The Damn Diet

Four months into the autoimmune protocol diet and all I can think is “this damned diet.” Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I do feel better. Less bloating, fewer headaches, no sugar cravings or really food cravings, less brain fog. Even the Brewmaster admits I search less for my keys and my phone.

But what a pain in the ass! We just came home from a bar “soft” opening. Three Van Houzen beers will be on tap there, and the Brewmaster is happy to be a part of a small, family owned joint called “The Barbershop” in Coralville, Iowa. They have a small, simple menu of bar food which they were sampling today. None of which I could eat. The owner, Daniel, kindly tried to feed me this afternoon. He felt terrible that I couldn’t have their burgers, which are infused with delicious, melting cheese. The chips and pico de gallo they make are made with flour tortillas, so that was out. Forget the family recipe of pasta salad, the veggie burger that had sweet potatoes as a binder, the tortilla soup, and so on. It became uncomfortable for me as I tried to explain to them that there was NO WAY they could cater to my weird food needs.

Alien. As in, I started to feel like one. Add explaining to them that I’m deeply in love with someone who makes amazing beer that I can’t consume…ridiculous.

Yesterday I re-posted a funny blog on Facebook that slammed paleo baking. Having had more recipes fail than succeed, I was right there with the author. Almond and coconut flour absorb all the liquids, and it just makes for crumbly, weird textures. For a laugh, complete with images, see the post here:

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Paleo-Diet-Experience-37631676

Basically, I have had to lower my expectations even below where they were for gluten free baking, which says a lot. For several years I have not expected a bagel to taste like a bagel. I’ve grown accustomed to bread with holes in it that falls apart as soon as you put anything moist on it. Dry cake, healthy tasting pancakes. But Paleo baking has taken things to a new level.

I have added eggs completely back in, deciding that the headache I thought I might have gotten from egg whites was a fluke. Paleo baking without eggs in general is completely dismal. I’ve also added cashews, almonds and tomatoes back into my life with success.

Friday night the Brewmaster and I finally had a movie night, at home, watching “Wild” which I had enjoyed reading last summer. We gorged on sweet cherries during the movie. It seemed healthy enough, but I do remember saying, “We are going to pay for this on the john tomorrow.” I had no idea. Apparently I really can’t do cherries, and have been ill for two days. Massive stomach cramps, nausea and general “wanting to crawl under a rock and hide” feelings. Now I am paying attention to Fodmaps, which Paleo Mom explains much better than I could ever hope to here:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/08/modifying-paleo-for-fodmap-intolerance.html

Cherries

I could beat myself over the head and wonder why my body is so reactive. I had a similar moment when we were invited to friends’ and I felt bad that I couldn’t each much, and decided to just go for an ear of sweet corn. I paid for that the next day. I could hate myself. I could hate life.

But something someone commented on the funny paleo post on Facebook resonates. “There has to be something other than food.” Food is not my life. Sure, it has given me a lot of pleasure and I have innate memories, especially from living in France, of food and social events. But I have other things to feed my soul: a dog walk, being held by the Brewmaster, chatting with my son about his Houston Ballet Academy experiences, or watching Ballet Boy perform. Playing Bach or Brahms on my cello. There is so much more to life than food.

Tomorrow I see my functional medicine doctor. I will talk to her about adding some grains back in. I’ve read about cross-sensitivities and I’m concerned that my Hashimoto’s antibody levels haven’t improved. In the best case scenario, the Hashimoto’s disease may still be destroying my thyroid, in the worst case, it could be attacking my brain and causing early dementia or Alzheimer’s. The damn diet may cause discomfort around others, but it has become a very comfortable routine at home.

I have much to learn about my body, but I am now listening. Hopefully it is not too late and I can reverse some of the damage that having a highly inflammatory immune system has caused. After a busy week, I can’t wait to get back into a yoga routine, do some running, and feel better. In the meantime, nap anyone?

Ready or not…

Today a new refrigerator was delivered to our house. Our old one came with the house when I bought it thirteen years ago, and it had done it’s time. We are all closer to 6 feet tall in this household than to the floor, and crouching down to find the vegetable drawer was taking its toll. The old fridge had begun to feel like the wardrobe in Narnia; so many things would disappear or spoil and we never seemed to find them in the back caverns of that old GE model.

