Yesterday Shaun and I got up at 4 a.m. to head to Kittery, Maine in the snow looking for some answers as to what was going on with me metabolically. We got answers in the form of nine pages of laboratory test results, which confirmed some things I suspected and brought some new issues to light.

First off I have a pretty severe gluten sensitivity/allergy. “Normal range” for gluten sensitivity is less than 10 Units and I’m at 29 (the “units” are based on the amount of antibody detected). This doesn’t mean I’m a Celiac, you can only diagnose Celiacs Disease with an upper endoscopy, but it does tell me two things: (1) There’s a good chance I am a Celiac; and (2) I should not eat any gluten, at all, ever. I also learned that I have a sensitivity to cow’s milk (casein) and that I also need to eliminate all dairy from my diet. In good news on the food sensitivity front I don’t have issues with eggs or soy (the not having issues with eggs makes me very happy). Both the gluten and casein sensitivities are genetic so there’s absolutely nothing I can do about them other than eliminate those food items from my diet.

Other than food sensitivities I have other underlying issues. I have very high BUN and BUN/Creatinine Ratios which are indicative of systematic inflammation. I’ve known I have a very bad inflammatory response for a while, but this confirms it. I also learned that while my thyroid is A-Okay, there is an issue with my liver, which is inhibiting my body from converting the T4 hormone my thyroid produces into the T3 hormone it needs to function properly (in order for the body to utilize T4 produced in the thyroid, it must first be converted into T3 in the liver). Its likely that my inflammation is a result of poor liver function as well. The liver issue, while unexpected, makes sense. During my  last physical my liver numbers looked off and my nurse practitioner ordered some follow up tests. Everything was inconclusive so she took the wait and see approach. It looks like all of these things may be connected. While I don’t have any vitamin deficiencies and my cholesterol and blood sugar looked good, there is an immune system issue — I have low neutrophils and high lymph numbers. A neutrophil is a type of mature white blood cell while lymphocytes are a different type of white blood cell. The low neutrophil number coupled with the high lymphocyte number is an indication that I am dealing with a long term low grade viral infection — likely something I’ve had for a very long time. Finally my cortisol numbers are off (big surprise there). My early morning cortisol is too low and then instead of dropping throughout the course of the day it remains almost steady. The low morning cortisol is likely related to my inability to sleep through the night.

Now the big question (or rather two big questions) — What does this all mean and how do I feel? To answer the first question it means I need to make some dietary changes and get treatment for some of the under lying issues. I made the decision to to enter into a six month treatment plan with Jeff Donatello (I get to drive back to Maine on Monday for my initial treatment visit)and I am also considering using biofeedback / neurofeedback theraphy in addition to metabolic therapy. Neither of these treatments is inexpensive and choosing to do them both will cost just over $10,000 as neither is covered by insurance. The success rate for treatment is about 80% and I’m very curious as to how things will progress over the next six months. With regard to the second question, I don’t know. My therapist asked me if knowing this isn’t my fault makes me feel better. I think there is a difference between knowing and accepting. I have believed for so long that I did this to myself (and have been repeatedly told by people close to me that I “ruined my body with triathlon”) that it is going to take some time to reach acceptance. For know, I am excited about beginning treatment and hopeful that it will bring about some positive results.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

4 Comments

Kristen L @ DYL · January 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

Glad you are finally getting some answers and have some steps to move forward. I know its tough to deal with medical issues, but I hope your treatment plan helps move you in the right direction of feeling better.

Joan · January 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I hope they figure things out. I always wish people the best of health, but in your care I really mean it, Love Aunt Joan

Lisa · January 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Glad you’re getting some answers!! Sounds like you’ve found a road to (some) recovery; I’ll be interested to see how you feel!

Victoria · February 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I realize this post is about a month old, but I just stumbled across your blog and found this post yesterday. I, too, had low T3 levels for a while, and it’s very frustrating to deal with because it isn’t an actual thyroid problem. I was on supplementation for a while, but recently started seeing a new endocrinologist who took me off it. Still no definitive answers, which is really frustrating. I hope they figure out what is causing your issues soon!

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