Could I be having a stroke at the age of 33?
At 18 weeks pregnant I decided to give the Whole30® Program a try. Since very early on in my pregnancy, my arms and hands, most notably my left side, would “fall asleep” or get really tingly and even numb during the night, waking me 3 or 4 times a night. At its worst I awoke one morning and couldn’t really feel my left hand and had very little coordinated function and strength of it. Of course my mind started racing with the extreme possibilities of what was going on: was I having a stroke, did I have a stroke, would I ever get function back of my hand? I’m a healthy and very active person who eats relatively well, could I really be facing something this serious? I decided to see how the day went and if I started to regain function of my hand, I’d wait until my upcoming Dr. appointment in a day or so. It simply felt like an intense tightening in my arm, especially my forearm, which wouldn’t release my hand and fingers. It was a very strange sensation to say the least.
I was diagnosed with pregnancy-induced Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which from my understanding is caused when either nerves or blood vessels within the space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed leading to the symptoms that I was and still am experiencing. And this isn’t just your typical arm falls asleep, pins-and-needles-feeling, it’s much more. Imagine your arm or hand falling asleep so deeply that it causes pain, and the only way to relieve it is to get out of bed and walk around until it subsides. This diagnosis has certainly cued me into other areas of my physical posture that could also be contributing to this, and which I have been successfully able to route around in Adamantine® Yoga practice. So although it is a struggle for me at this point, I am hopeful that this awareness is simply a way of uncovering a layer of my whole self that I have been able to guard against for who knows how long.
Coping with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
I have tried numerous sleeping positions, chiropractic care, massage therapy, incorporating more chest & shoulder opening modifications into my yoga practice, and recently added some basic rear deltoid & upper back strengthening as therapy into my day to attempt to alleviate some of the symptoms so that I can get a restful night’s sleep. I have realized that some combination of each of these on a regular basis tends to work the best. Most recently, I discovered that sleeping at an incline seems to help more than any other sleeping position, which makes sense considering I would have to get out of bed and be upright typically in order to get rid of the acute symptoms I would experience in the night. With all these changes to what I was doing there was still one component that I hadn’t changed—my diet. I can’t say that I eat incredibly unhealthy, and actually, we tend to eat fairly close to a Paleo diet most of the time. But, I still do enjoy ice cream, cheese, dark chocolate, and a host of other food choices that I make when in social situations. And with this pregnancy I seemed to need to have a snack (mostly crackers) within reach to avoid nauseousness between meals. So, honestly, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps altering my diet to follow the Whole30® Program would be an option.
Enter the Whole30®
However, after entering my 2nd trimester and realizing the nauseousness wasn’t going to last, I decided to start digging further into the possibility that my diet could also be playing a role in the TOS. Although we don’t tend to eat that far off of the Whole30® program, mostly it’s the hidden sugars & preservatives in things like bacon, condiments, & seasonings that get us, I knew there were tweaks that I could do to hopefully encourage the deep internal cleansing that the program promises. I learned that it was very practical to eat Whole30®during pregnancy as long as I ate enough carbohydrates (starchy vegetables & fruit) & healthy fat to make up for the calories I may miss by eating slightly less protein than I typically do. And because I would be eating all whole foods—unprocessed and without added preservatives & sugar—I would be feeding myself and my baby the most nutritious foods. In fact, Whole30® is now preparing to launch a whole series called Healthy Mama, Happy Baby focused on educating women on how to follow a Whole30® approach during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so I knew there was evidence that this plan was safe and could potentially make me feel a whole lot better during the rest of my pregnancy.
Progress so far
I’m 9 days in and it sure hasn’t been easy; some days are better than others, but the past few days have been really difficult for me. I can clearly see that our connection to food and eating is so much emotional & habitual rather than eating for actual hunger. Although, I do still have a snack between meals to keep my calories up and avoid losing any more weight (no snacking is one of the guidelines of the program). Yes, I do know that I was losing weight, (which is a side effect of Whole30®, but NOT the goal of the program) because when you are pregnant, you have regular check-ups so weighing is inevitable (if you’re not familiar with the program, one of the rules is that you CANNOT weigh yourself throughout the 30 days). My husband is back working days, so I naturally turn to my regular habits when it’s just my son and me at home, which often would include a bit of dark chocolate or sweet after lunch, then usually some crackers and cheese or something similar for a snack when he woke from his nap. I generally make sure he has a protein and carbohydrate at each snack, but I’ll admit that his carbohydrates haven’t been the best options, and that I had often fallen into the habit of sharing with him—we’re talking quick, easy, goldfish, oatmeal squares, Ritz crackers…you get the picture. Unfortunately we haven’t cut him off completely from those snacks yet, but I can say that I am not indulging with him.
Food is emotional & habitual
My other realization that food is so habitual and emotional came last weekend when I traveled with my son to my parent’s home about 2 ½ hours away. Upon beginning our car ride, I really wanted to stop and grab a coffee or drink to enjoy at some point on the ride and possibly even some of those unhealthy snacks you can grab quick at a gas station, but I resisted the urge. And arriving at my parent’s home was no easier. Now, I knew I was going to be there for only a few hours before heading back home, so it wasn’t as difficult as it could have been had I been staying for a whole weekend. But naturally, I wanted to fall back into eating the comfort food/snacks that my mom tends to have on hand—cookies, chips, wine, beer (oh wait…I’m pregnant…I guess I would have skipped out on that anyway;)), crackers, etc. Good news—I didn’t give in. Now had that been this week, it may be a different story. It was all so new last week that of course I didn’t want to quit what I had just started, but this week is proving to be much more difficult mentally. My mom and I ended up throwing together a wonderfully Whole30® compliant meal with foods she had on hand and we went on our way—safely leaving the danger zone.
What’s to come
I know I’ll face another challenge in a couple weeks when we head to Chicago to visit family, see a new nephew and celebrate another nephew’s birthday, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. It is going to be hard to do a Chicago trip without Jamba Juice (it’s typically a daily stop when we are out there). And it may take longer than 30 days to see a change in my TOS from altering my diet, but at least I can see how making these minor diet modifications has the potential to alter how I feel throughout the rest of my pregnancy.