So over the last few weeks I’ve been asked a lot of questions regarding the lifestyle changes I’ve been making. This mostly has to do with the drastic change in eating habits. While I originally planned to just leave a really detailed post on Facebook with a few informative links to satisfy the curious I decided that I should write a blog post, instead. There is quite a bit of history on here, so if you’re just looking to cut to the chase you might want to scroll down a bit.
Ok, now maybe a bit more… 😉
To begin- let’s start with my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2003. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t that big of a deal to me at the time. I was thrilled that the doctor had finally nailed down years of strange symptoms and could hand me a pill that was going to make it all better. I was anxious to just pop that little baby once a day and go on with life. For awhile, it was honestly that easy…
Several years into it, however, things began to act up again. I had considered that my increase in illness or the problems of feeling sluggish was due to weight gain from my second pregnancy. Taking matters into my own hands to drop the extra pounds I took up personal training and running when my daughter was about a year old.
Let’s be honest here when I say that I’ve never been a runner but, oddly enough, I really did enjoy it while I was committed. It made my body feel great and was an excellent way to burn off all those excess Dr. Pepper calories. But the thing I didn’t realize at the time is that strenuous exercise and autoimmune issues truly don’t mix. Especially with Hashimoto’s. During the year that I was running and losing so much weight my thyroid was growing quite rapidly, unbeknownst to me I might add. In fact, it wasn’t until I would develop a bad cough and feel something grabbing my chest bone that I had any idea that something had changed. Sleeping was now an issue for me because I couldn’t breathe easily at night. I would prop my head up on three pillows just to clear my airways enough to keep from choking during my slumber.
A few trips to the doctor and a CT scan later confirmed that I had a nodule the size of a softball growing on the left lobe of the thyroid. Several biopsies checking for cancer took place but they wouldn’t know for certain until it was removed. While thyroidectomies are performed all the time and are relatively easy, this one would be a special case. The nodule was so large that they were sending me to an experienced neck surgeon in hopes of removing it without opening my sternum.
In December of 2008 I had the left lobe of my thyroid removed during a 4 hour surgery that almost resulted in what I mentioned above. I spent 5 days in the hospital to stabilize my parathyroid glands that were damaged during the surgery but once I was home recovery was simple. No more thyroid hormone. No more feeling tired and sluggish. And God obviously thought I was doing well enough to bless me with another pregnancy a few months later.
But I remember having a rough year after Wyatt was born. My immune system was a wreck and I kept battling infection after infection. When he was nearly one year old I came down with pneumonia and just knew that something was wrong. Healthy women in their early 30’s do not contract pneumonia at the drop of a hat.
The illnesses didn’t stop and then baby number four came into the world. I just kept getting worse. My doctor reviewed my history and came up with, first the pneumonia, but then 21 sinus infections, 3 rounds of bronchitis, strep throat and type A influenza – ALL in the 4 short years after my son’s birth.
Not only was I struggling with what I would’ve considered to be “common” illness, but I had continuous pain in my back so I spent a lot of time at the chiropractor trying to get some relief. Ice packs and Biofreeze were a part of my night-time ritual. I couldn’t fall asleep without them.
But I’d had enough. I was tired of having no energy. I was tired of being in poor spirits due to the way I was feeling.
So I prayed about my situation. I’d love to say that I thought of this first, but I didn’t. I’ve always been far more consistent about interceding on behalf of others than for my own personal struggles in life. Perhaps it’s that mentality of “Oh, I’ll be fine. I don’t need to bother God with that.” Yet, this time I dedicated myself to asking God what to do about my situation. I kept quiet about it and didn’t request prayer from others because in all honesty, I just didn’t want it to be the topic of conversation. Only those who worked with me or knew me really well had any idea I was sick that often to begin with.
Reflecting on it now, I know this was out of fear of what God would show me to do and that I would refuse to do it. I didn’t want anyone to know if I was unwilling to follow God’s direction on this one. Lifestyle changes aren’t my thing because you have to incorporate the change. And if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you’ll know that change is something I struggle with immensely.
So what I’m going to say now I say with absolutely no hesitation at all – God always answers prayer! Stop using it as a last resort! It might not be the answer you’re looking for right now. It might be a no. It might be a conviction that leads you down another path of praying with different intentions. But He always answers. He always gives you peace so that even in the midst of a troubling situation you will be filled up with the love He has for you. You will know comfort you’ve never experienced before.
