Life Without Bread

I can look at it, smell it, touch the crust and make patterns on the counter with the crumbs. I just can’t eat it. Not right now. Maybe not ever.

As longtime readers may recall, after four years of searching for answers to a wide range of afflictions, I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2003. And, for the most part, I have succeeded in managing this genetic autoimmune disease (predominately seen in the female population) that causes our bodies to attack their thyroids.

But I knew from my own research (even the specialists don’t want to admit to anything until pressed) that all bets are off upon entering menopause. And admittedly, I looked forward to saying goodbye to some of the unpleasant playing rules of perimenopausal thyroid disease.

I just wasn’t sure how well menopause and Hashimoto’s would play together, which one would dominate, which would imitate the other, and whether one or both would become unmanageable enough to require medical attention. Considering my poor track record with western medicine taking my symptoms seriously, this is always the path of last resort.

So, I focused on diet, and bought plenty of fans. I downed my vitamins and took myself outside for exercise and Vitamin D. I got rid of all those turtlenecks. My hands weren’t perpetually cold anymore. And life wasn’t too bad, at first.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the balance I had so carefully maintained began to erode. (If there are any guys still reading at this point, hang in there. This could pertain to you, although I’ve cleared a room of dudes by bringing the issue up at a dinner party.) Sure, there were the expected hot flashes and heart palpitations, the embarrassing memory loss, the sudden fits of hormonal rage when someone cuts in at the checkout line.

What I didn’t anticipate were severe digestive issues in the way of constipation, bloating and gas. The joint and muscle pain grew worse, my heart fluttered after meals before keeping me up at night. I began to feel hyper and dizzy right after I ate, or around 3 am despite going to bed feeling just fine.

And since one autoimmune disorder can invite home other autoimmune buddies like Celiac and Irritable Bowel, I decided it was time to eliminate. First to go were the delicious microbrews my husband loves to bring home in his growlers. Suddenly, the pain in my feet and legs started to recede, and I reluctantly realized why I could barely walk during yearly vacations when we like to visit local breweries and nurse a couple of pints every evening.

Next went the daily sandwiches I made religiously with “healthy” whole wheat bread. Instead, I fixed myself a green salad with spinach leaves, walnuts and lean meat or tuna.  Mysteriously, the extra pounds I couldn’t budge for three years began to drop off. Mind you, I was still eating sugar and fat in various forms to keep my sanity.

Sadly, pasta, pizza and other wheat products were soon to follow. Last to be crossed off was the whole grain cereal I had eaten every morning for decades. Never one to climb aboard the fad diet bandwagons, I found myself searching for gluten-free products in the health food aisles, ashamed to admit to my foodie family that I had gone over to the Paleo dark side.

But there is something to this madness. As I watch my parents and older relatives become immobilized by crippling arthritis and unsuccessful joint replacements, vascular inflammation leading to high blood pressure and stroke — all despite an incredibly diverse diet full of organic homegrown vegetables, pasture-raised meat and local dairy, nothing processed — I have to wonder.

Let me be clear. I am not against grains. I love wheat (especially the fermented kind). But just as my genetic forebears have left their calling cards at the door to my health, so too have they given me a hint about my origins, a map to what kinds of foods kept my bloodline alive back before mankind was a sure thing. Perhaps we all possess a built-in guide to what makes us thrive based on where our family trees began. This ancestral diet digest is not, unfortunately, what I’ve been following or even acknowledging.

My own earliest memory centers around Mom leaving slices of white bread in the toaster too long because I loved to watch the curling wisps of smoke and craved the charred black edges of burnt toast.

Ironically, the worst part about giving up the bread that nourished my beginning sense of self is baked into a profound loss of belonging. And I strongly suspect I have the ancestors to thank for it.

10 thoughts on “Life Without Bread

  1. Shirah

    My daughter also has Hashimoto’s so I’m familiar with the territory.

    But the need to “purify” one’s diet is all too familiar. It took me into my forties to learn that my puffy face and gas were the result of eating meat of any sort. And, I can only survive free of arthritis and menopause horrors by living primarily on tofu,soy milk, brown rice, vegetables and fruit – and occasionally fish. It’a a whole other thing if you live with others who eat differently, and when I spent time with family recently, I ate what they ate and returned home an ancient wreck. The problem with living very “frugally” in order to be healthy is that I’ve sort of forgotten what it used to be like to enjoy sandwiches, cheese and yogourt. Food in general. All of those are off the list except for when I’m out with friends. So dull. So healthy. There still is popcorn.

    1. Yes, there is popcorn! And no one solution that fits all, is there? Soy is not an option for me because of recurrance in goiter (so glamorous), although I’m sure it would help with my hot flashes. The enormously popular kale is also off limits. And yes, I sit and watch the rest of the family enjoy homemade cookies and breads, so I have a glass of wine, which isn’t good for the menopause, but I pick my battles. I’m sure there will be more adjustments to come but the wheat made such a difference. Thanks for commiserating with me, Shirah. Maybe someday someone will grow “wonder” vegetables that cure everything that ails us.

  2. Oh, wow. I don’t know where to start. You gave me much to think about! I am so very sorry to hear about this next phaze of dealing with the thyroid disorder — how invasive, really affecting your whole life. That photo and the title — so poignant!

    And, Shirah, to think that you too must eat so restricted a diet — and that your daughter also must deal with Hashimoto’s. How discouraging. And difficult. I thank you both for talking about it; I have much to learn from the two of you. (But then I knew that!)

    “The loss of belonging.” Painfully well said.

    1. Mostly this is an exercise in trying to get my mind around the art of healthy living with the best information I have. As to how much of this is genetics and how much environmental, it’s hard to say. But if this helps anyone else, it’s worth putting out there. Or at least starting a dialogue. I have much to learn from you too, Maureen.

  3. Spotting Rainbows

    I have Hashimoto’s, Addison’s and now Celiac. It sucks. I’m still not gluten free…I try but I fail when it public, at dinnerparties, etc…I know I’m hurting myself but eating is a social event and I hate not having fun. Oh well…good luck!

    1. Spotting Rainbows

      And I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s when I was a kid…I’m now in my 40’s so its a LONG time without the real deal. 😦 I wrote a post about my hair today. Ugh!

      1. That certainly makes it hard! Although I suspect I had issues in childhood as well as early adulthood, the symptoms when I hit 40 were sure hard to ignore. And don’t get me started on the hair!

    2. I’m sorry you have to deal with all this. And social eating is really hard, I agree. I pass on the rolls and try not to eat the pie crust, but pizza is my undoing and Thanksgiving stuffing — oh my!!! Thanks for commenting.

      1. Spotting Rainbows

        I found some stuffing made by Glutino. I tend to like their stuff. I can’t review it because I didn’t make it. I assumed it would be like Stove-top but it isn’t. You have to bake it in an oven. 😦 I posted about my Thanksgiving on my blog.

        1. Sorry about the injury! I hope the healing is quick and easy for you. Looks like everyone still enjoyed each other’s company and that’s the important part. I like Glutino, especially their crackers. Didn’t know there was stuffing. I’ll be on the look out. Enjoying your blog.

Comments are closed.