From Me to We – Shaheena Chowdhury’s Birth Story

“9 o’ clock sharp,” I reminded my then-husband the night before the surgery. 

“I’ll be there well before 9,” came back his tired voice.

I put the phone away and shut my eyes. I tried hard to fall asleep, but anxiety got the better of me. I tossed and turned in the uncomfortable hospital bed all night. The padding underneath the sheets did little to soften the thin, coir mattress. The room felt warmer than normal – maybe it was just my body. My mum-in-law was fast asleep in another bed across the room, and for the first time I envied her. 

So many thoughts raced through my mind. “Why isn’t the sedative working?”

“Did I remember to take all the medications?”

“Where does the enema go – through the mouth or the butt? Is it painful?”

“I just had my meal and I’m hungry again! I had no idea my digestive system was super-efficient!”

“Will the baby take after me or his dad? Oh Allah! Make him resemble me!”

“They will probably give me an epidural, won’t they? Or, will they? Is it necessary for a C-section? I know some women give birth without the epidural. Wait now! What does an epidural do?”

“Subhanallah! They’re going to cut me open in a few hours and I’m feeling so helpless!”

“Why did I get married in the first place? Why did I have to start a family? Why didn’t I think through all of this?”

The call for fajr prayers interrupted my thoughts. I prayed 2 rakat and stopped worrying for a while. I was too exhausted to worry anymore. 

At 8 o’ clock, thin beams of sunlight fell on my face.  I made a trip to the lavatory which was surprisingly smooth considering my struggle with constipation since the time I conceived. I was assisted to a wheelchair after my parents showed up. No sign of the baby’s dad yet. 

I was wheeled to the operating suite which was brighter and cleaner than the rest of the hospital. A member of the hospital staff accompanied me to a changing room. She disrobed me and made me put on a thick cotton gown with rear flaps and a distinctive laundry scent. She wheeled me further into the far end of the suite where the operating room is located. We passed by surgeons and technicians who went about their business, oblivious to an 8-month pregnant woman with rat-tail braids sticking out of either side of her head. It was awkward for me since I wasn’t allowed to carry any extra articles of clothing with which to cover my head. 

The operating table stood in the centre of the room and was surrounded by machines of all sizes with red, yellow, and green buttons, and pipes attached. A male technician grabbed my elbow to help me ascend the steps to the operating table. I shrugged him off and turned around to scowl at the female nurse who simply stood and watched. She got the message and hurried towards me. She helped me lie on the table. Minutes later, I was pulled up by the arms and made to sit. I was held in that position while the epidural was injected. I was horrified to see that my request for a female anesthetist was ignored. 

The epidural acted instantly, giving me a piercing headache. The pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t utter a sound. My mum-in-law, who was allowed inside the room because she was a practising GP, heard my moans and mistook it for panic. She kept telling me it would be alright and then I mustered the strength to tell them what was really bothering me. The anesthetist responded promptly and adjusted the canula on my left arm. After a few seconds, the headache was history. 

A catheter relieved the pressure on my bladder as the obstetrician scraped through layers of tissue, muscle, and fat. From the operating table, I could view scalpel, scissors, tongs, sterilized gauze, gloved hands, and masked faces. A screen over my chest prevented me from seeing what went where. But, since I was awake, I could feel everything that was being done to me on the other side of the screen. 

At some point during the procedure, the inevitable happened. The obstetrician pulled out my bundle of joy! I was expecting to be shown a glimpse of the handsome little fellow, but he was rushed to the next room where a pediatrician received him with an incubator on hand. The room was filled with squeals of happiness which followed the newest member of the family. 

The obstetrician and her team stitched me up and left without a word. Suddenly, I found myself all alone in the operating room. I was lying on the table confused and clueless about the post-operative procedure. After a long while, two sari-clad ladies arrived and transferred me to the post-operative room on a mobile bed. I stayed in post-operative ‘care’ until evening with a fresh catheter and only a couple spoonfuls of sweet corn soup. 

The baby’s dad didn’t make it in time due to traffic. I relied on him for moral support. I feared the worst as I was being taken to the operating room. My child deserved another month inside me, but the abnormal position of the placenta made me bleed throughout the pregnancy and caused him fetal distress. After the third hemorrhage, it was the obstetrician’s call. I had no say in the matter.

The whole experience left me with zero energy, lots of pain, and twice the anxiety. The sight of Ibrahim’s tiny hands and feet punching the air from his cot gave me brief moments of relief and excitement. It was great to know that he survived the complicated pregnancy unharmed. Also, Allah answered my dua – baby Ibrahim was a carbon copy of his beautiful mum. Alhamdulillah!


Do you have a birth story you want to share? let us know below and we will get in touch with you.

 

Back at the Gym

9 weeks post partum and I finally ventured out to the gym with Baby Mansa. It was not easy! I was feeling super guilty and a “Bad Mom”. I judged myself super hard and it was nerve wrecking. Was I being selfish to think of myself and make Baby Mansa uncomfortable? What if he started crying and I couldn’t workout? Would it be a bother to other people to see a stroller in the gym. Yes I was thinking things I never thought before. The entire car ride to the gym both Yousuf and I was quite just thinking about how to handle going back to gym with a baby.

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Thank goodness and thank you sweet child Baby Mansa (masha Allah); half way through my workout I realised everything was OK and Baby Mansa was doing great! He was fed and didn’t get fussy. He loved going around in his stroller and seeing everything. The gym members were so excited to see us back and with a baby. I even got a change of diaper in between. I had a great 45 mins of HIIT cardio. A big sigh of relief!