It was during this time that God began to send various people into my life to help me explore other methods of healing. I’d been hearing so many wonderful stories about people with cancer healing their bodies through foods. “I don’t have cancer, but surely that could help my situation ” I remember thinking. Autoimmune disorders are running so rampant across our nation that a majority of them are never diagnosed. There’s not enough information to support many of the new abnormalities our bodies are experiencing. I could almost meet on the street corner and talk to strangers about their autoimmune issues much in the same way that children used to compare marbles on the playground (Ok, I’m an 80’s child so I guess during that time it was stickers and jelly bracelets).
But I don’t want to compare diseases like we’re all some sort of a freak show to be had. I wanted results. I wanted to feel better.
So at the end of January I went to see a doctor who specializes in Integrative Medicine. I wanted to explore alternate means of healing rather than jumping on the prescription bandwagon. I am not here to say that medications don’t have their place in this world, but for me I needed to try another route. I was being led to do something new.
After my first visit I will say that I was completely blown away with information. I left the office feeling positive to make a change yet intimidated by the list of things to begin with. Here were my instructions:
- eliminate gluten and dairy
- begin a round of supplements to replenish what I’d been losing for so long
- start a yoga routine
- go to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier
- begin steps to reduce and remove systematic stress (with four children under the age of 10 this is no small feat!)
- frequent massage (Let’s be fair in saying I’ve only done this one time since then because life is busy, people! 🙂 ).
I felt like the prodigal son. Ready to return to anything better than this, but the journey back was long and every step seemed large to me.
It didn’t matter, though. I was committed to my decision. And after only two weeks my body felt the embrace of these changes taking place…even from such a “far way off.”
As of now, I haven’t had an antibiotic since December of last year, I’ve lost 25 pounds, I seldom hurt or have headaches and my chiropractor only sees me for an adjustment about once a month rather than 3 times a week.
Am I fixed? No. No, I’m not fixed. While I had a lot of positive things pop up on my first set of tests results, they also revealed a relatively horrible case of dysbiosis. and this is just the beginning of repairing a gut that has been greatly damaged. I’d never shown any signs of having “gut” issues (yeah, you work that one out in your own head) but the problems were most certainly there – just disguised.
So now you’re meeting me exactly where I’m at. I am beginning month 5 of this journey and am now instructed to be slowly eliminating foods that are considered to be “mild” allergens (test results showed what these foods were) as well as several foods that fall under the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). This is not necessarily for the rest of my life, however my gut needs time to heal. If all goes well I will hopefully incorporate those foods back into my diet sparingly and sporadically in the future. Each week I try to remove one or two foods that I should be avoiding, saving my favorites for the very end, but making sure to cut back on those as I go so it won’t be so painful. The addition of daily bone broth and consuming organ meats (it pains me to type that) will help balance out foods that I might not do so well in giving up. (eggs, coconut and almond flour…just to name a few)
As much as I wanted this post to be quick and to the point, it’s hard to talk about something that’s affecting my life in such a way to be condensed into nothing. Because it isn’t nothing. This isn’t a cure. It’s a mission to drive my disease back into remission so that I can live my life to the fullest degree. I know that I’m promised no sorrow in heaven. However, I’m tasked to do numerous things while I’m here on earth that are, but are not limited to, raising my children up in the way they should go, loving and honoring my husband…and making disciples. And I want to DO all of those things.
I don’t know what’s next on this journey for me. I want to say that six months from now my test results will show vast improvement, but a lot of that will depend on how well disciplined I am at sticking to this plan. Right now I can say that I’m all in, but I know that I will need continuous prayer to maintain a lifestyle that is so different from society norm. However, my results thus far are proof that it’s not a bunch of hooey. And I hope that, if you read this post through to the end, that it will urge you to take charge of your health in the same manner. We owe it to ourselves to care for the bodies we’ve been given. For they are a true blessing from the Lord.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Note: If you didn’t catch the link above and you’re interested to learn more about the Autoimmune Protocol I suggest visiting this site. Sarah Ballantyne wrote a brilliant book about reversing the effects of autoimmune disorders on your body. I encourage you to check it out.
P.S. – if you have questions feel free to reply and I will be happy to exchange information with you.
Today I’m linking up with the following authors to share my story:
Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory
As you walk through this season, Jennifer, know that there are those around you who care. Especially the Healer of our souls …
And that verse right smack dab in the middle of that most glorious of pictures? Just so powerfully says it all. Love this offering.
Thank you for your kindness, Linda. I came to visit you, as well – and your words are just beautiful.
How good of God to connect us this week!
