An Update on My Thyroid Journey

IMG_65451It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update on my thyroid.  For my previous updates you can go here.

Well, I blinked and my baby turned 1 a couple of weeks ago.  I’m not sure how that first year goes by so quickly, but one minute I’m swaddling an itty, bitty baby and the next minute I’m chasing my toddler around the house, playing peek-a-boo and cleaning up the tornado of a mess she leaves in her path.

If I was to be honest, I did such a good job protecting my thyroid and adrenals when she was born.  I knew my body was going to need a lot of support and I very intentionally made sure I was rested and nourished those first few months.  My thyroid test results at that time showed not much change.  I was stable.

Then, I don’t know, I got distracted with life.  My baby went through a rough patch with sleeping and I did my gluten experiment which really set me back as far as my fatigue and energy levels.  At one point, I felt like I had completely regressed to where I was before I had been diagnosed.  I was discouraged and frustrated.

An update on my thyroid

 

In July I decided something had to be done.  I ordered the book Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.  Ya’ll, this book was a God send.  It was a definite game changer.  I read the whole thing in days, a highlighter in one hand, and a pen for taking notes in the other hand.  I finally understood how some of the things I was doing that I thought was helpful, was really setting me back.

After reading it I prayerfully implemented a few of the things suggested throughout the book – mainly I cut dairy (goodbye cheese and butter) and became even more vigilant in looking for hidden sources of gluten.  I began supplementing with B12, selenium, zinc and probiotics.  I also got back in the habit of using several different essential oils to support my endocrine system.  I wanted to do more, but mamma’s on a budget and those supplements alone were a stretch.  The dairy was the last change I made a couple of weeks ago, and I hate to say this because I LOVE my dairy, but it made the biggest difference. I am feeling really good.  I have energy.  I have a pep in my step.  I’m motivated and have initiative again.  Those of you who know what fatigue feels like, know what a huge deal that is!

In early July, before implementing those changes, I had more lab work done and my numbers were “almost” normal. My Free T4 was 1.0 and my TSH was 3.28 – still high although it’s technically in the “normal” range.  My endocrinologist didn’t test my antibodies because he didn’t see the need.  We had a conversation about that and he agreed to test them for my next appointment in two months.  He told me right now my thyroid is functioning at about 90% and I’m doing great. I told him I felt like poop (don’t you hate being told you SHOULD feel fine?!) and showed him my book and said I was going to start implementing some changes.  He warned me that a problem with supplements is they can have heavy metals in them and can end up doing more harm than good. He’s definitely right about that and so I’m trying to find a delicate balance between what my body needs, what we can afford, and what is the safest option.

At the end of my appointment I told my endocrinologist that my Hashimoto’s will go into remission and he said it’s doubtful – very, very rare.  I’m really excited to see my next blood work considering how much better I am feeling already. My next appointment is in October.  I can’t wait to give God all the glory.  I do give God all the glory.  I am so incredibly grateful that after a very discouraging summer health-wise, I am sitting here today telling you how great I am feeling.

I highly recommend the Hashimoto’s Root Cause book.  If you have any kind of thyroid issue, it would be helpful, she addresses Grave’s and she really gets into the research and the root causes.  Excellent, excellent information.

I will be sure to post another update with some (hopefully) good news in October!

 

Sun Protection Smoothie {Protecting our skin from the inside out}

sun protection smoothie 1

I don’t know about you, but when I first learned that diet can play a huge role in our body’s ability to withstand sun damage, I was blown away.

I grew up in the desert where it commonly reaches 110+ degrees in the summer, and stepping out of an air-conditioned car in the middle of the day felt like you were stepping into a preheated oven. I also remember my fair skin burning very quickly in the sun if I wasn’t wearing sun screen.

When I cut out processed foods and made an effort to eat lots of healthy fats, omega 3 fatty acids, and foods high in antioxidants, I realized I was able to stay out in the sun a lot longer without burning.

You can read a more in-depth post I wrote about that here.

Recently I was over at The Humbled Homemaker sharing a sun protection smoothie I developed for my family with lots of important nutrients our bodies need to prevent sun damage.

You can get that recipe here:

Sun Protection Smoothie

Have you noticed the connection between diet and sun tolerance for yourself?

