Crossfit do’s and don’ts

I’ve been practicing Crossfit for over 2 years now and i wanted to share some of my experience and things i would have liked to have known prior to starting Crossfit. So here goes:

Value technique over intensity

During a wod and in the box it’s very easy to go into the redzone and try to lift or do more than what you’re are used to or capable of. Especially in the beginning when you see a lot of athletes going at it.

My advice: start slow, scale everything (even if you think you don’t need it), feel the exercises, give your brain and neurological system enough time to adapt and focus on training rather than exercise. Go lighter with most of the drills and when you feel good try to do a bit more. But the first half year (depending on how much you practice) don’t worry about RX or going all out, focus more on technique, it will help you in the long run.

Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout

I recently saw a documentary about marathon athletes in kenia and they mentioned that they usually don’t train at 100%, just between 70-80% because there is no point in doing so. You just wear out your body . In Crossfit you always see people going all in and over, redlining their body. And although that’s good at times, what you usually see (youtube, tv, netflix) are athletes that workout 6 times a week 2 to 3 times a day. And when they train they also don’t go over 100% all the time.

For myself, especially the first year i loved going all in and getting exhausted but i was also just workout twice a week and wanted to get the most out of it. But focussing less on RX and more on technique, rythm, more quality reps than weight, breathing etc.. helps a lot.

And luckily not all WOD’s are Hero’s WODs, at least at my box, but also focus on pure technique, endurance, etc… thus not having to go all out all the time. It’s also better for your body, especially when you are a bit older, which needs to recover less which means you’ll be fitter the next workout.

Value mobility over weight

I’m not very mobile in Crossfit terms, my hip-flexors, shoulders and especially my ankle’s are tight so overhead squating, pistol squats, front squats, snatches are all movements i can’t really do well or with a lot of weight. My deskjob doesn’t help either.

Mobility in itself is, in my view, a very underrated part of the Crossfit level 1 course. And when coaching it’s something to be very aware of because people tend to put too much weight on the bar when not having proper technique and mobility which causes injury.

I’m trying to improve my mobility which takes time and effort (and i could be doing more) and it has helped to a certain extent. My front squat max was 90kg but recently i did 5 paused front squats with 90kg, mainly because i stayed upright more so less strain on my back. Also my overhead squat improved a little (with weight).

So being more mobile helps with a lot of things and i think i would have liked to have gotten more pointers on this subject from the start. There’s tons of youtube video’s and resources about mobility but remember, a lot of the people in those video’s assume you have the room, asseccories and time to do this quite often and/or are very mobile themselves which they sometimes forget and make things sound easy.

So when your start to do Crossfit start working on your mobility to get more out of the workouts. Or just start working on your mobility anyways.

Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)

Foamroallers are great, painfull, but great. After a workout it’s a great idea to give your muscles and surrounding tissue a massage. Foam rollers are perfect for that and will help recovery. It’s not as easy as it sometimes look but also not so difficult as some might tell you.

For me the calves, lats (side of your body under the should joint) and the front of my quadriceps are the places to hit. But my advice is to buy one to use at home, they are not expensive, and use them from the start. Maybe not after every workout and also simply on an off ‘workout’ day.

ps: a tennisball is also a great accessory to have (or a lacrossball) for really deep tissue massage

Value and extra resting day over an extra workout

It’s very temping to do another great WOD and to put your body to the test but when you just start and/or are a older it’s better to have an extra day of (active) recovery. It doesn’t mean you can’t do something but keep it light and combine it with stretching/mobility. Running (slowly) a few km’s, riding a bike, doing a 20 minute mobily routine works wonders.

You have to live with your body the rest of your life and our body needs rest and time to recover as well. Beginning with Crossfit you will feel all kinds of aches and musclepain so don’t start of with working out 5 to 6 times a week but give your body (and mind) time to increase the amount of workouts over a period.

Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Basically all my points above have to do with the ‘intensity’ part of Crossfit. You have to remember that it’s not about the Rich Froning or Matt Frasier intensity (which is what we usually see) but about your relative intensity. Meaning what’s appropriate and challenging for you.

When working out it easy to get caught up in the hype of the workout nd the other athletes trying to outdo eachother. And it’s good to have those ‘voices’ challenging you, they might take you to places you never thought possible and break your own PR. But remember, especially when you start, listen to your own body more. Because when you start you don’t know what your capabilities are yet, take time to get to know them and go a bit harder every workout.

People have a tendency to, even when they are not feeling well or are just recovering from a flew or injury, wave things off. “I’ll j ust have to get through it and i’ll be okay” is what you often hear. But as a coach i would say:

  • If you’ve just been sick, stay at home for at least an extra day after you tell yourself that you are ok, and do a mobility workout. Often the joints are stiff from mying still or not moving as much as you are used to.
  • If you’ve just recovered from an injury, do at least a few weeks of very light weight and slow down the reps. See the aftereffect and if there are no negative effects, add just a little more.

To summarize

  • Value technique over intensity
  • Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout
  • Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)
  • Value mobility over weight
  • Value and extra resting day over an extra workout
  • Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Final thoughts

I love Crossfit, but i also need my body for at least 50 years to come. Doing crossfit, or doing cross functional workouts helps with that. But the other half of the coin is being able to manager your body, and the mantra ‘less is more’ is very appropriate. With the above tips you’ll have a better chance of succes. Ultimatly it’s up to you to balance yourself with all things you do in life.

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 5

Here’s an update since my last blog and i want to tell you about stuff that has happened and about the some symptoms which i wasn’t sure about.

Sleeping

Sleeping was/is still a bit of a problem, which is often a precursor to poor health, and i often wake up somewhere between 2 and 3 in the night. Then it often takes a while before i fall asleep. Recently i even slept very poorly three days in a row, only about 3 to 4 hours. After which i got a bad cold which luckily only last for 2 days.

And because of that i went to see the doctor and asked for some bloodwork including B12 and iron. I knew from previous bloodwork that my body doesn’t really absorb B12 well so i’m taking B12 shots every other month. The results were a bit disappointing:

  • B12 was >160 pmol/L. The normal reference value is somewhere between 146-582 pmol/ for my age. So it’s on the low end
  • TSH: 0.45, also on the low end since the reference value is 0,4 and 2,0 mU/l
  • FT4: 18.4, this was a bit scary because this means that the value has gone up a bit every time i tested this.

It could also be stress related but the last week i slept much better. Can’t really pinpoint as to why but maybe because i started eating a bit more and/or because my wife gave a mist diffusor which sits next to my bed. For now i’ll take it!

Appointment with endicronologist

Last week i also had to take my 3 months bloodwork for the endicronologist and the results were good to my surprise.

  • TSH was 0.54 which is up quite a bit from a few weeks ago
  • FT4 was 16.8 which was down from a few weeks ago

So these results were uplifting and the endicronologist was happy as well and mentioned that the results can vary depending on the time of day the test was taken. But still, the last time lasted 2 years without a problem so i’m cautiously optimistic.