It is recommended to wait 3 full months before working out, but walking is necessary for healing. Off course I am not back into hardcore lifting yet. For now, I am walking alot and doing HIIT on the elliptical. On the treadmill I am only walking.

HIIT

My Elliptical / cross trainer HIIT was the following:
1 minute on : 60 seconds of going medium paced
1 minute off : rest for 60 seconds, no movement
repeat for 20 mins.

I am not running yet. The heavy jerking from running is not safe for a recovering uterus. This is where the elliptical plays an important role during your recovery workout. Read this article to find out why ellipticals are better than treadmills. Safe and correct Exercise during Caesarean recovery is going to make sure your have proper blood flow to carry nutrients to your abdominals. Speaking of abdominals, have you started doing Abs, Core and Pelvic floor recovery exercise? If not then watch this video to understand how to measure your Diastasis recti and get started.

Stretching for Mobility

During pregnancy your body makes changes to your joint structure. (There is more water retention in your body to make these shifts.) The hormone relaxin helps soften and relax these ligaments, making the pelvis elastic, rather than rigid; allowing for expansion. Remember your extreme bone pain? Yep, this is from the bones moving apart. After pregnancy it will take the body time to go back to previous structure. With proper stretching you can being to feel normal again.

I did some basic stretches and poses. See this video so you can follow along. While stretching take it super duper slow. Understand what your body can do, there is no rush. You may feel pain in your groin, or gluteus or both – this is normal.

I am super excited to go back with Baby Mansa. Just an hour in the gym has recharged me and I feel so refreshed. I shared my raw emotions of going to the gym first time in instagram insta-story. I got some amazing advice too! Turns out all mothers get this “bad mom” feeling and it is absolutely ok. Taking care of myself ensure that I can be there for my family ( husband and baby). Here are some amazing advice I received.

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Do you have a Bad Mom story to share? Let me know below 🙂

Reading to my Baby

By now these scenes have become inevitable: A group of toddlers at the restaurant table, eyes glued at screen, volume on loud, parents oblivious that others are trying to enjoy an evening out. Another: Parent pushing stroller down the street with one hand, their other holding a phone, where their attention actually goes. The tools “connecting the world” once again keeping those in close proximity from connecting to one another.

Perhaps a new study from Rutgers University, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, will help correct the expectable response from such parents, that “it’s the only way I can get them to quiet down.” It begins, as our greatest narratives do, by turning open the pages of a book.

According to the study, led by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School assistant professor Manual Jimenez, parents that regularly read to their toddlers are not only less harsh overall, the children are also less likely to be disruptive or hyperactive. Better kids, better adults: A win-win.

These findings are part of a long line of research on the necessity of parental interactions with their offspring. As 80 percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years of life, with an average of 700 synapses forming per second, babies that hear more from their parents learn more words by age two. By contrast, babies that are spoken to less display learning disabilities for the next six years.

As research has shown, adults that read are more intelligent and empathetic. If this skill helps make better humans, it makes sense that infants that are read to would be less anxious and more in tune with their surroundings. It’s also understandable that parents that read to their kids would be less harsh to them, given that reactive parenting involves an emotional regulation deficit.

Ok, so you’re thinking isn’t reading to a 8 week old too early? Well no. Let’s face it, reading for baby is super good but we as adults also need to work on our reading habits. Although reading children’s books may not sound interesting but the earlier we start reading to them the be easier it will be to read to them as they grow. 

My Birth Story

12th June 2019
We sat in the doctor’s office. My mom was on my left side, my mother law on my right side and my husband Yousuf sat next to his mother. My doctor was wearing a green silk sari, green beaded necklace and as usual has a thick layer of eyeliner on the bottom of her sincere eyes.

“Here is my plan, ” she started, ” we wait until 17th. If you do not have spontaneous labour then by 17th, then on 18th morning you get admitted to hospital and we start induction on 18th. We take it from there and monitor your situation carefully. Everything is fine and you had a great healthy pregnancy. I have no concerns except for the fact that the baby is big. On 18th you will be at 41 weeks and 3 days now so we will monitor that and move forward.” Yousuf looked at me and smiled, “Yes that sounds like a good plan.” We smiled at the doctor, thanked her and left.

13th June
No contractions, no sign of labor.

14th June
No contractions, no sign of labor.

15th June
No contractions, no sign of labor.

16th June
No contractions, no sign of labor.

17th June 10.30pm
“Well, tonight is the last night being only 2 of us,” I said feeling overwhelmed. Yousuf didn’t say anything. We let the silence and darkness of midnight cover us. I don’t remember when we fell asleep.

18th June 12 noon
I woke up and had a good long shower scrubbing every corner and inch of my body. I knew my body was going to be seen and handled, no need to be shy anymore. Thank goodness I had female doctors and nurses. Shower done, I stood in front of full length mirror and had one last look. My tummy was hanging so low now, the stretch marks fully covered my stomach, and came all the way around my lower back, down to middle of my thighs. Yousuf came in and we both admired the bump together. We are going to meet you soon child. Not too long now.

We pulled up into the emergency, and followed instructions. I was super anxious. I had no clue what to expect. Baby was moving as usual, kicking along. I had known his entire sleep and wake routine. Everyone was excited and laughing and cracking jokes.

2pm
Nurses set me up on CTG monitor. 20 minutes of monitoring – foetal heartbeat was normal. Very light contractions, nothing major.

5pm
My doctor comes in the room, puts on gloves and asks for everyone to leave. A quick cervical check. She was quiet.

