egg white omelette avocado
Egg white omelette with spring onion and cheddar cheese,
strawberries, avocado and a glass of veggie juice

After I finished my placement and had a sudden surge of free time to spend on the Internet, I decided to take a greater look into healthier eating. Since I started blogging (followed by a late sign up to Instagram...) I have occasionally browsed fitness and healthy eating blogs. One of my absolute favourites is Annie Jaffrey, who is also on YouTube, and I recently watched a video of hers (see below) where she talks about why she had chosen to transition into a 100% raw diet: diagnosis of a medical condition. In her video she says how she hopes to cure herself and reverse the condition she has, and something hit home with me. How could I change my own diet and potentially live healthier and more natural with my own condition?

Blogging about this has perhaps been one of the things that I have been debating with myself for the longest time ever. It is quite a personal issue which I have grown up with but I feel ready now to share it with the Internet. It is going to be pretty long and I thought about separating it into two posts, but I think it would make a lot more sense to just keep it together. Here goes...

Winding the clock back to 2006 when I was 14 years old, my mother had long been frustrated with how little our GP was doing to find out why my breathing at rest/during sleep was so shallow and quick. After a couple of visits and a different doctor later, we went to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) on the 18 May 2006, who did his regular check up as well as an ultrasound of my throat. He told us that I immediately had to go see an endocrinologist and booked an appointment for me himself.

With this new doctor, I was set up to get blood tests and another ultrasound after which I was finally diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (an over active thyroid gland). The excessive amount of thyroxine hormones being released meant that my metabolism was working at an incredible speed, but it also meant that I was experiencing irregular/elevated heart beat, sweating, shortness of breath among other things. It also explained why I was having nose bleeds almost every night: my body temperature was so warm that it was bursting the capillaries in my nose!

As well as being put on medication to reduce the activity of my thyroid, I was also told that I could no longer participate in sports. At the time I was over the moon because it meant I could sit out during gym class, but it wasn't until about a year ago I finally began to understand the seriousness of it. At rest, my heart rate was around or above 200. It meant that any strenuous exercise could have caused my heart to, well, fail. To stop.

I had a successful round of treatment and my medication was slowly adapted for me to come off of it. It was looking good and my thyroid was less swollen. But after a while my overactive thyroid began to flare up again. I went on another round of medication but towards the end of 2008 (aged 16) my doctor, my parents and I began discussing alternative treatments as the medication wasn't working as well as before.

On 29 January 2009 I had a Radioactive Iodine treatment. The cells in the thyroid gland are the main ones which absorb iodine and so taking in radioactive iodine treatment meant that it would destroy cells of the thyroid gland without the radioactivity affecting much of the rest of my body. It had solved the issue of my overactive gland but now that so much of the tissue had been destroyed, it meant that I would be unable to produce enough thyroxine (i.e. hypothyroidism) - I would be on thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of my life.

It has been over 5 years since that treatment and I am now 22. I have noticed various changes in my mood as well as my weight and various other factors. The main thing though, is how I differently I feel about my condition now. I felt somewhat "trapped" with having to take medication for the rest of my life and I wanted to see what choices I could make for the better of my body. Aside from stopping the contraceptive pill I haven't made any great changes, but something sparked in me after seeing Annie's video.

I wanted to see how making better and healthier choices would affect my thyroid condition. I have read a lot about how following a vegan diet can reverse hypothyroidism. Ideally, I would love to live without my thyroid medication but seeing as my thyroid was pretty much obliterated I think it would be difficult to come off of it entirely. I am hoping to reduce the dose of what I have to take.

There is also another side to having gone through this condition and subsequent treatment. As the condition does affect hormone levels, my mind and emotions were a little all over the place. It is a little more of a sensitive area of discussion, I would like to share it with you but a little later in time.

Congratulations if you have made it this far! I actually have a little more for you if you "click to see more photos" about some of the little lifestyle/dietary changes I have been making as well as Annie's video I referred to earlier and the French translation.

If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them the best I can but, if you are worried that anything I mentioned may concern you as well please have a chat with your doctor as I am certainly no expert and I only write from my own experience.

Après la fin de mon stage à Bruxelles et le retour de moments libres devant l’écran de mon ordi, j’ai décidé de rechercher comment manger plus sain. Depuis que j’écris mon blog – et depuis que je découvre, avec un peu de retard, l’univers d’Instagram – je consulte de temps en temps des blogs qui traitent de la santé et de la nourriture équilibrée. Parmi mes favoris, j’aime bien le blog d’Annie Jaffrey (aussi sur YouTube) et récemment j’ai regardé son vidéoblog (voir ici) où elle explique pourquoi elle a opté pour une diète 100% à base d’alimentation crue. Elle en a pris la décision après le diagnostic d’une condition médicale dont elle souffre. Elle raconte qu’elle espère se guérir elle-même et interrompre l’évolution de la maladie. Ce sentiment m’a beaucoup impressionnée. Comment pourrais-je changer mon régime alimentaire et vivre d’une façon plus saine et plus naturelle, compte tenu de ma condition médicale?

Je me demande depuis très longtemps si je devrais en faire un sujet de mon blog, car il s’agit d’une question personnelle qui fait partie de ma vie depuis mon enfance. Mais maintenant je suis prête à vous en faire part. Le récit est assez long, et j’ai pensé le diviser en deux, mais il me semble plus logique de vous le présenter d’un seul trait. Allons-y……

Si nous jetons un coup d’oeil en arrière, nous voilà en 2006. J’avais 14 ans, et ma mère en avait assez de l’incapacité de notre médecin généraliste de diagnostiquer pourquoi j’avais la respiration rapide et superficielle quand je dormais. J’ai vu d’autres médecins et enfin, le 18 mai 2006, je suis allée chez un spécialiste ORL qui en m’examinant a fait une échographie de ma gorge. Il m’a dit que j’avais besoin d’une consultation urgente avec un spécialiste en endocrinologie, et il a appelé lui-même pour fixer un rendez-vous le lendemain.

Ce nouveau spécialiste a demandé des analyses sanguines et encore une échographie, et finalement on a diagnostiqué une hyperthyroïdie (activité excessive de la glande thyroïde). La production excessive de la thyroxine (hormone thyroïdienne) stimulait trop mon métabolisme: battements cardiaques rapides et irréguliers, augmentation de la transpiration, essoufflement. Elle était aussi la cause des saignements de nez qui m’arrivaient presque chaque nuit: ma température était si élevée que les vaisseaux capillaires du nez s’éclataient!

On m’a prescrit un médicament qui devait réduire l’activité thyroïdienne. En même temps, on m’a dit que je ne pouvais plus faire du sport. J’en étais ravie, car je pouvais sauter la classe de gymnastique! Ce n’était que plus tard, il y a un an à peu près, que je me suis rendu compte de la gravité de ma condition. Au repos, mon cœur galopait à 200 bpm – des efforts physiques intenses auraient pu provoquer un arrèt soudain. Oui, une crise cardiaque.

J’ai suivi le traitement et on a ajusté le dosage du médicament dans le but de m’en sevrer. Le pronostic était bon et la glande thyroïde était moins gonflée. Mais au bout d’un certain temps elle est devenue de nouveau active. J’ai continué le traitement mais à la fin de 2008 – j’avais 16 ans – le spécialiste, mes parents et moi, nous avons discuté d’autres traitements possibles.

Le 29 janvier 2009 j’ai subi un traitement par l’iode radioactif. Les cellules de la glande thyroïde absorbent l’iode, ce qui veut dire qu’un traitement par l’iode radioactif détruit les cellules de la glande sans effets négatifs sur le reste du corps. On avait résolu le problème de la glande thyroïde hyperactive, mais comme effet secondaire du traitement la production de la thyroxine était réduite. A cause de cette hypothyroïdie – le contraire de l’hyperthyroïdie – je devais suivre un traitement hormonal substitutif pour le reste de ma vie.