Two days ago I began to remove all the photos, magnets, and clippings that were on on the old fridge when all of a sudden I was overcome by sadness at the passing of time. A magnet or a photo would remind me of a certain time in Ballet Boy’s childhood, and tears began to stream down my face as I thought about what the next few years might bring. Pretty soon I was sitting on the floor of my kitchen, having a complete meltdown.

None of this was rational. I am beyond happy to have a new fridge that is clean and bright in my kitchen with the freezer on the bottom and a water maker that actually produces water unlike the old one.

I’m also thrilled for what the future holds for Ballet Boy. He has been accepted into a six week program with the Houston Ballet on merit scholarship and will be leaving June 20. San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Harid Conservatory all gave him full tuition scholarships. Harid threw in room and board, too, and named him a finalist for the Marcelo Gomez scholarship that would pay for half of his expenses if he decided to attend year-round. We chose Houston because they have a company, a training company for younger dancers called Houston Ballet II, and dorms for some of the kids attending year-round. Ballet Boy will audition this summer to go away in the fall to dance intensively while finishing high school online. ballet-glass-close

This is why I was bawling my eyes out the other day. Many people have asked me if I’m ready to send Ballet Boy away. How can you be ready to send your 15 year old off to a private school? These are fragile years, where my son is beginning to express his own character more, sometimes by becoming very critical of his father and I, sometimes just by shining. Although the criticism and negativity can be hard to stomach, it is necessary for him to mature and become autonomous. The shining, well, I still want to be a part of that.

This weekend he had his final dance recital with his dance school, the Nolte Academy. They always include a daughter-daddy dance, which he talked me into doing last year. I accepted more public humiliation this year. I mean, it’s kind of cute or funny to watch middle aged men dance with their daughters, but I just feel awkward as a woman.  I fully admit to watching everyone else and being about a beat behind on all of the steps. The dads in my son’s age group all wore goofy wigs and even pink leopard mini skirts for some of the dances. I stuck to the black tie that they told us to wear, thinking I can’t really pull of the clown thing.

The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at the Staples Center - Performance Featuring: Beyonce Where: Los Angeles, California, United States When: 26 Jan 2014 Credit: MediaPunch/WENN.com **Available for publication in UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Australia**

For the final dance, I turned around and was surprised to see Ballet Boy in a Beyonce-worthy outfit: black sheer leotard and tights. We couldn’t stop laughing the whole dance. He was able to shine, feeling safe enough in that environment and with me to express his love for Beyonce.

I tell myself that we will still have these moments when he is miles away. We can Skype, talk, text and I will visit as often as I can.

Ready or not, I will let him go. This kid is going to go far; Houston Ballet is the big time. After all the hard work and sweat he has put into dancing, I’m not going to let a little nostalgia hold him back. He has one more hoop to jump through to be accepted, and then if we can afford it, off he will go. In the meantime, there will be lots of hugs as I enjoy the next few weeks with him around the house a little more now that school is out.

Ballet Boy and I post recital. And yes, he is wearing more make-up than I am!

Ballet Boy and I post recital. And yes, he is wearing more make-up than I am!

Now I’m Listening…

“Listen to your body. If you don’t like a pose, get out of it. Inhale acceptance of who you are and where you are today…” Each yoga class my instructor starts with this mantra. Each class I struggle to accept the fact that I still can’t hold a pose, or that I feel dizzy when we do balance exercises. But I’m finally listening to my body. This has taken years. And a lot of wear and tear to the skin, bones, muscles and vital organs and fluids that make me who I am. In my twenties my doctor in France told me that I was “just one of those people who let everything go to their stomach.” They sent me off with brewer’s yeast and told me not to eat raw fruit. My acupuncturist told me that I was eating all the wrong combinations of foods, and that that was why I was “so tall.” I was confused by his French-Vietnamese expression and thought maybe he meant I was “big” by French standards. The French can be brutally honest. American medicine seems to ignore the essential sometimes, however. We will only treat you if your symptoms fit a pretty dire prognosis, i.e. out of the normal range.