“Ok you are dilated only 1 cm. I have done some cervical sweeping so hopefully that should get some things moving along. We will start the induction now, nothing to be worried about let’s keep monitoring.” She smiled at me the same sincere smile that I will always appreciate her for.

The nurses came in to start my induction. They put a cannula in my hand – the quick pinch of the needled scared me. Truthfully, I was more scared of pain. I had never had any hospital experience and anything blood was just gory for me.

6pm
The IV bag was hung and they pushed in the Pitocin. I was very anxious.

7pm
Nothing yet.

8pm
Nothing yet.

9pm
Nothing yet.

10pm
Nothing yet. The nurses come in to stop the induction. They remove the IV and bring in my dinner. I eat as much as I can, feeling anxious. My mom waits until 10.30pm, speaks over the phone to my doctor, hugs me and goes home. Yousuf was going to stay the night. We both was a bit of t.v. and stay quiet in each others loving company. I am peeing more often.

12 midnight
The nurses come in and switch on the light. The bright light over my head woke me up,
She checks my cervix. Still no improvement, I have not dilated more than 1cm. She says we will start induction again tomorrow. I try to fall asleep. I am peeing alot that night.

19th June
I am anxious.
1pm, we do a CTG. Baby’s heart beat is 145 bpm.
2pm, Doctor requests me to do an Ultrasound and check for amniotic fluid.

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My biophysical profile score

The amniotic fluid is low, and the biophysical profile score is low.
A score of less than 8 means my baby may not be receiving enough oxygen.
She has a slight worried look on her face. I walked out of the ultrasound room and went to my room on the third floor. My mom and Yousuf walked behind me in silence.

4pm, I am waiting for my doctor to advice, she was not available at the hospital so the resident OB came in. She says we should wait few hours and wait for spontaneous labor, we should NOT induce labor since with fluid low, this can hurt the baby.

I was stressed, anxious and angry. I sat in my room for 45 mins and at 5pm asked for the resident OB once again. I am angry. I am rude with her. I said I want to start inducing again and keep monitoring baby’s heart beat every 30 mins. She hears me out and walks away. She bring a file and makes me sign it stating that if any harm happens to the baby then the hospital will not be responsible for it. My heart starts to beat really fast. What should I do? I speak over with my husband for a long time. Something inside of me was not wanting to sign that paper. I sat and thought it out and did ending up signing. What was I thinking!

6pm. we start inducing and check baby’s heart beat. Doctor takes more time than usual. baby’s heart beat is 114 bpm.
7pm, nurse comes in and stops inducing. I am very stressed. I call my doctor and talk to her. She is not at hospital yet. She tells me to wait she is on her way.
8pm. I am waiting, my heart is racing. My palms are sweating and I am crying inside not knowing what to do. What is the right thing to do?
9pm, nurses bring my dinner, I shove food in my mouth knowing that it is for baby not me.
10pm, my doctor walks in and quickly walks by my bed side. She looks anxious and tells me everything that I already know.

“baby’s heart beat is irregular. Last time it was 114bpm and you have low fluid. At this point what ever you decide will determine the outcome. With low amniotic fluid we can not continue with inducing. It is a big risk. And your baby is big, if we increase inducing then the pressure of contracts may cause damage to baby such as causing meconium aspiration, we have risks to think about.”

“shall I do c section, ” I ask the question with tears rolling down my eyes.
“yes dear, this should be the best for you and baby. you are already overdue and now it is the baby’s health that matter, ” my doctor said, standing with her team of nurses and resident OB.

“when will we start?” I asked whimpering
“right now,” she replied.
I look at the clock, it was 10.30pm. It was getting too late.
“ok, i will do c section, ” i say and start crying harder. the nurses rush to my side to bring me and yousuf files to sign. my doctor leaves. my mother in law comes next to me and hugs me and says not to worry. the nurses change me into a operating gown. Yousuf signs the file and hands it to me. I don’t even both reading, just scribble my name down. A wheelchair is brought in and I sit down in it. I can barely see anything because I am crying so hard. I don’t see my mother. I see Yousuf running into the bathroom and changing into a black shirt, the black shirt he wore when we first met. He says he wants to meet his son with this same shirt.

As I am wheeled out of the room, I start shaking uncontrollably. I was shaking from fear of having a major operation. I am wheeled into the operating theatre. The big bright light was blinding me. I moved onto the operating bed. The nurses and anthesia team were all talking amongst themselves. They were talking about a cricket match! I felt so alone and even more scared. The patient – me – was sitting right on the operating bed, and they were talking about a game ?! As I am shaking and crying, the nurses open the back part of my gown and bend me over. They were literally ignoring me while prepping me for a major surgery. Hello, God, are you there?!

I feel the anaesthesia team poke my lower spine and look for the correct area of insertion. His finger pokes send me shivering even more. Oh God, how can my body be so much out of my control? I am talking to myself at this point. Gibberish only I can comprehend. Calm down, stop shaking, stop crying, this is normal, they do this on thousands of people, nothing will go wrong. The nurse on my side holds me and squeezes me trying to make me stop shaking. I feel a sharp pinch of the insertion of the epidural needle between the spinous processes of the lumbar vertebrae. But wait, they take the needle out again and I hear them go quiet. No one was talking now. I have a slight panic attack, I thought I might faint from shaking. The needle goes in me again. A short pause. The needle comes out. Again! The put the needle into my flesh and I feel the same pinching sensation. It’s deathly silent and I can hear the clock ticking loudly. I feel a warm tingle go down my right leg, as they quickly move away from me and tell me to lean back. The place a divider in front of my and start wiping my tummy with a cold liquid. I start to wiggle my toes. Is this supposed to happen? Shouldn’t I be numb now! I am panicking fully now!

