The thing is, I don’t know if I’m weird or not, but I constantly ‘blog’ my life in my own head and recently my head is so busting full of all this stuff that I’m worrying about, learning about, creating and struggling with, that I thought perhaps I should get it down on ‘paper’. Blog-style. Never done it. Have no idea if I’ll be any good at it. But you never know unless you try and all that, so here goes.
I have been suffering with my health for the past four years or so. I’ll try to be brief but if you’re not interested (and I don’t blame you) then skip to the bottom!
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in October 2012, which basically means that I have an auto-immune condition which has caused my own body to destroy my thyroid gland, leaving me hypo-thryoid (under not over). This comes with it a barrel of brilliantly rubbish symptoms which I have lived with daily including: chronic daily headaches, brain fog, IBS, weight gain, exhaustion, hormonal problems including a miscarriage and having to have an ovarian cyst removed (which was the size of an orange apparently….lovely visual!) plus back inflammation, muscle spasms, sciatica, hypoglycaemic attacks, allergy reactions, heart burn, dry skin, cracked nails. Have I missed anything out? Oh yes, and feeling bloody depressed because of it all obviously.
Lovely clueless GPs have over the years prescribed me on the pill, off the pill, on a different pill, on anti depressants, on different anti depressants and come up with no diagnosis, until I asked to have my thyroid count tested. Reluctantly my GP agreed and she was surprised when the bloods came back positive. I mean, if my GP had struggled to put together my years of symptoms to come up with the correct diagnosis then I certainly had no chance of figuring it out. Which is why thyroid disease is often so horribly misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. I was lucky I asked for the test I suppose because at least I got an answer.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d barely heard of Thyroid disease, let alone the type that I have called Hashimoto’s disease (sounds like a Japanese car manufacturer) and all I knew was that being hypo-thyroid, as in having an under-active thyroid, made you fat. Great.
Off I trotted to meet some dude with a very long name who was to be my consultant Endocrinologist for the duration of my clinical testing. I’d never heard of an Endocrinologist either. For those that know about this stuff my initial thyroid blood results were TSH 12.46 FT4 11 FT3 4.4 with TPO antibodies >1000. Not crazy off the scale in the land of thyroid disease, but enough for a straight forward diagnosis and being given a prescription of Levothyroxine, my new life-long daily medication.
Since 2012 I have had a barrage of clinical testing done including: IgG food intolerances (positive for wheat, potato, brazil nut, peanut and gluten), skin prick intolerances (negative for everything), gut microbiology (came back positive for Candida infection of the gut prescribed antibiotics for a month); I have done the FODMAP diet with a nutritionist for 8 weeks of hell (although I got very skinny yay!) had 3 coeliac tests (all negative), had 3 weeks of daily blood monitoring for suspected insulin-resistance; I spent 3 months having tests with a Gastroenterologist including a colonoscopy, endoscopy and even ate a video camera (yes ate) who diagnosed extreme IBS with gastritis of the stomach; allergy testing at St Helier hospital also came to nothing and ruled out any positive food allergies, prescribed daily anti-histamine pill to stop the reactions I was having. Then I went back to my Endo for more random tests including urinary catecholamines, 5H1AA and a Synacthen test.
In April 2015 my consultant eventually agreed to trial me on the synthetic thyroid hormone Liothyronine: T3. Which everyone says is not clinically proven but brilliant none the less.They love it in America. Well my GP didn’t agree and fought with my Endo for 6 months before the new meds were accidentally prescribed by a locum GP (oops) and I got the new T3 meds
Happy ending? Well we’re getting there……my most recent development is that in July this year I was diagnosed as having Bile Acid Malabsorption (what is it with having weird things wrong with me that I can’t pronounce?!) which, it turns out, has been the underlying reason behind my years and year (and years) of IBS. Hallelujah! In brief (read this page for more detailed info) it means my gall bladder produces too much acid when it tries to digest fats causing my entire digestive system to work ‘too well’ resulting in it speeding up and resulting in horrible IBS symptoms which involve running to the loo frequently.
I still suffer with occasional moments of IBS when I’ve overdone it a bit, I still go up and down a lot with my hormonal problems relating to the constant roller coaster that is thyroid disease and I still get bouts of chronic daily headaches, particular when I’m stressed or anxious about stuff ….but I am loads better than I was.
So there you are, you are officially up to date with my health.
Onto the food bit:
Over the years I’ve dabbled in trying to change my diet with ventures into gluten free and dairy free but I’ve never successfully stuck with it. Coz it’s hard. Bloody hard. I did gluten free for 6 weeks or so back in 2012. Then I did it more seriously in 2014 and finally I did the FODMAP elimination diet last January which was brutal and unsustainable to say the least.
Why bother I hear you ask?
Well, firstly, from some of the earliest research that I did on Hashimoto’s disease it was the one thing that I discovered that I could actually do something about – the advice was, if you have Hashimoto’s disease, in order to lower your antibodies, to improve your gut health and to deal with food intolerance symptoms, you should go gluten free and probably dairy free too.
Secondly, as I mentioned above, I have had IBS for years. I have never been able to tolerate much dairy, even when I was a kid and couldn’t drink milk because it made me want to be sick. Over the years I have naturally steered clear of milk, replacing it with almond milk, replacing butter with veg spread, the only yogurts I can eat seem to be the 0% fat greek ones but I have continued to eat some small amounts of hard cheese like cheddar and parmesan. I do love a bit of cheese. And this has been one of the reasons that I’ve struggled to commit to a dairy free diet exclusively.
So when I started this blog back at the beginning of this year I was 100% committed to eating gluten and dairy free. And I stuck to it. And I sort of enjoyed it (sort of). But the thing is that now, with my new medication for my Bile Acid Malabsorption, I have actually started to eat dairy again. In moderation that is. Same with gluten. My specialist reckoned that my assumption that I couldn’t tolerate gluten was probably masquerading as my BAM in the first place and because eliminating fats was never on my radar I just assumed gluten and dairy were the most likely culprits.
So, I am beginning to recover from years of symptom suffering and I have learnt a huge amount about the two random conditions I have. Above all I have learnt how controlling diet and eating a clean diet can help enormously with symptoms. It’s not a cure and eliminating whole food groups is hard. Incredibly hard. But I have learnt to cook such delicious free from food that I’d like to continue to share my recipes with you guys. If that’s ok with you?
Whether you are dairy free or gluten free or both, whether it’s by choice or because of symptom suffering, you will find here lots of recipes that cover both exclusions. Recipes can be tweaked to allow for inclusion of either one of them therefore allowing most home cooks to enjoy making good food whatever their issues are. All my recipes have been tried and tested on a willing family (!) and whenever I post a recipe you can be certain that it tastes good. So if you’re cooking for a free-from friend or free-from yourself I hope you enjoy browsing through my recipe collections and find something delicious to eat.