Grateful for Graves Disease – A Surprising Xmas Present

carla coulson loc boyle

Me fooling around at Bondi by Loc Boyle

Gosh.. I have been meaning to say hello for the longest time and to wish you all a fabulous 2014 but something has kept me from the computer.

After living through an exciting week of my book launch in early December in Sydney and meeting so many gorgeous people, finishing the Get Published Workshop and meeting more gorgeous people I finally found some time to get a couple of things I wanted done including a blood test.

So when I received an urgent call telling me to come to the doctors on Christmas Eve I knew something was up (yeah.. I had already received a copy of the blood test and was onto Dr. Google with the results).

Seems I had something with the terrible name of Graves Disease, an auto-immune disease that attacks your thyroid and makes your heart race (even when hubby isn’t around) and your hands shake and lots of other symptoms you check out here. I clocked in at 11 on a scale where you need just 2 to be positive.

The doctor being doctors scare the crap out of you, tell you you have no choice but a lifetime of medicine and you MUST take it otherwise you could risk a thyroid storm (gees just the sound of this brought Steve Speilberg images to my head of guys arriving in white suits with kalashnikovs to attack my poor defenseless thryroid).

But you see I had already been onto Dr. Google and I had questions of my own, what about changing my diet? what about checking my vitamin levels? am I deficient in anything? etc etc.. A big straight NO was responded and I was escorted to the door.

And by the way I wasn’t feeling THAT bad..well I at least felt confident those storm troopers weren’t on the way over.

Gees.. Merry Christmas Carla!

But here are the reasons I am grateful for my unusual Christmas present.

Grateful to live in this internet age and for the people out there and the information they are sharing about their stories and alternative solutions like Sarah Wilson. Sarah who offers tonnes of tips and advice and also talks to the marvellous Andrea Beaman who ate her way back to good health.

I am grateful for sites like Weston A. Price and even the heavy breathing Dr Johnson (a little salesy at times) and his almost 2 hour video that walks you through Auto-immune and how to heal your body naturally. To friends who told me about Nourishing Traditions an incredible book by Sally Fallon that talks about the studies of Weston A Price and offers create recipes and tips.

Their information gave me the courage to say NO to the medication and to call a naturopath at Newton’s Pharmacy, one of Sydney’s oldest herbalists. The naturopath wasn’t even slightly alarmed, she changed my diet, no gluten, no lactose, no sugar, no coffee, no tea, no stimulants, no alchohol (you getting the picture) but loads of good fats and proteins and whole foods (I had almost been exclusively vegetarian for the best part of 5 years cause I intensely dislike the industrialisation of animals) and she said to have regular blood tests to see what happens. Wonderful herbal supplement to get my intestine working again and lots of food state vitamins. Oh and the really good news was I was told to sit in the sun and eat lots of organic butter. That’s when I started to like this condition!

Here’s the funny thing, I thought I was eating well, lots of pulses and rice, veges, fruit and salads and all of it organic but almost no fats.

I went to see my favourite acupuncturist and more good news, there were things that could be done.

But the wellness package (if I didn’t want to take the drugs) included me changing the way I do things, slowing down, having time out and giving my body and mind time to regenerate and heal itself instead of rushing onto the next thing. I was part of the problem and the way I do things.

So I pulled out the plug (literally) no dinner outs, no running around the city instead I swam, slept and learnt to meditate.

Within 3 weeks I was almost sympton free, even i was shocked. I learnt there were things that could trigger it off like SUGARY fruits (Sarah Wilson and her I Quit Sugar program is onto something) and indoor heated chlorinated Parisian pools.

You are probably wondering why I am telling you this? January is Thyroid Awareness Month and so I thought I would share my story in the case that any of you out there are in a similar boat and as confused as I was when I walked out the doctor’s door.

Also I ask forgiveness if I haven’t got back to you in the past month..

