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UPDATE Sept. 2018 – While the info I share in today’s blog post (and all of my “Let’s Get Personal” blog posts) will be helpful to those who are starting out on their healing journeys, I felt it pertinent to post a quick update as to where I am now in my healing journey. It has been quite the adventure with all sorts of ups and downs, twists and turns. I got to a point where I no longer felt drawn to share so many intimate details so I stopped writing the Let’s Get Personal series in 2016. If you would like to get the most recent update on my health and healing journey, please read this post, 3 Reasons Why I No Longer Share About My Healing Journey Online. or watch the video below. You are always more than welcome to email me with any questions as well! Cheers! ~Jessica
Featured Image courtesy of sxc.hu and Yirsh
Hi all! It’s fall and it’s my favorite time of the year. The weather turns cool and crisp. The leaves start changing colors. The gorgeous Rocky Mountains start getting some snow on them. Love, love, love Fall in Colorado! This is the time of year that makes me feel re-energized. I try to take advantage of the weather and take as many walks as possible, before the snow starts flying!
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It is also a great time for reflection, at least for me. It has been awhile, so I thought it was time for me to post an update. I have been meaning to do updates every two weeks, but things have been hectic and I have been tired! If you want to read about my healing journey thus far, check out these posts:
- Let’s Get Personal: Simplifying Life, Facing Adrenal Fatigue, and Taking a Stand for My Thyroid
- Let’s Get Personal: Why Start Now?
- Let’s Get Personal: Getting My Ducks in a Row
- Let’s Get Personal: Blood Sugar Control is Vital and How Lowering Your Carbs Can Boost Fertility
- Let’s Get Personal: Hashimoto’s Disease and Dealing With a Broken Immune System
What’s Been Going On In My Life?
As many of you know, I have been working with my Nutritional Therapist, Lydia from Divine Health, for a little over two months now. I contacted her back in July, because I wanted to start addressing some health problems that I have been having. Towards the middle of this summer, I was finally confident enough and in a place in my life where I could face them head on (though, it has been far from easy at times). I have gotten to know Lydia through the blogging network that we are both part of – the Nourished Living Network – and was confident in her skills and knowledge to help me.
In this post, I want to discuss a little bit about where I’ve been and where I’m going, as well as show you how Lydia has helped me and give a little public shout out to her for all of her hard work and help.
A Little About Me
A little refresher about me. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism about 6 years ago and was put on the regular T4 prescription that almost all other hypothyroid patients are put on. For the first few years, I felt OK. I never really had a lot of symptoms of low thyroid (that I noticed), it was just that my TSH was not “normal”. However, this year, it hit me pretty hard that women with thyroid issues have a much harder time conceiving than other women. My husband and I hope to start a family in the next few years and that was motivation for me to finally stop living in denial and start addressing the issues. I had never had any advanced tests run, other than your standard tests that you get with your annual physical each year. So, I honestly had no idea what was going on with my body. All I knew is that I had a thyroid problem and that I was having more of the symptoms of low thyroid – brain fog, mood swings, hair loss, fatigue, etc.
In August, I finally got the courage and went to my doctor for my annual physical. I had them run all of the thyroid tests that Lydia and I had discussed, which included thyroid antibody tests. The tests that we ran were:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase AB (antibodies)
- Thyroglobulin AB (antibodies)
- Vitamin D levels
There were a few tests that my doctor refused to do, but I can always get those done on my own. The one that he didn’t run that I would like to run at some point is my iron labs (Ferritin, % Saturation, TIBC and serum iron), as my Naturopath thinks that I might be high iron. My MD poo-pooed the adrenal tests, so I did have to do that one on my own. Everyone had their own opinion of what the most important labs are to run, but this gives us a great starting point and keeps the costs manageable.
My TSH is not as high as it has been in the past, but it still needs to be lower. My reverse T3 is very high, while my Free T3 is very low. My Free T4 was smack dab in the the middle of their “normal” range. My vitamin D levels were also in the middle of their range. And, the thyroid antibody results were off the charts. With that, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune thyroid disease. I was not really surprised with this diagnosis. I was however overwhelmed with the amount of information out there about how to treat it. At that moment, I was very happy to have someone who could help guide me.
Taking the First Healing Steps
As Lydia educated me about the workings of an autoimmune disease, the thyroid, etc., I began learning that because the thyroid is so complex, there is always going to be adrenal and pituitary issues that go along with the thyroid issues. We did the saliva cortisol test and did see that there are some adrenal issues that need to be addressed as well. My morning cortisol levels are very, very high. My noon reading is slightly depressed, and my afternoon and evening readings are normal. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but there are some areas that need work, primarily that morning reading. Your adrenals are so important to thyroid health, that this really is the next step in my healing journey. One of the first things we did was introduce a high-quality Vitamin C to my supplementation, because Vitamin C is one of the most important adrenal nutrients.