Weight

As i told earlier my weight (or fast loss of) is often a first symptom of trouble so i weigh myself almost daily. The good news it’s sort of stable around 95 kg. In the morning it’s 94 and at night it’s about 95.5 – 96. The thing that worries me is that i can’t seem to gain weight so i started looking at my diet and i think i simply eat too little during the workweek.

The food that i eat is healthy and i need around 2500-2800 cal but i think i only get something between 2200-2300. What i started doing the past 2 weeks going is simply eat more and i added:

  • 1 avocado with a few crackers for breakfast befor my normal breakfast (nuts/seeds/glutenfree oatmeal/linesead/banana/soja yoghurt)
  • 3/4 glutenfree sandwhiches for around 10:00
  • a piece of fruit at around 15:00

It’s always tricky to attribute better sleeping and good results to this change but my weight has gone up slightly (+1 kg)

The other thing i’m trying is a proteinshake for after workouts to see if i can recuperate faster. Don’t know if it helps but it seems that i have less muscle strain.

Creatine (vs Goatcheese)

Another thing i wanted to try is creatine to see if it would give me a bit more energy and better results when working out. Now as i wrote in an earlier blog i skip all dairy, but sometimes i try a bit of hard goatcheese and i took some during the same time i started using creatine. I got a stomach-ache which kept me awake 1 night (and had to skip the Lowlands Throwdown Crossfit qualifier :-().

Now, i can remember that i had this type of stomach-ache 1 or 2 times around the same time i ate some goatcheese. But it could also be the creatine, however literature states that you get stomach-ache from creatine immediatly and this one only started a week after. So my money is on goatcheese, which is weird because an allergy test didn’t show this.

Final note

So as always i’m continuously experimenting with all sorts of stuff. I think that’s the only sound thing you can do because everyone is different and reacts differently to different things. But getting a clear relation between cause and effect is difficult. I’ll try this for a few months and i will write a blog to tell you about my experiences untill then.

My Favorite Sci-Fi series, Part II

Here is a follow up of my previous blog about sci-fi series that influenced me and/or made me think about certain topics differently. Below is the list from when i was around 18 untill now.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

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For me this show was magic, it had great characters, for that time pretty good special effects (certainly the last season) and some of the best and original stories i’ve seen. One that springs to mind is where Picard is trapped in a mind-prison where he experiences a whole lifetime without aging in the realword, that was a mindf*#k. Also the positive attitude towards society was hopefull and it often touched upon social issues like age, race and gender.

It also for me was the show when one of the leading characters was killed (Tasha), don’t know if that was unique at that time but it was for me. And who can forget the Borg who set the stage for the first STNG movie. The story-arc of the Borg was intense and had a big space battle at the end. So many things pop to mind but i don’t think when you watch it now that a lot of episodes are worthwhile. But in my mind it’s still one of the great sci-fi shows of all time.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

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In the beginning this show was quite hard to get used to, not the enterprise, a wormhole, no ‘engage’. And i think the first few seasons had its ups and downs but also contained some of the best episodes of any show i can remember.

This show really took of when they encountered an alien race on the other side of the wormhole called the Dominion and set of the rest of the seasons which ended in a huge space battle which still looks great today. And the characters like Odo, O’Brian and Dax really grew on me.

Babylon 5

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This is a bit of a strange show in the beginning with characters overacting a bit and similair to the premise of Star Trek Deep Space 9. But what was great about it was the continues implicit threat of the ‘Shadows’, the complex storytelling and the use of religion, prophecies, politics, social and racials issues in relation to choices the characters make.

It also contained sort of good special effects as most of it was CGI (space scenes) which was new for that time. But it was very addictive.

Space: Above and Beyond

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This show only ran for 1 season and stayed with me because of its grityness (if that’s a word) and the constant threat and pressure the main characters were under.

The ending was sudden due to poor ratings and left the main characters, dead, injured or missing in action. It reminds me a bit of Starship Trookers without the Paul Verhoeven touch.

Farscape

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By far the weirdest show in this list and maybe in all sci-fi but once you got hooked it is a great ride. It starts of in a Buck Rogers-way with the main character getting stranded on the other side of the universe. Then it’s, sort of, all about getting back home with the help of the (living) Leviathan ship called Moya and it’s crew.

The quirky characters with their deep and rich backgrounds (and i had a small crush on Claudia Black) and the influence of the Jim Henson Company with the (large)puppets, made this a fantastic show and thanks to the fanbase this is one of the first shows that got a finale season after it got cancelled, in the form of a mini-series (Peacekeeper wars).

Stargate SG-1

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Stargate originally started as a movie with Kurt Russel and this show followed the story from the movie. It lasted 10 seasons (to many people’s surprise) i don’t think i watched every episode but the combination of Egyptian history/culture and the stargate which can take you all over the universe allows for fascinating storytelling.

Also Richard (McGyver) Dean Anderson as the main character was fantastic with his sense of humor, wit and leadership-vibe. The last few season saw two characters from Farscape make their introduction. Ben Browder and Claudia Black (still a small crush). Newer spin-offs never reached this level.

Battlestar Galactica

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When i first saw the announcement of this show i was hopefull of something good. When i saw the premier (of the miniseries) i was blown away. This reincarnation puts way more focus on social and political issues. The characters evolve during the seasons from likeable to hatable and back. I think a lot of people were critical because Starback was portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, but in my opinion she was perfectly cast. Edward James Olmos (for me stil the captain from Miami Vice) was a fantastic Adama.

With the threat of the cyclons (new style) looming around every corner the show created an intense atmosphere and focussed on the effect that it had on the survivors which form a society with upper, middle and lowerclass citizens.

The style of filming the space scenes, with the shaking camera view (which they got from Babylon 5) made it more realistic and the design of the ships was very well thought out without loosing too much of the original designs. Most critizism came with the ending of the show, i won’t say what but if you like the Lost ending, you’ll like it.

The Expanse

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I picked up the first Expanse book and i was hooked right away and read all of them as soon as they came out. So i was excited when the ScyFy channels made this into a show and it hasn’t disappointed yet. This show was also saved by fans and Amazon picked it up which is great because they can spend a good amount of money to make a descent show with great special FX.

It’s a bit getting used to when you’ve read the books but the cast is great and Thomas Jane as detective Miller is a perfect fit. The space scene’s are filmed in the same style as Battlestar Galactica with the shaky camera and the show is praised for it’s realistic use of physics. I just finished watching season 4 and is seems that each season it gets better with the cast really finding their groove. If you are a scifi lover, don’t miss this one!

Honerable Mention

  • Firefly: didn’t really know it after i saw the movie adaptation called Serenity but a fun, western, cowboy style series.
  • Falling Skies: an apocalyptic ‘after-invasion’ series following a band of survivors, it had it’s ups and downs but overall worth it.
  • 100: started out as a teen sci-fi show but has grown tremendously the last seasons. Hope they don’t prolong the show too much but end on a high note.

