Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Already Making Changes with the Medicine

I had a fantastic week vacationing with a friend in Sacramento. I got to visit San Francisco for the first time as well. I love that place! I can't wait to go back and truly explore. It seems like a great place to be a raw foodist and a fit person, what with the fresh produce, mild weather, and multitude of hills to climb for exercise.

Before leaving for my vacation I talked to my doctor about my hair loss, which seems to be accelerating. I find myself staring at my hairline with both fascination and trepidation. The doctor said that the thyroid medicine, despite being a low dose, could be accelerating the hair loss, and that stopping it would not be harmful at this point. He therefore advised me to stop taking the Armour and to see him in December for my already-planned appointment. What confusion!

So the only other weapon in my hair-loss arsenal is the low-carb/low saturated fat diet that is recommended for people suffering from PCOS/Insulin resistance. I am feeling rather noncommittal to a rigid "diet" right now, though. I am frustrated with this whole health experience, to be honest. I don't like taking medicine, and losing my hair is a nightmare, as is not knowing what is causing it yet. Furthermore, I'm sick of the topic already- I bore myself! A friend tells me to stop being vain about my hair and just keep trying the pills. I guess I could just wear a friggin' wig and get over it, but that's not an attitude I can adopt with just a snap of my fingers.

One thing I can do is adopt the new "diet" to combat my PCOS/Insulin resistance-like symptoms. Naturally, I didn't bother doing it while on vacation because ! wanted to eat all my Thanksgiving favorites. (I know- do the same thing you've always done and get the same results you've always gotten!) The holiday season is always difficult for me when it comes to eating healthfully because I've always used it as an excuse to eat "holiday food." I have not given up on the new strategy though. In fact, I've been carrying around my low carb grocery list, making it a part of daily life in a way. Sometimes I look through it and think about how limited it seems, but I know I can whip up some tasty meals using herbs and spices, so I don't have feel that I'm eating the same thing over and over.

I foresee the remainder of the year as being a gradual adoption of my new high-raw diet. I will get blood tests for the doctor and see him again in a couple of weeks to re-consult about my hypothyroid strategy. I think I will try to get a referral to an endocrinologist to look more closely at the PCOS/insulin resistance as well. I sure hope 2008 is smoother sailing!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Week Since Starting Armour Thyroid

It's been a bit over a week since I started taking my thyroid medication. It's too soon to notice any real effects, although I do feel that my mood has lifted a bit. That might just be a coincidence, but it's fine with me. What I'm really paying attention to is whether I continue to lose more hair. Because it is dry and brittle it still breaks, but I don't know for sure whether it is still falling out at the same rate. I'm going to wait a couple of more weeks before saying for sure whether the situation has changed.

Since starting the medication I must admit I have not stuck to a healthy diet whatsoever. Each time I jump off the raw wagon I notice the effect eating SAD has on me- my skin breaks out worse than usual, for one thing, and I feel sluggish and tired. I know I've gained back some of those pounds I've been losing but I refuse to weigh myself since I can tell from my clothes. I find myself looking forward to a post-Thanksgiving "cleansing" by returning to raw foods. I still believe there has been nothing better for me than raw, despite my hair loss (the jury is still out as to the cause of that, but we'll see if it might be due to hypothyroid issues).

Thank you to everyone who has been sending me information about PCOS, hypothyroidism and related matters. I truly appreciate the input and the personal stories. I have a lot to learn about these matters. From my readings, I still feel very positive about the ability of a low-carb/low saturated-fat raw diet to deal with insulin-resistance. Since learning that my dad has full-blown diabetes, I know it is even more important for me to keep an eye on any insulin-related trouble. So far I've been very lucky. My main concern with adjusting to low-carb/low saturated fat is the greater limit imposed on my grocery list. Eating a limited diet doesn't bother me so much when I'm too busy to care, but when I get bored- watch out!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Got the Blood Test Results

I saw the doctor today for the results of the blood tests for PCOS and hypothyroidism. The PCOS tests came back in the normal range, but the thyroid test wasn't so great. He prescribed Armour thyroid medication for me - 30 mg daily. I got the prescription filled this morning and have taken my first teeny tiny pill (so tiny I can't be sure it isn't stuck in a tooth somewhere). I'm not sure how I feel about the diagnosis. I'm thrilled that my thyroid might be responsible for the hair loss rather than my raw diet being responsible for it, but I'm not thrilled to have a "condition."

