doctors to a holistic D.O. here in town who ran more thorough thyroid tests and actually gave me advice beyond, "Your thyroid is dying and you will just have to take more and more replacement hormone."  I asked the other two doctors I saw this summer (one of whom was an endocrinologist) if changing my diet would help me, and they both said no.  Trust your instincts, people.  Sure, doctors are trained professionals, but they are still human beings who can make mistakes or get stuck in their own paradigms, just like the rest of us.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

My thyroid test showed that I have Hashimoto's Disease, which means that my immune system is producing antibodies that attack my thyroid and cause it to cower in fear and fail to report for work.  Doctors talk in terms of treatment for Hashimoto's, not cure.  Because Hashimoto's sometimes goes hand in hand with Celiac disease and I've already shown gluten intolerance, I was also tested for Celiac disease.  The tests showed levels of inflammatory immune response (don't quote me on that, I'm out of my comfort zone here), but not enough to indicate Celiac disease.  The doctor said that since I had been mostly gluten free for two months already at the time of the test, and the fact that false negatives happen, Celiac disease could not be ruled out.  There is a genetic test but it does not appear to be covered by my insurance, and it is rather spendy.  Perhaps someday I will get that done, but for now, it doesn't hurt anything to assume that I have Celiac disease as well.  The only treatment for Celiac disease is a completely gluten free diet, which happens to work just fine for me.

Here's the main takeaway from all this: changing to a gluten free diet was immediately followed by the stabilizing of my thyroid hormones, which had been declining in production. I'm not a trained health professional: make of that what you will.

Whew.  Long post.  Consider yourself overly up to date on my current health status.

photo by Mt. Hope Photography


You can read the rest of my Whole30 journey here:


Week Two
Week Three
Week Four

*This post contains affiliate links, but I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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