Writing this blog almost makes me want to get all the Blu ray boxes of the shows mentioned above and in my previous blog. But that is very expensive and unfortunatly they are not on any streaming service (yet). Furthermore three news items regarding this topic:

  1. I hear Amazon is making Larry Nivens’ Ringworld novels into a series but that’s been two years ago. The books are great and full of ideas so it’s a hard thing to do right.
  2. Battlestar Galactica is getting a reboot, which they say is not a remake but what it will be….we’ll see
  3. I am an avid Dune fan (just reread all novels last year and amazing how relevant it still is today with regards to environment and politics) so i’m hoping for a great Dune movie out later this year. In additional they are making a Bene Gesserit series that ties directly into the movie. There is a lot of material to draw from, hopefully they

It was fun to write this (and previous) blog, sort of a trip down (long and short term) memory lane. Let’s see if my kids will enjoy some of the shows when they get a bit older.

My Favorite Sci-Fi series, Part I: The early years

Last night i watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard and i thought it was amazing, great acting by Patrick Stewart and high production value, intriguing plot and lots of fun and nostalgic references to Star Trek: The Next Generation (STNG). It got me thinking about the reasons why i’m into sci-fi and what influenced me. Besides the fact that my father took me to E.T. and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes at a very young age (before i was 10) there were also some, at least in my mind and memory, great sci-fi shows that steered me towards sci-fi and i wanted to write a blog about it so here goes.

Here are my top favorite sci-fi shows (incl. Cartoons) from when i was a kid:

Starfleet

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This show somehow laid the foundation for my love for sci-fi and as a young kid i was fascinated by it. It had everything, vehicles that could join to create a robot (dai-x), a cool spaceship (X-bomber), relatable characters, a great story, and, in hindsight quite some emotional depth. Also Queens’ gitarist Brian May wrote a song for (or about) his show.

I actually bought the Blu-ray set a few years back and it still resonated with me. Sure, the FX were a bit dated but i felt like that kid again. With all the CGI animated shows nowadays i wonder how my kids would react to it, so i think i might give it a go.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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This show was part of a sunday morning show called ‘Cartoon Network’ with the great Ray Cokes as host and i just loved the vehicles, classic good vs evil, and a story about a kid in search for his father. The characters were also fun to watch and the tune of the show was very catchy. Although i think i lost track of the overall story arc at one point and can’t quite remember how it ended, it still remains a favorite.

Ulysses 31

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This show was great for a few reasons but the combination of greek mythology (although at the time i wasn’t quite aware of it) and sci-fi was brilliant. And especially the story and the mood of the show was mesmorizing, you almost felt the pain and suffering of the punishment the main character had to face.

I think i saw the ending but can’t remember it clearly but again, hearing the tune brings back memories. This is a show that could be made into a great movie.

Transformers

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No sci-fi list is complete without Transformers. Although there have been many reincarnations the original is still the greatest in terms of storylines and likeble and relatable characters. The ending story with unicron and the ‘death’ of Optimus Prime was chilling and great. And i’d recognize the transform-sound anywhere.

I think i watched Transformers Beast Wars later in life but it lacked the vibe of the original. Last year though there was an online youtube reincarnation which was quite good and was a continuance of where the original show left of in CGI form including the original characters such as Megatron and Starscream and Soundwave.

Robotech

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Together with the anime Akira and Neon Genesis: Evangelion, this show sucked me into the anime/manga type series. I remember coming home from middleschool, running upstairs and turning on the small TV in my parents room to watch this show. The ships and vehicles were amazing, the fighters and the SDF-1 (main battleship) that could transform were great.

But the overall story-arc behind show is what made it great and it had everything, laugther, exitement, romantic involvement, death, loss. So i think it was a series with lots of ‘adult’ themes. And i think for me this was the first show where not everything ended up well. But have a look yourself.

They made a full movie of the series and there were a few follow up series, some good, some not so. If you want to know about the history click here. There was talk about an actual real-life movie and there seems some progress so i’m hoping this will work but hopefully more faithfull to the series than Michael Bay did with Transformers.

Space: 1999

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The thing is when i started writing this blog, this old serie kept popping up in my mind. I have no clear recollection of it except for the fact that it somehow stayed with me. So should it be on this list? Maybe not but it had an influence and it’s my list :-).

Battlestar Galactica

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The first time i came into contact with this show was at a friends house who’s father had a bootleg VHS tape of the movie. And after watching that i was hooked. Especially with regards to the design of the Galactica which is basically a redesigned aircarft carrier in space. But i remember making a model of it with my Lego at that time and that kept me busy for hours.

The serie itself was full of great characters like Adama and Starbuck and the cylons were both haunting and fascinating with their robot voices saying ‘by your command‘. This version of the show ended i think with the ‘death’ of Starbuck and had a follow up series where they found Earth but i couldn’t bare watching it.

ps: the new incarnation is also one of my favorites but that’s for part II of this blog.

Honerable mentions

  • Neon Genesis: Evangelion: like many anime, very weird, sometimes dark and usually about a father and a son and lots of psychological aspects. Plus the robot design and main theme were fantastic.
  • Blake’s 7: this was a show from early in my childhood, can’t remember much but was one of the first real-life sci-fi show i saw.
  • Thundercats: man/woman-cats/tigers with cool tech and a great tune, ‘thundercats hooo’!

If you grew up in the eighties the list from IMDB is great for nostalgia purposes.

Next time i’ll tell you about the sci-fi series that got to me later on in life. So what were your favorite sci-fi series from your childhood?

Netflix Health Documentaries

Due to my battle with graves disease i’m trying to read related papers, blogs, etc…and watch youtube video’s. I came across a ‘teaser’ for the Netflix documentary The Game Changer and decided to watch it. Based on that, Netflix recommended me ‘What the health‘ and ‘Heal‘. After watching these 3 documentaries i had some thoughts i wanted to write down and share.

The Game Changer

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This documentary caught my attention because of the people involved and focussed on the question ‘do you need meat for your protein’ with an emphasis on athletisism. The conclusion was ‘absolutely not’, animals get their protein from plants and simply are a ‘vessel’ to transfer protein to us through the products we make of and are produced by animals. Let’s take out the middleman/animal and start eating plants ourselves.

There was loads of starpower involved with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Chan, etc.. It had some great points regarding the marketing power of meat and related industries how and that came about. The story about the fire-department and how changes in diet helped them, was well told. But in all honesty, getting Americans to eat a bit more vegetables and spend less time at fast food places would also have done the job (to a certain point).

Unfortunatly it didn’t go into the nutritional value of fish, just that due to pollution fish could be unhealthy. But the interviews with people from the medical and scientific field were very informative. Well made and very inspiring. Although don’t think that people like Arnold don’t enjoy a nice piece of steak now and again.