This is why I thought that recent tests ordered by my functional medicine doctor were fine. I had no yellow highlighting on my results; everything seemed hunky-dory. After a month on a natural thyroid pill, Westhroid, my TSH levels were finally much lower and where they should be. But I’ve felt awful. Drugged. Unable to get through a day without going back to sleep. When I sleep all morning, I feel guilty and unproductive, thus my stress levels go up. My doctor decided to test my cortisol levels and DHEA to see if I might be suffering from something called “adrenal fatigue” which often accompanies Hashimoto’s. And apparently my tests aren’t normal. Both my cortisol in the morning and my DHEA were very low in the functional range, indicating that I am in the last stages of adrenal fatigue. I need to listen. Adrenal fatigue is a result of hypothyroidism, but also accumulated stress. Two divorces, the early death of my father, constant financial worries have compounded and driven me to the ground. I’m not invincible and now my body has my full attention.adrenal-fatigue-causes

I’ve been steadfast on my autoimmune elimination diet. Still no sugar and no grains, as my stomach feels much better with these choices. Nuts and some spices have been successfully added back in. I’m giving up on eggless/grainless pancakes as they have been a hot mess (literally) every attempt. We bought a quarter of a grass-fed cow from an Amish farmer. Not cheap, but much cheaper than buying it piece by piece from the local Co-Op. We are excited about squeezing 150 pounds of organic meat into our deep freezer this week. I got a little sad driving by the farm a few weeks ago as there was a lone cow outside. I started wondering if she had a name. And if she was ours. But she’s had a much better life in an Iowa pasture than a lot of animals, and we will be honored to have her help me on my journey towards better eating.amish farm

Besides the dietary choices I am already making, the ways of treating adrenal fatigue are simple, yet not easy to always find time for in my busy days: relaxation techniques like yoga, laughter, meditation, skin-to-skin contact with a loved one (the Brewmaster and Ballet Boy and I all had a good laugh over this yesterday), and sleep. LOTS of sleep. Going to bed between 8 and 10 at night and getting minimum 8 hours of sleep. Musicians work at night! This is not easy. I’ve been getting up with Ballet Boy before school because otherwise I don’t see him with his hectic dance schedule. We all decided that I can set my alarm at 7 a.m. and still see him a bit before he goes. My Fitbit shows that I am now getting about 8.5 hours a night by just crashing before the rest of the family at night when I can. I am feeling slightly better.

Endurance sports are not recommended for adrenal fatigue. Gentle jogging is. Lucky for me I’m still in running rehab and not going faster than 5.5 mph. I’ll just keep it that way and not sign up for any long races any time soon. This has been a crazy year, yet a very fun one. With the Brewmaster at my side, I really do feel less stressed as he helps with daily chores and driving Ballet Boy to and fro. I got to perform on stage with Yo-Yo Ma last week with the Quad Cities symphony, and he let the entire cello section try his Stradivarius during our break. Mr. Ma is a delightful, generous human being and that was an unforgettable experience.

The motto “Keep Calm and Carry On” is no longer a joke. I need to relax. This summer will be dedicated to healing, tending my garden, playing cello and some easy runs, swims and bike rides. No race plans until my body says it is okay. My brain is not okay with that, but hopefully it will begin to forgive and accept where I am today and all the beautiful, happy life events that I can enjoy.

A blurry picture of Yo-Yo and I. Another cellist taking the photo was a little star-struck!

Playing Yo-Yo's Davidoff Strad, formerly belonging to Jacqueline du Pre

Playing Yo-Yo’s Davidoff Strad, formerly belonging to Jacqueline du Pre

Chatting with Yo-Yo about when I saw him perform in the Monte Carlo Casino of James Bond fame.

Chatting with Yo-Yo about when I saw him perform in the Monte Carlo Casino of James Bond fame.

The Great Thaw

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. Tiny purple crocuses and red-breasted robins have made cameo appearances in my front garden plot, touches of green grass are fighting to take over the yard and, much to my dog’s dismay, the snow has all melted.

Rose finds the last snow on our walk and nose-dives into it

Rose finds the last snow on our walk and nose-dives into it

The Great Thaw has come. In Iowa, after bitterly cold -20 temperatures and one snowstorm after another, spring is infectious. The energy from the sun, the budding, flowering, and nesting birds has given me new life and a belief that all will be well again. Spring is not just renewal; it is a reminder of the cyclic nature of life, and that life goes on.