I am grateful to have had a wake-up call when I had always PROMISED myself to change things but never seemed to turn the corner or get to the bottom of the washing basket of tasks to do.

I am grateful for photography that is my balm, my meditation and one of the things that I love most in life and I look forward to a wonderful year of photos, memories and great people.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and I look forward to sharing lots of photography and tips with you in 2014.

Wishing you great health, happiness and photos..

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

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71 Responses to Grateful for Graves Disease – A Surprising Xmas Present

  1. Rupert's Mum says:

    Very pleased to hear you are well. Make sure you take care of yourself. I can relate to jumping into the next project. Stopping, reflecting and taking time out are skills I am working on. x

    • Carla says:

      Hi Lisa, Lovely to hear from you. Hope things are going well for you and look forward to hearing your news. Reflection.. what an art.. looking forward to more of it. Carla x

  2. Sarah Hudson says:

    OMG – I just had a blood test and a phone call from the doc because I have hyperthyroidism. I have to have an ultrasound on my thyroid to see what’s going on. I know the symptoms we’ll – thought I must be have the DT’s or something really horrible! Like you I want to see what I can do naturally before I start taking any little white pills. Thank you SO much for all the links- I’ll check them out. Can’t believe you and I have been going through the same thing at the same time. Hugs! Xxx

    • Carla says:

      Hi Sarah, Hope all is ok.. Happy to let you know what I did after you have seen the doc.. So thrilled about your hubby.. Carla xx

      • Sarah Hudson says:

        Thanks. Bit nervous about the ultrasound. Yes, john was all set for major surgery tomorrow ( intensive care, morphine pumps, colostomy etc) but a few hours later the surgeon came in and said the biopsy showed no cancer so he didn’t have to have it. Talk about a roller coaster! So glad you’re on top of things and I’ll definitely be in touch if that’s ok. Stay we’ll and stay resting . PS didn’t realise about chlorinated indoor swimming pools – I’ve been swimming a few times a week. Weird! X

  3. Carolyn Menadue says:

    Dearest Carla, What a journey and great news about your encouraging progress! Sometimes the body gives us a wake-up call. I guess this was yours. I’m beginning to wonder whether we should all be gluten free. Just had a family farewell tonight for Felicity who’s heading home tomorrow. Sending you all our love. C xxx

    • Carla says:

      Hi Lovely Carolyn, Ohh you must be so sad. So gut wrenching the goodbyes… I think gluten seems to be at the root of so many problems. My body seems to function so much better without it… Love you to you John and the cows. Carla x

  4. Debra Kolkka says:

    I am pleased to hear you are feeling well and staying off the drugs. Keep up the good work.

  5. Hi Carla, well,that is some sort of present. But glad you can see the good. it did force you to slow down and enjoy the ride, and now you’re armed with knowledge and already making a difference to yourself. i’ll have to check out all your links as i have psoriasis (also an auto immune disease) and I have no desire either to take any medication beyond the topical i use. and it would be great not to have to use that either. it can be quite nervewracking so if there is someway to change things on my own and make it more bearable, sure would be great. thanks for sharing.

    • Carla says:

      Hi Pamela,

      Thanks for your lovely notes. I agree anything natural has to be a better option. Look after yourself I am sure a good naturopath could start you on a good road. Wishing you the best of luck.. Carla x

  6. Ann says:

    Hi Carla,
    So interested to read this. I too have just found out through a routine blood test that I have a problem with my thyroid. Doc says that it is inflamed but all should be well. I too have been very grateful for the internet for all the help there and have changed my diet (gluten free etc). Will now copy you and sit in the sun and eat organic butter. (Not at the same time!). Wishing you lots of future good health. Ann

  7. Kate Mitchell says:

    Hi Carla,
    Snuck back onto Facebook and saw this tonight. I am a huge believer in we are what we eat. (I do not always adhere!) I have seen a naturopath on and off since I was 18. I am really happy you are back feeling better! I hope 2014 is a great year for you! Stammi bene bella Carla! Un grande abbraccio! Ciao Kate