Heal

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This is more of an esotherical documentary about the power of the mind in relation to health and sickness. It showed some powerfull stories of people with diseases and/or problems. If you don’t believe in this stuff, you can still appreciate the documentary and how things are told. But if you’re looking for scientific validation of the body-mind hypothesis, then this is not the documentary you’re looking for.

What the Health

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This documentary focussed more on the ‘ethical’ aspect of the food, and specifically, the meat industry and you get shown some pretty grewsome footage and some astounding political and financial entanglement of the organisations that should be protecting the consumers. But also some inspiring stories of (sick) people who started to cut meat and other animals products from their diet and the changes that occured.

It touched on most of the same points that the Game Changer documentary had, like ‘do you need meat’, so it felt a bit like a deja-vu. But i was more fascinated by the political aspect and showed (just like John Oliver often does) that at least in America the so called trusted organizations are not as indepedent as they might seem and have a conflict of interest. But research and science require money and that sometimes makes for ‘strange’ bedfellows’.

And i think this might be one of the most critized documentaries, and lots of critizism has been critized. Have a look for yourself first

General Feel After Watching

After watching all three documentaries i felt conflicted about what to do with them, they all had a great story to tell but i felt they were also 1 dimensional (which is of course the producers/directors prerogative) in that in my opinion health is not just about food or just about mental health.

It’s a combination of all sorts of factors, environmental, social, mental, stress, genes, etc…

Optimism and purpose, a low stress level, a natural diet and an active lifestyle…experts say these factors are three times as important as your genetic makeup when it comes to enjoying a long and healthy life

https://internationalliving.com/top-5-healthiest-places-in-the-world/

So when you go vegan after watching these documentaries and expect to live healthy to the age of 120…you’re kidding yourself. It’s also most likely not the intent of the people who make them to focus on more than 1 or 2 dimensions, but the documentaries are used in (heated) discussions about what’s right and wrong. That’s were you have to be cautious and make up your own mind.

‘Heal’ is even more 1 dimensional, although i think there definitly is something to the body-mind connection (in essence stress in my opinion), it sort of let’s you think that if you can ‘let go’ and ‘be at peace’ that you can cure cancer. And although it has worked for the person depicted in the documentary it does not mean it works for everybody. It’s like when people are shown who ‘healed’ themselves by believing and trusting, but they do not show the millions of people who believed and trusted just as hard (or even more) but didn’t make it. Again, try and judge for yourself, but be very critical about what you are shown.

Also the science behind especially what was shown on Game Changer was not very scientific. I know they have very little time to explain the science and i’ve watched some youtube video’s which shows that a large part of the science has a lot of merit and is backed by research. But when you show an experiment with 3 people eating ‘meat’-dinner 1 night, and ‘vegan’ the next, and then show a vile of blood (or time of erection during the second experiment) of which 1 was more blurry is not real science. First of all, what did these people eat and do the rest of the day? Second, what does ‘blurry’ really mean, at no point is explained that ‘blurry’=bad, that’s insinuated. The intention is good and you can learn from it and be inspired but again…be critical about what they show you and read up about it.

Meat

Regarding The Game Changer and What the Health, i was even more triggered to rethink the way i look at and deal with meat and other animal products (although i was already skipping all cow-products). So i tried looking at it from a few angles:

  • Ethical: what is the impact of the meat/animal industry on the environment and how does that effect me, my family and the world;
  • General Nutritional Value: does meat or other animals products have nutritional value (beside protein) that is usefull;
  • Do i need it: this is more about if there are enough (tasty) alternatives for meat and if they can support me with staying healthy and fit.

To make it short: i value people who produce food very highly but they are a big part of the solution regarding environmental and (drink) water issues, that is mostly because by (lazy) consumer behaviour. We live in a mass consumer/producer world which we need to change for the better otherwise our world will be a lot less ‘friendly’. And since most changes start with yourself, we decided to reduce our meat-intake and eat meatless at least 3-4 times week. Alternatives like Tofu, Tempeh, meatless meat are on the rise and get better all the time. My kids still have to get used to a selfmade chickpeas, blackbeans burger but i’ll get there.

Regarding the other dimensions, i won’t skip meat all together. I like it too much, it has nutritional value and and the foodindustry can be changed into a more ethical and conscientiousness industry….but that takes time, lots of discussions and patience. Luckily there is also hope from scientific research into things like meat from stemcells (and 1) and from companies Beyond Meat and Burger King to even convince the carnivors amongst us to give the alternative a try. I know i don’t need it for staying healhy, there are enough alternatives do create a diverse diet and i integrate them more and more so maybe in a few years we will be meatless up to 6 times a week.

Eggs

At one point i got crazy about if eggs are good or bad for you, seems like half of the world is pro and the other anti. My brother, who also watched ‘What the Health’ is skipping eggs all together. I like eggs and as far as i can tell, just as with everything, if your moderate with your intake (3 to 4 eggs a week), you’re good. I like this quote from an article about egg-research:

“The main message for the public is not to select a single type of food as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but to evaluate your total diet in terms of variety and amount.”

https://www.statnews.com/2019/03/15/are-eggs-good-or-bad-for-you-new-research-rekindles-the-debate/

Final Note

These type of documentaries can be inspiring and informative but if you take what they show and tell at face value without a critical thought than you delude yourself. Always try to look at them from different angels, try to find some criticism and decide for yourself on what is true and how you want to proceed. Nevertheless, always try to learn from others and try things out. Eating less meat and more plants, less cheese and more nuts&seeds, never hurt anyone….i think.

I intend to watch some more documentaries like Fork over Knifes and The Magic Pill just to get other perspectives and educate myself on these topics. Try one of them yourself, never stop learning.

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 4

In my previous blogs [1, 2 and 3] i wrote about my battle from a personal perspective, and also with the idea that it might help some people recognize symptoms and/or have a kindred spirit. This blog is an extension of my journey but focussed more on what i did (and still doing) to fight of the disease. It’s not a ‘you must do this as well’-blog, just a story about what i did and what got me to do it.

The Thyroid Connection

After my second encounter with Graves i was disappointed that my work hadn’t paid of but still believed there were other ways which i hadn’t tried or known about. One book in particulair got me on a new path: Amy Myers’ The Thyroid Connection. Although it’s a typical american style book with lots of marketing, it did lay out a few things regarding the disease and health, and specifically the ‘gut’. The most intriguing aspect was about the health of the microbiome in the gut in combination with molecular mimicry and the relation to auto-immune diseases. Here’s a quote from her book:

There are several other food proteins, such as casein in dairy, that have a similar molecular structure to gluten. Because of this molecular mimicry, when you eat dairy your body can get confused and think you just ate a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction.

So basically gluten can cause a leaky gut which allows foodmolecules into your bloodstream and specifically gluten and casein proteins are similair in sequence to thyriod tissue so your auto-immune system gets fooled and reacts in a wrong way. It’s a theory but i found multiple resources explaining this process so there is something to it. Based on this book and some other resources i wanted to test a few things.

