Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another Round of Bloodwork

I met with a doctor that I found on the hypothyroidism website. A very nice and patient doctor who told me that based on my medical history, symptoms, and family history, I may have PCOS or hypothyroidism. Here's what I was told (in my own words, ok?) While my TSH score is in the low-normal range, my bloodwork did not show my T3, which could be outside the normal range and cause my symptoms. As for the PCOS, insulin resistance is often related to that condition, and carbohydrates would aggravate it. Of course I eat a lot of carbs on a vegetarian or vegan diet (raw or not). The doctor hates Atkins but says a low carb diet might be worth a try just to get the weight off.

I've been trying to get information on eating a raw diet when suffering from PCOS and as usual, nothing is conclusive. Raw foodists who don't have PCOS seem- for the most part- adamant about raw food being fine for PCOS sufferers. As is my norm, of course, I'm more interested in what raw foodists who actually have PCOS are doing. Now, I have no idea if I have hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, PCOS or whatever, but I do like to educate myself on an issue as well as collect firsthand stories from people going through a similar challenge. The power of the internet is most evident for me when people with similar experiences use it to share information and help each other out- especially when the medical establishment and gurus don't have the knowledge.

I get my results next Friday. I'm not sure what I want the results to be. I want to eat 100% raw, so I don't want the raw diet to be the cause of my problems. Yet I don't want to have to take thyroid pills or glucophage or that other PCOS medication I read about. I want to be all natural, darn it!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What about Hypothyroidism?

I've gotten some comments from readers of this blog and from other people about my hair loss symptoms, and I have found them all very interesting and helpful in one way or another. One thing that I've started to look at more seriously is hypothyroidism. A close friend who has it told me that my symptoms sound similar to hers. I figured that since my TSH level of .692 was within the .3 to 3.0 range, I have nothing to worry about. However, I've since learned that there is such a thing as "subclinical hypothyroidism" which involves symptoms of hypothyroidism when the TSH level is within the normal range.

I have suffered from some of the many symptoms listed for hypothyroidism: depression, difficulty focusing (a serious and stressful problem when you're a doctoral student), extremely dry skin to the point where it cracks, dry and brittle (and thinning) hair, and fatigue. My dietary changes this year definitely mitigated some of these symptoms: I've made an effort to drink more water, eat fresh vegetables daily, avoid processed foods and red meats; these improved my BP, sleep pattern, skin condition and other things.

The thing that still throws me is that I noticed the hair loss only after I turned to the raw diet last year, and it stopped after I went back to SAD. Then it started again this year with the high-raw. Mere coincidence? Who knows. It would be great if a raw diet could help with TSH levels but from what I've read, you have to take medicine to correct thyroid problems. I hate taking medicine. Even vitamins are a pain - I have to set an alarm to remember to take the B-complex 4 times a day. But if my thyroid is the problem, then the upside is that I can eat 100% raw again, knowing it isn't causing hair loss. Time to make a doctor's appointment!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good Things

At work on Friday one of my coworkers looked me up and down and said, "you're losing weight, aren't you?" That was great- my first unsolicited weight loss comment! I had gotten a comment from another coworker a week or so earlier, but she is seeing the same nutritionist I am and was expecting to see me lose weight, so I didn't count her comment as purely unsolicited (hey, I have strict standards about what counts as unsolicited.) I am starting to fit into previously-tight clothing. I don't feel totally comfortable in them yet because I tend to wear loose clothing, but I have worn a few items to work these past couple of weeks that haven't fit me since last summer.

Another thing that made me feel good was my walk around the neighborhood. If I want to start walking to work again some day, it would benefit me to get a feel for walking around outdoors. Work is a 5-mile trek, but since I recently did 3.1 mph for 3 miles on the treadmill with variable inclines, I'm not thinking I can't do it. I just need to replace my worn out sneakers so my feet stop hurting! A faster speed won't make my journey to health any better than a slower speed, so I have no reason to hurry on this walk. 2.5 mph will be just fine, and my iPod will make the trip enjoyable. During my walk in the neighborhood this week, however, I didn't even bother turning on the iPod- it was just nice listening to the traffic and noticing the breeze and sunset. Part of the fun of walking is the greater connection I feel to the environment. When I used to walk 5 miles to work in Ohio, I noticed construction sites, chunks missing in the sidewalk, favorite haunts of squirrels, different types of trees- things I never pay attention to while driving. By walking, not only am I using my body to accomplish something necessary (rather than walking to nowhere on a treadmill), I'm becoming more familiar with the community surrounding me AND putting one less car out on the road.

So, three encouraging things have happened this week: I've made it past the 30 lb mark, my weight loss was noticed without my saying a word, and I'm one step closer to walking to work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting those B's for Hair, Skin and Mental Health

This past week I’ve had a harder time keeping to my chosen food list than usual. Stress from adjusting to my academic and work schedule still has me turning to food more than I’d like. Still, I am being careful and although I gained a pound one week, I’m now down 32 lbs total since early June. In 18 more pounds I’ll have lost my goal of 50 for the year. I believe it is doable, and I’m looking forward to reaching that first milestone.

