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Why Should You Give Fasting a Try?

Back in 2012 I experienced terribly heavy bloating that I ended up gaining 10 pounds in just one week. Ironically, my appetite significantly decreased during this time and I wouldn’t eat anything beyond coffee and some biscuits for the entire day.

Turns out, I acquired hypothyroidism not only because of my genetic vulnerability (my grandmother from my father’s side had hyperthyroidism but has been cured through naturopathy; and my grandmother from my mother’s side still struggles with hypothyroidism up to this day), but also because of my lifestyle where I overexercise, undersleep, undereat on the “good” stuff, and overeat on the “bad” stuff.

I wasn’t happy with how endocrinologists treated my hypothyroidism with Levothyroxine, the universal synthetic hormone used for those with underactive thyroid. My symptoms kept on getting worse and it was not only the weight gain that got into me, it was more the feeling of lethargy and lack of enthusiasm that made my every day such a drag.

I came to know Dr. Flannery through a web search and it was the first time I’ve ever asked for a consultation without personal referral. It felt right though so I went for it, and up to this day I still can’t thank him enough for giving me the best long-lasting treatment I could ever hope to have. The biggest thanks though go to my parents who financially supported me for this treatment! I could never have afforded this back in 2012, a new graduate who tried to make ends meet on an entry-level research job 😛

So back to treatment: it was a combination of diet changes and supplements, relaxation techniques and light exercises. I had to literally overhaul my eating habits but it was all worth it. It took me two years to be 100% free from hypothyroidism and though naturopathy takes more time to get the “numbers right” compared to quick-fix synthetic hormones, the effects are long-lasting and four years on I’m still enjoying the benefits of the treatment.

Dr. Flannery recommends that I do a 15-day fast every 3-6 months, depending on my needs (i.e., Am I feeling under the weather often? Do I feel okay even with a normal diet?). His fasting program recommendation is not just for underactive thyroid patients, but also for everyone who would want to regularly reinvigorate their system from all the negative forces of food and the environment. As with any dietary program, please consult your doctor before taking the plunge. If you want to be sure, you can also contact Dr. Flannery so he can give you an assessment. You will have to answer a questionnaire (free of charge) then schedule an appointment with him.

I would like to share here the list of Foods To Eat and Avoid that I strictly follow for 15 days in 6-month increments. If you look into the list, it’s but wise to make it an everyday habit—but I’m just too in love with coffee and chocolates that I struggle to follow it for 365 days! But this definitely is a good start 🙂

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 Hope this list helps you on your road to your best health ever! 🙂

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No-Frills Breakfast

The hours have all been able to tell me that life has become too complicated than what it is supposed to be. I wake up early, go home late, work long hours, and travel for some weeks a year if I’m lucky. In the back of my head I was told that to make it work in life I have to be this certain increasingly “serious” person with my own car and house. I’ve always said “no” to all that– that’s why in this sunny, conservative Philippines, people find me too up in the clouds running away from life. I’m happy, though.

The cereal + nuts + chocolate + dried fruit + milk + coffee breakfast is my own take of a life I enjoy. I enjoy the myriad of tastes and textures in my tongue, and the grounding it gives me in this fast, changing world. I adjust to whatever’s available wherever I am in the world, and the seemingly endless options for this breakfast never cease to amaze me. It takes me at most five minutes to prepare this meal, but the peace and balance it gives me is worth more than any other meal I’ve had in my life.

Waking up to this reminds myself that life shouldn’t be complicated at all, and to live a life that I want I have to be content and flexible. While others put in the hours to prepare the “best” breakfast, I enjoy my mornings knowing I always have something to go back to without worries, judgments and inhibitions. And yes, it doesn’t have to take a five-course meal to do just that.

Ingredients:

  • Cereals (any brand you like)
  • Milk (any brand and type you like). For this one I choose cow’s milk.
  • Chocolates (any brand and type you like)
  • Dried raisins (or any fruit)
  • Coffee
  • Creamer (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Hot water

Method:

  • Prepare your ingredients: cereals, milk, chocolates, dried fruit, coffee, creamer, sugar and hot water.
  • Put cereals, milk, chocolates and dried fruit in a bowl.
  • Mix coffee, creamer, sugar with hot water in a cup.
  • Enjoy your breakfast!
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KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
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How I Cope with Hypothyroidism– Functionally, Holistically, Naturally

This article was featured on Rappler on February 19, 2016 🙂

I’ve been in an on-and-off relationship with my weight since high school and little did I know all the ups and downs were due to struggles my thyroid had to deal with. Both my grandmas had it at one point in their lives, with my grandma on my mother’s side still struggling with it up to this day. So, it’s no surprise that I’d also be susceptible to having it.