Once again, my blog has been pushed to the back-burner. This time, not out of depression, or inactivity. As I have undertook this journey to understand how food affects my immune system, I have had little time to do anything else. Moreover, I have just wanted to bask in how I am feeling and move the healing process along by taking long walks with my dog and the Brewmaster, practice my cello on a daily level, and enjoy time with my family.

Although I am spending large amounts of time preparing food, I have grown to think of food in a very different way. I eat to fuel my body, not out of a twinge or a pang of hunger. I eat until I am no longer hungry, which is turning out to be a lot less food than I used to eat. 10988521_10152757130511025_3530258198606255927_n

Lamb burgers, veggies and Tzatziki sauce from coconut yogurt, skillfully prepared by the Brewmaster

Lamb burgers, veggies and Tzatziki sauce from coconut yogurt, skillfully prepared by the Brewmaster

My fear at the beginning of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet proved useless: I am not hungry all the time, in spite of having a very restricted diet. I also no longer crave sugar or grains. These cravings disappeared after almost the first week of the diet, and now after six weeks, dates and bananas taste almost excruciatingly sweet. I have no trouble limiting myself to two fruits a day as the sweetness makes me almost dizzy.

This is not something someone who has not given up sugar completely (and I mean no sugar in any prepared food such as bacon, sausage, or other meats) can understand. I didn’t believe it before starting the protocol.

And although I have slowly started to reintroduce some foods into my diet, carefully keeping a food log to determine which trigger my immune system, I have no desire to eat refined sugar ever again. A teaspoonful of honey or maple syrup is all I need in my day.

This is not something I will impose on my family, as everyone has to come to terms with their own relationship with food. However, I’ve started to scrutinize the sugar content of the power bars I buy my son and encourage him to eat plain yogurt with fresh fruit to avoid added sweeteners. One stark physical change I have observed is that my plantar fasciitis radically improved when I not only stopped taking Advil, but eliminated sugar from my diet.

Homemade raspberry cake; dairy, grain, sugar-free

Homemade raspberry cake; dairy, grain, sugar-free

Sugar exacerbates inflammation, and by replacing it with tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and fish oil, I am balancing my system and allowing it to heal. Someone as active as Ballet Boy needs to watch what they put in their body for life, or they will pay for it in tendonitis and injuries at some point.

The Brewmaster has noted that I am not bloated anymore and don’t complain of acid reflux. I feel like a balloon that has deflated, or the fish in Dr. Seuss that finally returns to it’s normal size after out-growing the bathtub. I have energy for walks, practicing, working and don’t feel as mentally foggy. After this much time, it’s not a placebo effect. I really am better.

Have I lost a ton of weight? No. Maybe four or five pounds. But I feel better and happy about myself, which is more important than any number on a scale. There have been some disappointments; I reintroduced egg yolk first and that went fine, but egg whites instigated a massive migraine. This makes baking pretty tricky and breakfast will remain meat and veggies until I sort that out. Who wants to fry an egg yolk for breakfast? But pepper and lemon have not created any problems, and I may try almonds next so I can make some paleo recipes with almonds or eat almond butter as a protein.

The few times I have felt a craving for salt or food, I’ve realized I’m either extremely tired or thirsty.A bowl of chicken broth and some water usually help, as well as a ten minute power nap. I’m still working on getting enough sleep; most of what I’ve read recommends 8.5 hours of sleep a night to heal Hashimoto’s! Since I often rehearse until 10 at night and get up at 6:30 a.m. with my son, this complicates healing. Spring break has allowed me to get lots of sleep and I feel remarkably better. I am confident the summer will be an even more restful time.

And the best news? I’ve gotten the green light from my therapist to start a running rehab program again. Babysteps, and only every other day, but I will be shuffling along at a slightly faster pace. I’ve warned my Fitbit friends that I will be a menace to our Leaderboards when the 2.6 mile walks shift to a jog.

I have so much to look forward to. Happy Spring, everyone!crocuses

Transitioning: Week One on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet

No sugar. No grains. No dairy. Day 6. I thought I would be a very grumpy Mama Bear at this point.