Getting into testmodus

I did the following tests:

  • Do i have Celiac diseas (Coeliakie): negative;
  • Do i have a vitamine B12 deficiency anemia in combination with a problem with the intrinsic factor: negative & negative. I did this one because my B12 measurements always declined after a while. Even the last measurement showed a decline so i’m taking B12 shots every other month again;
  • Do i have any food allergies/intolerance: the result was that i had a ‘medium’ level of intolerance for grains & cowdairy (and black pepper);
  • How is the microbiome in my gut’ by means of a stool-test: the result was pretty bad.

In the meanwhile i also consulted a dietician (who helped me with the food allergy test) and decided to go ‘cold-turkey’ on gluten and dairy, sort of an elimination-diet. And then you find out how many products that stuff is in :-(. Anyways, the idea of that diet is to eliminate any obvious culprits from your diet, see how you react and then after a while, 1 by 1 add types of food you eliminated and see how you react for each added foodtype.

Based on the stool-test she also advised prebiotics and probiotics to support the gut. For prebiotics i took acaciafibers. I started this way of eating and supplementing in april of 2019 and, as of today, have followed it quite strictly (although have downgraded the pre and probiotics in december):

  • make my own lunch during weekdays, usually something with vegetables, rice, sweetpotato, fish (tuna);
  • when i eat at a restaurant i always ask if they support my diet, and most do very well;
  • make my own snacks (e.g. banana or applesauce cake/bread);
  • no more cookies, sweets, chocolate, most chips or anything that you used to nibble on at home or at parties;
  • look for recipies to mix it up like glutenfree pancakes or selfmade pizza;
  • replaced ingredients with glutenfree variants such as pasta (although that was disappointing), couscous and oatmeal.

I’m still trying to vary and look for new things, sometimes it’s a bit hard but overall the transition was quite smooth. I do miss a good pizza or pasta or a croissant (which i had to do without during our last vacation in France) but the number of glutenfree products has increased immensly and, although more expensive, are not too bad.

The Effect

Almost within a week i started noticing a difference, especially in the gut which used to be ‘active’ and noisy. But that (mostly) went away after a short period. I also used to have a mild form of acne on my face and that also (almost) vanished. Another aspect was that i started to get a bit leaner because i lost some bodyfat. I think mostly from not eating dairy products and cookies/chips/etc.. Off to a good start but that still didn’t mean i solved Graves disease, the thing is though, you can never really know untill you die and never had it again.

As measuring is knowing, i wanted to do a few more tests. 1 Test, which my dietician advised, was to check for antibodies TSH receptors. Lots of thyroid-diseases are caused by auto-antibodies. They are created when the immunesystem accidentally sees thyroidcells as ‘alien’ to your body and starts creating antibodies to destroy these cells. So a high count is bad, low count is good. I did take some convincing the endicrinologist, most likely an insurance thing, but she eventually agreed. I took this test on the first of august. As you can see below the 2 measurements before my diet where above the norm, the last measurement was very low which is a good thing.

Now to be clear, you still can’t say with certainty that the diet caused this, but frankly i don’t know what else did. Too bad you can’t A/B-test yourself.

After the summer vacation i also did another stool-test, it showed quite some improvements but not as good as we hoped. So we upped to dosage for pre and probiotics. Unfortunatly these stooltest are not insured and you have to pay for them yourself. They cost about 150 euro, so i’m not eager to do it again but it does give you a good status about the microbiome in your gut.

When starting the diet the idea was to start adding stuff back. The only thing i’ve experimented with was goat-cheese. It’s hard to really blame that product but everytime i took it my gut was ‘off’ a few days. Still have to experiment a bit but gluten and dairyproducts won’t come back anytime soon.

Stopping the Medication

After summer we also decided to stop with the medication. I was on the lowest possible dosage of strumazol and the results were good. In the pictures below you can see my test results for the 2 things they usually test for, TSH and Free T4 (vrij T4). One thing to note is that on 19-10-2018 my free T4 was very low, almost having the effect of a too slow thyroid which is the opposite. To my surpise i was not called by anyone, most likely because it still falls within the 9-25 category, but this was (again) disappointing. I called them myself and based on that i lowered the dosage.

The last 2 measurements were a bit ‘scary’ to me. The free T4 was up 1.3 from the last measurement but still in the middle. The thing that worried me a bit was the TSH which went down significantly and was grazing the lower boundary. The good thing is that both measurements were stable but i’m hoping the next one shows a bit higher TSH value.

Based on the last measurement we agreed that the next measurement will be done in february (2020), so fingers crossed.

Gypsywort

In november and december i didn’t feel too well, i didn’t sleep well and my energy was very low. I also lost a bit of weight (from 99 to 95/6) so i was stressed that Graves was rearing it’s ugly head. But the measurement from end of november was ‘good’ and my weight was sort of steady at 95. It could still be that things were moving a bit too fast but not fast enough for the ‘norm. And that could be a result of my body still adapting to no medication (woman who just a child still feel the effects of hormones up to a year later).

I still wanted to have a chat with the orthomoleculair doctor and get his perspective. His view was is that you have to listen to the patient, if the patients isn’t feeling well then there’s something wrong, even when the results are good (or not bad). Another patient of his for a few years had the same thing i had and was prescribed the same supplements. But what he also added was something called Gypsywort (wolfspoot) which according to some sources can help with thyriod problems and it helped that patient for a few years (or at least kept Graves away). I’m not a big believer in the homeopathic way but nonetheless it seems that some people are helped by it (or at least believe that it helps) and i do believe in the power of (some) plants. So i thought i’d give it a try.

I have been taking it for a week and a half, and it’s hard to tell but i do feel a bit better. But it can also be the extended vacation i’m taking to get some rest from work and time for myself. So the jury is still out on this one.

(Bad) Experience

This journey has been very expensive, i think i have spent about 2500-3500 euros in the last 2 years on supplements, (blood/stool/allergy) tests, visits to non or-partly insured practitioners. Has it been worth it…..i’ll tell you when i’m dead…..at 100 years old 🙂

The experience with the medical world has been disappointing so far. If you break a leg they are the first ones to go to, but if you have something like an auto-immune disease they might help get rid of some lifethreatening symptoms, but actually healing you is out of their league. The seem to be restricted by their education and just follow a protocol and/or insurence related aspect. I’m not saying it’s that way for all doctors and have read stories that also show the opposite but this is my experience. My advice is to be critical and read up on stuff and, you are the patients and it’s your body and life!

What’s next

One thing that i want to do more with is ‘stress’, which can also lead to several (auto-immune) diseases. Things like mindfulness, meditation, even if it’s just 10-15 a few times a week. I’ve tried it a few times the last months and it feels more relaxed afterwards.