At one time I’ll be 98 pounds, then two weeks later I’ll be 110. Up, down, then down, up. Then in 2012, I got into my all-time high at 120 pounds. At 5’2″, that is heavy. But more than the physicalities, I felt weird. Bloated. Lethargic. Zapped of energy.

I’ve tried all sorts of things to feel better, most didn’t work but thankfully a few did. Thanks to my very supportive family and friends, and all the information freely available on the Internet, I now feel totally free and put simply– awesome!

Please note, I am not a licensed health practitioner and what I will be sharing is based on my own experiences.

Some Tips on Naturally Healing your Thyroid:

FOOD AND LIFESTYLE

  • Avoid gluten at all costs. Researches keep on backing this. Gluten, meaning “glue” in Latin, loves our thyroid glands so much and stick to them, making it difficult for the thyroid to breathe and move properly. With our thyroid unable to function optimally, we get the effects of hypothyroidism even if our glands are structurally up and healthy. I didn’t really believe in this not until I had my gluten sensitivity test. As expected, it turned out I was 95% sensitive to gluten (100% sensitivity makes me a celiac which thankfully I’m not).
    • I placed ‘was’ because even though I haven’t been tested again, I know I’ve gained my health and I’m not as sensitive anymore. When I try sprinkling small amounts of heated (not cooked) wheat flours on my cereals I’m totally okay. However when I try eating bread, I crazily bloat overnight. Let’s say, 10 pounds in 2 days. And it doesn’t go away that fast: it takes at least two weeks for the water weight to go away. So I stopped pushing my limit altogether.
gluten-warning

Say no to gluten!

    • The sad thing is, most people don’t take it seriously when you say you maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. Most comments I receive, “It’s all in the mind,” “Diet for rich people,” “You just don’t want to gain weight,” and “It’s your excuse to avoid fattening foods.” First off, not all gluten-free foods are for weight loss. Think of rice and potato, two of my favorite carbohydrate sources. Would people want to avoid these when they are serious about losing weight? My advice: Don’t bother! Just hold your head up high and know you are doing the right thing 🙂
  • Avoid raw goitrogens. These are foods that interfere with thyroid function, mainly because of the energy they get from thyroid glands for their digestion. You want to preserve that energy to maintain your health, not just for digestion. Goitrogens include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, millet, spinach, strawberries, peaches, watercress, peanuts, radishes and soybeans. However, cooking lowers down the goitrogenic components so they turn out safer to eat.
  • Take care of your sugar levels. We want our thyroid glands to be stable enough so they gain their strength back, so we want to avoid all the highs and lows we might encounter. With proper diet, we can control our blood sugar before it gets to a level where it goes berserk– and sadly with diabetes, there is no turning back.
    • To maintain stable sugar levels, make the following a daily habit: eat first thing in the morning and have a high quality protein breakfast; always eat carbohydrates or sweets with protein, fiber or fat (e.g. cereals with milk); do not eat sweets before bed; never skip meals.
    • Rule of thumb: “If you feel sleepy or crave sugar after you eat, you have eaten too many carbohydrates” (Dr. Kharrazian). So, find your carbohydrate tolerance and stick to it.
  • Support your adrenals. Our adrenals enable our “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations. However, due to many stressors in the environment, in the global world and in our own community, our adrenals have been put into far more stressful situations than they can handle. Healthy thyroid is so dependent on healthy adrenal function, so it is important to take care of our adrenals as well.
    • To support the adrenals, make the following a daily habit: avoid adrenal stimulators (e.g. concentrated sugars, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, allergenic foods, partially hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, overtraining, inadequate sleep); exercise lightly and within your aerobic range only; practice relaxation techniques; sleep early (be in bed at 10PM the latest).

VITAMINS

  • Load on Vitamin D. This is what makes living in the Philippines so much of an advantage. Apart from exposure to the sun which is one of the best ways to get Vitamin D, we can also get it from food sources such as cod liver oil, oily fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, dairy products, pork, eggs, and my favorite malunggay (moringa).
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Enjoy the sun!

  • Take glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and it makes the absorption of Vitamin D even more effective. While this comes in many forms (pill, syrup and IV), it is more effective to take via food sources (e.g. asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peaches, avocado, spinach, garlic, squash, grapefruit and eggs). Remember to cook these as most are goitrogens.

…AND SOME MORE

  • Try ayurvedic medicine. I’ve been two years on with naturally healing my thyroid but the bloated feeling and water weight just won’t go away. This one thing that helped me with getting to the finish line is ayurvedic medicine, particularly Kerala-sourced Hamsapathyaadi Kashayam in liquid form. It’s what has been used for thousands of years in India in treating low thyroid function and obesity, but the practice has been disrupted by Western medicine in the form of synthetic hormones. I seriously swear by this medicine and I feel way, way better ever since! I took it for two years every day, 15 ML upon waking up.
    • Sourcing this product is quite difficult as you can only buy it in Kerala, India from the family-owned Mooss company. I ordered mine through Arogya Ayurvedic Center from Makati;  however, Arogya stopped importing since last year which brings us to…
  • Chew on raw ampalaya first thing in the morning. Hamsapathyaadi Kashayam is intensely bitter and when I went out of stocks, I figured ampalaya (bitter gourd) could be a good replacement. I was surprised to find I also had that same burning sensation in my neck that I look for when I drink Hamsa. Chewing on raw ampalaya with skins on, although not as appealing as it sounds, has definitely worked for me. The more bitter the ampalaya, the better.