Life-Transitions

Instead, I feel more clear-headed and energetic than in months. This could be a sort of Holier-Than-Thou placebo affect. I’m giving up all these things like caffeine and sugar that are known to be bad for you. It is extreme, but with considerable planning and cooking on my part, it is going just fine.

Breakfast of roasted parsnips, turnips, carrots and sweet potato with blueberry maple sausage patties, plus chicory drink!

Breakfast of roasted parsnips, turnips, carrots and sweet potato with blueberry maple sausage patties, plus chicory drink!

Breakfasts take the most thought. I roasted a huge pan of butternut squash mixed with sweet potatoes and carrot chunks and served it up to the guys for dinner, saving the rest for breakfasts.

Breakfast of sweet potato and brussel sprouts with bacon

Breakfast of sweet potato and brussel sprouts with bacon

I’ve cooked two organic chickens this week, one which I split with the family and finished for breakfast or on salads, another that has provided several pre-made meals.

I alternate chicken and vegetables with grass-fed hamburger patties, delicious salads and fish.

I’m not missing alcohol half as much as I thought. I miss snacks, like an occasional power bar, and have grown to adore my two fruits a day that feel like crack as it is more sweetness than I can almost handle being off sugar.

I’m on attempt two of making coconut yogurt. The first batch I ignored the warning that boxed coconut milk wouldn’t do the trick.It tasted like really yeasty kefir and I ended up throwing it all out.

I eventually ordered 12 cans of BPA free, all natural (no guar gum or stabilizers added) canned coconut milk and tried another batch yesterday. The verdict is to come, but I think I need to go ahead and order a vegan gelatin to add in to thicken it a bit. I also ordered roasted chicory root and dandelion root in bulk on Amazon which I combine to make a delicious breakfast beverage that rivals coffee. (note “rivals,” not “replaces.”)

Today is proving trying. My doctor ordered a glucose test partially to determine whether I have a small intestine bacterial infection that needs treating. Tomorrow I will breathe in a bag every 15 minutes for two hours at one of the University of Iowa Health Clinics. The prep is icky: I can only have boiled/baked chicken and fish today, white bread and white rice. Since I’ve given up the last two, it is a high protein extremely bland diet to follow. I also have a concert and am travelling, so I feel like it is a hard day to not have energy-giving carbs. I miss my veggies and fruits dearly! But it is only one day and a good reminder that many people on our planet would be thrilled to have the poultry I can eat.

Where's the color?

Where’s the color?

Tomorrow, after the test,  I will be back to my more innovative cooking. I ordered Mickey Trescott’s “Autoimmune Paleo Diet Cookbook” and it is a marvelous resource. It includes menus, shopping lists and fun recipes like the cauliflower “fried rice” pictured below, given a thumbs up from my whole family! (Interested in ordering? I’m not rewarded for this endorsement, just a fan! http://www.amazon.com/Autoimmune-Paleo-Cookbook-Allergen-Free-Approach/dp/0578135213/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423415595&sr=8-1&keywords=autoimmune+paleo+cookbook)

Chicken and cauliflower "fried rice"

Chicken and cauliflower “fried rice”

More to come on the physical transformations on this protocol. One week is hardly enough to change dramatically, but hopefully my immune system is feeling soothed by all the goodness and love I’m sending its way.

What CAN I eat?

Yesterday’s trip to the grocery store was intended to be exploratory. The Brewmaster and I were on the search for foods that I will be able to eat on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, or AIP diet, which is so restrictive that I am panicking a little. The list of foods I CAN’T have is so vast that I feel like I need to plan and prepare before starting it. Ballet Boy has dance auditions that will take us on the road the next two weekends, and we’ve decided it is not reasonable to start my elimination diet until I am sure to be able to control my food choices.