What as they doing? The epidural has clearly not worked as I can move both of my legs. I see my doctor walk into the room holding up her clean hands.
“I can move my leg!” I shouted at the top of my lungs as my heart is beating nearly 200 bpm.
My doctor wheels around and looks dead into my eyes, “are you sure? raise your leg.”
I raise both my legs.
She flashes at the anaesthesia team and shouts, “what is the matter with you? Do it again and do it right, ” she shouts at them. I am raised up again and still shaking violently. My doctor holds me from the right side and speaks calming words to me. I feel the anaesthesia team move towards me quickly, poke my lower spine and insert the needle. Within 30 seconds I feel a deep warmth pass over both my of legs – as if i was lowered into a tub of hot water. I start wiggling my toes but I can’t wiggle them too much. They start to feel very heavy. I don’t know how long it took but very quickly my legs became hot and dead – I can no longer move it. Althought my bottom half was not in my control, my arms – tied down onto the bed- were still shaking. I am looking around frantically.
“Where’s my husband, ” I ask.
I am ignored.
“Nurse, please call my husband, I am very nervous, I am not feeling well,”
I am ignored.
“Excuse me brother, ” I call one of the anaesthesia doctors, “please can you call my husband I am very nervous.”
I see him move towards me with a needle full of light yellow liquid. He moves next to my left arms and pushes the liquid into my canola. I start to feel dizzy and lose ability to form a sentence.
The lights dim down and I feel sleepy.
I open my eyes again – I don’t know how long it’s been.
I see a tall black shadow next to my left.
I see Yousuf’s face.
I feel like vomiting. I drift into sleep again. I start shouting that I need to vomit.
I wake up again – seems like I have been sleeping for hours.
It’s dark and heavy in this sleep world. I have never been here before. I have no control of my thoughts. No consciousness. Am I dead?
What was only less than 45 minutes felt to me like 45 hours.
I open my eyes and see a small red face being held up to me. I try to kiss him. I can’t feel it. I fall back into my blackhole of silence.

The next time I wake up in my room with Baby Mansa by my side. My mother glowing and my husband looking exhausted beaming with happiness. We were safe and healthy, Baby Mansa and I.

I get to find out later from Yousuf that my amniotic fluid was very low and Baby Mansa had no vernix covering him. The fluid was thick. We did the right thing by deciding to do Caesarean. If we had waited and been adamant about NVD, we could have risked some serious distress on Baby Mansa. I am grateful to my team of doctors and nurses who took the best care of me in their realm of knowledge. It took my weeks to get my head straight and remember the details of that night – what a night to remember!

———-

Note: Although my doctor and I had planned for normal delivery for months, we are never sure of what happens in the end. I am so glad I did Caesarean. Lately, there have been many protests against cesearean and claiming that doctors are forcing c sections on women. Although we do not know the case of every individual women, we should never claim that doctors are doing their jobs only for money and greed. For example, every pregnant women goes through a BIOPHYSICAL PROFILE SCORE, if this score is low it indicates that foetus may be under stress. truth is, we can never be 100% sure what is exactly going on in the womb, but we have technology to show us what “may” be happening. so when this technology shows the womb or mother or baby is under distress, the doctor will take the best step to save mother and baby. we should never jump to conclusions. the best step forward is to educate ourselves and keep clear communication with the team of doctors and nurses. I am thankful to my team of doctors and nurses, who answered all my questions and did the best they could.

If you or some one you know would like to share your birth story please get in touch with me. I am looking to feature birth stories.

Thyroid Disorder and Holistic Healing

Thyroid Disfunction

Majority of thyroid dysfunction is caused by autoimmunity. Shockingly, many people with thyroid dysfunction don’t even know if their condition is autoimmune-related or not. This is because conventional doctors don’t routinely check for thyroid antibodies when testing thyroid blood levels. The important thing to know is that if you are experiencing thyroid dysfunction, there’s a good chance that it’s autoimmune, and I would recommend asking your doctor to check your thyroid antibodies next time she checks your thyroid blood levels.

So if the majority of thyroid dysfunction is caused by autoimmunity, what causes the autoimmunity in the first place? The answer is complex, but without a doubt, one of the biggest contributing factors is gluten. Gluten wreaks havoc on your gut, increases your inflammation, and can directly cause your immune system to attack your thyroid.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Alessio Fasano*, we know that leaky gut is one of the primary triggers for all autoimmune disease, including autoimmune thyroid disease. As you might guess by its name, leaky gut occurs when your gut (specifically your small intestine) becomes permeable, allowing particles to leak from your digestive tract and travel freely through your bloodstream.

When anyone, whether they have gluten sensitivity or not, eats a gluten-containing food, the gluten proteins make their way through the stomach and arrive at the small intestine, where the body responds by producing zonulin, a chemical that signals the tight junctions of the intestinal walls to open up, creating temporary permeability. This permeability will heal as the gut cells renew every 48 hours. However, if you have gluten sensitivity and you eat gluten, then this permeability will not heal in that 48 hours and your gut remains leaky. Leaky gut can also be caused or exacerbated by gut infections such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, medications such as antibiotics, steroids or birth control pills, as well as a high stress lifestyle. New research shows that spraying Glyphosate (Roundup) on the wheat is also a major contributor of leaky gut and gluten sensitivity.
Now that your small intestines are open and permeable this allows toxins, microbes, and partially digested food to leak into your bloodstream, your immune system goes on high alert to neutralize all of these threats. But, because your gut is still leaky, the threats just keep on coming, putting your body in a state of chronic inflammation and putting you on the path to develop an autoimmune disease (including thyroid dysfunction) as your immune system becomes so stressed and confused that it begins attacking your own tissue by mistake. Unfortunately, the gluten that caused your gut to become leaky makes it even more likely that you will develop thyroid dysfunction (autoimmune and non autoimmune), thanks to a phenomenon called molecular mimicry.