  8. Hey Carla,
    I was diagnosed with Graves in 2005. PM me if you like. I took the meds for about 11 months. After one month I felt like I’d stepped out of a fog. Hadn’t realised how bad I’d been. Went into complete remission till 2011 when out of the blue it flared up again after I lost my mum. Again on Neomercazole- but just for a month. It was like an aberration. No naughty antibodies afterwards – the tell tale thing you’re looking for. I still have blood tests fairly regularly. What I would be more anti than the meds is thyroid removal or radiation. Not till you’ve tried everything anyway. Funnily enough I bought Sarah’s book today :) Anyway take care. I found it very helpful to keep a diary of how I was travelling. Made it easier to answer the doctors’ questions if asked because you forget. x

    • Carla says:

      Dearest Margaret, thanks for your wise advice and insight… I know what you mean about the fog.. I already feel more present.. I had the feeling before like I wasn’t quite here, just observing from my own private bubble. Great news it went… I am sure it will go again for you.. Love the idea of a diary.. Good advice.. helps you work out what isn’t working.. much love and hugs Carla x

      • No it’s gone Carla. Sorry, I didn’t make that very clear. I just had this brief episode after Mum died. Thought it was grief (and it was) but it just wouldn’t pass. Turned out the Graves had resurfaced. But after a month on Neomercazole my levels were back to normal and the specialist in Sydney just put it down to stress. An aberration. No sign of it since. No antibodies. So what I was getting at is that when you first get that diagnosis and think it might all be bad news, it may not be. I try very hard thesedays not to get myself wound up about things. Not easy but I try. With the diary … I’m assuming they’ll want fairly regular blood tests. Keep a record. While they’re looking at numbers I found it useful to monitor the sweet spot or the zone where I felt best. This has reminded me that I’m overdue for a blood test. Take care. Don’t work too hard! Hugs to you xx

        • Carla says:

          HI Margaret, that’s great. YOu must be relieved. Sounds like emotions trigger it off? Will keep a diary.. look after yourself Carla x

  9. Felicity Menadue says:

    Dearest Carla,
    I was given the same Christmas present two years ago, only mine was hypothyroidism (or Hashimotos). It came as quite a shock as I too thought I had a healthy lifestyle and didn’t really have the classic symptoms. Like you, I began researching madly and immediately made some lifestyle and dietary changes, such as eliminating gluten, sugar and fluoride. It’s a slow process but I am making steady progress. I’m amazed at how many women have thyroid and auto-immune illnesses!
    It sounds like you are already on the path to full recovery and I’m sure with your strength and determination you will turn it around. I look forward to hearing more about your positive achievements. With love and good health, Felicity xoxo

    • Carla says:

      Gorgeous Felicity,

      So great to hear from you and so fabulous to hear you are making progress!! That is fabulous news. Must be tough in Italy with all that pasta?? So many women have auto-immune and my Chinese/French acupuncturist says that many women in France believe it is from Chernobyl.. I am wondering about mammograms and the unprotected neck during scanning.. Strange that men don’t have it so frequently.. Enjoy Venice, would love to pop in sometime this year… much love and good health.. Carla x

  10. Parisbreakfast says:

    Another Hashimoto-off-the-charts here. Yet it all went away mysteriously why I don’t know. So glad for your positivity and proactive approach to go your own way and get such fast results is wonderful news.
    The idea that indoor heated chlorinated Parisian pools maybe a source of illness is worrying ;( i’m addicted to them.
    Keep well Carla
    XxxCarolg

  11. Natalie says:

    Carla, dear, I’ve missed you so much! What a roller coaster. Happy that you’ve found the way out. Takes a lot of self discipline to follow through but thankfully rewarding. Please don’t ignore the regular check ups.

    Wish you all the very best and leave Graves far behind.
    Love you.

