getting somewhere (part 2)

So I left off talking about my decision to try a gluten-free diet.  (See previous post here.)  I remembered one more “clue” that led me to my decision to try this.  One day, I was at an appointment with my physician’s assistant who prescribes my medication for me.  I asked her if she could tell me anything I could do naturally or nutritionally to help with anxiety, and one of the things she said was that some patients feel better on a gluten-free diet.

It’s like there’s all these doctors out there helping us try to feel better, but they each only have one piece of the puzzle.  It’s essentially taken all these months to finally gather enough pieces to start to see the big picture.

When I noticed how much better I felt off gluten, I really started feeling like I was getting somewhere.  Here I had struggled with anxiety off and on for months, and by making one dietary change, it disappeared.  I had never felt so in control of my own health!  It was the first time I’d been able to do anything that gave me hope I was moving in the direction of feeling better permanently.  Before that, I was helped by medication for the anxiety, but it still came and went.  And, I’d been given no treatment to end the recurrent miscarriages.

Feeling better off gluten truly solidified my belief that our overall health is intimately tied to what we are feeding our bodies.   Even the Berenstain Bears know this!  It’s like Dr. Grizzly explained in The Berenstain Bears And Too Much Junk Food, when Mama Bear took the whole family to the doctor because their eating habits were terrible.  (My kids love this book!)  Check it out (yea, I scanned it. Is that weird?):

Of course!  It’s so obvious!  “A system for food that lets us take in the nourishment that gives us energy and keeps all the other systems healthy.”  DUH.  How could our health, mood, energy, chronic illnesses, cancer, fertility, behavior, and everything else NOT be related to food???  Our brain gets nourishment from what we eat.  Our nerves are fed by what we eat.  Our energy comes from how our bodies metabolize what we eat.  Toxins in our bodies that lead to cancer and autism and chronic illnesses come from our environment, which includes our food!

So I stayed off the gluten for the full three weeks I had to wait for my results.  And when I went back for my results, they confirmed a gluten sensitivity.  (By the way, it is likely that a very large portion of the population has gluten sensitivity, but most doctors don’t know the  proper ways to test for it, and most people have no digestive symptoms.  But if you feel better off gluten, chances are you should probably not be eating gluten!  I not only experienced relief from anxiety, but also noticed I had more energy and less muscle aches.)

The Food Panel also revealed sensitivities to many other foods.  I was glad I had a leg-up on the elimination of wheat, because it was about to get even trickier.  As you can see on the results below, any black line that extends into the “Moderate” or “Avoid” columns denotes a food to which my body is sensitive.  So, for an indefinite period of time, I am to avoid dairy, eggs, beef, gluten, peanuts (oh noooooooo! my peanut butter!), soy, and mushrooms (never liked them anyway).  The idea is to give my body a break from these foods, then maybe (or maybe not!) add some of them back in once enough time has passed.  I was also given guidelines that would improve anyone’s health (though not your ease at the grocery store): Avoid sugar, MSG, preservatives, dyes and colorings, and high fructose corn syrup.  Try to buy organic if possible, and look into getting a water filtration system for your home.  … It helps to concentrate on what I CAN do and what I CAN eat.  But that doesn’t stop me from being at a loss many times!

The foods in blue are foods that are allowed.

Again, I see the Lord’s perfect timing in this.  There is no way on God’s green earth I would have been ready for this regimen back in September.  I had to get here in the right time.  When I did go to Medical Wellness Associates, I was already doing things like using coconut oil and sea salt, avoiding refined flour and sugar, and I saw the value of unprocessed foods.  It’s still been a huge challenge, but I was already in possession of the knowledge about WHY I had to do these things.

In addition to the food sensitivities my doctor found, the other blood tests came back with some new and helpful information.  I am still not sure why no other doctor screened for these things before, but it sure reinforced my idea that you have to be your own advocate.

1. THYROID

As I wrote yesterday, my primary care physician tested my thyroid and said it was normal.  I think he did a “TSH” test, which stands for thyroid-stimulating hormone.

My new doctor did a full panel on my thyroid.  The script for my bloodwork said “Thyroid panel- hypo/hyper: T4free, T4, T3, T3uptake, TSH.”  I couldn’t really explain what that means, but when the results came back, the T3 was too low.  My doc said it indicated an underactive thyroid, and prescribed some supplements to help get it back on track.  Avoiding wheat would also help the thyroid get back on track, because, according to him, wheat is “infamous” for disrupting the thyroid.