Gluten, Leaky Gut, and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Alessio Fasano*, we know that leaky gut is one of the primary triggers for all autoimmune disease, including autoimmune thyroid disease. As you might guess by its name, leaky gut occurs when your gut (specifically your small intestine) becomes permeable, allowing particles to leak from your digestive tract and travel freely through your bloodstream.
Gluten is one of the main causes of leaky gut in people that I see with thyroid issues and autoimmune diseases, and not just among Celiac patients, but in anyone with gluten sensitivity. When anyone, whether they have gluten sensitivity or not, eats a gluten-containing food, the gluten proteins make their way through the stomach and arrive at the small intestine, where the body responds by producing zonulin, a chemical that signals the tight junctions of the intestinal walls to open up, creating temporary permeability. This permeability will heal as the gut cells renew every 48 hours. However, if you have gluten sensitivity and you eat gluten, then this permeability will not heal in that 48 hours and your gut remains leaky. Leaky gut can also be caused or exacerbated by gut infections such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, medications such as antibiotics, steroids or birth control pills, as well as a high stress lifestyle. New research shows that spraying Glyphosate (Roundup) on the wheat is also a major contributor of leaky gut and gluten sensitivity.
Now that your small intestines are open and permeable this allows toxins, microbes, and partially digested food to leak into your bloodstream, your immune system goes on high alert to neutralize all of these threats. But, because your gut is still leaky, the threats just keep on coming, putting your body in a state of chronic inflammation and putting you on the path to develop an autoimmune disease (including thyroid dysfunction) as your immune system becomes so stressed and confused that it begins attacking your own tissue by mistake. Unfortunately, the gluten that caused your gut to become leaky makes it even more likely that you will develop thyroid dysfunction (autoimmune and non autoimmune), thanks to a phenomenon called molecular mimicry.

Molecular Mimicry, A Case of Mistaken Identity

Every time your body is exposed to a bacteria, virus, or other pathogen, your immune system memorizes its structure, specifically its protein sequence, so that it can recognize it in the future and mount a defense.
However, the immune system’s recognition system isn’t foolproof; as long as a molecule’s structure and protein sequences are similar enough, the immune system can be fooled into attacking look-a-like molecules that are actually your body’s tissue, causing autoimmune disease.

Unfortunately for the thyroid, it has a common doppelgänger that puts it at risk for rogue autoimmune attacks. You guessed it – gluten. What’s more, 50% of people with gluten sensitivity experience molecular mimicry with casein (a protein found in dairy). This is known as cross-reactivity, where you react not only to your original trigger, but also to another trigger that resembles the first one.

Thanks to the leaky gut that was originally caused by gluten, every time you eat gluten and dairy, their proteins are able to escape into your bloodstream, where they trigger an attack from your immune system. And, because of the molecular mimicry phenomenon, your thyroid tissues end up in the crosshairs as well.
Interestingly, your immune system’s attack can affect your thyroid in two completely different ways. In the case of autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease) your immune system’s attacks decrease thyroid functionality, so your metabolic processes slow down. In autoimmune hyperthyroid (Grave’s disease), the antibodies act like Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, causing your thyroid to overproduce its hormones and sending your metabolism into overdrive.
Even in patients who have non-autoimmune thyroid disease, the molecular mimicry phenomenon still impacts thyroid function, which is why is why it makes sense that patients with thyroid dysfunction remove gluten from their diet, even if they are not autoimmune.

How to Heal the Damage Caused by Gluten

The bottom line is, if you have a thyroid dysfunction, ditch gluten for good. Once you’ve eliminated them from your diet, your gut can begin to heal, your inflammation will decrease, and your body will slow and eventually stop its rogue attacks on your thyroid.

In addition to eliminating gluten, I recommend using functional medicine’s 4R approach to heal your leaky gut. The process involves

1. Removing other toxic and inflammatory foods, including gluten and dairy

2. Restoring the ingredients needed for proper digestion

3. Re-inoculating with healthy bacteria

4. Repairing the lining of your gut so that gluten and dairy proteins and other particles can no longer escape into your bloodstream and trigger molecular mimicry.

Thyroid Disfunction and Molecular Mimicry

Gluten, Leaky Gut, and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Alessio Fasano*, we know that leaky gut is one of the primary triggers for all autoimmune disease, including autoimmune thyroid disease. As you might guess by its name, leaky gut occurs when your gut (specifically your small intestine) becomes permeable, allowing particles to leak from your digestive tract and travel freely through your bloodstream.

 

Gluten is one of the main causes of leaky gut in people that I see with thyroid issues and autoimmune diseases, and not just among Celiac patients, but in anyone with gluten sensitivity. When anyone, whether they have gluten sensitivity or not, eats a gluten-containing food, the gluten proteins make their way through the stomach and arrive at the small intestine, where the body responds by producing zonulin, a chemical that signals the tight junctions of the intestinal walls to open up, creating temporary permeability. This permeability will heal as the gut cells renew every 48 hours. However, if you have gluten sensitivity and you eat gluten, then this permeability will not heal in that 48 hours and your gut remains leaky. Leaky gut can also be caused or exacerbated by gut infections such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, medications such as antibiotics, steroids or birth control pills, as well as a high stress lifestyle. New research shows that spraying Glyphosate (Roundup) on the wheat is also a major contributor of leaky gut and gluten sensitivity.