Cinq ans sont passés depuis mon traitement et maintenant j’ai 22 ans. En outre des changements de poids et d’autres facteurs, j’ai constaté des changements d’humeur. Surtout, j’ai changé d’avis concernant ma condition de santé. Je me sentais coincée dans une situation de devoir prendre des médicaments pour toute ma vie, et je resentais la nécessité d’évaluer d’autres options pour ma santé. Bien que je n’aie pas effectué de grands changements – j’ai quand même cessé de prendre la "pillule" – j’ai commencé à y réfléchir après avoir regardé le vidéoblog d’Annie Jaffrey.

Je voulais savoir si une alimentation plus saine pourrait changer ma condition thyroïdienne. J’ai lu beaucoup d’articles qui indiquent qu’un régime végétalien peut renverser l’hypothyroïdie. Dans le meilleur des mondes je voudrais vivre sans médicaments, mais le traitement radioactif a plus ou moins détruit ma glande thyroïde, et il sera difficile de me passer de médicaments. J’espère quand même d’en réduire le dosage.

Il y a d’autres aspects de cette condition et de son traitement. Des changements hormonaux se produisent, ce qui produit par conséquence des perturbations d’humeur. C’est un sujet délicat, sur lequel je reviendrai plus tard.

Vous êtes arrivés jusqu’ici? Félicitations! Mais si vous cliquez sur “click to see more photos”, vous trouvez plus d’informations sur mes changements d’alimentation et de mode de vie, et le lien du vidéoblog d’Annie Jaffrey.

Si vous avez des questions, j’essaierai de vous en donner des réponses. Mais en premier lieu il convient de consulter votre médecin, parce que je ne suis pas spécialisée en la matière et j’écris ces mots d’un point de vue tout à fait personnel.

1) Drinking more water 
And by more, I mean lots more. I have always read how we never consume enough water and how those hunger signals which we often get can sometimes be down to a low water consumption. Ever since I downloaded the WaterBalance app, I have been keeping track of how much water I am drinking each day. You can put in your personal details (age, height, weight) which in turn determines how much water you should be drinking a day. By turning it into a little game and trying to reach that 100% level of hydration I have noticed that I have been consuming 2-3 litres! Of course, the app isn't perfect. You could add how many millilitres of alcohol you have had but 30ml of beer and 30ml of vodka aren't exactly the same.

2) Eating less meat
I have never been a huge meat eater but recently I have been making a conscious effort to try and cut out red meat and have meat in general as little as possible. Christmas dinner will certainly be a challenge but I may decide to make a personal exception for that. I think making my own rules and "cheats" will help me to be more consistent the rest of the time.

3) Cutting down on foods with gluten 
This has been quite a difficult one! I have read quite a bit about how cutting out gluten from my diet could help the function of my thyroid gland. My main enemies were bread, pasta and pizza and avoiding these were particularly difficult during the sailing trip to Sardinia, Italy. Pasta was so easy to make on the boat and pizzas were a cheap option at restaurants. I promised myself I would enjoy these food whiles I was there, but say goodbye to them after I got back. I have to admit I have been occasionally sneaking some bread and I have also, however, been having Japanese noodles every now and then but I have so far been pretty good in the pasta/pizza department. Sometimes, I substitute pasta with spinach and/or courgette when I make a pasta dish for the family.

I do feel inspired and motivated by Annie's choices to try transition into following a vegan diet. I know that it would be a lot easier for me if I did it in little steps/at my own pace and setting my own rules. I want to figure out what's best for me! So if that means first cutting out meat, then eventually fish, followed by milk and then egg, so be it. Even if I go a step back I'll try not to see it as failing but rather a "at least I attempted it" thing.

Annie has an incredibly informative post (here) which compiles an extensive list of resources which she has found about living on a vegan/plant based lifestyle and I will definitely be spending the rest of my summer reading and researching on further changes I can make and what kind of recipes I can use. (I have also downloaded the "21-Day Vegan Kickstart" app for more inspiration)

Another congratulations are in order if you have made it this far! I would love to hear about your own experiences as well so feel free to leave something below, especially you have a couple of food blogs to recommend for inspiration! A blog which I have been loving lately is Orla Collective.

Video mentioned earlier in the post: