Monday, November 12, 2012

Autoimmune, Miscarriage and Inflammation

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism around age 22, and endometriosis around age 32. Through those years I also developed IBS, migraines, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Before I became pregnant with Lola at age 27, I had made some changes to my lifestyle, very positive changes like lowering my sugar and white bread consumption and developing a rigorous, rejuvenating work out schedule that included weight lifting. I also did some yoga and meditation. After my pregnancy and diagnosis with endometriosis, I became determined to do everything possible to heal my body and reclaim my health. My mother said to me ' the human body wants to be in good health, it fights very hard to keep balance and health, and everything we put into it either helps or hurts our body's mission '. I never forgot those words and they guided me throughout the next few years of grueling transformation.

After my diagnosis and first surgery for a 6cm endometrioma and adhesions, my doctor told me that unless I got pregnant within the next six months, I most likely would never get pregnant again. Mr. Curry and I knew that the time was all wrong for another baby, and despite our sense of urgency and desire to eventually have another baby, we did not try to conceive. When I finally did begin trying, a few years later, we found that I wasn't getting pregnant and feared as the months passed that the doctor had been right.

Again I dove into research and applied all I learned to increase my chance of becoming pregnant. I was on a regimen of supplements, all taken for healing specific to my own health needs, like hormone balance, liver detoxification, gut balance and reducing anxiety. I made sure that my diet included mostly whole, organic foods, and I drank less caffeine. After finally becoming pregnant in 2010, we rejoiced. It was a beautiful time. At 13 weeks pregnant, I began to bleed heavily, and after arriving at the ER with Mr. Curry, I delivered and miscarried our little baby. We were devastated.

I redoubled my research, sure that while I could not control a miscarriage, I could at least feel satisfied that I had done everything possible nutritionally and supplementally to create an environment in my body where a baby could thrive.

During my reading I found a few key ideas coming up again and again, in research, personal stories and scientific theory. The pieces were all falling together for me as I realized that endometriosis was not a disease in and of itself, but one piece of a larger network of things that were wrong in my body, all stemming from a faulty immune system and following inflammation created or exacerbated by malnutrition, environmental pollutions ( my cleaners, lotions, soaps, plastics, makeups, hair dye, laundry soaps ) and uncontrolled stress throughout my childhood and into adulthood.

All experts in the field of endometriosis that I am aware of believe that endometriosis is an autoimmune disease, which often needs to be treated surgically as well as nutritionally. The inflammation and imbalances in a woman's body show up eventually as IBS, migraine, swelling, hypo or hyperthyroidism, chronic fatigue and pain, food allergies, PCOS and other ailments. And for a pregnant woman, this is not a good environment to nourish a baby. The more I thought about it, the more I believed that the timing of my other pregnancies had been 'lucky', because with Dakota I was so young I was fresh out of a nutrition and supplement chocked childhood and hadn't damaged myself too much with crap food and cigarettes, and with Lola I was a few years into eating better, working out and smoking much less.  (I smoked a few cigarettes every night before bed throughout my twenties, until I quit at 30.)  I was also very lucky that I had my hypothyroidism dx so young, because it certainly would have negatively impacted my pregnancy. ( I had to visit my doctor three times and insist before they would do any bloodwork, because of my age. They insisted I was just stressed. ) It wasn't until after I had Lola that the depth of my bodies imbalance began to express itself.

As I researched, I realized that the most important things I could do for a possible successful pregnancy would be to reduce inflammation in my body, and provide tons of the nutrients that my body needed to have hormone balance and a healthy immune system.  One of the things I did was to dramatically reduce gluten. Even though I had tested negative for Celiac, I was sure I had some level of gluten intolerance. Once I did become pregnant again, I went gluten free for the first three months of the pregnancy. I had read one small study online that said there looked to be some connection between gluten intolerance and miscarriage, and it made sense to me based on what I knew about the bodies inflammatory and immune response: if your body is going into 'attack mode' because you are gluten intolerant and eating gluten, then you have inflammation and that attack may end up directed at your unborn baby, or the placenta.

I did a number of other specific dietary and supplemental changes, as well as acupuncture, and within a year became pregnant again with the little girl who is now Ever Elizabeth. Defying all the doctors predictions as well as being considerably older!, I conceived her at 35 and delivered her at 36.

When I read this article today discussing a possible link between autism and the flu, all of this history came flooding back to me. I think the human body and its interactions with food and the environment is fascinating, and knowledge is power. We can't say anything for sure based on one study or one scientist or one observation, but we can combine a library of knowledge along with our own discernment and common sense and draw conclusions. Not only did this article recall for me the information I have read on inflammation, immune response and pregnancy, but it also made me wonder what the effects were of the intense and horribly drawn out bout I had with a terrible cough virus during my third trimester with Ever. If ya'll remember, I ended up popping out a rib because I coughed so hard, and if ya'll remember, Ever ended up devastatingly ill with RSV at one month old and was hospitalized for 8 days, almost put on a ventilator but saved at the last moment by a Pediatric nurses' suggestion to do forced Albuterol in the oxygen tube, which turned Ever around.

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