 

Now that your small intestines are open and permeable this allows toxins, microbes, and partially digested food to leak into your bloodstream, your immune system goes on high alert to neutralize all of these threats. But, because your gut is still leaky, the threats just keep on coming, putting your body in a state of chronic inflammation and putting you on the path to develop an autoimmune disease (including thyroid dysfunction) as your immune system becomes so stressed and confused that it begins attacking your own tissue by mistake. Unfortunately, the gluten that caused your gut to become leaky makes it even more likely that you will develop thyroid dysfunction (autoimmune and non autoimmune), thanks to a phenomenon called molecular mimicry.

 

Molecular Mimicry, A Case of Mistaken Identity

Every time your body is exposed to a bacteria, virus, or other pathogen, your immune system memorizes its structure, specifically its protein sequence, so that it can recognize it in the future and mount a defense.

 

However, the immune system’s recognition system isn’t foolproof; as long as a molecule’s structure and protein sequences are similar enough, the immune system can be fooled into attacking look-a-like molecules that are actually your body’s tissue, causing autoimmune disease. Unfortunately for the thyroid, it has a common doppelgänger that puts it at risk for rogue autoimmune attacks. You guessed it – gluten. What’s more, 50% of people with gluten sensitivity experience molecular mimicry with casein (a protein found in dairy). This is known as cross-reactivity, where you react not only to your original trigger, but also to another trigger that resembles the first one.

 

 

Thanks to the leaky gut that was originally caused by gluten, every time you eat gluten and dairy, their proteins are able to escape into your bloodstream, where they trigger an attack from your immune system. And, because of the molecular mimicry phenomenon, your thyroid tissues end up in the crosshairs as well.

 

Interestingly, your immune system’s attack can affect your thyroid in two completely different ways. In the case of autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease) your immune system’s attacks decrease thyroid functionality, so your metabolic processes slow down. In autoimmune hyperthyroid (Grave’s disease), the antibodies act like Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, causing your thyroid to overproduce its hormones and sending your metabolism into overdrive.

 

Even in patients who have non-autoimmune thyroid disease, the molecular mimicry phenomenon still impacts thyroid function, which is why I recommend that all of my patients with thyroid dysfunction remove gluten from their diet, even if they are not autoimmune.

Weight Scale Number Comparison

 

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Day before starting the strict Intermittent Fasting Program

 

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10th day of starting the strict Intermittent Fasting Program
Checking your weight can be a good thing if you understand what the numbers mean AND you are using a smart scale to truly analyse your body.
These numbers can be a good guidance that helps you tailor your own transformation program. NUMBERS SHOULD NEVER BE THE ONLY GUIDANCE YOU USE! Looking in the mirror is always a superior way to analyse your body and do aesthetic mapping – as I like to call it.
When I measure my clients, the numbers I focus on are the following:
1. Visceral fat points : the fat around your organs. this is the criminal and the fat you need to focus on. visceral fat releases toxins back into the blood, it stores the extra food you eat and is very responsive to insulin (carbs you eat). visceral fat causes your abdomen to bulge out. visceral fats causes your ab muscles to inflate out, weak and out of shape.
your goal should be to reduce visceral fat and keep it between 8 and 10.
2. Body fat percentage : roughly how much fat composition we are working with
3. Bone mineral density : very important for females. low density means you can easily get injured. women need to work on bone density as they age because you lose bone density quicker after age 30 – more hip pain and silly injuries that can easily be avoided.
Combining the understanding of all the numbers will help you understand what your body is composed of. Don’t just weigh yourself and get frustrated. Numbers mean something!
What bothers you about your transformation journey, where do you need help?
Talk to me below 🙂

Body Composition, Fat vs Muscle

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This is an important topic! Too many times women ask me, why does my weight not change? It all comes down to BODY COMPOSITION. This means what are you composed of- how much fat : muscle : bone : water etc If you are on a journey to become healthier, then shedding toxic body fat may be one of your goals. Body fat is not just fat where you hate it – it is a chemical balance. The body stores fat as energy and the body can burn fat as energy too – IF you teach it how.
 
  • Your body usually prefers to break down glucose. It is easier.
  • It will only break down fatty acids in the absence of glucose.
  • Glucose gives you 4 calories per gram. Fats give you 9 calories per gram.
  • If you have 11 kilograms of body fat, it basically means that you have 100,000 calories stored in your body, available to be burned.
  • You probably burn between 1800 and 2500 calories per day.
  • So basically you have stored energy for 50 days without eating anything.

But don’t go starving yourself just yet! Balancing hormones is key in unlocking fat from fat cells to be burned as fuel. Billions of fat cells exist in all body types, no matter their shape, sandwiched between the skin and muscle tissue. It’s not the amount of fat cells that dictate a person’s weight, though; it’s the size of them, which can fluctuate depending on how much fat they are storing. Read this to find out How Does Body Burn Fat

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Weight training and strength training WILL alter your body composition – this is a good thing! You need to change the composition of your body to less fat and more muscle. If you want to tone your body along with reducing toxic fat – this includes weight training that helps you gain lean muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat in less volume. So during weight training, you will lose fat and gain muscle. This is essentially what keeps the number on your weight scale from shifting first few weeks or months of your transformation journey.
This should not demotivate you! Why is muscle more important than fat ? Because —
  • muscle burns more calories
  • muscle needs more calories to sustain itself
  • muscle means means you will age injury free
  • muscle keeps you toned and lean
  • more muscle means increased metabolism
  • more muscle in lower body has been linked to improved brain performance and longer life
  • etc !
Good news is, women are high in estrogen and low in testosterone. This means weight training will NOT make you look bulky like men. So get to those weights fast.
 
