Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Journey to Optimal Health

For many of you who don’t know me in real life or who haven’t seen my struggles with my health over the past 12years, I’m on a journey to Optimal Health.   Here’s a recap:
My journey didn’t begin in May 2011 it began back in 1999 when I was medically discharged from the Air Force, for Migraines and asthma both which became uncontrollable. I had both migraines and asthma since I was a child. It was something I lived with, just part of my life. I processed out of the military, and into the VA medical system, where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. I was treated with medications that targeted both my migraines, the bipolar disorder and the PTSD, and placed on asthma controller medications.

I worked as a Logistics Consultant for a government contractor and found myself an active participant in the response to 9/11. In this high pressure and high stress job, I suddenly I gained close to 30lbs. I wasn’t sleeping well; in fact I never really slept well. I joined weight watchers, only to have my weight plateau at 160lbs at the lowest weight. I’m 5’3”; at my highest I was 190lbs. I found that that my weight bounced back and forth between 160lbs-185lbs over the next 7-years; I never could break through the 160lbs barrier.

Between 2002 and 2003, the VA diagnosed me with Fibromylagia and Chronic Fatigue syndrome. My health began to deteriorate, and by 2004 I had reactions to the medications I was on for my migraines and psychological issues. The reactions were so sever the VA Neurologist took me off all my medications and sent me to a chiropractor. I found some relief with the chiropractor, by going gluten free, and dairy free, but I didn’t see any changes in weight.

In 2008 I had my first child. My pre-pregnancy weight was 165lbs, at delivery of my daughter I weighed close to 200lbs, I never reached my pre-pregnancy weight, & even with doing P90x, before I became pregnant with my 2nd child. During this time I was also diagnosed with sleep apnea as well. My 2nd pregnancy was hard on me. I gained close to 230lbs at time of delivery and I was placed on bed rest at 34wks due to high blood pressure. Once I got cleared to work out, I began P90x but was only able to get down to 190lbs and saw no forward moment in weight loss. I was still in maternity clothes 6 months post-partum. I was frustrated because everyone I knew lost weight breastfeeding, while I had no success.

In October 2010, I stumbled upon Mark’s Daily Apple. I bought Mark’s book the Primal Blueprint  (you can buy it from Mark’s website or Amazon) and I took a primal leap. Going 100% grain free was easy. The hard part was kicking the sugar from my diet. It took me almost 4 months to completely kick sugar to the curb. Once I did, I saw improvements and by February 2011, I was out of maternity clothes, and in size 12 pants. Then I stalled out, in my weight loss.

I tried counting calories. I increased my fat consumption; I cooked everything in bacon fat, coconut oil, or ghee. I increased my protein. I tried low-carb, and I tried moderate carbs. I made sure I moved slowly every day and Lifted heavy things 2-3x/week and sprinted 1x/week. But no results, no change in body composition. But, I wasn’t giving up. This was the easiest effort I’d ever put forth in attempting to lose weight, I figured it took me 10 years and 2 pregnancies to get to where I am, and I might not happen overnight.

I discovered Dr. Kruse’s Leptin Reset at the end of May 2011. I figured why not try it. How hard could eating 50grams of protein for breakfast cooked in Coconut oil within 30mins of waking up be? My first breakfast was a salmon burger, 3 eggs and cheese, plus my coffee w/the Primal Coconut Creamer, which is 1 egg, a can of whole fat coconut milk, a ½ cup of Coconut oil and a splash of vanilla extract blended up. I could barely finish the meal, but I forged ahead. Every morning I ate this way. Soon eating 50g of protein was easy. The one thing I didn’t follow regarding the reset was the no exercise. I felt I really needed it, so I continued to run and walk daily, along with 2-3x week heavy lifting sessions and my one sprinting sessions. Looking back, I think working out held me back.

Within the first 6 weeks, I began to see some of the Leptin Sensitive Signals begin to appear. My nails started growing at a phenomenal rate, such that I needed to cut my nails weekly. Prior to the rest I cut my nails every 3-4 weeks, and they’d break really easily. I also saw an increase in my sex drive, which is a big deal, when you’re nursing. Up until July I had no desire for sex. Around this same time, my cycle began to return after being without it for 4years of pregnancies or nursing. I also began to start sweating really easily within the first 5 minutes of working out and I began to get hot within 30 minutes of eating. For the first time in my life I wasn’t cold in the middle of a Washington DC summer, I found that amazing!

While I was beginning to see Leptin Sensitive Signals, I also gained weight and I was frustrated. Dr. Kruse answered my questions on the monster thread as to why was I gaining weight, instead of loosing. His response was that I had hormonal issues that needed to be addressed but in order to pinpoint them I needed to run tests. I balked at running tests.

But after 12 weeks on the reset with only some Leptin Signals I gave in and tested. I paid for most of my tests out of my flexible spending account. My labs identified what was holding me back. My cortisol levels were backwards, they were elevated at night, and low in the morning; the complete opposite of what they’re supposed to be! No wonder I had a hard time waking up in the morning! The only other lab that was alarming was my NMR lipid profile, specifically my LDLs. My LDL shot up like a rocket, the only good thing about my LDLs was they were the light fluffy pattern A, not the plaque and artery clogging patter b! Fortunately, my HDL had almost doubled from the previous lipid panel I had run in Nov 2010, and my Trigs dropped to 30.

