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AIP Stories of Recovery is a success story series about regular people from the Autoimmune Protocol community who are changing their lives using the protocol. Each month a new person is featured and readers have the opportunity to discover all the different health challenges that are being overcome by folks just like themselves on the same path. At Autoimmune Paleo we hope you’ll be inspired by, empathize with, and learn from these stories. If you are interested in sharing your story, please let us know by filling out our interest form.
Mallory was diagnosed with her first autoimmune condition — PCOS — fairly early in life, but it wasn’t until adulthood that she began to realize not all her symptoms could be attributed to it. Hashimoto’s and Reynaud’s diagnoses soon followed, and she found some relief following a gluten- and soy-free vegan diet. After discovering The Paleo Approach at the bookstore where she worked, Mallory’s healing really took off and she’s felt more in control of her heath than ever.
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
I have been diagnosed with PCOS, Hashimotos, and multiple other autoimmune-related conditions including Reynaud’s and eczema.
My PCOS diagnosis process was pretty straightforward. I had gone through puberty early and struggled with my weight and unwanted hair growth throughout my teens. When I was around 17 or so, my primary care doctor noticed that my testosterone was very high. She did a few more tests and referred me to an endocrinologist. He took one look at me and my chart and basically said, “You have PCOS. There’s not really anything I can do about it. You’re going to struggle with your weight. Come back if you need help getting pregnant.”
A few years later, at a wellness checkup for work, another doctor noticed that my TSH was high. Without doing any further tests, he put me on a very high dose of supplemental thyroid hormone and sent me on my way. In the weeks that followed I had debilitating anxiety, heart palpitations, and tremors. When I visited my doctor she was shocked that I’d been given such a high dose of Levothyroxin and cut my dose to a quarter of what I’d originally been given. She also ran some more tests and diagnosed me with autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s). It took a little while, but we eventually found a dosage of medication that helped me feel my best.
Describe what the lowest point on your health journey was like.
Not long after my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I was going through a particularly stressful time personally, and I developed swelling and joint pain all over my body to the point that I was spending days at a time in bed, completely disabled by the pain. I also started having much more frequent migraines. I was missing a lot of work and having trouble doing basic daily tasks. I am a compulsive researcher (I have a Questioner tendency if you’re familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies), and through my research I learned that what I was experiencing were common symptoms of Hashimoto’s. My medication was addressing my thyroid hormone deficiency, but it was not addressing the autoimmune nature of the disease.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution? Basically, what was the tipping point?
I needed to be able to work and function in my daily life, and my doctor had offered me all that she could. I don’t remember where I first came across the idea that what I was eating could effect my symptoms, but that seemed like something I could control that might help me, so I started reading as much as I could find on the subject.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
In April or May of 2013 I read a book called The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum. She recommended a basic elimination diet eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and corn for a few weeks before systematically reintroducing them. I gave it a try and discovered that I had was sensitive to gluten, dairy, eggs, and soy. I was never a huge meat eater, so I transitioned at this point to a gluten- and soy-free vegan diet.
During this time, I was working at a bookstore, and the following year (2014), The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantine was released. I was intrigued and picked up a copy. As I mentioned, I was eating a gluten and soy-free vegan diet at the time. I’d noticed some major improvements in my health. My migraines had all but gone away, and my pain was definitely less, but I was still dealing with a lot of joint pain and weakness. It took me several months, but I eventually decided to give the autoimmune protocol a try. I noticed an immediate reduction in my pain and an increase in my overall energy level.
I went through the elimination phase and worked through the reintroductions, mainly following the 4 stages as they were recommended at the time, and I was able to figure out which foods worked for me, which ones didn’t (nightshades!) and which ones I could have occasionally, but not all the time (eggs, certain cheeses).
I also discovered that I had histamine intolerance that was contributing to my eczema and a few other random symptoms, so that is something I’ve had to learn to be aware of.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
I will always pick up a book before anything else. At the beginning, there was not a lot out there. I had my copy of The Paleo Approach, and I discovered The Phoenix Helix Podcast. The Healing Kitchen was a resource that I turned to a lot in the early years.
Over time, a lot more resources have become available. I love The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, and I have a substantial collection of AIP and Paleo cookbooks.
My favorites fluctuate and go through seasons, but I often find myself turning to Danielle Walker’s cookbooks for inspiration (they have guides to make nightshade/egg/nut, etc. free recipes easy to find). My wife is Latina, so we also love Amanda Torres’s Latin American Paleo Cooking and use it frequently.
I’m a huge fan of Michele Spring’s (Thriving on Paleo) freezer meal system for busy work days (this is a great meal prep system for people with any degree of histamine sensitivity) and I’ve also been loving Michelle Hoover’s (Unbound Wellness) recipes lately.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
Not really. I sought out the information I did because the standard treatment for Hashimotos is just synthetic thyroid hormone, which I have taken since the beginning. I believe that the AIP help to slow down the damage being done to my thyroid, and I’ve been on a steady dose for a while without any need to increase it.
My doctor did recommend a low carb diet to lose weight, which I did and didn’t really follow. The paleoish diet that I eat now is definitely lower in carbs than what I was eating previously, especially as a vegan, but I wouldn’t call it low carb.
It can seem like our lives are consumed by a chronic illness, but there is so much beyond those struggles. What brings you true joy right now?
I love to read. Our house is full of books, and I’m always buying new ones. I haven’t been enjoying it as much as I should lately, but I love living in Southern California where I have easy access to the beach and the mountains. I love hiking and getting outside.
I’ve always enjoyed baking, and I’d like to say I’ve gotten pretty good at gluten-free/dairy-free/paleo/often egg-free baking. I even made my own AIP wedding cakes when I got married in 2018!
You can connect with Mallory and learn more about her healing journey on Instagram.
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