Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Archive for February 2006

Shrove Tuesday

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Foods eaten: Eggs, Butter, Jersey cow milk, Pear, Double cream, White bread roll, Pork chop, Swede, Leeks, Pancakes, Golden syrup.
Kcals: 2,516, Protein: 86g, Fat: 189g, Carbs: 113g.

Eczema is virtually non-existent, I think it will be completely gone in another 1-2 days, the skin is healing up quite quickly. The permanently swollen gland below my right ear was very small yesterday but is a bit worse today, though I did sleep on my ear all night. Today’s weird symptom: seem to be very itchy and have a rash on my collarbone. Could this be detox or could it be carbs=inflammation? Or could I still be cheating? I shouldn’t have eaten pork chop today. I don’t seem to have gained any weight from all this excess, still 8 stone 9 pounds this morning. I feel very full yet have a strange generalised craving to eat. It is wonderful to be able to drink milk and cream and use butter again.

My eczema is not flaring up after meals at all. The interaction between foods is so strange. I noticed absolute, definite connections between eating beef, cheese, butter, cream, lamb and pork, and eczema flare-ups after meals. I thought this must be the arachidonic acid in the animal fat providing extra “fuel” for the fire. Arachidonic acid helps you make a variety of inflammatory or anti-inflammatory prostaglandins depending on whether your body needs them. But I suppose it must be amines!

Today I had tons of milk, cream and butter for lunch and my eczema has never looked better, because there are less salicylates in my system, and they are the root cause. There I was worrying about red meat and allergies to animal products, depriving myself of good food and all the time it was plant poisons and rotten stuff!

I have just been looking back through my fat-fast diary and I am astonished at the correlation between eating high-salicylate and spicy/tomato foods, aspirin, and eczema inflammation the following day. The day I take aspirin my eczema looks better than normal, but the day after it is much worse! The reason the eczema was so good at the start of the fat-fast was because I was eating very low salicylate foods: having an oatcake instead of a salad or some vegetables. Then when all the weight-loss-pain symptoms kicked in I started taking the aspirin to deal with it, and after a short while I realised it might be helping the weight loss because I was almost doing the ECA stack, so I kept taking it and the eczema got even worse! I also ate much fewer vegetables over the summer while I was doing a fat heavy diet, but I was still getting quite a few salicylates from berries. But I was handling them better? There was something about the high fat diet that enabled my body to cope. I still think it was animal fat related.

Today being Shrove Tuesday I went to get some golden syrup from the supermarket. The supermarket was full of confused people looking for pancake ingredients in the baking section and not finding them. There was a very, very angry young mother and a little girl throwing a tantrum because she desperately wanted tomato sauce. I’ve always vaguely blamed this kind of “naughty/confrontational” behaviour on food additives, bread and sugar, but now I understand food intolerance, I’m starting to see it all around me and truly understand the mechanisms at work. I did my own informal survey of UK supermarket breads and found that every brand in the store except one (part-baked white rolls made in France) contained E282, calcium propionate, which has been identified as a cause of ADD/ADHD. Some that contained this ingredient even had the audacity to declare themselves as being fortified with extra calcium! Pretty much all of them (white and brown) also contained hydrogenated vegetable oils and soya flour. They say two thirds of the commercial bread of various different brands that we eat is only produced by two different companies. According to “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence, a bread factory uses 13 tonnes of fats, 12 tonnes of “chemical improvers” and 820 tonnes of flour per week. Twelve tonnes of chemical improvers compared to thirteen tonnes of fats? Fat is usually the second highest ingredient on the label of bread. If so, exactly what weight of chemicals makes up the average loaf?

I feel so sorry for that mother and daughter, because they are still going to be fighting each other in ten or twenty years time and will never really know why they are so angry. I saw the mother ranting outside the shop to her friends about how she couldn’t find a product she was looking for. I think she wanted some sort of pancake batter premix! Good grief, can’t you just mix some flour with some eggs and milk?

I think I am now a confirmed carnivore and I will never eat another salad. So much for “five a day”. “Eat plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables for vital antioxidants!” My ass. I always wondered why people living in the Mediterranean were so hot-tempered, when they ate so “well”. I feel let down by everyone – both the medical establishment and the naturopaths. All those “wonderful” vegetables Dr. Atkins tells you to eat? Rubbish. Everyone is part of the same consensus – that fruit and vegetables are good for you. That kind of advice is downright irresponsible, lethal even, for folks like me. I wonder how many people have killed themselves due to depression, or killed others through irrational anger, or have been locked up as “mentally ill”, all because of the food they were eating? The only one person I can think of who actually has the audacity to tell people that fruit and vegetables are worthless animal fodder is Dr. Jan Kwasniewski, and I just thought he was being a kook!

Written by alienrobotgirl

28 February, 2006 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Failsafe Diary

GOSH I ate a lot today

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Foods eaten: Eggs, Butter, Chicken, White bread roll, Jersey cow milk, Pear, Cashews, Pork chop, Savoy cabbage, Swede, Blackstrap molasses.
Kcals: 2,544, Protein: 112g, Fat: 191g, Carbs: 91g.

Noticed a slight patch of athlete’s foot whilst in the shower. I haven’t had any for at least a year or more. But eczema is looking really good today. Weird. Feet feel rough and skin dry too.

Slight low blood sugar episode this morning after yesterday’s carb-binge, but I was expecting much worse and didn’t get it. Maybe the banana was a problem? I am doing a lot of cheating and making mistakes. I ate a lot today. Banana does make me very hungry.

I seem to be coping with carbs a LOT better. Sue Dengate implies that hypoglycaemia is in fact just a delayed reaction food intolerance, but I disagree. I think it’s more complicated than that. From years of noting symptoms I know that I react to ALL carbs regardless. I’ve noticed other symptoms with particular foods (bananas make me abnormally hungry, whole sprouted/sourdough breads make me very irritable, while white bread just makes me bloated, spicy foods flare up my eczema, MSG makes me feel horrendous the next day), but apart from that I really do react to all carbs, potatoes, pure sugar, and additive-free bread included.

I am wondering whether salicylates actually impair the blood-sugar control mechanism? There may be a vitamin K connection here.

Neither I nor J. could sleep last night, no idea what we ate. Tired today but still fairly clear-headed.

N.B. We think our inability to sleep was down to the cod we both ate (the only thing we both ate yesterday was the homemade fish and chips). I looked on the amine chart and fish that is not entirely fresh can contain high levels of tyramine, which has a stimulant effect. So screw fish, if we can’t get a good supply of genuinely fresh fish (i.e. by living at the coast), it is probably doing more harm than good.

Written by alienrobotgirl

27 February, 2006 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Failsafe Diary

Day 2

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Foods eaten: Egg, Butter, Pear, Jersey cow milk, Cod, Chips (fries), Beef fat, Banana, Cashews, White bread roll, Chicken, Decaf espresso.
Kcals:1945, Protein: 76g, Fat: 133g, Carbs: 107g.

Feel pretty good today, very clear headed. Shouldn’t be eating the espresso or the banana!

Written by alienrobotgirl

26 February, 2006 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Failsafe Diary

Started Failsafe today

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Foods eaten: Eggs, Butter, Pear, Jersey cow milk, Chicken, Chicken liver, Brussels sprouts, Banana, Espresso, Cashew nuts.
Kcals: 2090, Protein: 95g, Fat: 153g, Carbs: 83g.

Started the Failsafe Program today. I haven’t quite managed it (chicken liver, banana, espresso). I may have slipped up with cosmetics this morning in the shower. I used baking soda instead of toothpaste as this is Failsafe. Teeth feel great, even though I’ve eaten quite a lot of carbs today and totally blown my Optimal Diet ratios. Not going to worry about macronutrients until I’ve established the foods I can eat. I’ve handled the carbs beautifully. I was very irritable and fuzzy this morning but became quite clear headed this afternoon and almost awake for the first time in weeks! I haven’t taken my vitamin supplements today so I was expecting my eczema to get worse. Isn’t too bad considering, but a bit red though. I’m worried about the dairy products inflaming it as I am not sure whether I have a problem with dairy. But what else can I actually eat? A bit stuck for ideas! If cow’s milk doesn’t work out I’ll be trying goat’s milk next. I have done astonishingly well on getting vitamins from food today considering what a restricted diet I am on!

Written by alienrobotgirl

25 February, 2006 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Failsafe Diary

Eczema and food

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Sent: February 7 2006
Subject: contact me form
From: H
Place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Comments: Ms. D—: Been suffering from terrible, raw eczema on the back of my right hand every winter for 10 years. Wondering if it might be the exposure to sunlight in the summer months that prevents me from suffering year-round: I spend a lot of time outdoors May – October, but not nearly so much from November – April. This winter my eczema has been terrible. Am not spending less time outdoors than previous winters, and am actually experiencing less stress, so figure it must be the diet. Notice horrible reactions up to 36 hours after consumption of cow cream, butter, and high-fat cow milk; also suspect reactions to beef and excess protein. Just wondering if you’ve solved your eczema condition thru diet, and if you’d be so kind as to let me know what seems to help. Gratefully, H [name removed for privacy]

Hi H,

I think the first thing you should do is visit this website http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info and read everything!

This site is also very useful: http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk

Depending on who you listen to eczema is either “idiopathic” (“we don’t know what causes it”), or it is caused by food allergies and intolerances. Allergies are caused by proteins or by chemicals that bind to proteins ( e.g. sulfites), intolerances are broader and can be caused by numerous additives or natural chemicals like salicyclates in plants. Some fats can provoke existing inflammatory problems (omega 6 vegetable oils, arachidonic acid in beef, lamb and dairy).

A lot of people who have eczema don’t have enough GLA (evening primrose oil), or omega 3s from fish oils, or zinc. They didn’t work for me (zinc makes me really flake), but as eczema can have numerous causes, it’s worth a try. I too find that sunlight really helps my eczema and I’m looking forward to the spring!

My sister suffers from eczema on her hands during the winter. She is actually eczema-free this year and has been helped by the following combination of things:

  • Maintaining good circulation and warmth in her hands
  • A low carbohydrate diet of natural wholefoods (no additives or junk food allowed!) based on Weston A. Price foundation principles.*
  • Vitamin A cream
  • These vitamins:
    • A standard multivitamin
    • Vitamin C (1 gram)
    • Vitamin A (5-10,000 i.u.)
    • Vitamin D (2-400 i.u.)
    • Vitamin E (2-400 i.u)
    • B12 (1000 mcg)
    • Folic Acid (400 mcg)
    • B6 (10 mg)
  • I am taking the above vitamins plus these,** which I’m having quite a bit of success with:

I am also having to avoid wheat, potatoes, dairy, red meat (particularly beef), fish and shellfish, the onion family, garlic, tomatoes, and anything that might contain sulfites! So I’m currently living on chicken, green veg, carrots, parsnips, nuts, fruit and eggs (which strangely I don’t react to)!*** I’d say that I’m 90% of the way there in identifying the foods I am reacting to. The fats I use are limited to coconut oil, olive oil and goose/duck/chicken fat. I also drink a lot of redbush tea**** and chamomile tea because they have an anti-inflammatory effect. Apparently sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate are both very good for soothing reactions, haven’t had chance to try them yet. Too much or too little carbohydrate and too much protein do cause me flare ups, but I think this is due to increased stress hormones rather than anything deeper. The thing that helps most is to keep your macronutrients regular rather than yo-yoing, (which is what I used to do because I was scared of gaining weight).

I have a long history of asthma and eczema and I’ve had a chronic eczema-like inflammation in my right ear for the last ten years or so that is connected to shampoo use. My facial eczema appeared after I got a very nasty bout of bronchitis about a year and a half ago, I think it upset my immune system. I had also developed an intolerance to sulfites (in red wine) a couple of months before, and that was associated with food poisoning. I think it is all connected. Hydrocortizone has never worked for more than four days, then I get worse than when I started!

Because it’s an autoimmune problem it’s pretty difficult to control purely through diet as there are so many other factors involved (stress, sleep, sunlight, airbourne allergens, infections, weather, hormones), and I sometimes it feels as though it’s flaring up for no reason at all. It’s pretty important to keep a food diary and remember that a reaction can be immediate, or it can take up to 48 hours to appear or peak. The positive thing about food allergies and intolerances is that they usually go away of their own accord with anything between 3 months and 2 years abstinence.

So far I’ve managed to completely clear up my eczema on three separate occasions for weeks or months each time, but then something has happened that has set my immune system off again (stress, illness, a takeaway meal, lapsing on the diet, etc.). With the vitamins and the careful diet, I’m very close to clearing it up for a fourth time. I know I’ll eventually beat it if I keep at it and keep a positive attitude!

Everyone has different foods that they react to. Start out by eliminating the foods you know cause a problem, keep a diary, try an elimination diet or a rotation diet. Once you start looking for things it’s amazing what you will find. Try the vitamins. Sometimes it’s very simple to fix, other times (like me), you have to be pretty persistent!

Hope this helps and good luck!

Notes from October 2007

It’s really amusing reading this back now. I had only just found the Fed Up site and it was all starting to make sense, but I still wasn’t thinking straight and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was reacting to. I was still trapped in the idea that I had suddenly become sensitive to food chemicals – when looking back today I can remember numerous incidents where I became quite ill or had strange reactions to food. The clue that led me to the idea of food chemicals in the first place was a very bad reaction to red wine – which I wondered might be caused by sulphites.

It would be another six months before H, the correspondent in this email, would think about trying the failsafe diet.

* I don’t know why I included the Weston A. Price Foundation principles in this, since they’d only ever made me worse. That’s how strong my belief was. Fortunately I’m a lot more skeptical now.

** These are enormous doses of vitamins and I would never take this much today. I suspect I tolerated such massive doses of vitamins because salicylates were antagonising them so much. I still felt like hell all the time because my diet was so high in chemicals – but I felt marginally better on the vitamins than off them.

*** As you can see I was still very confused about what I was reacting to. Before Christmas I had spent the whole of December not eating any green vegetables. At this time I was off dairy, beef, and wheat and grains, and my diet largely consisted of chicken, potato, eggs, minimal added fats apart from tallow, horse chestnuts, and, strangely, dates. I got very ill after Christmas – I suspect due to the combination of low vitamin D levels and taking methyl donors – methylcobalamin never fails to give me a cold. A week after New Year, I ate a curry and my eczema and brain fog came back within 12 hours. I promptly forgotten that I had cut out green vegetables and reintroduced them again and cut out potatoes – this resulted in broccoli induced hangovers and eczema flare ups. During the period when I wrote to H., I was on the verge of realising all this.

**** Redbush tea is absolutely sky-high packed with polyphenols – even more than green tea. Reading this makes me laugh, because I remember going through periods of cutting out redbush tea (for example, I never drank it in France), and feeling much better for it.

Written by alienrobotgirl

14 February, 2006 at 12:00 am

Posted in My History

Why kids don't eat their greens

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Choking on Cucumber

My Dad experiences certain tastes differently. So does my partner J. They can both taste something that I can’t in cucumbers and melons. Cucumbers and melons have a similar mild, weird taste to me, which I don’t find particularly unpleasant or indeed pleasant. By contrast my Dad is completely repulsed by cucumber and can just about manage the occasional slice of honeydew melon. He says these foods “taste like petroleum.” My partner J. reports something slightly different. To him, melons and cucumber taste almost, but not quite, like sick. He can’t even bear to eat things that cucumber has touched. I can’t find much information on the net about this particular aversion, but I believe it might be down to a chemical called cucurbitacin, an alkaloid which can cause severe stomach upset if ingested in a large enough quantity. There is certainly an evolutionary advantage in being able to taste this chemical, since tasters and non-tasters alike are equally susceptible to its effects.

Bitter Almonds

Cyanide is another interesting chemical that some of us can or cannot smell and taste. It is bitter in flavour and has an almond-like odour. About forty percent of the population can’t smell cyanide at all because they lack the gene to do so. Certain bacteria, fungi, and algae produce cyanide compounds that serve as a defence against being eaten by animals. Cassava, many fruit pits, apricot kernels, and bitter almonds all contain a cyanide compound known as laetrile or amygdalin that has anti-cancer properties. Whilst in this respect a small amount of cyanide can be beneficial, too much can clearly kill, so being able to smell and taste the distinctive “marzipan” bitter almond flavour of cyanide gives one a very useful evolutionary advantage when choosing one’s next meal. I can smell and taste cyanide compounds, but not as well as J. who protests vociferously if I mix apricot kernels in with the rest of our snack box of nuts. Whilst I can tolerate the mild bitterness (and occasional vile-tasting cyanide-bomb) of the apricot kernels and almonds, J. tastes a cyanide-bomb every time.

Why Don’t I Like Salads?

J. and I are also “supertasters.” A supertaster can taste two chemicals, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP). About 25% of people taste these chemicals as a very bitter taste. Another 50% can taste them mildly, and the last 25% can’t taste them at all. Supertasters can taste a bitter substance in the following foods:

  • Green tea and to a lesser extent black tea
  • Black Coffee
  • Grapefruit
  • Undercooked or raw cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Peppers and chili peppers
  • Some salad greens (especially rocket)
  • Spinach
  • Strong cheeses
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dry wines and beer
  • Tonic water
  • Olives
  • Soy products

Supertasters can also taste sweetness as being sweeter than a typical taster, and sourness in fruits as being sourer. Any strong flavour or odour like tomatoes, cured meat, yeast, cheese, game, or fish is also deeply intensified. Says one particularly badly afflicted supertaster, “If it came from the ocean, I don’t eat it.”

Picky Eating

It’s a well-known universal truth that children hate eating their greens, and not without foundation. I can taste the bitterness in PTU/PROP containing foods; it’s why as a child and teenager I disliked tea, coffee, beer and wine, salads, all of the green vegetables listed, and I found olives and grapefruit downright revolting. As a vegetarian teenager I found soy products to be beyond disgusting and pleaded with my mother for her not to buy them for me.

But there was more to my dislike of foods than bitter tastes. I also disliked fruit intensely, yet curiously I never had any problems eating a sugar-loaded breakfast cereal. Bread (which contains soy and yeast), was only made edible with the addition of jam (seedless, the seeds were chewy and bitter); I refused the crusts because they tasted burnt, and wholemeal was completely inedible. I always gagged at the sick-smell and taste of both meat pies and cheese and tomato lasagna.

Looking back, it seems my Mum was always desperately trying to get me to eat things that I found revolting, from green vegetables to battered fish, which made me want to throw up. She thought I was some sort of child anorexic: I wasn’t, I just couldn’t stomach the taste, smell and texture of certain foods. The only thing I really liked the taste of during my childhood was fresh whole milk, and I was in a constant battle to be supplied that instead of UHT skimmed, which tasted putrid to me. It was around the time that “Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher” removed my free milk from the school menu when I reached the age of seven, that my mother began to get very worried about my weight because there was so little that I actually wanted to eat. She went to the extent of putting tabs on me at school. All the teachers and the dinner ladies monitored what I ate, so I was forced to eat my revolting cardboard, yeast and burnt flavoured sandwiches. Why not give me school dinners? Ah, no, I was too picky for that, best not to even try!

Mum has always (rather unjustly) believed that I am in some way anorexic or picky and obsessed with food and sees my teenaged vegetarianism and my current interest in nutrition as an extension of this. I see things rather differently; for most of my life I have been completely disinterested in food and had absolutely no understanding of its impact on my body. Only recently have I come to discover that food is very interesting stuff and I am now the exact opposite of the anorexic I never was: I am busy trying to nourish myself in order to cure my chronic illnesses.

I think that the big clue in my relationship with my Mum over food, is that one day my family all sat down to a dessert of grapefruit, and my Mum was the only one who could actually eat it. We all declared it bitter, but I actually reacted very violently, gagging and spitting mine out and declaring it (rather precociously) to taste like cat’s piss. If only we had known about supertasting, maybe my childhood mealtimes would have been less of a battleground.

I’ve since “acquired” a taste for many of the classic supertaster foods, though I still find that green tea tastes like washing up liquid, soy is still manky flavoured cardboard, and grapefruit tastes like cat piss. Whether I am a full supertaster or one of the 50% majority of people who experience a mild bitterness, I don’t know, but I’m guessing I’m a full supertaster. What I do know is that J. is far more sensitive to bitterness in vegetables than me, though like me, he too has acquired a taste for alcohol, olives, dark chocolate, black coffee and strong cheeses, and he has always liked tomatoes while I don’t. I am still not a big alcohol drinker, and I can only take coffee and tea in small doses. I’m still iffy about game, but quite happy to eat cured meat, and while most people regard fish as a subtle taste, I find it quite strong and alien. I find most fish to be pretty unpleasant in taste (earthy, bitter, fishy) while J. does not, though I am happy enough eating very fresh shellfish and crustaceans. Oysters and seaweed taste vilely of rock-pools, but since oysters are very small and nutritionally worth the effort I will eat them, the rock-pool taste being largely neutralised by a bit of vinegar.

Evolution in Action?

I wonder what the genetic advantage is in tasting PROP and PTC? There must be one for the gene to be so widespread. Most of the supertaster articles you will find on the net or in the media describe what a terrible disadvantage such people have; supertaster children don’t eat their greens and are picky eaters (with misleading hints towards “anorexia” in spite of the fact that greens are typically low-calorie foods), and howls of dismay that supertasters don’t get enough of the anti-cancer chemotherapeutic phytochemicals and “wonderful” bioflavinoids found in such foods.

Or are they really that great? After starting Atkins, I became a dedicated salad-eater, but it was with some relief that I gave up eating regular salads last year when I sat down and took a look at what vitamins salad greens actually contain. I found that they don’t contain very much of anything apart from a tiny bit of folic acid and a bit of vitamin K, and most of them being destroyed by the “modified atmosphere” nitrogen packaging they are shipped in. Fortunately I can get both of these vitamins from elsewhere without having to endure the horrible bitterness of all red and dark green leaves. Brassicas are a very useful source of vitamin C and folic acid, and maybe a few carotinoids and chemotherapeutic agents, but unless you are planning to eat at least half a dozen cups a day (I dare you to try), they are pretty much useless for anything else.

That’s why My Hair is Falling Out!

Edible plants develop poisons over time when they are eaten due to natural selection. Poisonous and bitter-tasting plants are selectively rejected by animals that prefer sweeter shoots, with the consequence that their population increases. I also know that this very same group of bitter crucifers, greens, and soy foods contain goitrogens; chemicals that disrupt and depress thyroid function. PROP is in and of itself a goitrogen used to treat hyperthyroidism. In green vegetables, about a third of these chemicals are neutralised by cooking or fermenting, in soy they are extremely difficult to neutralise. Thyroid inhibitors are particularly damaging for children, those classic “picky eaters,” as they can lead to delayed development, lowered intelligence, and shortness of stature with normal or overweight.

Whilst we almost always cook brassicas and crucifers these days to reduce the PROP, PTC and other goiterogen content, the bitter taste supertasters detect may have helped our raw-vegetation-eating ancestors distinguish poisonous, thyroid-damaging plants from the rest and avoid or regulate their intake in order to gain the benefits of eating them without also gaining the disadvantages. So perhaps the next time you tell your kids to eat their greens and they refuse, you should ask yourself if they know better than you?

Notes from October 2007

It’s actually quite exciting to read this post back today, as it demonstrates how in February 2006 my sights had finally rounded on vegetables as a cause of my problems. I knew I was on the verge of a major breakthrough, as I’d realised I was reacting to some vegetables – like broccoli.

Written by alienrobotgirl

5 February, 2006 at 10:43 pm

Posted in My History