Lastly, i have to deal with Graves for the rest of my life. Period. And whatever i do i won’t know if it works. I will know if it doesn’t, what specifically didn’t work then or why….no one can really explain. But i want to keep my thyroid intact. So i will continue to search and measure and in a few months will write about the results.

Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course Experience

When i started with Crossfit i was immediately hooked. The intensity and the varience in training was exactly what i needed after about 25 years of playing basketball on all levels, including 3 years of professional basketball. Also the community was great, a bit crazy but very social and intent on getting stronger and fitter . And the prospect of doing things you never thought you could like a ring musle-up or a handstand push-up was very inticing.

I wanted to know more about Crossfit and the concepts behind it, with in the back of my mind the thought of teaching and helping people get fit by means of, amongst other things, crossfit principles. So an obvious starting point would be to take the Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course. There were 2 things that stopped me at first:

  1. I didn’t actually have a clear goal what to do with it. Although lately i have been rethinking my careerpath or at least looking for a ‘hobby’ which really excites me.
  2. It’s a 1000 dollars! and although valid for 5 years, you have to do the entire weekend over again to renew the certificate so it’s quite an investment.

Why did i do it anyway? 2 reasons:

  1. Because i’d rather have the experience of something i’m really excited about and might actually want to do something with in the future, than always wonder what it would have been like if i had done the course. Even if it costs me a 1000 dollars.
  2. And i thought it could also help me with my ongoing journey to help fight off Graves disease

So i wanted to share some of my experiences from that weekend and maybe inspire other people to either take this course or do something they really want but haven’t done yet.

Day 1

When you usually work out in a smaller box (Kickstart Crossfit), entering a large gym like they had in Almere came with a ‘wow’-factor.

I think i like a smaller box better but very impressive nonetheless (even when portions were under construction).

The days started with the usual administrative checks and getting your T-shirt followed my introducing the coaches and explaining the outline of the course. Then the fun started with the day consisting of about 50% lecture time and 50% active time. Day 1 was about ‘what is Crossfit’, ‘What is fitness’, the squats, the presses, technique and lastly about safety. I won’t delve into all the individual things, that’s too much (feel free to contact me if you have a question). There are 3 things i’d like to highlight from day 1:

The first question was of course how you would explain crossfit. There are a few definitions in the guide:

  • Constantly Varied Functional Movements executed at High Intensity
  • Core Strength and Conditioning program
  • Prepare for the unknown and unknowable

But explaining it like this to people never really works well, you have to show them so i usually show some youtube clips and the conclusion was that you need to let them experience it for themselves and then explain the concepts.

My personal conclusion is that Crossfit is a means to keeping you fit for life by proper nutrition and constantly varying the workouts which contain natural, essential, universal and functional movements and doing them intensly enough for you so that your body will be able to handle everything daily life throws at you. So it’s for everyone of all ages, especially for older people who get weaker, then do less and then get even weaker.

The second thing which was a bit of an eyeopener was that the Crossfit Games had nothing to do with Crossfit. Of course that’s not entirely true but for the most part it is. Crossfit is not about getting you into shape for the Crossfit Games. It’s to prepare you for the unknown and unknowable for the rest of your life. The Crossfit Games is an extravaganza of and for the fittest people on earth which requires more training hours than most people can spend. Don’t feel ashamed if you posted a 49.694 rank during the Crossfit Games Qualifiers, you’re most likely more fit and have a better health than about 7 billion other people.

The third and last thing were the people there and why they were there (someone from my box asked to check around). I talked to some people, most were there because they want to better understand crossfit and/or start to teach crossfit at a box. But 2 stories stood out:

  • One guy, who was about my age, had enough of his previous job (electro-engineering) and wanted to something entirely different with sports. He started following a personall training course and added a small workout office to his house. This course was his next stop on his way to start his own small business together with his wife who also took the path to personall trainer. A risky move but very inspiring.
  • Some else with whom i didn’t speak directly but overheard, wanted to help kids with a tough background through sports. Crossfit was, due to the high intensity-factor, very suited to help them get rid of excess energy and frustration.

All in all day 1 was quite immersive and full of information, very enjoyable but i didn’t have the energy to cook food, so i ordered a pizza (gluten and dairy free :-)).

Day 2

Day 2 had the same structure as the first day with focus on nutrition, metabolism, welness, diet, Glute Ham Developer, programming, the lift-moves, ring muscle-ups and snatches. We also got to do our first one-on-one coaching when someone did a WOD when performing the medicineball clean. This was really fun and educational and you could see the others’ mistakes and how they react to a cue. We also coached eachother with pull-ups and the (scaled) ring muscle up.

The coaches during the whole weekend were great, highly skilled at coaching and a close team. A great aspect of how they teach, is that they never say that Crossfit is THE way, although it is something they believe in, it’s never sold as a golden solution. Secondly I have never been corrected as much as this weekend and at one point i was almost afraid to move because i knew i did not have a vertical back when doing the push-press and push jerk and my timing was off. Luckily i wasn’t the only one.

So if i had to make a wordcloud of the corrections i’ve been given it would be:

  • Knees out!
  • No jumping with the shoulder-to-overhead moves! (at 1 point he actually sat on my foot so i wouldn’t jump which is had to neurologically unlearn after 25 years of basketball)
  • Keep your back vertical!

We ended the day (before the exam) with the entire group doing the snatch including the progression (no pulling with the arms!!! ) with the coaches moving around and correcting people.

The Exam

I guess for most people the whole weekend was about getting the certification by passing a 55 multiple question exam and you could almost feel the anxiety when the clock struck 15:30 and personally i was a bit nervous. I had studied quite well by reading the certification guide at least twice and took vigorous notes the whole weekend. There were also some flashcards sites i used [1, 2] for learning the definitions better. Legally i can’t say anything about the questions because they’ll come after you if you hurt their brand. And rightfully so.

The (paper, yes paper) test itself was in the English language which for me wasn’t a problem. But there were people from all walks of life and some had a hard time with actually understanding and interpreting some of the questions. One guy failed to distinguish between ‘permitted’ and ‘forbidden’. So bring an English-Dutch dictionary!

If you paid enough attention and took notes, about 20 to 25 of the questions were relatively easy. Same goes for the moves, if you paid attention and read the guide most of the ‘moves’ questions were not that hard. But quite some questions were ambiguous and/or used terms that were not specfically mentioned during the lectures or in the guide. So pay attention, read very carefully and make sure you understand every word from the question. Most people that do not make it is not because a lack of knowledge!

Waiting for the result

The last time i was this nervous about a result was when i took my drivers-license when i was 18 but now i also had to wait at least 7 working days for the result. But finally on a friday night i got the result

Damn i was happy! I wanted to see my score but i couldn’t find it anywhere, but i guess that’s irrelevant.

What’s next

After the course (and of course getting my certification) i was really excited to put this newly gained knowledge into practice. It also reaffirmed my feeling that this is something i want to do more with. Hopefully i can get some experience at my box and/or by letting people know about this so i can help someone get (more) fit.