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Healing your thyroid glands naturally and holistically will take a bit of time, but the positive effects will proactively be there to stay for the long run. Mine took three years to fully heal, and all the lifestyle changes that I’ve practiced throughout those three years will forever stay with me. To think of all the ill effects of hypothyroidism makes me continue to improve on all these lifestyle changes. There is definitely no going back.

I suggest that you read on Dr. Kharrazian’s “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism”; subscribe to Chris Kresser’s lifestyle blog; subscribe to Dr. Lam’s blog and newsletters; and contact Dr. Mark Flannery of Healthwise Clinical Nutrition. These tools definitely helped me with addressing my thyroid issues functionally, holistically and naturally. Just be patient, put on a lot of hard work and dedication, read up, trust in the workings of the world, and know that you will get the best of health in time. 

Happy livin’! 🙂

Photo credits: nutritionbyerin.com, distractionmagazine.com

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Thank You to Ina!

The whole experience of the Penafrancia Festival was so surreal I cannot put it into words. Big thanks to our field school; we were able to go back for our research presentation just in time for the fiesta.

I’ve heard many, many miraculous stories associated with Ina. Though I believe in miracles, I am taken aback somewhat by too-good-to-be-true stories that have been handed down through time and space. We all know how stories get twisted with time. But as a personal experience, I want to believe– and I know in my heart– that I have been blest by Ina during my stay there.

I’ve been struggling with hypothyroidism since June of this year. It has been a very frustrating ride that has turned everything upside down: I’ve gained 10 lbs. in less than a week, I was lethargic, nauseous, fatigued… It was the complete antithesis of what I’ve always enjoyed in life. Twice-a-month blood exams were something I always looked forward to, but have always disappointed me. I wasn’t getting any better. I couldn’t lose the weight, and I couldn’t train as much.

In Naga, I felt fine running and biking. I didn’t have cramps, and most importantly, I sweated. Hypothyroid people do not sweat a lot; but I did, and it was the first time I did since June. That rung a bell and completed my day.

Coming back from Naga, I immediately stepped on the scale as a standard monitoring scheme recommended by my doctor. It was one of the best ways to assess my condition. I couldn’t believe it. I went down and stepped on again, and it really rings true: I went down seven pounds!

I made a quick mental note on what I did while I was away: I ate a lot, exercised a little, slept right, followed my gluten-free scheme. All of these were not new, but they worked now. All the hard work paid off… All these schemes finally worked!

It was such a blessing to come to Naga, experience the Penafrancia Festival, be with my field school batchmates, and, to top it off, get better while we were having our pilgrimage there. It was such a bonus; thank you to Ina!

***

Tomorrow I will again have my blood exam. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’m praying really hard. I really want to get my life back.

There had been so much information on how to deal with hypothyroidism, from the medical to the natural, from books to forums to leaflets to sites. I do not want to fall off now that I’m nearing the Finish Line of this battle, so I’m putting here my 101’s to keep me posted, and, hopefully, to give some pointers to hypothyroid patients who happen to stumble here.

Thyroid Protection 101

1. Eat gluten-free. Stay away from wheat, yeast, soy, dairy, eggs and corn as these foods suppress the thyroid hormones.
2. Sleep 7-8 hours a day, and sleep early.
3. Exercise daily. Moderate please.
4. If out of the normal eating schedule, control hunger pangs by drinking water first. If hunger does not subside after 20 minutes, be sure to take sweet+protein as hypothyroidism almost always occurs with hypoglycemia.
5. Food is very critical. Any side effect of an “off” food readily translates into symptoms. Be patient and wary. Life is too short to eat crap (Olivier).
To sum it up, always remember to strive to have a PERFect Day: Pray, Exercise, Rest Well, Eat Fresh. It’s all hard work and sacrifice, but it’s definitely worth it.
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I can’t wait for tomorrow. I can’t sleep. Maybe I’m too excited for my blood exam… I’m really hoping and praying everything will be well.

