Sept 18, 2013
This is a story with a happy ending. One of trusting my instincts and being my own best health advocate. One of learning and growing in wisdom about how to best serve and nourish the body God gave me.
My Cholesterol Story -
I first started paying attention to my cholesterol numbers when I moved to Tennessee, at age 34. At the time, I was eating a low-fat, low-calorie, Weight Watchers-type diet. I was thin and aimed to keep it that way. I ate diet "franken-foods" like fake cheese and lots of Fiber One cereal. (Which kept me regular, but full of gluten!) I was hungry all the time. I cared more about looking good than about my health. I bragged that my total cholesterol was an astonishingly low 108! (In case you think that low # is good, you should definitely read on; it's NOT.)
Well, about that time I also started having trouble with my hormones. I couldn't sleep, and I had energy crashes along with brain fog and anxiety. My progesterone was nearly zero. The bio-identical progesterone cream I was prescribed was a lifesaver. Then, my testosterone was low. Same story. (It's all cholesterol related; I now know that cholesterol manufactures all of our major hormones. No wonder mine were in the tank!)
In 2010, I read about eating a low-carb diet in Reader's Digest magazine. It touted satiety, which really appealed to me, since I had been hungry for 10+ years straight. Overnight, literally, I changed to a low-carb diet & I finally felt full because I was eating fat. Unfortunately, I did not do my homework. I was still eating "Franken-foods", just the low carb variety, like Slim Jims, canola oil, and egg beaters. Basically, I was still unintentionally starving my body of nutrition. I lost un-needed weight this way, friends started to worry, and I even stopped having my period for 8 months. (Fertility is a sign of health. Babies' bodies and brains need cholesterol to develop. In fact, every cell in our body needs cholesterol, by the way.)
Over the following year, however, I learned about real, nourishing, whole food nutrition from listening to podcasts by Jimmy Moore, Dr. Lo, Balanced Bites, and Sean Croxton, among others. I also delved into holistic health and made many positive changes for stress relief. Through self-experimentation, by mid 2012, I transitioned to what I call my Mediterranean-Paleo diet. (I am proud of and identify with my Greek heritage.) It's what works for me and what I blog about in Au Naturale Nutrition. I love avocados, meats of all types (grass-fed/organic), fish, olive oil, abundant vegetables, nuts and seeds, berries, rich spices, and dark chocolate. It's a nutrient rich, whole food diet. I'm still low-carb (meaning I fuel my body with healthy fats), but doing it the correct (nutritious) way. I eat to prevent inflammation, which is the cause of disease. Therefore, I don't eat grains, no refined foods, no industrial oils, few legumes (except green beans and peas, which I like), and no dairy.
Back to cholesterol....
So, as you just read, I really did quite a detrimental number on my health (twice), and mostly in the pursuit of looking pretty, like an unattainable touched-up model. (I am still a normal weight and think I look great, but that whole discussion is for another blog post.) I am finally nourishing myself like I should have all along, body, mind, and spirit.
But, at the age of 41, I believe the damage from eating a poor diet had caught up with me again....
I went do my doctor, an Osteopath, who is trained with a more integrated approach to medicine. I went in specifically asking to have my thyroid tested. I had developed many symptoms that were telltale signs to me of a new, developing problem. My energy was slowing down. I'd get on the tennis court and wait for my "on button" to switch to "go", but I felt drained. (I'm convinced I would have won my first match at the state tennis tourney otherwise. I did win my second match, but just barely.) I also had more weight gain, a low body temp, slow pulse, thinning eyebrows, hormone issues, tendinitis, plus a family history of thyroid disease. Not one symptom was overwhelming, but collectively, my instincts told me what it was. (Studying holistic health and nutrition has really helped with my personal awareness, and I understand the importance of listening to my bio-feedback.) The doctor took my blood, and also ran the standard lab tests and a full cholesterol panel.
I also opted to have a CT scan of my heart and arteries. The test results came back quickly: A plaque score of 0! Meaning no unwanted plaque build-up in my heart, nor narrowing of arteries in my heart. In addition, the cardiologist said, "Congratulations! Your heart and coronary arteries are consistent with those of a healthy 30 year old who has no heart disease." The risk of me having a heart attack in the next 5 years was less than 1%. YAY!! I was super happy, but not too surprised, since my new-found passion is holistic health, and I'm living out my values with that regard.
A week later, I came back into the doctor, proud of my fantastic heart scan, and hoping I'd get prescribed some thyroid meds. I had done my homework: I know you take them for a lifetime, and the thyroid is nothing to mess with, but that's how certain I was. The tests showed my TSH had doubled within the past year. It was in normal range, but not optimal, according to naturopathic Dr. Amy Myers. My Free T3 was low, which explained my lack of energy. However, my doctor didn't think meds were warranted. Instead of my thyroid #'s, the doctor focused on my cholesterol... it was SKY HIGH! She suggested I take a statin drug. She also predicted I'd have a heart attack within 5 years.
So, I went on a roller coaster of emotions, from high to low in a split second. The opinions were in complete opposition. I didn't even come in to the doctor's office concerned about my heart or cholesterol! Who's 5-year prediction was right?
Read the rest of the story here:
My Cholesterol Story - Part II (with a Thyroid Twist)
(Remember, it's a happy ending. And, although 5 years haven't yet come & gone, I'm still here and kickin'!)
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