Friday, July 15, 2016

Update - Losing weight with Thyroid Cancer

In 2014 I wrote this blog:

I have learned so much since 2014. While the blog above has some good information and insight, it doesn't really scratch the surface for what I have experienced. 

A few things that I want to cover:
  • Metabolism without a thyroid
  • Special diets
  • Digestion
  • Hydration
As I have stated above, this is my own experience. Everyone is different, in fact we are a puzzle that takes quite a bit to solve. Then cancer happens and your puzzle is ruined and you have to start all over again. The picture has changed, the pieces have changed, and you might even be missing a few as a result. Just lie myself, missing a few pieces.

Late in 2014 I started up with a new doctor in Portland. I was in bad shape since my previous doctor in Chandler messed up the dosing protocol for the thyroid replacement I was on. You have to remember that dealing with a lack of thyroid isn't about taking a pill and everything is cool. It is very complicated with many parts of the body competing and having influences overall with the uptake and usage of the hormones. Thyroid hormone is dosed in micrograms, which is a tenth of a milligram, and variances are usually in around a 7-12.5 microgram increment. Without significant fillers added, most thyroid hormone pills are smaller than a tic-tac.

If your body is not working right, such as the adrenals are overloaded from stress and other chemical factors, you will act like you are overdosed or underdosed. That happened to me this year, a couple of months ago. I was working 2 jobs, training and stressing pretty hard. My diet was too high in sugar, and my body just couldn't compensate correctly so my adrenals were overloaded. As a result I had been in a pre-diabetes state. My blood tests showed that I was pooling a portion of my thyroid hormone and severely overusing another portion. I effectively was hyperthyroid, and had difficulty sleeping, but could not lose weight.

That is when I started to learn something that I thought made sense earlier. Simply if I took more thyroid hormone, I would raise my metabolism and lose weight.  It doesnt work that way. I also learned that my thyroid balance affected my performance in specific ways. That my heart rate could be elevated or suppressed as a result.

Diet and Metabolism
I needed to help correct my adrenal issue this year, so my doctor suggested I go on a specialty diet. It is called Elemental. The goal is to detox and reset several of the bodies systems. One type of Elemental has no sugar to speak of, perhaps 10-20 grams max from honey. The other is protein specific. This is the nastiest liquid diet ever!

I lost quite a bit of weight on this diet. I was bloated very badly due to sugar and gut absorption issues. This diet is meant to starve the gut of sugar and rid itself of this bacteria overgrowth that contributes to bloating as well as severe cravings for sugar. I certainly did that and dropped quite a bit of water weight. I was astounded to find out that the gut bacteria tied to processing sugar puts out a chemical in the body requesting more and more sugar in a never ending process.

I can't recommend this diet without proper supervision. Many people get to the point where their brains do not function due to the lack of calories. Operating cars, thinking, and even functioning can be difficult if you do not know what you are doing and how to compensate. I went for over 3 weeks on this diet, and was eventually riding my bike near the end of it. I dropped a good 25 pounds, and it took a short period until I could eat and have energy again.

I learned about my metabolism during this diet. My caloric intake was far less than 500 calories per day. Perhaps 200, and the diet drink is all vitamins and amino acids.  Remember how I thought I could change my metabolism with more thyroid hormone? Well doing this diet proves something. That eating actually can raise your metabolism. Not eating can slow it down severely.

I had heard rumors about various things in regards to diets and eating and the like. But again, we are all different.  My metabolism is not normal. I cant just barely adjust my diet and lose weight. I have to be overly aggressive, and get into a depleted state until I stop losing, then I can start eating slightly to jumpstart loss again. If I just train, I dont really lose weight. If I don't control my sugar intake, I don't lose weight at all.  If I eat too much sugar and get overloaded, I bloat up and retain many pounds of water, sometimes 5 pounds or more of water per day. Yes, that is nearly a gallon of liquid, and you can hear it sloshing about. Very weird indeed.

It has been said that we have literally billions of bacteria in our digestive tract. We need it to help us break down food. There are dozens if not hundreds of varieties that work to extract everything from sugar to vitamins and minerals to even hormones for what we hope is proper absorption.

Ultimately, we cant absorb everything good in what we eat. we only get a portion. For instance if you take an iron supplement you are likely only to absorb 30% of it. Even less if you partake in caffeine.

The body loves sugar and carbs. A good deal of the energy we spend is derived from sugar and carbs. Unfortunately the upper intestine does much of the work of finding, breaking down and processing sugar for usage. For myself, the bacteria that does this work got a bit out of control, and causes me to blocked and backed up, bloating me out, and even hampering absorption of water. You could swear you are hydrated, but in reality you digestive tract is fooling you.

The elemental diet I alluded to above was part of the treatment for SIBO.  Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. This is pretty treatment is extreme, and difficult to do.

Now, I would normally tell you that so much of this stuff is so fringe, so supposition. Things like gluten intolerance. Perhaps many people are searching for anything that is an answer to whatever ails them. There is an abundance of self diagnosis, and I find it less than believable. Additionally, I wouldn't believe it for myself.

Apparently having thyroid cancer is not good for the body. Newsflash there! Having gone through this has unearthed issues, and allowed some to become huge influences in my wellness. Sometimes we have to go to extremes to teach ourselves these facts, to have things pointed out with direct evidence within our own bodies.

Once I completed this SIBO diet, I found it a little easier to lose weight, and maintain a lower number. Gut and digestive issues are real! I didn't put much credence into it before. I attempted to eat Paleo previously, but I can honestly report that grains are not good for me, and cause a certain amount of inflammation. Tie that in with too much sugar consumption and you have a recipe for a mess.

I live in Arizona. During a recent heatwave that had temps reaching 120 degrees we had some deaths out on the hiking and biking trails. I did some experimentation at this time. There were times that I wouldn't drink 20oz of water during a 40 mile ride. This sounds crazy, but it isn't if you know how to monitor your body.

If you stop sweating, get chills, get brain fog and other telltale signs, yes you are dehydrated and in danger. Many heat related deaths are not entirely due to dehydration, but more of a factor of exacerbating pre-existing health concerns. Getting dehydrated puts severe stress on the body, and those health issues rear their heads and become a huge problem.

Generally, one would aim to drink somewhere around 20oz of water per half hour to an hour in this kind of heat. Some people over drink, and as a result flush valuable minerals through their body too quickly. Others do not drink enough. A key here is this: as we train, we should learn about ourselves. How to perform optimally is a set of experiments meant to teach you how you feel both bad and good.  How else do you know how little fluid you can intake, and vice versa whether drinking a lot helps?  How much is just right.

So yes, drinking so little is not a good thing. I gained knowledge though. I know how I feel, and how much my performance drops off.  Effectively my heart rate goes up around 20 bpm and I lose a good 40 or more watts. Granted, you wouldn't do this during a race. Unless you had to. But, to drop weight, and remember our bodies are over 90% water, could you use this method to reset your baseline? Potentially yes. Dangerous, but yes.

Unfortunately, it seems I have to take drastic measures now to reset my body and improve my performance. I try to do this in small increments, then recover to a new set point. I still can't control my sugar intake very well, but I am doing better.  My performance is significantly better now.  My output and work level under effort is so much higher.  I can train now to improve, rather than just get exercise that didn't lead to improvement. That is fact was hard to swallow.

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