Diet? What diet? The story of hives…

I feel like I’ve started over. All that hard work last week, down a couple of pounds and feeling great, and I ruined it over the past 3 days! That’s what staying with your grandparents will do.

I went to Maine for a few days to visit my grandfather and his wife. It’s up in the middle of nowhere, with a huge forest and a beautiful lake as its backdrop. We played cards, I read an entire Jodi Picoult book (“Nineteen Minutes”), and we ate. Jolene is from Alabama, and all of her cooking is rich and fattening, basically. I had all the things I wasn’t supposed to – pasta, bread, fruit, and dessert (2 brownie sundaes, cookies, and strawberries and whipped cream over shortcake). It was absolutely delicious, and I really couldn’t say no. Sure, I could’ve had smaller portions of the dessert, but I wasn’t about to make myself a whole new dinner. It would be borderline insulting, and plus, it’s delicious! So I ate it – all of it.

Now, while there’s nothing wrong with letting loose once in a while and indulging in the foods that I’ve always loved, and if I had to do it all again I probably wouldn’t have made any different choices, it really wasn’t worth it. Why? Well I gained the pounds back, was bloated and uncomfortable, and my hives came back.

Here’s a background on my hives, and how this entire thyroid topic came to be in the first place:  About 4 years ago, I was packing for a vacation when my body broke out in hives. They lasted the whole vacation, and we couldn’t figure out what I was allergic to. Within months, I saw an allergist, who treated the hives with an abundance of antihistamines, which worked, but I ended up having to take them 3 times a day (when each pill should last 24 hours). The problem was still there. It eventually spread from my body to my lips, where they would swell up so badly that I couldn’t even talk. It was frankly dangerous, because if those hives in my face moved to my throat, it could hinder my breathing. It was like a 2-year panic attack. Finally, I had a blood test done, which revealed a whole mess of anti-body issues. I couldn’t even explain them all to you, myself, but what I do know is that my TSH levels were really high (unfortunately, I don’t remember the number, but I’m pretty sure they were in the high double digits) and I tested positive for a whole mess of auto-immune issues, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis. As for the arthritis, it doesn’t mean I have it right now (and I don’t, or I couldn’t have trained and ran that marathon…) but there’s something in there that suggests down the road, I could have it. Or lupus, which I’m just going to rule out myself right now! It is very common that when you have one auto-immune disease, you have multiple. My allergist continued to treat the hives, but with new knowledge that I wasn’t allergic to anything – it was one side effect of what was going on inside.

This part is confusing – even with the thyroid problems as they were, at the time, my TSH levels were swinging back and forth on their own, from hypo to hyper. When my doctor checked them, they happened to be “normal”, but of course they were just in the middle of moving. So I didn’t take any thyroid medication for a long time. In fact, while the levels were normal, my hives went away (this is how I knew, for sure, the issues were connected!). I enjoyed my wedding and honeymoon, and months after, with no medication whatsoever. My allergist said they would come and go.

What does this have to do with eating carbs and sugar? Well, two April’s ago, May and June were a stressful time. I ate badly, exercised very little, and was stressed out. Therefore, it was no surprise that I had hives all last summer. I started training for the marathon, and I kept wondering why I was so sluggish and not losing any weight, after running 40 miles in a week. My TSH level was high again. High enough, in fact, for my primary doctor to schedule me with an endocrinologist, who finally prescribed Synthroid. By last fall, the medicine had started to work, my level came down, my hives went away – and I also had started eating healthy. Coincidence? I didn’t think so. But I had a chance to try it out again. In December, my TSH level was normal (too bad I wasn’t TTC). Then, this past May and June, I formed the same bad habits. May and June just aren’t my months! Again, out of stress, I ate badly and didn’t exercise. I felt my skin start to tingle underneath, as it always does when I have hives. I had to start taking antihistamines again. I had a bad feeling my TSH level was high again (showing hypothyroidism), and sure enough, almost a month ago, I had my blood drawn, and my TSH level was 8.41. I was put on a higher dose of Synthroid (88 mcg) and was told I couldn’t TTC. And here I am today – finally recognizing that in my body, I believe there is a link between stress, bad eating, not exercising, hives, and my TSH level. And with a high TSH level, I can’t do anything about getting pregnant. The level needs to be around 1 or 2. So I’ve been trying everything I can to be healthy, because it’s that important to me. Which is why the way I ate the past few days wasn’t probably worth it. Then again, it’s hard to turn down your grandparents. So, I picked it back up again this morning…

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