2. MTHFR GENE MUTATION

Yesterday I mentioned the MTHFR gene mutation and its role in folic acid uptake.  When I got my results, it turns out that I have one copy of the C677T mutation and one copy of the A1298C mutation.  Whatever that means, all I know is that I am positive for the MTHFR mutation.  So it’s possible some of my pregnancies ended in miscarriage because the babies were not developing well neurologically, due to folic acid not being available for absorption.

My doc gave me a special form of folic acid to bypass the problems this mutation causes.  Apparently, gene mutations such as this one are common in the population.  Genes have a lot to do with our predisposition for disease, as we know.  It would go without saying then, that they affect how a person’s body reacts to foods or environmental assaults.  One of the things they do at Medical Wellness Associates is gene testing as it relates to autism.  They can then formulate a specific dietary and supplement regime to help autistic children recover or improve.  Pretty amazing stuff.

3. VITAMIN D

My vitamin D level was low also.  One of these days, I’d like to read more about vitamin D, but I know it’s really important for lots of stuff.  How’s that for scientific?  Well, that’s what Google’s for, right? :)  In listening to my doctor, I did manage to write down that vitamin D is related to immunity, depression, heart disease, our bones, and dopamine levels in the brain.  A friend who also visited this clinic said his doctor related vitamin D to a hormone – its functions are that important.  It also has a role in fertility.

4. HEALING THE GUT

A fourth thing I came away from Medical Wellness with was the importance of the gut in regulating immunity and overall health.  My doctor put me on “Mega Probiotic” to help restore the bacterial flora in my intestines.  He said that my gut has been weakened by the constant barrage of offending foods, so we need to give it a break from them AND help it heal.  I recently read in Robyn O’Brien’s astounding book, The Unhealthy Truth, that “Scientists now believe that some 70 percent of our immune system is located in our intestines,” and so it is our immune systems that suffer when our guts don’t have the beneficial bacteria they need to thrive.

Now, you might think, “I am as healthy as a horse!  I never get sick, so I must not have any deficiency in my gut.”  And I would have thought that before too.  But I’ve come to see that immunity doesn’t just mean how well we fight off a cold.  The health of our gut also has to do with allergies, asthma, eczema, fatigue, brain fog, sleep disorders, bloating, gas, chronic runny nose or congestion, recurring ear infections, auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and vitiligo, and countless other health conditions.  I may not be saying all of this exactly right, since I am not a doctor myself, but I am convinced that our gut is like our “second brain” – it regulates that much!

In conclusion, I have finally found some explanation for the mystery of why my body has not been optimally healthy.  Nobody can actually tell me for sure why I have miscarried so much, but I believe these “strikes” have probably been working against me for a while:

Strike 1: Gluten sensitivity

Strike 2: Underactive thyroid (made worse by gluten)

Strike 3: Vitamin D insufficiency

Strike 4: MTHFR gene mutation, disrupting folic acid absorption

Strike 5: Questionable gut health, possibly affecting nutrient uptake

We all know there’s no crying in baseball!  And three strikes, you’re out… not sure what happens when you have five!  I hope, that by removing the “strikes,” I’ll get my health on course and hopefully have better pregnancy outcomes in the future.  I believe I’ve finally found a doctor who is extremely well-educated on the processes of the human body and how they relate to food, environment and genetics.

Finding the integrative medicine facility was HUGE for me.  All along, I’d had this nagging feeling that there must be something more to my health than what my doctors were looking for.  It felt like my nutrition and diet must have a role.  I had no proof.  All I had was intuition, or a gut feeling, or an instinct.  Ultimately, I believe it’s the Lord who gave us a natural ability to listen to our bodies, and I believe it’s the Lord who leads us down the right paths if we ask Him.  And I really see His faithfulness in leading me now that I am here.

Thanks for reading… I hope that this peek into my journey may be helpful to someone else someday… or at least provide an interesting story!

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About Sara

I am a 30-something momma of two with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss. After receiving no answers from "regular" fertility specialists, I discovered that there is a pioneering field of fertility testing and treatment called Reproductive Immunology. The American College of OB-GYN's still does not recognize this field, but I felt strongly that women needed to know there might still be answers for them. I started a website to inform and encourage others to be their own advocates.
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3 Responses to getting somewhere (part 2)

  1. Ashley says:

    SO glad you shared all of this, Sara!!! I appreciate your willingness to put all of this out there so other people can find better health! No one knows your body like you do and I’m so glad you listened to it!

  2. Pingback: getting somewhere (part 1) | a bigger lens

  3. Amanda says:

    I am even more intrigued now about the center…maybe it will provide me the answers that I need! Thanks for sharing…

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