  12. Charla dearest with that attitude how can you miss + have missed you + take care of yourself + love that you are doing it without medication just diet. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  13. Georgianna says:

    Oh, Carla, what a shame you’ve had to go through this but you have really turned this into something positive that will be of great benefit to you. I’m very glad about that.

    (I’ve been on a gluten, sugar and dairy free diet since the day after Christmas and the difference in how I feel is huge.)

    Hope you are feeling better and better.

    x

    G

    p. s. if you saw my message, I’m here in Paris now. Totally understand your need to relax and recharge. If not this time, next time. Now to refigure my shot lists for a week of rain! :) xo

    • Carla says:

      Hi Lovely Georgianna, thanks for your note.. We can at least eat the same things. Hope it is working out for you.. Will send you an email.. Enjoy Paris. Carla x

  14. La Contessa says:

    I have been GLUTEN FREE for about five years now…….I kept a diary of what I ate and then trips to the POTTY!Seems I have Celiac and I do believe I have had it for my whole life!With in three days I was a new person taking the GLUTEN away………another auto-immune issue!
    SO, happy to see you in my inbox!Sounds like the trip was busy and full of NEWS!I hope the four legged beastie and your AMORE got my little Christmas box!
    XX

    • Carla says:

      Go Contessa, Gluten free rocks.. that white flour has been slowing us all down for years. hallelujah.. Francesco and Avedon loved their presents. YOU ARE THE SWEETEST WOMAN ALIVE.. Thank you for being so thoughtful and generous.. much love to the chickens. Carla x

  15. Hello Carla,
    So sorry to hear you have to deal with thyroid issues and so good of you to share. it really helps when everyone is open which leads to education. I have had Hashimotos (hypo) and been on medication since I was in my 30’s but it has been the past few year that it really went haywire with odd weight gain, fatique, hair loss, etc. It is the reason I have been on a blog hiatus. Luckily for me, my doctor son is home while he waits for residency news and has been an enormous help in getting me better. We research everything together. Under his guidance we started the Paleo diet just 9 days ago, I have lost 11 lbs if you can believe it (yes, in 9 days) and already feel so much better by eliminating gluten, diary. I am insisting that my docs change my meds to natural (I do have to take replacement thyroid) and I am sure that will help as well. Thyroid issues are tough, we tend to go along with not feeling great and it’s only when we start educating ourselves that we relize we can and should feel better. You have shared some wonderful links Carla, I refer to ThyroidMom quite a bit. All of them are so helpful and when I return to my blog this month one of my first posts will be about thyroid…………..so this is great if we can get the word out, especially for the many that are undiagnosed. Didn’t mean to go on so long! Feel better darling, see you this spring (we are booking for may and will want a family portrait) and you look great. Hugs xx

    • Carla says:

      HI Gorgeous Sande, I noticed your Paleo tag the other day on Facebook and loved it.. I have read so much about Paleo and how it can help the thyroid.. Must check out thyroid mum and I am loving Nourishing Traditions.. Interesting concepts on soaking nuts, grains and seeds. Did it this week and loved the results.. no more phytic acid to block all those lovely vitamins. Lucky you with that son.. Look after yourself sounds like you are making amazing progress.. Carla x

    • Carla says:

      Hi Sande, Can’t seem to find your email anywhere.. can you send it to me at carla@carlacoulson.com love to drop you a note.. Carla xx

  16. Tory says:

    Very inspiring post Carla! Amazing how quickly you recognised that this diagnosis is a gift in disguise, it can sometimes take a long time to get to the place of embracing the new lifestyle regime and being grateful and accepting. Go Carla! It is also amazing the renaissance you can experience as a result. Two years ago i had a couple of phenomenal tachycardia incidents and instead of taking meds for my heart, i gave up all the stimulants/drugs (alcohol, cigarettes, herb, coffee, tea) i had been diligently consuming pretty much every day for 28 years. Hallelujah! The best way i can describe the change in my life is it’s like i was asleep those 28 years and then i woke up. The thing about all the detoxing is a lot of scary emotions can surface and what got me through the transitional months was Yoga. I hated it in the beginning, i used to get so angry during the practice and then i realised all the hateful emotions i was experiencing i had been smothering with drugs and were stuck in the stuck parts of my body and the healing was facing it all. Yoga helped me heal. Now you and your friends posts are inspiring me to tackle my issues with sugar and gluten. Thanks for the great links Carla, you are an amazing woman and if its possible you are going to be even more amazing after all of this! xxx

