Thursday, January 29, 2015

Was It AIP? Or Thyroid Meds?

When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroid (an autoimmune disorder) back in July, the endocrinologist put me on Synthroid and recommended some changes to my diet. I started taking the new prescription and eating according to the Autoimmune Protocol at the same time. Within a month of making these two changes, my health and well being were dramatically improved! I listed some of the benefits in this post, including:

better sleep quality/less night waking
more energy
easy weight loss
severe plantar fasciitis of two YEARS finally was gone!
better skin, less breakouts, and the disappearance of red, rashy skin on my face
better mood, clearer thinking

Frankly the weight loss amazed me. I'd put weight loss on the back burner and made health my primary goal; I wanted to follow the AIP diet correctly and needed to focus on eating the right foods, without worrying about calorie counting or measuring. When I started dropping pounds I was really excited and surprised! I started AIP in mid-July weighing 242 pounds. Immediately after beginning Synthroid + AIP, I started losing weight every single week. I dropped one, two, even three pounds each week and by September 1 I had lost 16 pounds and weighed 226. I wrote about my weight loss progress in this post. What made this so amazing to me is that in the prior two and a half years the most I was able to lose in one month was 3 pounds. And it took so much less effort to lose on AIP than it did when I was calorie counting, and going to the gym a lot more.

I have often wondered whether all of these health improvements were a result of the new medication, or the dietary changes. At the time I just figured it was probably a combination of both, and I was just so happy with how much better I felt that it didn't matter too much which treatment helped what. It wasn't until I had been off of AIP for several months that I was able to see which symptoms returned and which didn't.

So now that I am still taking the Synthroid, but not eating an AIP food plan, which of the symptoms have returned and which have stayed gone? Well, the plantar fasciitis has stayed gone... but everything else has returned. What this tells me is:

Benefits of AIP: better sleep, more energy, weight loss, better skin, better mood, clearer thinking
Benefits of Synthroid: healed my plantar fasciitis when nothing else would. (I am pretty sure there are other Synthroid benefits for my thyroid, but perhaps I cannot feel these benefits fully while eating an inflammatory, standard American diet).

I am a lot heavier now than I was when the plantar fasciitis started, and I was about 40 pounds lighter during some of the time I had plantar fasciitis, so while I am sure weight contributes in some cases, it is not the main issue with mine. I remember reading a study at one point that suggested that people with low thyroid hormones can have trouble with tendons that won't heal; I do believe my thyroid issues were the reason the plantar fasciitis and tendinitis would not heal for two years until I started Synthroid. Then it almost magically disappeared.

So now the problem is, all those other symptoms came back, and I feel pretty crappy just like I did before I started AIP, and when I go back and read my blog posts for the two months I was eating on that protocol, I am jealous of myself. I want that! I want back the energy, the happiness, the feeling great. I want back the ability to eat when I want to, as much as I feel like eating, without having to measure or count calories as long as I ate from the AIP template, and lose weight. I want back the energy and desire to exercise, and ability to see pounds drop off every week without dieting and with just moderate, easy exercise. I felt so good and I want it back.

AIP is hard in some ways. It felt awful for the first five days, and there were sacrifices along the way. I had to give up a lot of my favorite foods (cheese was a tough one!) and couldn't easily find anything tasty to eat at restaurants or potlucks. I had to adjust my attitude about what I "deserved" to eat, or even what I "wanted" to eat: no more habitual coffeehouse stops, no sampling lots of goodies at parties. I stopped eating out almost completely because a plain salad with a plain chicken breast is just not worth it. But I learned to make delicious AIP meals and snacks at home and never felt deprived with what I was cooking.

I have put off going back on AIP for months, because I didn't want to stop eating out at new restaurants, or having a nice warm mug of cinnamon milk at bedtime, or eating pasta once in awhile. I didn't want to have to bring my own food to every potluck or other communal meal so I would have something to eat. I didn't want to drink tea with coconut milk instead of coffee with cream. And I didn't want to say no to Cheetos "in moderation" or "just one rice krispy treat" or a small square of lasagna. Hey, I will tell you flat out, I do not want to give up garlic bread or candy. I don't! I obviously really like that stuff! I have loads of it plastered all over my body in the form of fat rolls. But you know, I don't want to stay unhappy and unhealthy and keep "trying" but watching my weight creep up a pound every week. I don't want to give up being able to move freely and feel good about my body and being healthy. And I know that nothing, no other diet or eating plan has given me as many benefits as AIP has. Yes, it started out as an elimination diet... and that is what it is. But for me it is also sort of a holy grail of eating, because I felt so amazing on it and watched pounds drop off without even really working at it. I know this is the way my body wants me to eat.