From what I've been learning, there is some connection between the symptoms of PCOS and the symptoms of hypothyroidism. I'm seeing that many women (not all!) are diagnosed with both. If you do a search on "hypothyroidism PCOS" you'll see websites that proclaim the two to be related. PCOS is polycystic ovary syndrome, and is associated with the growth of ovarian cysts (which I've had for over 10 years now), and can lead to insulin resistance, acne, hair loss and other unpleasant things. Hypothyroidism causes some of the same symptoms as PCOS, plus a slew of its own problems. I have symptoms associated with both of these conditions. It is like a giant maze trying to figure out what condition might be the cause of what symptom. My doctor believes that some of my symptoms point to PCOS, but he cannot diagnose that based on the test results. My dad was just diagnosed with diabetes this year, so my chances of having insulin resistance (or developing diabetes) is higher than I thought it was.

So, I'm thinking there is an indirect connection between MY eating raw and MY hair loss (this is a personal experience; I cannot speak for others.) Considering how ridiculously easy it is for me to gain weight, the family connection to diabetes, the dark patches of skin on my cheeks, my years of ovarian cysts, my doctor's beliefs, and other symptoms, I have reason to believe I have insulin resistance (IR) even if I don't have PCOS. A diet high in carbs is a problem for people with IR, and my raw diet is high in carbs. (What is considered "high carb?" I don't really know, but when I look at low-carb diets, most -if not all- are under 100 gms a day). Looking back over my 2006 diet, my carb intake was often between 125 and 200, and quite often over 200 gms per day. They were that high again this year, especially when I decided to add grains for protein after removing animal-based dairy from my diet. I've read from more than one source that grains are a relatively recent part of the human diet. They are associated with blood glucose problems, among other health issues. Yikes! So if I have insulin resistance and I'm eating a diet high in carbs -raw or not - I could be triggering the symptoms of insulin resistance that I've been seeing, such as the hair loss. Again, I'm not certain that this is my problem, but I may as well "act as if" by changing my diet to one that won't lead to the development of diabetes or any of its cousins.

My doctor told me that although he hates recommending Atkins to his patients, he has seen people with insulin resistance benefit from the low-carb/high protein diet by losing weight and lowering their cholesterol. The problem with Atkins is I have too much weight to lose. I'd be on the plan for too long, causing the high amounts of fat to do more harm than good. And I really don't want to eat all that meat and saturated fat anyway. So I'm putting together my own high-raw, low-carb/low-saturated-fat plan, which I will adjust as I learn more. Maybe I can get back to all-raw some day.

In my next blog post I will list the foods I plan to eat, and I'll track how the medicine and dietary changes affect my health and weight loss. The major improvements I'm hoping for include:

  • A return to my previous level of energy and ability to focus
  • Relief from dry skin
  • Improved ability to lose weight
  • Hair regrowth/cessation of hair loss
  • No more hair dryness or brittleness
  • Lifting of mild depression
  • Cessation of acne (I never had it when I was a kid!!)
  • Disappearance of dark patches on my face (cheeks)
  • Stronger fingernails
I've gotten some very helpful information from people trying to do raw while dealing with PCOS or hypothyroidism, and I'd love to know more about what you are doing. Also, if any of you out there take Armour, I'd appreciate knowing what I might expect over the next month or so.

So, this is yet another bend in the road of this Raw Odyssey. I never would have guessed a year ago that I'd be pursuing "low-carb raw," but I maintain that a raw diet must fit the needs of the individual. What works for one person can wreak havoc with someone else's body. We have to be open minded and willing to adjust our diet- and not feel like a failure if we have problems eating the way some "raw expert" tells us to eat. We have to educate ourselves and pay attention to our bodies.

By the way, if you have not come across the website "We Like It Raw" I highly recommend you check it out- no guru-speaking there! They support the individualized approach to constructing a healthy diet, provide lots of practical, helpful information, and introduce readers to others who follow a raw diet.



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