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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Returning to Life, Returning to the Kitchen

Early this year, long-standing, relatively dormant health issues resurfaced with a vengeance and by spring, I found myself overwhelmed with fatigue, chronic pain, and a "brain fog" that would not lift. I took a break from teaching so that I could get a handle on what was going on and after a few months of doctor visits, a new diagnosis (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), diet and lifestyle changes, my health is improving. My energy and focus are returning, the aches and pains are diminishing. I continue to be amazed at the turnaround and how just a few relatively small changes have put me on the path back to wellness.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mounts an attack against the thyroid gland. (To learn more about Hashimoto's and the latest thinking on managing this common yet under-diagnosed disease, read the Healthy Skeptic's series on the thyroid.) Following a protocol developed by Dr. Datis Kharrazian under the care of a local naturopath who has studied with him, about six weeks ago, I quit consuming gluten and virtually all grains because of the strong connection between gluten intolerance and Hashimoto's and the impact that high-carbohydrate foods have on blood sugar and thyroid function. I've increased my consumption of fermented vegetables and broths, both of which have remarkable healing properties, while I've reduced my sugar intake overall and use minimal amounts of honey as my primary sweetener instead. To an extent, my classes will begin to reflect these changes. I will no longer be teaching my Baking Basics class and my canning classes will include honey-sweetened preserves as well as those made with cane sugar.

(In addition to the dietary changes I've made, I supplement with vitamin D, cod liver oil, and an omega-3 fatty acid complex daily, all of which help support and balance the immune system. I swim laps three mornings a week, see an acupuncturist once a week, and began a meditation practice, following the method developed by Eknath Easwaran for transforming the thought process through meditation on the words of great prophets and philosophers from around the world. Stress was having a tremendous impact on my health and my nascent meditation practice has already made a big difference in how I think and feel about life's up and downs. The acupuncture is doing wonders for the exceedingly stubborn plantar fasciitis that has been with me for six years.)

For some time, I've been learning about gluten- and grain-free cooking from friends who preceded me in these dietary changes (knowing in the back of my mind that someday, I too might be making the same changes). Many of you have asked about gluten-free cooking and baking classes and while most of my current offerings are already gluten-free by nature, in the future I will offer classes specifically for those making the transition to gluten- and grain-free eating. While I miss some of the foods I used to enjoy, I am excited about getting back into my kitchen and exploring new culinary possibilities and I look forward to sharing that excitement with those who also find themselves making dietary changes for themselves and their families.


  1. Wow, Chris, good for you taking the bully by the horns. I'm so glad you're starting to feel better. My husband has Hashimoto's polar opposite, Grave's Disease. We briefly experimented with gluten free living with good results for the whole family, but ultimately failed to keep it up. Your success is inspiring me to revisit that lifestyle.

  2. How interesting, about the same time you were going through this, I was too. Exactly the same DX and healing process. I feel so much better now after diet changes and visits to my naturopath. Thanks for sharing your story. It's good to know others are out there like me!
    Cheers to good health!

  3. I was recently diagnosed with hashimoto's and have been on the gluten free diet for about 3 weeks now. I find most the rice breads, tortillas and even crusts are very dry. As a baking expert I was thinking maybe you have a nice solution for that? So far I've been trying olive oil and cheeses to disguise the texture. I think my love affair with breads is most of what's holding me back feeling better with this new diet. My insurance doesn't cover acupuncture but the couple times I managed to get the money together for it it really did help my stress level as well. I'm going to pursue finding a way to afford it after reading this!

  4. Also I'm on facebook if you're on there and would like to add me. My name is Jaime Kate Johnson. Talk to you later!

  5. Kristina, I had my doubts, and like I said, still feel amazed by how quickly some things have turned around (my feet are bothering me--a lot less--but I wish they were ALL better, NOW).

    sas, that's so interesting...have you read Dr. K's book? I only happened to come upon it thanks to a recommendation from a person I know through a Weston Price email list...if she hadn't, I'm not sure where I'd be now.

    Jaime, I gave up on bread for now. All the ones I've tried have been terrible and just make me sad. In fact, pretty much all the commercially prepared GF baked goods I've tried are too sweet, too gummy, too WRONG. Also, since I'm *trying* to keep my carb intake low, I don't want to eat foods made with non-GF grain flours. Right now, it's too hot to experiment with baking at home, but some homemade baked goods I have tried, that friends have made with nut flours, like coconut, hazelnut, and almond flour, and those have been pretty good. Check out grainfreefoodies.blogspot.com and http://www.elanaspantry.com/

    I have a page for Lost Arts Kitchen on Facebook.

  6. Oh, and another thing I meant to add: my family doesn't have any health insurance at all and my husband's salary is 2/3 what it was two years ago. We're paying for my health care out of our savings. I go to a community acupuncture clinic for $15/session--we could not afford private acupuncture.

  7. So interesting, I was just wondering about you the other day and missing notices from "the kitchen" - glad to hear that you have a dx and are feeling a lot better. I've really got to get going with the gluten free eating, I KNOW it will make a huge difference. I've been working with a CFS and Fibro dx for years and years, but sometimes I wonder....

  8. Hey Misi--Check this out: http://thyroid.about.com/cs/fibromyalgiacfs/a/cfsfibrothyroid.htm

    There are so so many people--mostly women--who are living with these various dianoses/non-diagnoses/mis-diagnoses (I was diagnosed "mildly hypothyroid" 14 years ago, but no one ever suggested Hashimoto's before a couple months ago--and the person who first suggested wasn't even a doctor). There are so many who don't say anything because they think it's normal to feel as bad as they do or don't want to sound crazy.

  9. I was wondering where you were...it's good to know you took the time to care of yourself and it's nice to hear you're back in the kitchen :)

  10. Hi Chris, I found your site through Sustainable Food For Thought. Good for you, changing your diet to impact your Hashimoto's. I don't know if I have Hashimoto's, but I have autoimmune thyroid, and I know that eating grain free has helped my symptoms disappear completely (they come back when I "cheat" on my diet, but for the most part I am able to live symptom free! Yay!). My family is doing the GAPS Diet by Natasha Campbell McBride (no grains, no sugar, no starches). We eat lots of homemade yogurt and stocks, and we'd do more fermented veggies if I could make them well (so far we've only really enjoyed the salsa). I'm writing about health/our diet at my site, The Well Fed Homestead. I'm also in Oregon--in Molalla. And we also have a whole lotta chickens (I think 70 or so, right now--in the summer we were raising broilers and we had 180 at a time :).
    I'm interested in your classes, especially since you're using honey instead of sugar (yay!). Hope you're feeling better with all of the changes!