The Great Thaw

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. Tiny purple crocuses and red-breasted robins have made cameo appearances in my front garden plot, touches of green grass are fighting to take over the yard and, much to my dog’s dismay, the snow has all melted.

Rose finds the last snow on our walk and nose-dives into it
Rose finds the last snow on our walk and nose-dives into it

The Great Thaw has come. In Iowa, after bitterly cold -20 temperatures and one snowstorm after another, spring is infectious. The energy from the sun, the budding, flowering, and nesting birds has given me new life and a belief that all will be well again. Spring is not just renewal; it is a reminder of the cyclic nature of life, and that life goes on.

Once again, my blog has been pushed to the back-burner. This time, not out of depression, or inactivity. As I have undertook this journey to understand how food affects my immune system, I have had little time to do anything else. Moreover, I have just wanted to bask in how I am feeling and move the healing process along by taking long walks with my dog and the Brewmaster, practice my cello on a daily level, and enjoy time with my family.

Although I am spending large amounts of time preparing food, I have grown to think of food in a very different way. I eat to fuel my body, not out of a twinge or a pang of hunger. I eat until I am no longer hungry, which is turning out to be a lot less food than I used to eat. 10988521_10152757130511025_3530258198606255927_n

Lamb burgers, veggies and Tzatziki sauce from coconut yogurt, skillfully prepared by the Brewmaster
Lamb burgers, veggies and Tzatziki sauce from coconut yogurt, skillfully prepared by the Brewmaster

My fear at the beginning of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet proved useless: I am not hungry all the time, in spite of having a very restricted diet. I also no longer crave sugar or grains. These cravings disappeared after almost the first week of the diet, and now after six weeks, dates and bananas taste almost excruciatingly sweet. I have no trouble limiting myself to two fruits a day as the sweetness makes me almost dizzy.

This is not something someone who has not given up sugar completely (and I mean no sugar in any prepared food such as bacon, sausage, or other meats) can understand. I didn’t believe it before starting the protocol.

And although I have slowly started to reintroduce some foods into my diet, carefully keeping a food log to determine which trigger my immune system, I have no desire to eat refined sugar ever again. A teaspoonful of honey or maple syrup is all I need in my day.

This is not something I will impose on my family, as everyone has to come to terms with their own relationship with food. However, I’ve started to scrutinize the sugar content of the power bars I buy my son and encourage him to eat plain yogurt with fresh fruit to avoid added sweeteners. One stark physical change I have observed is that my plantar fasciitis radically improved when I not only stopped taking Advil, but eliminated sugar from my diet.

Homemade raspberry cake; dairy, grain, sugar-free
Homemade raspberry cake; dairy, grain, sugar-free

Sugar exacerbates inflammation, and by replacing it with tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and fish oil, I am balancing my system and allowing it to heal. Someone as active as Ballet Boy needs to watch what they put in their body for life, or they will pay for it in tendonitis and injuries at some point.

The Brewmaster has noted that I am not bloated anymore and don’t complain of acid reflux. I feel like a balloon that has deflated, or the fish in Dr. Seuss that finally returns to it’s normal size after out-growing the bathtub. I have energy for walks, practicing, working and don’t feel as mentally foggy. After this much time, it’s not a placebo effect. I really am better.

Have I lost a ton of weight? No. Maybe four or five pounds. But I feel better and happy about myself, which is more important than any number on a scale. There have been some disappointments; I reintroduced egg yolk first and that went fine, but egg whites instigated a massive migraine. This makes baking pretty tricky and breakfast will remain meat and veggies until I sort that out. Who wants to fry an egg yolk for breakfast? But pepper and lemon have not created any problems, and I may try almonds next so I can make some paleo recipes with almonds or eat almond butter as a protein.

The few times I have felt a craving for salt or food, I’ve realized I’m either extremely tired or thirsty.A bowl of chicken broth and some water usually help, as well as a ten minute power nap. I’m still working on getting enough sleep; most of what I’ve read recommends 8.5 hours of sleep a night to heal Hashimoto’s! Since I often rehearse until 10 at night and get up at 6:30 a.m. with my son, this complicates healing. Spring break has allowed me to get lots of sleep and I feel remarkably better. I am confident the summer will be an even more restful time.

And the best news? I’ve gotten the green light from my therapist to start a running rehab program again. Babysteps, and only every other day, but I will be shuffling along at a slightly faster pace. I’ve warned my Fitbit friends that I will be a menace to our Leaderboards when the 2.6 mile walks shift to a jog.

I have so much to look forward to. Happy Spring, everyone!crocuses

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