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.