This is a follow-up to my post and video blog from last Sunday. Since I have made the switch over to a gluten-free and vegetarian lifestyle, the first question people ask is why? Many others hint that my choices are a tad extreme.
Let me first just say that I welcome questions. I know that my choices are a bit alarming at first and I am more than happy to explain my reasoning to anyone who wants to listen. Unlike many other “why” questions. The answer to this one is quite easy. I like easy.
Why did I make the choice to go gluten-free and vegetarian?
The most simple answer is that I did not feel good and now I feel better. Before making these changes I was struggling daily to manage the symptoms of my auto-immune disease. From the moment I made dietary changes I noticed instant benefits. Who doesn’t like to receive instant rewards?
For me, the change was so significant it was like going from being hung over to suddenly feeling like you go 10 hours of sleep. Although the change was not overnight, it did happen rapidly enough that I never once did not notice the benefit in what I was doing.
Here is a quick snap shot of my symptoms before (last summer) to my symptoms after (present-time).
This is what I can remember from how I felt before. As you can see all but three of my symptoms are gone. If that is not incentive to make a change I don’t know what is.
A Numbers Game
As a quick reminder, auto-immune diseases are a body’s attack onto itself. Generally what happens is the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies certain cells as invaders and triggers an attack. In the case, of Hashimotos Thyroiditis the attack is on the thyroid gland (and also taxes the adrenal glands in some cases). Hashimotos is measured by looking at the number of antibodies present in the blood. It is also managed by looking at thyroid hormone levels, such as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
No matter how good I might feel, the numbers a very important factor for me in terms of disease management. Last summer my antibodies were through the roof (~16x higher than normal) and my thyroid was barely functioning. In early December, a month after turning vegetarian and sticking to a strict gluten-free lifestyle, I did a lab test to record the change since August 2011. I am thrilled to report that my thyroid is functioning completely within normal again (YAY!) and my antibodies came down 50 points (not a huge change, but notable).
I am very hopeful that these numbers will only continue to improve and stabilize as time goes on.
It’s Written All Over My Face
Here is a picture of me before (October 2011) and after (December 2011) –
As of December I was down 15 lbs, my nails and hair were growing like weeds, and I felt world’s better!
But isn’t it Extreme?
I knew when I jumped off this ledge that many would think my choices a tad extreme. But in turn, I think it is rather extreme to be a living in a body that is attacking oneself; in my case literally destroying a powerhouse of a gland (one which regulates energy, metabolism and hormone production). I also find it terrifying to know that my chances of developing other auto-immune diseases is shockingly high.
Now can you see my point of view?
I am definitely not touting that a vegetarian lifestyle is right for everyone, because it isn’t. (Note: it is highly nutritious for everyone – but I respect that culturally and socially not everyone is comfortable making the switch). However, I cannot deny the health benefits I have discovered for myself.
That said, I encourage everyone to welcome more fruits and vegetables into their life. Eat plant-based foods as much as possible. Toss the junk and treat refined/processed grains the same way you would a cupcake. Give alternative protein sources a go once or twice a week and see how you feel. I dare ya!
Disclaimer: The information above is not a recommendation for the treatment or management of any auto-immune disease including Hashimotos Thyroiditis. I encourage everyone to seek professional medical attention and guidance as I myself do.
If you have any questions or your own success stories – let me know in a comment below!