I asked my nutritionist about the B-Complex vitamins she is giving me. She is so confident that they will help me regrow my hair and process proteins that I decided to look up B-Complex vitamins online. I found that they are really 8 unrelated nutrients: Biotin, Cyanocobalamin, Folic Acid, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, and Thiamin. Individually, they perform different tasks, such as breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and helping with the health of your skin, hair, eyes, mouth and liver -and even with the muscles of your intestinal tract and stomach. Biotin is the one associated with hair health. Niacin is related to healthy skin and lifting depression. Pyridoxine is related to the proteins.

Now, I know I can get these B vitamins pretty easily from foods. According to the list I found at, I should include the following foods (I’ve subtracted the non-vegan ones) in my diet:

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine: beans, wheat bran, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: whole grains, legumes vegetables (green leafy), nuts.

Vitamin B3 or Niacin: green leafy vegetables, seeds, asparagus, legumes, cereals, peanut yeast, nuts, and coffee.

Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid: whole wheat, whole rye, torula yeast, nuts, mushrooms, legumes, vegetables, brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin B6 or Piridoxine: walnuts, wheat germ, peas, carrots, and brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin B7 or Biotin: nuts, brewers yeast, spinach, mushroom, and cauliflower.

Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid: whole grains, beans, starchy vegetables, fruit, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin B12 or Coalmine: (only found in animals)

I already eat all of these foods except peanuts, asparagus, cereals, mushrooms, and yeast (yuck!). But I can honestly say I wasn’t eating them in large amounts. In fact, I didn’t start purposely eating more grains and nuts until recently. My VitaMix (on my wish list!) will help with the leafy greens, and I’ll continue with the nuts, seeds and grains. I’ve been trying to get used to snacking on carrots during the day- I guess that’s a good thing since it is in the Piridoxine list (protein assistance). But the main thing is to eat a variety of foods rather than focusing on just the “hair” or “protein breakdown” nutrients. And getting our vitamins from foods is always better than getting them from a pill. Still, I’m going to continue taking the vitamins for a while because I’m curious to see whether my hair, my complexion, and even the slight ridges in my fingernails improve over the next couple of months. Over time, though, I’ll replace the pills with food sources.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Gym Therapy

This wasn't the best weekend for me- I felt pretty blue and found it almost impossible to concentrate on my studies. Finally I decided to take myself to the gym- supposedly that helps with depression, especially when you go regularly. I decided to just do what I felt capable of doing. I ended up doing 3 miles on the treadmill in about an hour. I will be very sore tomorrow but it was worth it. If I can get myself to do 30 minutes a day, I'll be happy. I've already been lifting a 10 lb weight every other day for a few weeks now, so I know I've built up a little muscle by now in my arms and torso.

Both yesterday and today I got about 80 grams of protein by eating fat-free yogurt, my high-protein soup, quinoa, lentils and pepitas in addition to my other foods like fruit and salad. I had a Trader Joe's protein shake yesterday and have one more left. I've been taking MSM and the B-Complex vitamins (which I swear give me gas!!!)- I hope all of that is good hair therapy. By December maybe I'll have filled in the thinning areas.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


This week I've finally had to acknowledge that my hair is falling out again. I thought it was my imagination at first but no, it's falling out and I feel horrible. What makes it worse is that I'm not even 100 percent raw- I've just been easing into it gradually. I can't figure out what it is I am missing in my diet that would cause my hair to fall out. I'm not losing weight too quickly. My blood tests were all normal except for the high cholesterol. My protein levels are certainly lower than when I was eating meat, but could I really need that much protein to keep myself from losing hair?

Interestingly, when I told my nutritionist about this, and told her (sadly) that I am thinking of adding dairy and fish back into my diet, she seemed to suddenly "come out" about her lack of belief in raw, like she was relieved. Nothing overt, but I could just tell she was all too happy about it! She didn't even suggest anything to help me figure out what the hair loss might stem from. This didn't totally surprise me, as she never seemed to totally understand the raw diet anyway. I guess she was just tolerating it. Still, I benefit from seeing her right now, mainly because knowing I have a nutritionist keeps me focusing on my health, and I like the one-on-one attention better than group meetings like Weight Watchers (whose program I like, by the way). I am thinking of seeing her until I reach my initial 50-lb weight loss goal.

Anyways... the nutritionist told me that one of my problems may be that I am not absorbing enough amino acids, perhaps due to stress. That was a new one on me- why didn't she tell me that before, I wonder. She gave me these B-Complex chewable tablets to try. You eat EIGHT of the nasty things a day, with or without food. They are made of natural ingredients including, unfortunately, soy. She said that taking these will help my body to absorb protein. I figured I'll give it a try. She says she feels a boost of energy when she takes them, but I've never been one to feel more energetic from any particular food except strong coffee (but I don't think of the shakes as energy). I've taken 6 of the vitamins so far and I don't feel a bit different. I have two more to go. Yum.

So, I must say that I am not happy with the way my raw odyssey is going, but that just means I need to rethink things. I do not have to be 100% raw or any particular percentage. My goal is health, so if eating 100% raw vegan isn't healthy for me, then I have to find what is. Until I see evidence that my hair has stopped falling out, I am going to put nonfat cottage cheese, Greek style non-fat yogurt (from Trader Joe's!), and salmon back into my diet. Those, along with hemp, edamame, quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds will ensure I get a lot more protein than I was getting. I'll keep my calories between 1300 and 1600 daily. Once in a while I will do a whey protein shake. I'll eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and try to think healthy, happy thoughts. :-)



FeedBurner FeedCount