How long does it take to see changes in the number scale?
  1. it depends on your specific body type and metabolism and health history
  2. it doesn’t really matter because you need to focus on changing body composition rather than lowering the number on the scale.
So how do you know if your program is working for you?
  1. Check your dress size
  2. Monitor your energy levels
  3. monitor your sleeping patterns
  4. monitor your cravings
  5. note general increase in quality of life
Your metabolism will take time to shift – about 3 – 6 weeks. You can not see changes unless you are following a precise workout routine. Just eating will help you balance hormones and improve gut health (very important during shedding toxic body fat); but exercise is what will truly speedy up the process of burning the fat out of your body.
 
So don’t be upset if you are not seeing results in 4 to 8 weeks of starting a new program. Every body is different and will require specific tweaking to find the metabolism sweet spot.
 
Ignore the dumb scale. It only shows you how much you weight in relation to gravity of the Earth. To truly understand your body composition you need a smart scale and a very smart coach to show you the correct path 😉

How Does Body Burn Fat

Billions of fat cells exist in all body types, no matter their shape, sandwiched between the skin and muscle tissue. It’s not the amount of fat cells that dictate a person’s weight, though; it’s the size of them, which can fluctuate depending on how much fat they are storing.

So how does this build up of fatty deposits get broken down when you’re working on losing weight? Put simply, it involves a biochemical process, which converts these space-demanding molecules in fat cells into usable energy.

The entire process begins once you start to increase activity levels and reduce calorie intake; calories indicate how much potential energy is in certain foods. By consuming fewer calories than you’re burning, the body will react to the reduction of available energy by producing fat-mobilising hormones, which in turn signal important enzymes, which help break down fat reserves for more energy.

The key enzyme in this process is lipase. Lipase stimulates fat cells so that they release triglycerides (the form of fat within the fat cell). Each triglyceride molecule is then broken down into glycerol and three fatty acids. The glycerol is broken down further by the liver to release energy, while the free fatty acids are transported directly to muscles via the bloodstream. The enzyme lipoprotein lipase helps the muscle cells absorb the fatty acids, which can be burned for extra energy.

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This image is not owned by marinafarook.com

Why does losing weight quickly leave you with excess skin?

Skin is incredibly elastic, so in most cases you can expect it to ping back and fit snugly around your new body shape once you’ve lost weight. This is all thanks to a protein called collagen. Collagen enables the skin to stretch, which is why it’s so important as we grow. However, collagen fibres will weaken over time, resulting in wrinkles as we age.

The production of collagen can also be slow, especially when it comes to sudden weight gain or growth, which in turn leads to overstretched skin as well as noticeable stretch marks. As a result of this, significant or very quick weight loss can often leave you with overhanging, excess skin that can only be removed by a surgical procedure.

Losing weight slowly, with a balance of good food and exercise, can help minimise the risk of loose skin, so don’t rush into shedding stones with a quick-fix crash diet.

What is in Your Fragrance?

How often have you looked at the ingredients label for a skin care or makeup product and was baffled by how to pronounce the crazy long names? They’re usually the names of chemicals that have been mixed together for the formula, and it’s hard to tell what exactly they’re made of straight from the ingredients label, or what they do to you.
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Photo credit : Gmo Gus
Don’t be so quick to purchase something “high end” or “in trend” or “western” products thinking they are using the best products on the market. Most cases, that is wrong!
Once you start looking for it, you’ll quickly realize this toxic mix of ingredients known as “fragrance” is added to nearly every product on the market, from laundry detergent to dish soap, shampoo to all-purpose cleaning spray, candles, perfumes, deodorant and even tampons.
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photo credit : Dr Axe
Toxins entering your body through cosmetics are being stored inside your fat cells. These fat cells release the toxins back into your body, which imbalances hormones, imbalances gut flora and much more.
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If you’re wondering why this is allowed to happen just know that as of 2009, the EU has banned 1328 chemicals from being put into their personal care items. In contrast, as of 2018, the US has banned only 30. Its cheaper for companies to use these ingredients. It always comes back to money. Now if you’re saying to yourself, “no way would the U.S. be that behind,” we totally understand because we did too
We wanted to get a better grasp on what’s going on and why the US isn’t stepping up. Throughout our research we’ve found that the biggest difference between the EU and US is that the EU bans chemicals in a way that is preventative. They begin taking measures to ban a chemical as soon as there is evidence of its harm. The US on the other hand has a higher expectation of evidence showing the harm of the chemical before they put any regulations on it. This obviously can take time and can be difficult to produce, thus limiting their ability to begin shutting its use down before it’s way too late.
Doesn’t the US Government Protect My Products?
Well, not really. A strong example of how the US fails to take action against toxins in our cosmetics is in the case of talc. Its soft texture and ability to absorb moisture make it a popular ingredient to use in conventional cosmetic products. But these perks come with a huge dangerous downer – talc is often contaminated with asbestos, a substance that has been directed linked to causing cancer and a whole range of lung issues. The EU reacted to this link by adding talc to their no list for cosmetics. However, the US FDAcan’t take action against a chemical unless they have “sound scientific data to show that it is harmful under its intended use,” even though they also say that they cannot prove that cosmetics with talc in them are completely sans asbestos! That means you could unknowingly be putting asbestos on your skin right now, but the FDA can’t do anything about it until they obtain proof – in other words, it’ll be way too late.
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photo credit : 100% pure cosmetic
Ok, So FDA is to Blame.
While we all want to perhaps point fingers at the FDA, they themselves complained that they are not allowed much independence when it comes to putting regulations on cosmetics. They note that because there is no requirement for companies to report adverse side effects of products, it limits the FDA’s effectiveness as it slows the process of hearing about chemicals that are hurting people. There’s a lot more in this letter that helps shed light on how they aren’t to be solely blamed and is worth a read. Because of this, you very well may be putting formaldehyde – another known human carcinogen – on yourself while hoping to pretty up your nails. That’s right, formaldehyde can be found in conventional nail polishes.
Who can we hold Accountable for these dangers?
So, if not the FDA, who? It appears Congress is partly at fault. Even though they’ve updated the FDA’s ability to regulate other type of products, they haven’t done so for cosmetics since 1938. We think that’s pretty bonkers. If Congress were to update it, companies would be required to register their products with the FDA, thereby allowing them to approve the ingredients for being safe or kick them to the curb if they aren’t. Without this in place, companies can pick and choose whatever chemicals they want in their stuff without anyone keeping an eye on it. You might be thinking to yourself that there are no safety guidelines for cosmetics, but they actually do exist, it’s just that companies aren’t legally bound to adhere to them. Sounds pretty crazy!
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photo credit : 100% pure cosmetic
What about Canada?