The first thing that we did was eliminated all possible allergens: gluten, grains, dairy, and legumes. Any time there is an autoimmune disease, you want to eliminate allergens that are known to create inflammation and overall body upset.
At the same time, we eliminated all sugar (even non-sugars like stevia and xylitol), in order to really get my blood sugar stable. Blood sugar issues often go hand-in-hand with adrenal and thyroid issues. Also, your blood sugar is the 2nd most tightly regulated system in the body, so if it’s out of whack, then everything else is out of whack.
Next, we started adding in carefully selected supplements. I don’t like taking lots of supplements, but when you are treating specific issues, there is no way around it. We are gradually adding specific supplements in, so that we don’t overwhelm my system.
The thing that I appreciate most about Lydia is her very systematic approach to illness. She sees the body as a whole, yet at the same time, she sees that there are many separate systems of the body that must be running smoothly in order for the whole body to be healthy. One of the most important things that I have learned from her is that you must, must, must fix the foundation, before you can ever fix a specific illness. I went to her wanting to heal my Hashimoto’s disease and have since realized that in order to do that, we need to fix a lot of other areas of my body that are out of whack. I had no idea how tightly things were connected! Like I said, her approach is systematic, so she identified the places that we needed to start, and has been working on helping me fix and strengthen my foundation. She knows that the ultimate goal is to get my thyroid issues addressed, but she also knows that in order to do that, we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. These are things that I never knew, so if it were not for her guidance, I would be floundering out in the wide open ocean, all alone!
So, Where Are We Now?
I am a long way from optimum health, but I am closer now than I was this time last year. And, I am certain that this same time next year, I will be looking back in amazement of how far I’ve come. The last couple months have not been easy. Nothing about this has been easy. I have been inundated with information — lots of which is conflicting because it comes from a wide array of sources. While I appreciate that I have Google, friends, and family who share information with me, I have to admit, it’s overwhelming, because everyone has their own opinion. I have been becoming more in-tune with my body and more aware of my symptoms. Mentally and emotionally, all of this has taken a toll too (more on that below).
The phrase that I keep reminding myself is “Let go and let Lydia“. Seems silly, but if you knew me, you would understand why I have to repeat that to myself. I am rather high-strung. Partially by personality, and partially (I think) due to my adrenal and thyroid issues. I am the type of person who feels that they have to be in control of every little thing in my life, and when things happen beyond my control, I don’t handle it very well. I am one who feels like I need to have all of the answers right now. But, when things like this come along, you realize that you are not, and cannot, be completely in control of everything. You have to learn to let go and just make the best decisions you can each day. It’s also important to let people help you, which is also not an easy thing for me!
Healing the body is a slow process and there is no magical pill to fix it all, much to my disappointment. I have always been an overachiever, so even when it comes to my health, I continuously feel like I could be doing more. Whenever I go to Lydia about all the things that I feel like I should be doing, Lydia assures me that we are already being rather aggressive in my treatment, and encourages me to take comfort in that fact. Doing too much, too fast can set you up for failure in the long-term. In just the last two months, we have made some very drastic changes to my diet and lifestyle and I am learning to be OK with where I am at this moment.
Recently, Lydia told me that she feels like we need to spend some time on my emotional and mental healing that it sunk in. Healing the body can be stressful and overwhelming and scary. It can wreak havoc on your mind (if you let it, which I do) and there really is a good deal of emotional healing that must go along with the physical healing. Our body is so complex, it’s amazing any of us function at all. In my case, I have some personal (mental) roadblocks that need to be addressed before much more healing can take place. And, you know what? Lydia understands this and is helping me identify tools that will help me work through those issues, because she knows how vital the mental healing is to the healing of the body. Again, this is something that I would not have known, if it wasn’t for her insight!
Since starting work with Lydia, I have seen noticeable improvements in my health. I have started to lose weight, which I never in a million years felt that I would. From my heaviest point about two years ago, I am down 30 pounds. In the last couple months, I have lost around 15 pounds. The nice thing about this is that the weight has come off without me trying. I believe that it has happened because I have eliminated allergens (which can inhibit your body from losing weight), I have upped my coconut oil intake (I’m writing a more detailed post on that), and I have started taking some very high-quality supplements that seem to be giving me vital nutrients that I was missing.
I have also noticed improvement in my energy levels and my focus (granted, I have my good days and my bad days, but that’s to be expected). I have noticed improvements in my gut health (helped by an increase in probiotic foods, elimination of allergens, and supplementing hydrochloric acid). We are still at the very beginning of my healing journey, so I know that there are many more improvements to come. I just have to be patient and have faith that my body is healing. There’s a lot going on inside of me that I can’t see or feel, but I know that I am finally on the right track and that I will achieve optimum wellness and my health goals.