After reading Dr Kruse’s response on the Perfect Health blog, in Sep 2011, regarding increased LDL in some people on a paleo/primal diet, I realized the crazy cortisol I had, in combination with the high LDL I was dealing with pregnenolone steal syndrome, and my brain had turned off my hypothalamus-pituary axis, essentially shutting down my thyroid to a maintenance level, which was making it difficult to lose weight. It also explained why my Thyroid panels (TSH and T4- were normal!) This became a vicious cycle. So, I continued to make LDL, but the cortisol was shunting the pregnenolone so I wasn’t turning the LDL into the appropriate sex-steroid hormones. This was my biggest AHHAAA moment in my quest for health. I then focused on fixing the cortisol through the use of adaptogens, I gave up my beloved coffee for decaf, and I stopped working out.

6 weeks after this AHHAAA moment I stepped on the scale and suddenly I was 10lbs lighter!  I was 160lbs! Shortly after that around the second week in October, I began to start to work out, lifting heavy things, and High Intensity Interval Training, in addition to walking the dog with the kids. At this time I was in size 12s for most of my work suits. I had size 10s in my downstairs closets that I couldn’t fit in. At the end of October I had combined my LHT/HIITs by doing 12min work outs using . When you have two kids under 4, work full time, and you’re also trying to be a supportive/participative wife, maximizing your work out becomes critical! Following the LR principles, and working out right before or right after dinner made the world of difference. By December I was in my size 10 suits and I had to go out and buy size 8s pants/jeans for kicking around on the weekend! I haven’t been in a size 8 since the 90’s and I was less than 160Lbs for the first time in almost 10years!

At this point, I began to focus on trying to sync everything I was doing around the circadian rhythms Dr. Kruse kept blogging about. I began to forego sunglasses during the day, trying to get as much sunlight as I could. At this point suddenly I found myself realizing at 3:30-4pm that I’d missed lunch. I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t worry about lunch, and I began to take walks during my lunch hour. I’ve experienced all the Leptin Sensitive signals, things began to fall into place. I’m sleeping better than I can remember and I’m waking refreshed at 630 in the morning!

I’ve seen major body composition changes since the beginning of December, as well as increases in strength with the workouts I’ve been doing. While I’m not Optimal yet, I’m on my way. I’m not in a bikini yet, but I will be and I’ll have a crazy six-pack of abs to complement the bikini. The most amazing thing about the entire reset is how my perspective has changed. My entire way of thinking has changed. Stress doesn’t affect me like it used too. I’m a better mother, and wife. Do I have bad days yeah sure I do, but more often those aren’t bad days but a bad moment within a day that quickly is replaced by something positive. Am I the best person I could be every day? Probably not but that’s a piece of what becoming Optimal is about. Every day I’m better than I was the day before in everything; in my health, in my mental state, in my role as a wife, in my role as a mother, in my role as an employee. Yeah, the weight loss, and increased health are excellent benefits too but each day I become a better version of me and that for me that’s the most amazing thing about what the Leptin Reset has done for me.

My most recent labs, show that things are beginning to turn around, my thyroid is waking up, I also discovered my PCOS is back in full swing and I found a doc in my local area who will work w/me on bio-identical hormones, to mange my PCOS. I also discovered in these last rounds of tests I've got parasites and I'm currently finishing the detox for those, and I'm also detoxing from candida. 
In February I began Cold Thermogensis, after reading Dr Kruse’s blog on it:  Am I crazy?  I just may be.  But after my last set of labs, and working with my new PCP, we’ve discovered that INFLAMMATION is the root of all my problems.  CT is one more tool in the tool box towards optimal health.  Did I jump in right away?  No.  I started slowly w/spot CTing around my trunk using Ice packs, the slowly built up to taking Cold Baths.   In March, I also started Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy.  So far both seem to be working very well together.  Since starting BHRT I’ve had a total of 3 migraines, 2 in March, and one more recently in June.  That means I was Migraine Free for 2 whole months.  WIN! Couple CT w/BHRT and suddenly my measurements were changing!  I’m starting to get a waistline again!

I also had a recent set of labs run.  I’m seeing positive changes in my hormone panel, my Progesterone:Estrogen ratio has increased from 8:1, to 75:1!  My Lipid panel is changing as well. Do I still have Familial hypercholesterolemia? Yes, are we watching it?  Yes.  I’ve also discovered I’ve got some genetic markers that are important for me to monitor.  But my BIGGEST Problem is INFLAMMATION.  That coupled with a high fasting Blood Glucose, high fasting Insulin, and borderline HbA1C, it’s time to focus on fixing these things.  Granted I’m not considered pre-diabetic, by medical standards, but my PCP is concerned with my numbers, so I need to be too. Additionally, it’s been brought to my attention that low magnesium levels can contribute to INFLAMMATION, as well as high fast BG, high fasting insulin, and a borderline HbA1C. 

So over the next several months I’m going to be actively posting and tracking my journey here on the blog.  One of my first steps is I’m testing my blood glucose before each meal, and after each meal.  This will allow me to get a baseline on all the foods I eat, and determine if any foods in particular drive my BG higher than others.  Those foods that impact my blood sugar excessively, I’ll eliminate.

The second thing I’m looking at is using an Autoimmune Paleo template.  I’m currently reading Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Answer. You can get your copy of Dr Cordain’s book here  or at Amazon.  He’s got some great information that I think will be beneficial as I try to address this inflammation issue I have.

I will also continue CTing, and working with my PCP to figure out how to get this under control.
I’m finally on the way to achieving optimal with my health follow me as I continue on this journey.