There are loads of specialization cources and the Crossfit Kids course is really interesting but for now i’ll focus on some of the online courses.

And after that….we’ll see but it’s a good feeling to feel excited about something!

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 3

In my previous 2 blogs [part 1, part 2], i started writing about my ‘battle’ with graves disease and ended the last one with the hope that i was done, which wasn’t the case. So in the first half of 2018 a few things were a bit off. I had trouble sleeping through the night, workouts didn’t really go well, stressfull at work and in the month before the summervacation a pretty bad situation at work happened. So i was really tired and in need of a vacation. So when vacation was there i thought i could relax for about 3 weeks. The day before my vacation i thought i weigh myself. 98kg (down from 100). Strange but most likely stress and being tired. 2kg isn’t that bad.

But during the holiday things didn’t improve, they actually worsened and quite rapidly. I just wasn’t feeling well, cranky, on edge, no fun to be around. The only thing that gave some aleviation was a nice swim in the ocean. But halfway though i got a stomachflew (or ate something bad as others had it as well) and got that tight, cramped feeling again in my gut. And the last few days my hands started to shake and i was very rushed at everything.

We got a bad feeling and so i weighed myself, 90kg….! That’s a loss of 10 kg in a month. When home i asked for a bloodtest and it usually takes a few days for the result. But the next morning i got a call from the doctor with the (bad) news that graves is back with a FT4 value of 66 (last time it was 38) when it should be between 9 and 25 and i had to start with the strumazol right away. F#$k, all the effort to live a healthy live including food, supplements (which i have to pay for myself) were useless ?!? What a looser! Why didn’t i get it to work 😦

So i had to call work again and tell them i was out of commission. Then a visit to the endicrinologist, same one from last time. A nice person but i was afraid she was going to propose something (see my previous blog) i really didn’t want which i told here straight away. To here credit she was willing to try something but first get all the values down so i had to take medicine for 4-5 weeks.

I thought i could go back to work after my appointment with the endicrinologst and start with half a days work and slowly add more hours. I also made an appointment with the company doctor because it’s good to make this formal. He was very good and understanding and also ‘got it’ (maybe more than i did). He told me to stay home a few weeks and then start with half days work and see how that goes. He explained that your whole hormonal system is out of balance and that’s something to be really carefull with. It was quite a relieve because he took away the (selfimposed) pressure to get back to work quickly.

I also made an appointment with the orthomoleculair doctor to get his perspective and he ordered some bloodwork (and since insurance doesn’t cover this i have to pay for the bloodtests myself). And it showed huge defficiency in zinc, selenium and B12. Magnesium was also not good but already started with a new variant which seemed to take hold. Apparently there’s a wide range of magnesium supplements of which you have to find the right type for you. My D3 levels were excellent, a small comfort. So ordered some more supplements and also got 10 B12 shots because, as he put it, it can be that you don’t have an intrinsic factor (or a bad one) which means that your body can’t get (enough) B12 from food. B12 apparently is very important for lots of things, including for your auto-immune system (here’s a good blog). But he was also honest that he couldn’t tell if this is the cause or result, but now the body is out of balance so let’s see if we can restore that.

Not just physically but also mentally something snapped. I withdrew myself even further, felt like a looser and weak. My wife tells me i’m sick but what about the 2,5 years i was okay? But i started to realize that my mental model of the world was wrong. And that i was actually sick. I have a goal of reaching the age of 100 in a healthy fashion which means you have to take care of yourself. But this requires not just a balanced body but also a balanced mind.

After taking medicine for 5 weeks the thyroid-levels were normal again with a value of 17. I did not want to take the betablockers for the heart, that stuff is nasty and didn’t think it was needed. I’m not saying never take this, sometimes it might be needed, but be very critical. We decided to start titration therapy, which basically means reducing the amount of medicine and see how the body, or in my case the auto-immune system, reacts. I asked if i could take small amounts of strumazol for the rest of my live and although possible, the chances of hormonal swings are possible. More over, due to strumazol the white level bloodcount is reduced which is not beneficial for your immune-system and makes you more receptive for disease, especially at a later age.

So we started reducing the amount of strumazol. But now there is more fear in the back of my head. Is my heart pounding harder? Are my hands shaking? Do i feel stressed or is is something else? Mentally it was (and is) a big struggle and i would not say i was depressed because i still believed that there was more to explore, but i definitly felt down. The good thing was that i could start with crossfit at a very slow pace and also decided to do (power) yoga which felt good. But i knew i had to work on my mental state as well so i took some steps there. I also started to learn and explore other means to combat this disease which i will tell about in my next blog.

Sidenote: one thing that was very peculier is that when i started taking supplements and was never really sick anymore or even had a cold. And when i was a bit under the weather it usually was gone within a day. That’s quite something considering i have kids which were 4 and 6 when this started, so a lot of bacteria from school and daycare. Even when my wife got sick it didn’t affect me. So it’s my ‘believe’ that supplements do help, unfortunatly it doesn’t help with graves specifically. Which supplements help is also difficult to identify.

Supplements i take currently based on bloodwork and symptoms:

  • Magnesium (Taurine) – daily
  • Q10 Enzym – daily
  • Zinc – daily
  • D3 – daily
  • K2 – daily
  • C (1000mg) – daily
  • Selenium – twice a week
  • Iodine – three times a week
  • B12 shots, once every 2 months

My Battle With Graves Disease, part 2

In my previous post i ended with stating that knowing what’s wrong is only the beginning. This post i wanted to tell what i did next after i found out what was wrong with me.

I’m a pretty down to earth guy who follows science and wants to know more about the ‘WHY’ behind my disease. One book in particulair, Overdiagnosed by H. Gilbert Welch, made me more wary of just following doctor’s advice and always ask more questions because you are the patient, not the doctor. And the fact that i had thrombisis followed by a pulmenary embolism and graves’ disease at the same time, while the medical world told me that there is no relation…..just didn’t sit well with me.

Getting answers from mainstream medicine was hard and they simply didn’t know and only looked at my symptoms, not at any other things. So i wanted to go beyond standard medicine and try and find out if other people could help me. My wife (and her family) were already aquinted with an orthomoleculair therapist but i was sceptical because this field of alternative medicine has a hard time proving it’s research is emperically sound. But i thought what the hell, it’s worth a shot. He was a nice guy with >30 years of experience and he had me run bloodtests on minerals and vitamins through the regular channels. His statement was, and i agree, your body has to be in balance and an auto-immune disease is not something you just get (although you can be genetically predispositioned), it’s often a result of being out of balance. And he was very straightforward, there is no magical cure, it’s finding the right buttons to push and that differs per person.