Lydia is kind, gentle, and systematic. She is my cheerleader. She is my support. She is my friend. If I did not have her and her expertise, I would not be in the place I am today. As a matter of fact, I might still be avoiding my health issues, just hoping they’d go away. Choosing to face whatever health problems we might have is scary. But, it’s a lot less scary when you have someone to guide you and support you through it.
I cannot speak more highly of my experience of working with Lydia. I also cannot speak more strongly about the need for you to contact her. If you are facing any sort of health issue and are feeling alone and overwhelmed, then you owe it to yourself to at least speak with her once. Sure, we all can research stuff on Google, but how far does that really get us? If you’re like me, it gets confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming. Why not save that energy and let Lydia, who has professional training and an education in this arena, help us? Let go and let Lydia. Come on, say it with me.
Health Journey Update – 8/18/15
Here are a few videos of my current progress. To see even more up-to-date info on my personal health journey, check out my YouTube channel here.
Support Your Stress Response, Adrenals, Thyroid, and Whole Body Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, herbs are a great tool to have in your toolkit, especially those who may be dealing with chronic illness of some type. Since 2009, when I started this site, I have met thousands upon thousands of people through my work and by far, the #1 health complaints are:
- adrenal fatigue (or adrenal dysfunction of some sort) (click here to read all of my adrenal health articles)
- thyroid disorders (hypo-, hyper-, or autoimmune) (click here to read all of my thyroid health articles)
Because of this, I wanted to add in a section into this post about the benefit of using herbs with chronic illness. Adaptogens are by far one of the most used herbs when it comes to working with people who have low energy, fatigue, and overall imbalance in the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugar).
While the benefits of adaptogenic herbs extend far beyond just supporting that one system, this tends to be one of the main reasons people turn to adaptogenic herbs in the first place. That said there are a lot of other herbs out there that offer amazing support for the body, especially those dealing with chronic illness which is why I wanted to share this section today.
If you are dealing with any type of chronic illness, I’m sorry to break it to you, but caffeine may not be your best friend. 🙁 While you can find lots of info online in both the pro- and the anti-coffee camps, the fact of the matter comes down to the fact that are a lot of people dealing with chronic illness, especially thyroid and adrenal problems, that simply cannot tolerate coffee and caffeine.
While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to and can further exacerbate the toxic load on the body.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. In addition to dealing with these issues, we suspected that I was having some detox pathway sluggishness so we wanted to also focus on supporting the liver and lymph systems. Most people who are dealing with chronic illness are also going to have issues with detoxification of the body, which is why herbs can play such an important role.
To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs.
Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. All of the herbs used in my “coffee” blends have been used for thousands of years to support the body’s normal functions and help everything work a little better — something we all need in today’s toxic world! (psst, dandelion is one of the herbs!)
When it came to creating these blends, if I could get something to not only tasted amazing (and helped me recreate my dearly loved ritual), but also did amazingly supportive things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief.
Now in its second edition, this ebook features:
- All of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
- A ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
- Information about all of the herbs used, why I selected them, how to source them, how to prepare and store you “coffees”, and much more.
- Access to your own personal coffee shop where I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here. Only real food.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.
Wow, you and I have a lot of the same issues. At one point my cortisol levels were completely in the tank – all day long. I took hydrocortisone for a while but my doc told me to sleep as much as possible… which I was delighted to do. Has anyone recommended upping your kelp or iodine intake? I was taking lots of Iodoral for a while, but now just taking a little iodomere from Standard Process.
Good luck with your journey!
Hi Laurel – Thanks for stopping by! Supplementing iodine is really tricky for thyroid disorders. For people who are suffering from Hashimoto’s, it can be dangerous. Many times, it can do a lot more harm than good. I do try to eat seaweed once a week if I can tolerate it, but I don’t supplement with any additional at this point. I have definitely been working on sleeping more, but that sometimes is an issue in and of itself!! 🙂
Boy can I relate to wanting to be in control! Thanks for sharing your journey and your ups and downs. It’s helpful for those of us dealing with similar issues. 🙂 You go girl!
Thanks Jen!! I appreciate you stopping by and the encouraging words! 🙂
What a fantastic, fantastic post! This information is great to have out there. Thank you, Jessica, for being so open and honest about these issues.
Thanks for sharing your story so far! I have a lot of similar issues and have been working on them slowly but I find it so hard to find the TIME and ENERGY to do all these things with 2 kids and the blog and the house and… you know how it is.
I commend you for getting healthy BEFORE you get pregnant. You will reap rewards for that when your time comes. I wish that had happened with us but I was just starting to heal when I got pregnant and I really wish I had been more healthy first.
Hi Amanda – Thank you for stopping by! I seriously don’t know how I could do it if I had kids. I really hope that all of this preparation now will allow things to go a lot smoother when that time comes! I don’t know how you do it either! You’re awesome!! 🙂