Canadian cosmetics regulations, like European Union regulations, are much stricter than those in the United States.

Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, regularly reviews the safety of cosmetic ingredients and prohibits or restricts the use of ingredients that present health risks, according to their website.  The Canadian government regularly updates a Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist that includes hundreds of chemicals and contaminants prohibited and restricted from use in cosmetics such as formaldehyde, triclosan, selenium, nitrosamines and 1,4-dioxane — all of which are allowed in U.S. products.

In addition, cosmetic manufacturers, by law, are prohibited from selling cosmetics that contain ingredients that present a hazard to the health of Canadians; must disclose all cosmetic ingredients to Health Canada; and are required to register their products. Labeling requirements that went into effect in 2006 require ingredient lists to appear on all cosmetic product labels. Increased disclosure is making choosing safe products easier for Canadian consumers.

What about Europe?

The European Union, now 28 countries strong, has more stringent and protective laws for cosmetics than the United States. The hazard-based, precautionary approach of the EU acknowledges that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects simply don’t belong in cosmetics – regardless of the concentration of the chemical being used.

The United States has much to learn from the EU example. The EU Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) was adopted in January 2003 and most recently revised in 2013.  The EU law  bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.  In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics. Unlike the United States, EU law requires pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes.

Back to understanding “Fragrance”

Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, we do know that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Clearly, there is a need for stronger regulations, more research, and greater transparency.

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photo credit: Natural Blaze

FOUND IN: Most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma.

WHAT IS FRAGRANCE? Fragrance is defined by the FDA as a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. Companies that manufacture perfume or cologne purchase fragrance mixtures from fragrance houses (companies that specialize in developing fragrances) to develop their own proprietary blends. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives, and dyes. MORE…

HEALTH CONCERNS: The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds.[1] Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.

A 2016 study assessed self-reported health effects from fragrance. This survey of a random sample of US residents found that 99.1% of participants are exposed to fragranced products at least once a week from their own use, others’ use, or both. Participants also reported an extensive list of health effects experienced when exposed to fragrance ranging from migraines and asthma to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular problems. The findings showed that a high percentage of the participants did not know of the chemicals included in fragrance and would not continue to use a fragranced product if they had previously known it emitted pollutants.[2]

Acetaldehyde: Acetaldehyde adversely affects kidneys and the reproductive, nervous and respiratory systems.[3] This chemical is listed as known or suspected to cause cancer in California’s Proposition 65.[4] Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program classify acetaldehyde as potentially carcinogenic to humans.[5], [6]

Benzophenone: Benzophenone is linked to endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity,[7] and experimental studies suggest benzophenone may lead to several kinds of tumors.[8] Derivatives of benzophenone, such as benzophenone-1 (BP-1) and oxybenzone (BP-3), are potential endocrine disruptors.[9]Benzophenone is listed as a possible human carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.[10]MORE…

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: All, especially pregnant women, infants

REGULATIONS:  Current laws do not provide the FDA with the authority to require disclosure or public safety of fragrance ingredients. In the U.S., companies are required to list ingredients on the label; however, this regulation excludes the individual constituents of fragrance in order to preserve fragrance trade secrets. This sustains a loophole that leads to disclosure gaps.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) develop and set voluntary standards for chemicals in the “fragrance” component of products. The US, Canada, and Europe rely on IFRA and RIFM to identify ingredients for use in fragrance. In effect, this means the international Fragrance industry is self-regulating.

HOW TO AVOID: Read labels and avoid products when no information is given other than “fragrance”.

Is there any Solution?
The solution is to find cleaner and more natural products that use essential oils as fragrance or a product that is fragrance free. Vote with your dollar / money, check labels or even make your own products if possible. We must also hold these companies accountable. Ask the company if they are using safe ingredients. If companies are using safe ingredients, then they should want you to know that. If they won’t fully explain how their products are scented, it’s likely a red flag.
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