    • Carla says:

      Hi Tory, gorgeous to hear from you and thanks for sharing your story.. Amazing what giving up some foods does. I started yoga sunday and off to see Louisa for a session thursday and a breath workshop sunday!! Going for it.. the good news is I don’t hate it..ha ha.. Thanks so much and let me know what happens with gluten and sugar. Carla x

  17. Linda says:

    What a wonderful and positive, not to mention inspiring story. I wish you well….not that it sounds as though you will be needing it…lol! We all have or will have our struggles in life (health wise), but I love your attitude and I always believe that the way you look at these ‘medical hiccups’ (not to make light of yours) is sometimes the very best medicine.
    Stay well….keep smiling……Linda x

  18. sarah says:

    Glad you are feeling better! You are so inspiring x

  19. Meri Mancini says:

    Hi Carla, I have sent your story to my daughter as she has Grave’s also. She takes no medication unless she has a change in a Thyroid function. I’m sure she’ll find your account very interesting so Thankyou for sharing.

  20. You inspire me Carla. Your attitude is infectious and how you have grabbed ahold of what could have been a negative health issue & you attacked it head on. Wow!!! I have an under-active thyroid & have taken medication for 22 years now. I think I need to start reading & cease sitting back & being submissive. You bring such joy with your photography. You obviously have a unique perspective to our world whether behind the lens or not!
    Happy 2014 to you & your husband. It’s going to be a great one!
    xx Deb

  21. Dearest Carla,
    you are so inspiring even when you are unwell.
    Wishing you all the best, please take care of yourself and looking forward to see all your beauties (both images and teachings) in 2014! Happy New Year!
    Agnes xxx

  22. Carla may you continue to inspire with your positive, infectious attitude. Reading through I am shocked at the prevelance of this insidious disease…but heartened to read that a good diet and change of lifestyle is the cornerstone to recover. Wishing you a speedy recovery, rest and laughter and bucketloads of Aussie sunshine my friend. F xx

    • Carla says:

      HI Francesca, me too and this is a photography blog but so many people in our world have an auto-immune disease.. troubling. thanks for your love and care in Oz. Carla x

  23. Tricia Kay says:

    Hi Carla, I wish you the very best of health and thank you for sharing your story! Keep up with all the good things you’ve discovered and your wonderful positive attitude. You’re an inspiration to us all – in your fabulous work and in health. Many thanks! lots of love Tricia

  24. jann says:

    Carla, I’m sending you warm and healing thoughts. It sounds like Graves is a lot about the mind-body connection and your amazing upbeat attitude will serve you well. After reading about all the things you’re cutting from your diet, I’m inspired to try to cut Evil Sugar from mine. Grazie & stammi bene. xxxx

  25. Judy Sederof says:

    Hi Carla, Glad to here you are on the mend, I have been living with an under active thyroid for 4 or so years, I was also diagnosed as coeliac at the same time. I would totally support your diet and nutritional supplements but be careful if you don’t take any meds. I do both and can live a reasonable normal life now, but I know if I went off them I would not cope with the stress of daily life. I have no side effects from the drug.I take a daily pill which I see as my brain turn on switch in the morning, it is a bio identical hormone that I am taking. I was diagnosed by a GP who specializes in integrative medicine, incorporating natural medicine principles, nutrition and vitamin supplements with clinical science. Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.
    Take care my lovely, hope you have gotten onto it early. Judy Sederof

    • Carla says:

      Hi Judy, thanks for your valuable advice. REally appreciate you writing and loved hearing your story.. sounds like you have a great doctor.. Carla x

  26. Clare says:

    Hi Carla,

    Like so many other women I’ve got auto-immune issues and was diagnosed with Hashimotos (under-active thyroid) in my mid 20s. (By the way, I’ve never had a mammogram.) I’ve been on thyroid medication since my early 30s.

