I went to my endocrinologist this week for my regular check up. With Hashimoto’s, my doc wants to see me every 3 months since we are still adjusting medication. Recently I was able to get off Synthroid and onto a compounded porcine gluten free thyroid medication. My doc confirmed all my blood work was stellar with the exception of Vitamin D. I’ve been taking Vitamin D at 10,000 IUs per day, way over the average daily dosage. While the level inched up a bit, it was not nearly what it should be. I complained that I’m still not able to get to my weight loss goal, still feeling tired and depressed. I explained that I have consistently, like 90% of the time stayed on point with food. She asked me if I was still craving sugar, and of late, that answer was yes. She studied the lab work, and then declared she was pretty sure she knew what the issue was: Leaky Gut Syndrome. I knew a bit about it, but thought that since I had quit gluten and soy, there wouldn’t be any issue. Turns out, there’s a lot more to it than just eliminating certain foods.
So what exactly is Leaky Gut? Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability,” is a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to “leak” through the intestines and flood the blood stream. The foreign substances entering the blood can cause an autoimmune response in the body including inflammatory and allergic reactions such as chronic fatigue, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and…Hashimoto’s. I was aware that I had mild diverticulosis, where small pouches in the intestine form—sometimes this can be a spot of weakening in the gut. This was revealed during my first colonoscopy. The colon doctor told me it was nothing to worry about, but very good that I had changed my diet, eliminating gluten and sugar, and increasing fiber rich foods.
With leaky gut, damaged cells in your intestines don’t produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion. As a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients, which can lead to hormone imbalances and a weakened immune system. Many conventional MDs don’t believe this is a real condition, even though there are thousands of humans out there who, when they eliminate certain foods, and take supplements that help to heal the gut, symptoms disappear. And, since all autoimmune issues arise from the gut, doesn’t it make sense to begin targeting the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms?
Let’s be clear…no one should just assume they have anything without getting proper testing. There are lots of holistic practitioners out there who will give you tons of supplements, lots of online sites that will scare you with symptoms and then tell you the holy grail is in the products they’re selling. But I’m a stickler for tests. I want to know what’s going on based on hard evidence. I definitely have many of the symptoms, but those symptoms could mean an array of other issues. I’m grateful I see an integrative endocrinologist who is a board-certified Medical Doctor, not just a nutritionist or homeopath. So, my doctor prescribed 2 tests:
This is a full metabolic and hormonal screen that also looks at markers that can show nutritional deficiencies and even markers for certain diseases, like breast cancer. It is supposedly much more accurate than blood or saliva tests on levels because you are testing over a period of time, taking several urine samples. You can read more about it here.
This is a blood test mainly used to test for gluten sensitivity, but it also tests for markers that indicate intestinal permeability. Being off gluten, I will probably not test as sensitive, but if leaky gut is the culprit, there should be markers that show up. Read more about Wheat Zoomer here.
I knew very little about these tests. BUT, and this is a big one….one of the big symptoms of leaky gut is carb cravings. Yep, so along with whatever addictive issues there might be with my brain, my gut is also potentially contributing to it. Lack of absorption of nutrients may also explain why I’m also very low on B12, and lack of absorption also causes cravings because your body isn’t getting all that it needs.
To be honest, I’m tired. I always thought of myself as a naturally healthy person, even at my highest weight. My head spins with all of the information out there about how our food supply has created so many issues, how environmental toxins are having long term effects on our immune systems and ultimately our quality of life. I could spend a lot of time being pissed off that I didn’t know any of this as a child, or that my eating habits have done more than just cause weight gain. Some days, I want to throw in the towel, and not care about being Luminous, staying strict about my eating. But it’s not just about weight loss at this point. The difference in how I feel when I completely eliminate all that doesn’t serve me is truly healing in mind, body, and spirit. It’s not just about being thin. It’s about a deep and profound healing in my soul. I’ve had this monkey on my back for decades and it’s cost me a lot of time spent swirling in negative thoughts and beliefs about myself. It’s hammered my self-esteem, and it’s caused me to feel shame, anger and upset.
I have a lot of really awesome reasons not only to get to goal, but to be truly healthy in mind body and spirit. At the end of this month I find out whether a project that is near and dear to my heart will get the green light. I have a whole lot of things I haven’t done yet. I have a lot of people counting on me both here in the world of Luminous as well as in my work and with my family. I have to get to the goal line for my own healing. Why? Because I said so. Because I want to prove that, like any other big goal, when I set my mind to something, I can get to the finish line. This leaky gut situation? Just one more mountain to climb.
My Hit List
Here are some things I recommend for anyone who has ever had issues with weight, hormones or inflammation:
- I believe everyone over the age of 35 should get a full hormone panel which includes a complete thyroid panel. That means, testing for thyroid antibodies, all T3 and T4 levels. NOT the fast panel, the full panel. There IS a difference.
- Seek out an integrative MD. More and more are covered by insurance. In general integrative MDs are more in touch with the connection between food and disease.
- Everyone over the age of 35 who suspects any issues with hormones or thyroid should see an endocrinologist, ideally one who practices integrative medicine. Hormones affect EVERYTHING, and very often can point to underlying issues missed by traditional MDs.
- Get checked for levels of D3 and B Vitamins. Mal-absorption could indicate leaky gut or other autoimmune issues which cause a range of symptoms from depression, to hair loss, fatigue and inflammation.
- If you’re suddenly not feeling yourself, don’t let your MD pass it off on “getting older” or just “peri-menopausal”. Women in particular often go undiagnosed on everything from heart disease to thyroid disease.
- Get rid of plastic containers, and never heat food in plastic. Even BPA free containers are known to mess with hormones. This is straight from my MD. Instead invest in glass, like Pyrex containers with lids.
- Buy organic. For some this is a budget challenge. But in the long term, think about how much you could potentially be spending on medication, health care, and the cost to quality of life. Not everyone is sensitive to all these food additives and pesticides, but many are without even knowing it. Consider it an act of activism. The more demand for organic foods, the lower the cost in the long run.
I have learned a lot in my search toward the path of wellness, and it wasn’t always easy. I hope the information here helps others who are searching for answers. It can be overwhelming at times when you feel in your gut that something isn’t right. Don’t let the doctor brush you off, or simply treat the symptoms. Stand up and find the right practitioner who listens to you and has the right expertise. It took me a long time to get my Hashi’s diagnosis, and when I did, it was the first step toward healing, but it took YEARS because I trusted basic blood work and conventional doctors who weren’t educated enough to prescribe the right tests. And, because it took so long, there is no way to reverse the damage. Had I been diagnosed earlier, it may have been possible to completely reverse the disease.
If you suspect there is more going on, if you have symptoms like hair loss, achey joints, digestive issues or have been diagnosed with any sort of autoimmune, do not be afraid to assert for better care. Trust your gut, and insist on finding the root cause.