What a brave post to share your very personal story. Thank you for sharing your encouragement – praying for you!
Thank you so much, Valerie!
Jennifer! I saw your linkup on Jennifer Dukes Lee’s site and thought, “I know her!” Then I read your post…wow! I am so proud of you sharing your story and encouraging all of us to PRAY! Saying a prayer for you today and your lifestyle changes. God’s light is shining brightly through your trials!
Hi Bonnie! Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I will run over and visit your blog, as well! 🙂
Jennifer I to have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (fibromyalgia) and leaky gut. I thank you for the strength to put it all out there. I’ve explained to my small circle in general terms but only my immediate family has seen the effects of this disease and the struggles to survive day to day. I’m glad you’ve found and integrative doctor (I’ve been seeing one since November). I eliminated the ten foods I test allergic to in December and it’s made a tremendous difference. I’ve lost over 40 lbs and have been out of the wheel chair l needed at least 3 times a week. I’m in the Jefferson City area if you ever want to swap notes and am part of a group at my church of ladies trying to heal through diet and education. God bless.
Melanie – that is so good to hear! I have a friend who also suffers from fibromyalgia – so I will most definitely be passing your success story on to her. What church do you currently attend? I am at Capital West.
Randy is in the same boat, but healing is going very very slowly. I’m at a loss for baking w/o eggs. I’ve tried some of the egg subsititues (i.e. tapioca flour, etc), but since he can’t have flax, I haven’t found a good choice. Any ideas? He enjoys baked goods and has been missing them. (He as well can’t have almond or coconut flours).
Hi Angie – gosh it’s so good to hear from you. We’ve missed you guys so much.
As for cooking without eggs, I wish I knew. I, too, should not be eating flax or eggs right now. I still eat eggs on occasion (that’s the bad part about not feeling a difference. With the gluten – I know immediately because I get horrible headaches and my back hurts). I’m testing again in August so I hope to see some improvement. From there we will know where to go next.
Loved the writing and definitely I will pray for you so that you can continue with your journey. You are always one of my favorite person from carfax and will pray that God guides and blesses you and your family.
Thank you, Kabir. That truly means a lot.
A powerful testimony to our loving God. He hears our prayers and knows us intimately. Oh, that we would trust Him with all. Thank you for being so beautifully honest and transparent. I was led here by your title while at Holley’s and find this all so interesting and also quite pertinent. God knows me too!
Caring through Christ, ~ linda
Thank you, Linda. I appreciate you visiting and taking the time to comment. Blessings!
This is a familiar story…the jelly bracelets and the autoimmune disease. My husband spent a lot of time in pain and at the doctor’s office where they kept telling him nothing was wrong. Meanwhile he was on the bathroom floor in the fetal position. Looking at lifestyle changes was unfortunately a last resort suggested by my mom 🙂 But it has made all the difference! After making some diet changes, and healing his body with a variety of supplements he is doing great now!
Love that you are sharing this story because as you mentioned, more and more people are finding that they are experiencing health problems that can’t be managed by going to the doctor’s office anymore…
Thank you, Emily. It’s been a long road and I am so glad to finally see the progress. It doesn’t come without its difficulties, but I am grateful to have hope.
Thank you for the kind words, Emily!
Jennifer-thank you SO much for your honesty and openness. I’m battling health issues right now, and feeling very alone in it. You’ve not only provided spiritual encouragement, but offered a lot of information for me to read and consider. Praying for you, your health and your family.
Connie, I will be praying for you as well. Thank you for your kind words. If I can answer any questions please let me know. I’m not very far into this journey, but I can certainly say that my progress is quite noticeable.
Thank you so much for linking up with Coffee for Your Heart! I’m so grateful for your words. XO
Thank you, Holley! And thank you for the opportunity to link-up via your site. 🙂
Jennifer, thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s amazing what a difference healthy eating and good sleep can make. I am trying to make wiser choices in this area as well and am already feeling the difference. Blessings to you as you continue walking this road.
Thank you, Lyli! It’s been a long road and I wish that I’d come to this sooner. But I’m just so grateful now…
Thank you for sharing your story, Jennifer. I’m am looking forward to getting to know you better. Glad we’ve connected in this blogging world. Blessings.
Thank you, Beth! The feeling is mutual. 🙂
Jennifer, I am so thankful I came by to read via Three Word Wednesday. What a journey you have been on, and look what the Lord has done. Continued prayers as you journey on. Blessings!
Thank you, Barbie, for stopping by!