    I try to take a balanced position on the issue. I take my pills without much resistance. (I’m not sure if its the same for Graves but I’ was told the thyroid medication I take is literally the same composition as the thyroid hormone that I’m low on- so the body isn’t being given a “foreign chemical”, its just getting more of the hormone that it can’t produce itself).

    But I also love the idea of dealing with the problem with “complementary” therapies. Regular yoga and trying to stress less (a never-ending project), working on keeping my diet low GI and as unprocessed as possible.
    There are so many links between thyroid function and stress (and cortisol) and sugar intake (and type 2 diabetes) that its hard to keep on top of it all. I highly recommend Dr Libby’s “Beauty from the Inside Out”.

    Good Luck and keep creating beauty, I love your work
    x

    • Carla says:

      HI Clare, thanks for sharing your story. I agree 100 percent about the stress and sugar.. hope you are looking afer yourself.. Will check out the book.. Carla x

  27. My goodness Carla, what a diagnosis and what a positive attitude with such success already. Bravo to you on all levels. Like you I always eat whole food, am vegetarian etc and can imagine how surprised you were to have this diagnosis when you’d been doing all you could to lead a healthy life-style. It’s amazing how many suffer from some form or another of auto-immune disease. I’m so glad you are sorting it out and find the non-medical route is working for you. Take care, take great care.

    With love Jilly xxx

  28. Wow, go Carla! you just turned that negative straight into a positive:) It’s good to see you in such good spirits and now able to inspire more people with your story. Bless you and all the best for 2014 :) xx

  29. Deanna says:

    Oh Carla, it’s not easy. But part of your wonderful journey – even as it takes a very challenging turn. No doubt you’ll be brave and gorgeous as always. Hang in there chica xx dee

  30. YONKS says:

    Hi Carla,
    Great to meet you and even greater to read your good news.
    You have just confirmed a suspicion I have harboured for the longest time. Doctors are puppets of the drug industries. If nobody was ill they would not be so wealthy. There is absolutely no drive to heal naturally and when you mention this to a doctor they look at you like you have two heads. The last time I saw my doctor I was chastised for never going. When I said I was never ill so didn’t feel a need to go I was told “let us be the judge of that”. I lost confidence several years ago when I went with palpitations. They put me on antidepressants!! I wasn’t depressed. I too did my own online research and cut down on sugar intake. Guess what, the palpitations went.
    There is no money in it if we are healthy. I even believe they add all the unnecessary elements in processed foods to make us unhealthy. Have you ever been curious about why the drug and food admins are linked. Going a bit crazy now, but it does make you think. An unhealthy population equals a wealthy drug company.
    Keep well!
    Di
    X

  31. Caroline says:

    Hey Carla,
    Just saw your blog. Good on you for staying positive and recognising it can be managed. I had chronic fatigue syndrome 20 years ago and still feel the effects today if I do too much. I like to see it as Gods way of telling me to ‘stop and smell the roses’. We live life in the fast lane..and then wonder why we get ill…

  32. Linda says:

    Thanks very much for putting this story out. The food and disease relationship is becoming ever more crucial. The more information we have, the better we will be at making positive changes in our diets and for our health. Your story and the references you gave are very very helpful. I wish you continued good health. Linda, NYC

  33. Kate says:

    Sending you much love Carla. Glad to hear it gave you time to slow down and really enjoy your time is Australia. Was so great to see you again in Melbourne. Love for a beautiful healthy and happy year! xo

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