The problem for me now is simply getting motivated or committed enough to start AIP again and stick with it. I do NOT want to start-stop-start-stop it. It is harder every time. I've been kind of waiting until I feel like I can succeed at sticking with it through those first five rough days and then on into the future without going off and screwing up. I need a better plan for what to eat when I am sick (because that is when I went off AIP: when I was sick for weeks). But my goal remains to gather myself and suck it up and do it. The question is just... when?

Will I stay on AIP forever? Not technically. After a couple of months I will start reintroductions again, adding foods back in the recommended order. Will I stay on an AIP framework with those reintroduced foods added? Yes, I really hope to. I think this is the way I want to eat for the rest of my life. And if I feel as good and get as amazing results as I did before, I think I will actually want to.


Jessica Brown said...

Hi I've read your blog for years but never commented before. I felt compelled to by your post as I have extensive first hand experience with food autoimmune reactions.

Just to give you an idea where this comment is coming from I'm in my 20's and have 3 autoimmune conditions (2 manageable, 1 life-threatening) that I've had since birth - idiopathic (unknown cause) urticaria, angodema and anaphalaxis. In essence I have 100's of known food intolerances and near 20 known food/substance allergies

To distinguish:

Intolerance- what most people refer to as an 'allergy' symptoms like brain fog/unclear thinking, red rash, itchy skin/eyes, sneezing, upset stomach, bad sleep, no energy etc.

Allergy- life threatening symptoms including drop in blood pressure, throat swelling, unconsciousness and death if left untreated.

Personally, I pretty much can't eat out at all as it can easily kill me (close calls and hospitalizations on many occasions) and have to make all my food from scratch so I know exactly what’s in it. I can emphasise with the difficulties of eating an AIP diet.

My advice is to try and not think of food as 'want' or 'yummy' or 'but everyone else is eating it' but as 'fuel' and 'poison'. Poison may sound dramatic but its true in autoimmune disease- would you take a pill which purpose is to give you a headache, rash, and make you feel sick? If not, then don't eat a food which is going to do exactly the same just because your (general, not personal) tongue likes it. Once you know what your intolerant to you can modify recipes and foods etc. to omit foods/herbs/spices your intolerant to and replace them with alternatives your ok with. You will most likely then be able to eat out at many restaurants again too, albeit avoiding a few things on the menu (as opposed to everything lol).

I don't have Hashimoto's Thyroid and have never taken Synthroid so cannot comment on them. But the reason I'm commenting is that many of your symptoms list is classic intolerances i.e. your rash, energy, rash, mood, brain fog. And as these disappeared when you were eating AIP but are back now that strongly suggests you have some food intolerances. The sucky thing about autoimmune disease, as my immunology specialist says and I've experienced first hand, if that the disease is normally are not isolated event, as the immune system is essentially 'overreacting' so you may have autoimmune thyroid but you will in most likely have food intolerances aswell (which your symptoms strongly suggest). Unfortunately these may get worse with age (mine have) so the quicker you ascertain what food you have an intolerance to the better :-) (Obviously consult your own immunology/thyroid specialist).

Finally, AIP will not necessarily make you lose weight as it is completely possible to have a normal thyroid and be overweight/put on weight with AIP. I'd suggest that eating an AIP diet you were simply eating less calories than you were in your non-AIP diet (in combination with any benefits from your thyroid meds).

I Love your blog and wish you all the best with your weight loss and AIP, will keep you in my prayers


LHA said...

Lyn, I really sympathize with you. Many of us, including myself, have discovered a way to eat that is healthier, makes us feel better, and allows us to lose weight. The problem is sticking with it for life. If this was easy, obesity would be nonexistent.

For myself, I know I cannot stick to a highly restrictive diet 100% of the time. Time and time again I have done well (sometimes for a year or more) on a restrictive diet but it eventually led to feeling so deprived that I couldn't stop eating once I veered off course. I hope you can find whatever balance works for you. It is excruciatingly tantalizing to know there is a path out there for you that can bring such positive changes and not be able to fully commit to it.

I wish you luck and salute you for not giving up. That's the first step to being successful.

Josie said...

"I'd put weight loss on the back burner and made health my primary goal"

They are THE SAME EXACT THING. Weight loss = health

And baby, nothing illustrates this better than all those nasty symptoms that went away WHEN YOU LOST WEIGHT. I know you think it's because of your AIP restrictions but we're getting into, which came first, the chicken or the egg. When you're obese IT'S ALL ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS. It's the weight that makes you feel so shitty and the loss of it that reminds you of how good you can feel. (speaking from experience here)

If you need the restriction of AIP to eat well, then do it, but don't fool yourself with this chicken/egg shiat.

