Sometimes taking a sip your own medicine is a bitter pill to swallow. It is challenging to say the least.
In this season of my life and health journey, I am finding that out in fresh ways. Sometimes I struggle with knowing how much to share on social media and my blog about my personal life and struggles. I decided however, that this new challenge has grown me (and is growing) me in many ways that I think are powerful for me to record and (hopefully) helpful for others . So here it goes…
Here I am, a Registered, one year post partum, in a new and exciting season of life and I find myself trying to adhere to two therapeutic diets SIMULTANEOUSLY per MY doctors’ orders. These are diets (one of them at least) that I have helped other family, friends or clients navigate. (On one occasion I told the person I was working with to do these diets separately as it was too hard to do both at once. Ha!)
Like I said I am doing tow therapeutic diets at one time. These diets are designed to give relief of GI symptoms as well as long term information about foods that the body might be reacting too. These are the Elimination Diet and the FODMAP Diet. (more on those later).
So far, I am only 3 weeks into it (at the time of first penning this) and goodness, I am finding this HARD. But what I am learning more and more in life is that hard isn’t always a bad as we would have thought. Sometimes the best things come out of the Hard.
How I got Here
I’ll spare you all the details but let’s just say I have had had some health issues for several years. At the age of 25 I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hashimotos thyroidits and papillary thyroid cancer. I had my thyroid removed and now manage my thyroid lab level by medication. After the surgery I actually began to feel better. Most of my symptoms went away. Most, but not all. Fast forward five years to and I am grateful to say that I feel healthier now in my 30s then I did in my 20s.
BUT something happened ever since having my daughter—my thyroid levels increasingly worsened.
Ka-put…totally in the toilet.
With the labs values plummet, my symptoms worsened too: brain fog, fatigue, and really horrible mood swings (we are talking 3 emotional break downs a day! Not normal!). Against this there was always the backdrop of symptoms I have always had to one degree or another throughout my life: constipation and erratic bloating that ranged from minor to severe.
All the this flummoxed my endocrinologist as well as myself. I finally begged her to dig deeper. “Why am I not absorbing my medication? What is going on with my stomach? As a Dietitian I know the gut has a role to play here but I need help knowing where to start and what to DO?!”
Fortunately my Endocrinologist has been trained in Functional and integrative medicine . She was willing to take the dive with me.
So she put me on the two therapeutic diets to identify foods that might be causing inflammation in my body and foods that might be feeding pathogenic bacteria in my gut. Hence, the elimination diet and the FODMAP diets.
Where I find myself now
As an RDN, I help people improve their lives with the foods they eat. In the past, the people I helped the most seemed to be those with gastrointestinal and inflammatory issues. I have never relished these clients to eat restrictive diets. I have probably erred on the side requiring clients to be as strict as I should. Now I am living in the recommendations I gave other people.
While we don’t exactly know what is going on in my body currently, it likely has something to do with a bacterial/yeast overgrowth in my gut (thanks to the years of slow gut motility caused by my autoimmune disease…?). It is quite possible that with the miraculous shifts in hormones due to pregnancy and breastfeeding in addition to the high fiber diet I was eating postpartum, that those pathogenic bacteria started to act up. This would have caused more gut dysbiosis, which went on to cause malabsorption of nutrients, deffiences and an inability to absorb my thyroid medication.
In this little challenge that I find myself in presently, I find myself stretched professionally and personally. Professionally, I have had to practice the Four R Gut Repari programI clumsily have tried to help others with. I say “clumsily” because I could never remember all of the parts and pieces and the why behind it.
Personally, I am learning a lot about my body and my mindset. I will share more as time goes by but I wanted to take the time to share a lesson I am learning. It is a lesson that is deep and it surprised me. It has to do with guilt, overeating and the struggles of a broken body.
Breaking Up & Reconciling & Rebuilding
More often than not, my moods follow my gut function (or lack therefore). It took me years to finally recognize a pattern that “when my Gut does X then I feel like Y.” When I get constipated, I crave certain foods—normally those that are salty or sweet. Carbs basically. I also get fatigued (although not as badly as I used to. When that fatigue occurs for days on end, my body (being the smart thing that it is) tells me to eat carbs because that is the fastest way to get the energy I so desperately need. So I over eat. I don’t binge like some but I have known that I just eat too much. I often thought I was following intuitive eating . My body “felt” hungry so I ate. I have learned however, that sometimes when your body is broken you can’t listen to it. That is hard to accept. It sort of feels like a betrayal.
This confusion about intuition and overeating has brought a lot of guilt in the past. As an RDN, I have wondered what was wrong with me. Now, after continuing to learn about nutrition and my body as well as the recent challenge of the last few weeks, I have started to break up with the guilt. I am reconciling and rebuilding.
My food cravings are very physical in nature and subside when the gut settles down and functions well. I am learning to navigate and resist the temptations as well as ride the wave and not place the guilt on myself. I am not morally deficient or bad at self-control. My body is trying as best it can. Acknowledging this doesn’t make the hard times easier in the moment necessarily, but it is freeing.
In addition to breaking up from guilt, I am breaking up with old back habits that were coping mechanism. I have honestly just gotten in the habit of eating fast or snacking a lot. Now I am slowing down. It’s hard.
Now that I have been PAINSTAKINGLY tracking everything (ie. food, sleep, emotions, bowel movements …EVERYTHING) for over a month, I have been able to identify patterns that are helpful. When I hit a cloud fatigue I can tell you what helps clear it or when I might pass.
I told my husband the other night that there are some things I wish I could have gone back and told myself years ago. In my teens when my stomach would bloat and cut uncomfortably into my belt, or when I would be sidelined once again with unexplained depression, unstoppable tears and panic attacks, or when those crazy food cravings would only subside when I downed carbs in excess…I wish I could tell that girl not to beat herself up in her head. That she wasn’t going crazy. That she actually was really brave for pushing through and trusting the Lord with all her strength. That her body was just sick and that there was hope for it to get better.
Even though this season of my life has had some very dark days and difficult struggle, I am glad for the perspective, knowledge and hope I have now. I am thankful for a better understanding of the interconnectedness of the human body and what is likely going on with me physiology . I am hopeful that things can get better as I do these therapeutic diets and follow the antimicrobial protocols my Dr recommended. It is a hope that must have grit and persevere because this isn’t going be a quick journey.
This is hard but there is an end in sight! I have already begun to feel better and my labs have begun to improve. This makes the restriction a little easier, especially on the days when I want to cry because I can’t eat what others are or I feel dizzy because I am just SO hungry!)
More than that though, I am thankful that my ultimately hope isn’t in the physical state of my body or mind. I am thankful for my hope grounded in my Savior Christ. In the days when the fatigue, bloat emotions are all too overwhelming, I have cried out to God and prayed His Word (Psalm 63 especially). It alone has brought the sanity and comfort I needed. It alone brings life! I am ever thankful that in Christ Jesus, I can be broken on the outside but whole in the inside.
So there is some insight into what a Registered Dietitian thinks and feels as she has to be on therapeutic diets and as she heals from the inside out. More to come….:)