The results were worrysome as he put it. According to international standards to which he holds the results (because the Dutch standards are way too broad in his perspective) i had an enormous deficiancy in Selenium, Magnesium, B12 and vitamin D3. The question is of course: was this part of the cause or the effect of loosing so much weight. So he got me on a bunch of supplements including some extra like Q10, K2 and B1 (or 2, i forgot). This gave me a sense of control. Because anything is better that the alternatives:

  • Medicine: keep taking medicine but can cause live damage and reduce the number of white bloodcells
  • Surgery (thyroidectomy): surgically remove most or all of the thyroid, followed by a life long of medicine.
  • Radioactive iodine: a ‘pil’ which, if dosed correctly, destroys only half of your thyroid (but often more which results in hypothyroidism for which you need medication the rest of your live)

But the really weird part and the reason why i didn’t go for these option is that the Thyroid is actually just fine! It’s your auto-immune system which causes the thyroid to react. So why remove a healthy organ and not try to find the actual cause.

But anyway, i got this so, no need to worry. Never drank, smoked, no coffee, drugs, ate healthy, exersiced regularly. I’ll be done in no time. So during the next year i took my supplement, started reducing bloodthinners. Changed my diet by altering my breakfast with cottage cheere (kwark in dutch), fruit, nuts and seeds and oatmeal. Work was good, relationship was better and i started getting stronger (i stopped crossfit 😦 after it happened and started slowly in the gym). And then at one point i got the ok to stop taking medicine and almost a year later i was a patient no more. A year without medicine and no relapse, i wasn’t sick anymore (in my mind i was never really sick)!

For a while things went really well, even started crossfit 🙂 at a box nearby despite the concerns of my wife because she associated my disease with crossfit (which of course doesn’t cause it but the extremity of the sport can have an effect on the auto-immune system). And things were looking good, i was stable at 100kg for about 2 years now and still no relapse. So i was part of lucky group that ‘survived’ the disease…….untill the summer of 2018. Which i will write about in my next blog.

My Battle With Graves Disease, part 1

My story probably started way earlier but that’s only in hindsight, let’s start in the summer of 2014 in France. I thought i had a bit too much around the waist and wanted to feel better, despite the fact that i worked out (fitness, running) and biked to work every day. Of course when there’s french cheese and bread you don’t start right away so after we came home i put my mind to it and started changing things. Less bread, more ricecrackers, other dietary changes and started a new way of working out through crossfit.

But soon, eating was getting more difficult, wasn’t really hungry, stomach was protesting with sort of a pinching feeling or knot in the gut. This caused me to eat less and even skip meals. Athletically it didn’t go bad but, in hindsight, never really well. Often during a workout i had an empty and low energy feeling. But i thought that this is just part of getting started. But also at work, again in hindsight, things weren’t going smoothly. Speaking to quickly, stumbling with words, unfocussed, couldn’t sit still. Also at home things weren’t improving, i was edgy, didn’t react well to the kids. And being a bit of an introvert didn’t really help the situation.

What did go well was the loss in weight, melting ice. I started at 96kg and after 2 or 3 weeks i was down to 93/92 and a bit later to 90. I was even proud to go shopping for tighter pants. But despite the diet and working out, the energylevel was not that high and i got more edgier, hurried. And then things got busy at work….so it’s stress right? It would explain the fact that i’ve not been sleeping well (waking up 2 or three times at night), for quite a long time actually.

But the loss of weight was going well, 88 kg and a few weeks later down to 85. My wife thought it was going to far and was worried. I got a bit worried as well but the six-pack was showing so that can’t be bad. Then down to 84/83kg, mmm, anyways, the Sinterklaas festivities were done, almost holiday so no more stress and with Christmas in foresight i thought i could go for an eating-binge and everything would be alright.

On the monday after Sinterklaas i wasn’t feeling well, bit of a flew. I was down to 82kg so i went home early from work and lied down on the couch. I woke that night with sort of a cramp in my leftcalf, didn’t think too much of it. Next day i brought the kids to school and thought i’d go for a short run to get the cramp out. Okay, bad idea, after 200m i had to sit down and almost couldn’t breath. Very weird feeling considering we did a pretty hefty WOD the week before with 300 airsquats, 200 kettlebell swings, 100 burpees, 800 m running, 100 burpees, 200 kettlebell swings and 300 airsquats (with a buddy and ended within 43 minutes or so). So i went back home thinking the flew really got me. But anyways, had to pick up a Christmas tree so took the bike to the gardencentre and back again. Pffff, had to lie down. Something wasn’t right because my heart was also pounding quite hard, which has been the case for a while now. So i made a doctors appointment.

Now i can’t remember if i went to the doctor the same or the next day but went there by bike, like we do here in the Netherlands. I tell my story and the doctor asks: “did you come here by bike?”. And then she said: “i’m inclined to call an ambulance and not let you go home”. Okay, didn’t see that one coming, still not realizing the seriousness of the situation. So i promised i’d call my wife, who was working at home that day and then immediatly go the the hospital which she made sure would be informed upon arrival.

An hour later at the hospital i was taken for an X-ray and then a checkup which seemed fine. After that they injected me with contrast-fluid so the CT-scan could get a good image. So i got into a dark room, people whispering in the back, and into a CT-scan which is quite intimidating. Keep calm, breath slowly, which is really hard as i was getting more nervous. After the scan i was brought back to a room and with no one telling me anything, we were still in the dark.

Waited for half an hour, then suddenly a nurse walks in and injects me with something. Bloodthinner, she says. Hun, why? Has the doctor had a chat with you? He’ll be here shortly. A bit later the doctor comes and explains that i’ve had a lung or pulmenary embolism. Which at the time didn’t strike me as serious but it actually can be lifethreatening (a friend later told me his father died of one). But what about my calf? That means thrombosis, which probably resulted, via bloodcloths, in the pulmenary embolism. It was only later that night, when it was clear i had to remain in the hospital, that my calf started swelling and actually started to hurt.

Euhh, what about graves? Won’t be long. So there i was in a hospital bed on bloodthinners and a compression around my calf, not much fun. Luckily my wife was there to support me and take care of the kids, family and friends looking me up, so it was bit of a rollercoaster but it wasn’t ‘real’ yet. The next day the doctor came for a checkup and we asked about the weightloss but he said it’s not related. But he made an appointment with another doctor but first a few more days of rest.

Then, a few days later, another doctor starts asking about stress, being on edge, starts touching my throat and asked for some bloodwork. The result? You guessed it, Graves disease. What the hell is that? Apparently an auto-immune disease. But how? We don’t know either. Okay, but what about the thrombosis and pulmenary embolism? As far as we know there is no relation. Right, a bit of a coincidence don’t you think!?. Again more medicine, strumazol for the thyroid and betablockers for calming the heart.

Damn, should be a fun Christmas. But my mind was already at ‘when can i work out again and get back to work?’, instead of realising what happened. The good thing though is a started feeling better, i was calmer, my heart wasn’t beating as hard anymore and my hands weren’t shaking (another symptom). I could move around and started sleeping better and things were looking better. But anyone with Graves, or any auto-immune disease, knows that this is just the start of the battle which i will tell in my next blog.