How about you commit to posting every day for the next week? Writing is very cathartic as you know.

Only way to do this is to hunker down, and shoulder through the first week when cravings are bad - and decide that coffee with that crappy flavored creamer you like is okay. Let that a couple of cups of that be your daily treat with an oz of dark chocolate.

You truly can do this, and if you do....oh the benefits you'll get.

Eileen Daidone said...

I think you are spot on. I've been on Whole 30 for 18 days now, and it has made a tremendous difference in my weigh loss, energy level, etc. I think I will be mostly sticking to this way of eating - maybe have one day each week where I can consume pasta or have a dessert.

Lori said...

Being in the right place mentally is huge to success. You are smart to sort through all of this and the motivation will come.

Maria McNeil said...

Lyn, I can completely relate because when I went to specialist in NYC regarding candida, he put me on an elimination diet and it was amazing what happened. Not only were ALL my symptoms gone and I felt amazing, I lost tons of weight easily. But I couldn't keep it up. I had not dealt with the mental/emotional side of my eating. I had a major attachment to food. Anytime you tell me I can't have something, I want it more. Have you ever read the book "The Willpower Instinct" by Dr. Kelly McGonigal? It's amazing how she talks about this issue with all types of addiction (food being one). If we don't address those underlying connections with food - no strategy or elimination deprivation will ever be sustainable. Do you agree? I would love to stay on a 'no sugar' diet but I know that's not realistic - hence 'yo-yo diet failure'. All of these 'strategies' work if you follow them to a T but can wreak havoc on our hormones/bodies as well as our self-efficacy to get back up and try again. It's taken me 3 years to get the belief I can take this weight off for good. It's been slow to get up again...probably what you are feeling now. I said, "why bother if I'm going to gain again" this time, I'm focused on what to add into my life instead of what I cannot have - takes a ton of pressure off...the beginning of freedom.

Lyn said...


Thank you for a voice of experience on these issues. What you say makes a lot of sense and rings true to me. While not as extreme as your situation, I have food allergies to all shellfish and know how awful and scary it is to get exposed. So I get how an intolerance can work, with different reactions and I think you are right. The true purpose of AIP is to sort out those intolerances (when I add something back, do symptoms appear?) so I need to figure out what to avoid.

Agree on the weight loss too... on AIP I did not restrict at all, but I also know I was very satisfied with less food. Without all the sugar and carbs and processed junk there is less of a drive to eat more, and more satisfaction.


I worry about that... sticking with something for life. I just hope something clicks and my desire to eat well for health strengthens over time.


absolutely weight and health are linked. But food intolerances, and autoimmune disease triggers, are real. That's probably why I felt better at 226 pounds on AIP than I felt at 199 pounds just counting calories. All the symptoms were not gone at 199 pounds, so there is more to it than just weight, IMO.


I do agree that food addiction is a real thing, and I am pretty sure this is a problem of mine (sugar, processed foods, carby stuff). It FEELS like I cannot say no sometimes. I haven't read the book you mentioned but am reading a different book on food addiction and it's a real eye opener. I am not sure how to address it, really. Abstinence, yes (which happens on AIP) and the book recommends a 12-step program. I have been doing some meetings but I am not all-in with the OA quite yet. If that's what it takes I will do it.

Lynne said...

Stop reading, stop over thinking and just DO... It's obvious that you have no self control right now, which I completely understand as I have been having my own struggles. You can't keep searching for the magic bullet, the one true thing. That is why I recommend a group like WW or TOPS or any place that would give you some accountability while giving you time to get back in the saddle and get in a groove. Just try something...

JM said...

You know I have a friend who is currently losing .. She was over 300 and has lost 45 so far slowly but steady. She works out 3 times a week and has a good plan. I wanted to see it and guess what? No one will be surprised that it was the usual. Small portions of lowfat foods, lean proteins and lots of veggies. It's sucks it really really does. But that is what it takes I can see it... And it's true when you are losing and in the zone, it's doesn't suck it's just... Hard to get in the zone. There is no effortless weight loss. No magic diet. I love AIP for its I render outpost to sort out sensitivities and to avoid the expensive test.. Which I have done. No surprise I am sensitive to dairy and sugar. What i already knew because I bloat like a puffer fish when I eat ice cream. My point is that after my own experience and now watching my friend have success.... We all know what works. I wish you much success and strength to do the protocol and hope it sorts some things out for you