Here is the list (taken from the AIP website, http://aiplifestyle.com/what-is-autoimmune-protocol-diet/):

PHASE 1

6-8 Weeks

NOT ALLOWED:

  • Nuts (including nut oils like walnut and sesame seed oils)
  • Seeds (including flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and culinary herb seeds like cumin and coriander)
  • Beans/Legumes (this includes all beans like kidney, pinto, black as well as Soy in all its forms)
  • Grains (Corn, Wheat, Millet, Buckwheat, Rice, Sorghum, Amaranth, Rye, Spelt, Teff, Kamut, Oats etc)
  • Alternative sweeteners like xylitol and stevia
  • Dried fruits and/or over-consumption of fructose (I recommend up to 2 pieces of fruit a day)
  • Dairy Products
  • All Processed Foods
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, mustard seeds, all chili’s including spices)
  • No vegetable oils (NOTE: olive oil, lard, cultured ghee and coconut oils are permitted)
  • Culinary herbs from seeds (mustard, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, dill seed)
  • Tapicoa. I eliminate this the first 6-8 weeks because it is a known gluten cross reactor according to Cyrex Labs Gluten Cross-Reactivity Test

ALLOWED:

  • Vegetables (except nightshades)
  • Fruits (limit to 15-20 grams fructose/day)
  • Coconut products including coconut oil, manna, creamed coconut, coconut aminos, canned coconut milk (with no additives like guar gum and carageen or bpa lined cans) shredded coconut (this list does not include coconut sugar and nectar)
  • Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, lard, bacon fat, cultured ghee (certified to be free of casein and lactose)
  • Fermented Foods (coconut yogurt, kombucha, water and coconut kefir, fermented vegetables)
  • Bone Broth
  • Grass Fed Meats, Poultry and Seafood
  • Non-Seed Herbal Teas
  • Green Tea
  • Vinegars: Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic (that has no added sugar)
  • Sweeteners: occasional and sparse use of honey and maple syrup (1 tsp/day)
  • Herbs: all fresh and non-seed herbs are allowed (basil tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, savory, edible flowers)
  • Binders: Grass Fed Gelatin and Arrowroot Starch (watch the starch however if you have adrenal issues)

My first question when my doctor showed me the diet was, “What the heck can I eat for breakfast?” She suggested leftovers from the night before.

Now breakfast at our house is kind of sacred. We alternate delicious scrambled eggs with spinach and bacon with oatmeal garnished with Craisins, bananas, or whatever fruit is seasonal. On weekends I make pumpkin pancakes or French toast.

I can kiss all that goodbye for a while. The Brewmaster and I had to look for a long time to find bacon with no sugar, but Costco does carry some. It is not nitrate free, which I frown on. Our local food Co-Op carries some that is all of the above, but it is $8 for 8 oz. That becomes a luxury item to me.

We’ve decided we just need to buy some nitrate/hormonal free ground pork and make me some breakfast patties from scratch with no sweetener, as everything in the store had sugar or dextrose in it. We are going to have to buy huge amounts of salad, because I won’t be able to eat peas or beans or any of the green sides I love. None of my “quick” meal solutions, like turkey breast for sandwiches or frozen salmon burger from Costco work as they either contain sugar or vegetable oil.

Self-Destruct-Button

This is going to be challenging. I have decided that autoimmune disease is like watching your kindergartner play soccer: at that age scoring a goal is more important than scoring a goal for the right team. My immune system has short-circuited and instead of attacking foreign intruders or potential viruses or attackers, it is attacking the very systems it is designed to protect (in my case, the thyroid gland). What does this have to do with my gut? Everything, according to vast amounts of literature that say that if you can avoid foods that trigger your immune system to get all riled up, it might also go into sort of a calm, remissive state and stop attacking my thyroid and brain tissue.

We will see. This is only temporary, God Help Me. Hopefully many of my favorite foods will not be triggers.

In the meantime, I am savoring every bite of food as if it’s the Last Supper. Today one of my students left me a chocolate bar and a kind note on it in my mailbox. I will enjoy every last bite, and remind myself that the note was more nourishing than the chocolate itself. 10923518_10152703579516025_7036981772160961280_n

The Mozart Effect, or the Nofart Effect

Last night during the finale of Don Giovanni, a popular opera by Mozart, I started writing this blog in my head. Although I had a considerable amount of fast notes to play, and regardless of the fact that I had been playing for over two hours straight at that point and was tired, I was ironically thinking about how much I multi-task all the time and have trouble staying in the moment.

Don Giovanni was a player, but he got what was coming

Don Giovanni was a player, but he got what was coming

Sometimes this has seemed like an honorable skill, like when I did my Master’s degree and subsequent Doctoral degree as a single mom. I might have been outside in the cold at 2 a.m. with a croupy kid, but I was able to practice my cello, read 350 pages a week for each class I was completing and play in two professional orchestras at the same time. I was Wonder Woman, Road Warrior and Super Mom all in one.