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The Price of Coffee Addiction

Every athlete strives to be better every time. Whether that is about breaking personal records or improving form, athletes try to learn and relearn as much as they can about their chosen path. They read up, get into the latest trends, and try to supplement their active lifestyle with good sleep, a healthy diet, and a range of supplements to boost their game.
For thousands of years, coffee has been used in many ways: initially as an aphrodisiac and a bean for the privileged, it has evolved into being a morning habit, a multi-million industry, a source of livelihood, and, in many ways, a means of exploitation for developing countries.
As an athlete, drinking coffee first thing in the morning seems to be a good option if I’m looking for that extra boost when it comes to training and competitions. For years, I’ve been a coffee addict. Every place I go, I make sure I pack in my rubber shoes, bananas, shades, and, my 3-in-1 coffee as it is more convenient than the smoother and bolder brewed for my very active lifestyle. Not only does it give me that edge physically and mentally; it also regularizes my digestive and bowel habits, freshening me further before going for my morning training.
There were times when I’d take three to five cups a day as I personally thought I needed. When I have to finish my work and I have to rush it over, I drink coffee. When I’m sleepy from last night’s insomnia from drinking coffee late in the afternoon, I drink coffee. When I’m flushed out and soaked up in the afternoon due to lack of sleep and too much coffee in the morning, I drink coffee. When I want to hang out with my family and friends, we go to a local coffee shop and drink iced coffee. When I visit a home or an office, I am offered coffee and I can’t resist the urge of drinking it. Coffee, it seems, has occupied a great part of my life.
Let’s deconstruct the smooth aroma of a morning cup

Because I was young, active and healthy, I thought I could do anything possible. I was pushing myself to the limit while trying to gain my ground in another newly found career after graduation. Yes, I was sleeping and waking up early, getting my eight hours of sleep a day, eating very healthy, and avoiding alcohol and all those vices. But I had this one vice I failed to think of as a vice: coffee.
After training so hard to give it a go for my first marathon on July, and after having overloaded myself with years of coffee addiction, my adrenals finally bogged down and lost their sanity. In an instant, I became hypothyroid. It was the complete anti-thesis of my years of active lifestyle: I gained 10 pounds in two days even if I lost my appetite, I couldn’t wake up in the morning without nausea, I couldn’t even walk 500 meters without feeling tired, and I became irritable, lethargic, insensitive and depressed. The suddenness of everything frustrated me a lot, finding myself crying in the wee hours of the morning. Everything that I have painstakingly worked for crippled down in a matter of days.
Lab tests have shown my adrenals became so much used up because of too much coffee. Having an active lifestyle is downright fine and commendable; but, pairing this up with adrenal-exhausting beans can certainly spell disaster. It’s ironic that 21st century populations are trying to cope up with the demands of life with coffee, all the while putting themselves in a cycle that they cannot get out of unless they cut the habit. People today drink coffee to boost themselves from lack of sleep from yesterday’s caffeine; and they drink coffee to awaken themselves from too much adrenal exhaustion from their morning cup. It’s an alarming trend we all have to be aware about.
It’s been two months and I haven’t tasted caffeine: whether that’s from a cup, a candy, chocolate, or an energy gel. And I can tell all the difference. I have now lost weight, gained my endurance, and is now back in training. My skin has cleared up, I have lost my perennial problem of too much acne, and I am now sleeping better, and waking up more alive. It’s been two months and without coffee, I have improved my running form and am now training for my first marathon.
I am finally free from addiction!

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Bodies Know Better

9 DAYS: my longest hiatus from exercise.

It feels a bit disheartening being unable to go out and run, bike or swim even if my mind and will want to. It makes me really sad when I see trainings, races and team bondings missed: from long talks about out-of-town bike trips, and reviews about recent races joined among others.

I don’t want to question why I had to endure this disease. All I know is, my body knows more than I do. Maybe having hypothyroidism is one way of telling my body I have to slow down a bit, even if my mind and heart can take it.

Being the young idealistic, adventurous and curious individual, it seems time is so short I want to try anything and everything I get my eyes on. But, though human life is relatively short by geologic standards, there are times when we have to slow down and turn our gaze on our sides and on our backs, to never get hold off the things that are important to us.

For the past few months I’ve rarely been at home: from my six-week stay in Naga, to my trainings, the Tour of Hope, and school stuff I have to attend to. Maybe it’s now time for me to sit down and seriously think of my future also. Am I giving enough time to balance out all my needs in life? Maybe I had been too selfish living only for the moment.

Tomorrow, I will try my best to do even a 10-minute walk, though I know that very short exercise will entail a lot of huffing, puffing and cramping. Just to get things going: I really do miss training. But, I will also devote my time applying for grad school, and finishing the writing task I have to submit next week. For the rest of the day I will rest, just what my body needs, and I’ll dwell on things I have always missed doing: reading fiction, and playing the guitar though I’m never good at it.

I look forward to the day when things finally get better. I am so excited but for now, I have to listen to my body and let biology decide what happens next. I may have missed on some things, but I have now been given the chance to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the priceless things I tended to neglect.

I might as well enjoy these for now. After all, my body knows better.