Homemade Lactation Tea for Nursing Mamas

Struggling with low milk supply?  Try this lactation tea to boost your milk supply!

Are you a breastfeeding mama struggling with low milk supply? Try this simple herbal tea!

So I blinked and my newborn just turned 7 months old.  My heart is so, so, so full.  And I’m so darn emotional about this whole business of growing up. Bwaaaaaaa. Someone hold me.

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While the baby snuggles have been many and the giggles have been plentifiul, the past months of babyhood haven’t been all happiness and joy.  There were a couple of months of stress and hard work when I realized that my milk supply was not sufficient.  You can read about that here.

During that time I created this tea.  I didn’t notice a difference overnight, but about a week and a half in I woke up engorged one morning for the first time since she was a newborn.  I was a believer!  In fact, if I go a while without drinking the tea I can notice a difference, so I try to drink it everyday.

That being said, I am not a doctor and herbs are powerful substances, so please do your own research before deciding what is right for you and your body!

Lactation tea

This tea is an adaptation of the Red Raspberry Leaf tea by Paula at Whole Intentions.  I drank it throughout my whole pregnancy and had the most amazing post-partum recovery to date.  I couldn’t stop telling all the pregnant people I knew about this tea.

When I needed a tea to increase lactation, I couldn’t spend a lot of money and so I tried to use what I had on hand.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that raspberry leaf, nettle, and alfalfa (all herbs in the above red raspberry leaf tea) are all galactagogues.  I also added fennel seed because it was taking a very long time for the milk to let down and fennel seed may help with that.  Finally, when I wasn’t taking fenugreek in the capsule form, I would add some ground seed to my tea.  I smelled like maple syrup and developed a strange craving for pancakes, but my baby was getting enough milk! 😉

So without further ado, here is the tea.  Enjoy!Are you a breastfeeding mama struggling with low milk supply? Try this simple herbal tea!

Homemade Lactation Tea for Nursing Mamas
 
A tasty tea to help encourage milk supply in nursing mamas.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 parts red raspberry leaf
  • 5 parts nettle
  • 3 parts alfalfa
  • 2 parts ground fenugreek seed (optional)
  • 1 part fennel seed
Instructions
  1. Mix all the herbs together
  2. Steep 2-3 teaspoons of herbal mix in hot water for 10 mins.
  3. Sweeten, if desired, with a bit of stevia or a dash of raw honey.
  4. I also sometimes add some ground fenugreek seed to the herbs. Just know if you drink a lot of fenugreek you may smell like maple syrup. 🙂

 

How I Increased My Low Milk Supply

This is not a post I ever thought I would have to write.  However, it was a very valuable learning experience for me and maybe my experience can help other people who are struggling with low milk supply.

Do you struggle with low milk supply? Read this mama's story about her struggle with losing her milk supply and how she was able to naturally improve it!

**This post contains affiliate links!

Last August my sweet baby girl was born.  This was baby number three and I kind of thought I was an old pro at breastfeeding.  With my first child I remember he was a couple of days old and it was 2 or 3 in the morning and I was rocking in a chair, nursing him, and just crying.  Of course I was recovering from a very traumatic birth and major abdominal surgery, but I just remember being so overwhelmed thinking I just couldn’t do it any longer.  Time went on and I did make it.  Nursing got easier and just became the new normal.

By child number two I truly enjoyed nursing my babies.  I loved it.  It was a special bonding time, I love when their little hands explore my face and grab their toes and I just soaked it up.  He nursed past 2 years old.

Fast forward a couple of years to baby number three.  She came straight out of the womb, latched on, and nursed like a champ.  We all laughed at what a little pro she was from the very first time.  She was 7 pounds, 3 oz of pure joy.

The transition to three kids went smoothly.  After taking a couple of months to rest, we got back into the swing of things.  Life was busy but full.  Then she had her four month appointment.

I still remember my husband texting me.  I had a meeting so he was the one who took our daughter to her four month appointment.  “The doctor is going to call you, she’s not gaining  weight.”

It felt like such a punch to the gut.  What?!  How can this be?!

Sure enough, from her two month appointment to her four month appointment she had hardly gained any weight.  Her length and head circumference did not grow much either.

I freaked out.  I felt completely terrible that all this time I thought things were going just fine.

Note:  Before I go on, it’s important to know that having a low milk supply is rare.  If you think you might be struggling with milk supply, I suggest reading this.  The amount of milk you are able to pump, your baby being fussy at the breast, and feelings (or lack thereof) of fullness or milk letting down are not reliable indicators of milk supply!

The Reasons for my Low Milk Supply

Looking back, I can now see several reasons that I began to lose my milk supply:

  • Busy – Looking back I could see that being busy played a definite role in not getting her to the breast enough.  Without even thinking about it, I had put her on a schedule.  I thought I was feeding on demand, but when I really analyzed my behavior I realized I was just putting her to the breast whenever I thought about it which happened to be during natural transitions in the day.  Add to the fact that I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old, I was almost always distracted while feeding her.
  • Diet –  I thought I was eating enough food, but when I really started to analyze my eating habits I realized I really wasn’t getting enough calories.  Also, I had done an experimental trial with gluten for one month when she was three months old and it did not go well.  I do wonder if the gluten somehow affected my milk supply.  If it increased inflammation in my body (which it certainly did!), then it is certainly a possibility!
  • Sleep – Baby girl has always loved sleeping.  It wasn’t unusual for her to sleep 10-12 hours at night. While that made for a well-rested mama, it did not make for a well-nourished baby.
  • Thyroid – People with thyroid issues can struggle a little bit more to make enough milk.   I knew this was a possibility, but I just didn’t think it would be true for me. I think because of my thyroid, all of the previous issues I mentioned above affected me more than they would the average mama.

As soon as I found out my milk supply was suffering, I did a lot of praying, a lot of researching, and tried really hard not to stress out (because stress affects milk supply!).  I had two weeks to drastically improve my milk supply before her next weigh-in.

How I Improved My Milk Supply

  • I cleared my schedule and nursed her more.  Sounds simple, but it was very intentional.  I stayed home as much as possible and just kept offering the breast to her every single chance I could.  Sometimes she accepted and sometimes she didn’t.
  • I added night feedings.  Yes, I started waking my baby up every 2 hours to nurse her throughout the night.  I found it quite ironic that while most parents are trying to train their babies to sleep through the night, I was trying to train my baby to stop sleeping through the night.  I think this was one of the biggest factors in improving my milk supply!
  • I got a fancy pump.  I had a simple little hand-held pump, but I read that the electric pumps were more efficient at pumping milk.  I was able to get one through my insurance at Target.  (You can go here to see if you can qualify for a free pump as well.)  Anyways, in my experience, the electric pump was no more effective than the hand held pump.  With either pump I was lucky if I pumped 3 oz.  If I was stressed, I could only pump 0.5 oz.  Most sources will tell you that the amount of milk you are able to pump is not a reliable indicator of your milk supply. I believe that’s true. Even now when my milk supply is much better, it still takes me two days to pump one bottle’s worth of milk.
  • I bought a huge bag of Fenugreek and started taking it in capsules.  I carefully followed these directions on kellymom.com and did not do it as a long-term solution.  Also, I smelled like maple syrup for several weeks.  Just a fair warning for any moms that are considering this. 🙂 However, I do believe that, along with the tea, there was a noticeable improvement in my supply after consistent use.
  • I made a lactation tea and drank a lot of it.  I plan on posting the recipe soon, (update: here’s the recipe) but it’s basically a mixture of herbs that are known galactagogues.  I also tried the Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea, but didn’t seem to notice it helping as much as the herbal tea I made.

The result?  Two weeks later she had gained almost 6 ounces.  Those were the most hard-earned 6 ounces of my life – talk about blood milk, sweat, and tears! But she had gained so we knew we were on the right track.  The pediatrician said to keep doing everything we were doing.  At her 6 month check-up she had gained 2 pounds from her 4 month check-up.  She’s still a small baby, but she is gaining weight and length, and that’s what really matters!  I also learned a very valuable lesson about self-care and the dangers of being too busy!

So if you’re a new mama reading this, learn from my mistakes.  If you’re a mama in the breast-feeding trenches and worried about your milk supply, take a deep breath, slow down, and try some of these things.  It worked for me, although it took time (no quick solution here) and may not work for everyone.  If you’re a mama and you tried everything and have to supplement, take a deep breath – it’s going to be OK.  Give yourself some grace!

Have you ever struggled with milk supply?  What did you do to address the issue?

The Great Gluten Experiment (I was wrong. Very, very wrong.)

I wanted to find out if gluten really affected my thyroid.  Read about my Great Gluten Experiment.  The results truly were not what I was expecting.Photo Credit: miikajom via Compfight cc

I have been gluten-free for a very long time.  When I was finally diagnosed with Hashimotos, I was so relieved to finally have a name to my problem that I jumped in feet first with alternative treatments.  Diet, herbs, essential oils – the whole shebang.  I had noticeable improvement those first months where my hormones regulated and I even discovered that we were pregnant after struggling with a miscarriage and other fertility issues.  The only problem was that I couldn’t pin point which treatments were making the biggest difference since I started them all at once.

6 months into being gluten-free and only a couple of months into my pregnancy I had a huge accidental exposure.  Call it pregnancy brain or just me being blonde, but we were travelling and I had to eat a hotel continental breakfast. I settled on two bowls of Raisin Bran thinking that Raisin Bran was gluten-free.  After eating two bowls I realized Raisin Bran is, in fact, not gluten-free.  I was so worried that something terrible was going to happen. But nothing happened.  Nothing.  No digestive issues.  No return of all my horrible thyroid symptoms.  Nothing.

That experience got me questioning if being gluten-free was necessary.  I didn’t want to risk testing that out while pregnant, so I had a nice long chat with my endocrinologist about it and he agreed that after I had the baby and my hormones regulated, we could do a gluten experiment. The plan was to do a pre-test, then eat gluten for a month and do a post-test to see how it affected my thyroid numbers – specifically my antibodies.  Sidenote:  I was so thrilled he agreed to go along with my experiment that I proceeded to walk face first into a huge slab of glass (I thought it was a doorway!) where I bruised my uterus and ended up in the hospital to be monitored.  Never a boring day!

In August I had my sweet little baby and in November I was finally ready to begin the great gluten experiment.  Oh how I had looked forward to this day.  I went to get my bloodwork done and then our whole family went out to eat.  Now 99% of the time I eat good, nourishing, real food.  But when you are doing a gluten experiment, it calls for lots of yummy gluten and I wanted rolls!

That night I went to bed with a belly full of gluten and I felt fine.  The next day I felt fine as well, I may even go so far as to say I felt great.  I was convinced that I was one of those thyroid people who are just not affected by gluten. Then I got my lab results from the pre-test (probably should have waited for that before starting the experiment), and they didn’t give me a sensitive enough antibody test.  All it said was ‘greater than 1,000’.  Before the pregnancy I knew my antibodies were at 1500, so this was not helpful.  Plus it totally made the experiment not possible since now there is no way to tell if my antibodies go up.  I decided I would just see if it affected my T3 or T4.

The experiment:

  • About a week into the experiment I noticed I started to feel light-headed and could feel some brain fog returning.  I wrote it off as just being tired.
  • Two weeks into the experiment my face broke out for the first time in years and I noticed that my stomach was bloated pretty much all the time and my baby stopped sleeping through the night. I wrote it off as hormones and a growth spurt for the baby.
  • Three weeks into the experiment the fatigue hit me like a wall.  I started going to bed early, waking up late, and still feeling like I wasn’t rested. The baby started getting very slight pink, eczema-looking spots on her cheeks.  I started to very reluctantly admit that maybe it’s the gluten.
  • Four weeks into the experiment I felt like one of those space ships on a sci-fi movie that is going down and there is loud beeping in the background and the sound “Abort mission, Abort mission”  screeching over the loud-speaker.

I guess I am one of those people who has to learn the lesson the hard way every time, but it is very clear to me now that gluten does affect me.  It’s not an immediate or obvious reaction (I kind of wish it was), but knowing how I feel now and how I felt for the whole time I was off gluten, I can say that there is a difference.  I haven’t even gotten my post blood work done, but I don’t need those results to know that I function much better as a human being without gluten in my system. Sigh.

And that’s the story of my gluten-hatin’ thyroid breaking my gluten-lovin’ heart.

Does your body hate gluten too?