Right.

Those years have caught up with me. I’m learning that years of stress and doing way too many tasks at once are not a sign of invincibility, but more of insanity. My body is telling me to stop.

During the same Mozart performance last night, I was struggling with the fact that I needed to poop. I hadn’t had time before I ran out the door from a quick dinner after teaching.  I had a mantra in my brain that made it hard to concentrate: Don’t fart. Don’t fart. Don’t you dare fart. Farting in the pit of an opera or musical production is akin to farting in an elevator. It’s really not okay to the people around you who have nowhere to go and are trying to focus on their own performance.

This happens frequently to me in yoga. Although there is inevitably someone who farts during child pose, I don’t want to be that someone. My farts stink. That mantra is more, “Nofart, Nofart, Nofart.” Which rhymes with Mozart.

I suppose “Don’t fart” in the pit is better than sometimes when a little voice

in my head keeps saying, “Don’t fuck up. Don’t fuck up.” Then I usually fuck up and play the wrong note or at the wrong time because I’m thinking too much about messing up, instead of what I should be doing.

The bottom line is that I’m not very good at staying in the moment. I try hard, but my brain wanders all the time during yoga or during performances.

Last night my brain was also far from the task at hand, Mozart,  because yesterday I found out I have Hashimoto’s Disease. I finally found a “functional doctor,” meaning a doctor that doesn’t just look for symptoms of me being very sick, but looks at all my symptoms combined and gives advice on how to improve lifestyle and nutrition in order to be more healthy and balanced. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for ten years, but levothyroxine has not cured my symptoms. To all of my doctors, whenever my lab tests came back normal they assumed I was fine, even if I didn’t feel fine. It turns out that if you have Hashimoto, you actually have an autoimmune disorder, where your body starts attacking its own tissue. My body has been destroying its own thyroid tissue.

Since autoimmune disease is often related to other autoimmune disorders, we talked about my asthma and endometriosis as being related. This  new functional doctor’s first recommendation was to try removing inflammatory foods from my diet to see what might also be triggering autoimmune responses, which often start in our gut. Gluten, for instance, can “leak” through the intestinal wall and then our body attacks it, because it is not in the right place. People with Hashimoto’s should absolutely avoid gluten, which is why I have felt slightly better not consuming gluten for the past few years. A simple antibody test has shown that I have a disorder which is complex to treat and will require some exploring.

Factors that cause Hashimoto's Disease

Factors that cause Hashimoto’s Disease

Traditional medical protocol prescribes synthetic hormone to restore the thyroid to health. This has not worked for me because my body keeps blocking the thyroid from doing it’s work even when I have enough thyroid in my system. Since I’m tired of freezing all the time, feeling sluggish, dizzy, brain fog and a complete inability to lose weight even on a low calorie diet with lots of exercise, I’m ready to try the elimination diet.

Readers, you will be hearing about this as it is incredibly restrictive for four weeks. I will not be a happy camper. After that I can slowly reintroduce one food at a time, keeping a strict journal of my reactions. This Autoimmune Protocol website (http://aiplifestyle.com/what-is-autoimmune-protocol-diet/) will be my bible, and I’ve already looked into buying a paleo cookbook to make it easier. Breakfast will be tricky: no eggs, no grains. I think giving up sugar is one of the hardest as it is in all prepared food and so many recipes.

And if that doesn’t work, my doctor will test me for hormonal imbalances and other possible triggers. The book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Tests Are Normal?” by Datis Kharrazian has proved a wonderful resource, as it explains in detail the science behind how our thyroid works and why traditional approaches (prescribing thyroid medicine and not addressing the autoimmune disorder) don’t resolve symptoms.

The number one way to alleviate autoimmune disease is to eliminate stress, however. So I will keep doing yoga, try to take deep breaths when I feel anxiety coming on, and laugh as much as I can with the Brewmaster and Ballet Boy. And tomorrow when I play Mozart, I will try and stay in the moment, connected to my colleagues, the conductor and the wonderful vibrations that Mozart is still sending our way more than 200 years after his death.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart