I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m not a healthy person. I’ve always thought I ate a healthy diet. I ate plenty of vegetables and fruits. I ate chicken breast, usually without the skin (but not always!), and I tried to bake or roast other meats rather than deep-frying, although I would do that for a treat. I baked my own bread. I canned the fruits and vegetables that we grew in our garden. Basically, I was eating what I thought was a fairly well-balanced diet.
Then I went to the doctor. Yes, I’ve put on some weight over the last few years. I work from home on the computer, so I do have a fairly sedentary lifestyle, although I would try to get out and do yard work and walk on a halfway regular basis, though I know it probably was not enough. While I was definitely not happy about my weight (and subsequent BMI numbers), the thing that woke me up was my blood work.
I’ve had hypothyroidism for years, as well as undifferentiated connective tissue disorder and fibromyalgia. I’ve been prediabetic for just about as long. My blood work numbers finally screamed at me that it was time to take drastic action. How or what I was going to change I still wasn’t sure about, but I knew that something needed to change. Just so you know, my thyroid is completely out of whack. Conventional medicine says that a normal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) range should be between 0.5 and 4.5. I later found out that the functional medicine range (more about how I found this out below) for TSH is between 0.5 and 2 or 2.5. Well, I blew both of these ranges out of the water, as my TSH came back at a whopping 20!
Knowing what I know about the thyroid, I knew this was bad news. The thyroid regulates what goes on in the body—so with this huge TSH number, it’s no wonder I was putting on weight, and it’s no wonder my blood sugar (A1c) finally jumped into the diabetic range. But I still wasn’t sure how to fix this. My doctor put me back on a higher dosage of levothyroxine said come back in three months for retesting. And that was it. I love my PCP because he always listens to me, but really? That’s all the advice you had for me?
Around the time I got this news from my physician, I picked up a new client out in California for some transcription work. The client was doing this online class and podcasts and needed some transcription work. I started listening to his class lectures, and when I started working for him, he was on a section about supplements and the HPA axis, which is the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. While it was interesting material, it didn’t really seem like it pertained to me. I kept doing the work and going about my business.
Then he did a lecture about thyroid dysfunction and the differences between lab ranges of conventional and functional medicine and when each would probably decide to treat a patient. This was a lightbulb going off for me. This clinician said he would probably treat a patient, depending on all the factors of course, if her TSH was in the 2 to 2.5 range. And here I am with a TSH of 20. He also described different things that can influence thyroid dysfunction, so I decided to delve a little deeper into what other things this clinician talked about.
I decided to look up this clinician who I was working for and discovered that he was a leading expert in the Paleo movement. I read about his background, saw that he himself battled an unknown illness for years but found a way to improve his own health, and then I bought his book. If you’ve followed a Paleo diet or have done any research about it at all, you’ve probably heard of him or maybe have even read his book. It’s Chris Kresser, and the book that finally made everything click for me is The Paleo Cure.
I’d looked at the Paleo diet several times over the past few years, but I never really truly decided to do it because I love bread. I love pasta. I didn’t think I could go without these favorites and be able to cook or eat the way I wanted. After these past few months, however, I’ve decided that I can’t afford not to change and do this diet, so I’ve jumped onto the Paleo bandwagon with both feet. On July 1, I started doing Chris’ 30-day elimination/detox diet. I completely eliminated all sugars, dairy, alcohol, and gluten products. I threw out all the foods in my cupboards and refrigerator that are banned for the first 30 days. My youngest son, who has had GI issues of his own over the past year, is also doing this diet with me, although he’s complaining a bit about going dairy-free for 30 days, but he realizes he too needs to figure out why he’s ill when the specialists he’s seen over this past year have no idea what’s wrong with him.
I believe, although I don’t have any proof in terms of blood work, that both my son and I are intolerant to gluten. I do know my son does not have celiac disease, as this was confirmed by biopsy during his two EGD procedures. However, after listening to Chris’ transcriptions and reading his work, I believe my son and I may be intolerant to gluten, which may or may not show up on any lab test. The only way to determine if this is the case is to do an elimination diet.
So here we are. I have to re-learn how to cook. I have to find tasty substitutes for things I’ve always taken for granted: ketchup, soy sauce (for my son), bread, pasta. I’ll actually learn to make my own mayo, something I’ve wanted to do anyway but have been too lazy because Miracle Whip is right there on the grocery shelf. I’ll probably be fine with going sugar-free, although I do love to bake and will need to come up with acceptable substitutes for my favorite recipes to make them Paleo-friendly. But going without bread and pasta will probably be the hardest, but it’s the one thing I must give up to see if that is where my problems originate. Studies have shown that gluten may interfere with thyroid functions, and that really makes sense to me now.
On the plus side, my son is happy that this is a protein diet, and he can still eat steak and liver, two of his favorite foods. I’ve told him after the first 30 days we’ll gradually see if he can tolerate milk again, which is his biggest vice. If any reader has a favorite Paleo recipe they’d like to share, please feel free to drop me a line to share. Or if you have a favorite Paleo website, you can share that too. I’ve been all over the Internet and have found some good sources, but all new sources are welcome, especially if they have tasty, family-friendly Paleo recipes.
Our first few Paleo meals were nothing spectacular by any means: steak and mushrooms. Not that my son minded a bit!
I simply seared up the steak (grass-fed) and topped each steak with some mushrooms and onions that I’ve sautéed in a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) and seasoned with some garlic powder and black pepper. I’d normally saute the mushrooms in unsalted butter, so switching to ghee wasn’t hard to do, and quite frankly, I couldn’t taste a difference.
The next night everyone was together, so I decided to cook a Paleo meal for everyone. Unfortunately for my youngest son, he was forced to eat steak and sautéed mushrooms again (poor kid!), but I threw in a quick broccoli and carrot slaw to go with, and the meal was finished off with a nice chilled slice of sweet watermelon. Here’s the recipe for that salad, which was super easy to throw together since I used packaged broccoli and carrot slaw. Now some Paleo purists may say that honey is a no-no, but it’s on the “eat occasionally list” that I’m following, but feel free to eliminate this if you choose. Easy peasy, delicious, and Paleo-friendly.
Quick Broccoli and Carrot Slaw
2 packages broccoli slaw (contains shredded broccoli, red cabbage and carrots
2 apples, cored and chopped (I left the skin on mine but you can peel if you prefer)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 package toasted sunflower seeds
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/3 cup good olive oil (I used regular olive oil not extra-virgin)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
In a large bowl combine all the vegetables and the sunflower seeds, and mix together. In a small bowl (or a small Mason jar with a lid), whisk or shake (if using the jar) the mustard, honey, olive oil and vinegar together until completely incorporated. Pour dressing over the veggies, and stir until everything is nicely coated.
You can serve this right away, or you can chill it in the refrigerator while you’re getting your steaks and mushrooms ready.
Yield: About 6 servings
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