The Red Thread and Thiamine

Even though my two daughters were born worlds apart, a red thread connects us.

thiamine red thread

There is a saying in China about a Red Thread connecting people who are destined to meet and/or help one another in a profound way no matter how far apart they may be. Our adopted daughter Abby is that red thread. Abby was abandoned and found on the day our oldest daughter, Kayla, turned thirteen. It was at this time Kayla’s health issues were becoming worse. Although we didn’t know exactly what was amiss, we knew that something was wrong. In our efforts to help Abby, our family’s health issues were brought into stark relief. It seems that all of us have suffered from longstanding thiamine insufficiency. Even though my two daughters were born worlds apart, that red thread connects us. We published Abby’s story last week in the hopes that it might help someone else. Here is Kayla’s story.

Unhealthy Beginnings for My Beautiful Daughter: IVF and Induction

Common sayings like ‘you are what you eat’ can be haunting, leading to guilt when we see our children suffer the consequences of our own ill health, especially during pregnancy. My gut was messed up and had been for a very long time before becoming pregnant. I was likely deficient in thiamine and other nutrients and perhaps that is why I struggled to get pregnant in the first place. Sometimes gut dysfunction is obvious, as with constipation or diarrhea, but more often it manifests itself in other ways. That was me. I had/have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and most likely also, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome (POTS). I did not know any of this though before pregnancy and have only recently, after hours upon hours of research, come to learn how my health impacted my daughter’s health.

Kayla was our first hard-fought-for child. We were married 10 years and had undergone numerous fertility treatments before we finally achieved a successful IVF. Looking back, I realize that I was not healthy prior to or during my pregnancy, even so it was mostly an uneventful pregnancy with little to no typical unpleasantries. I had low progesterone early on that required progesterone injections and suppositories, but after 13 weeks everything stabilized. I had a high blood pressure reading at only one routine visit in my 39th week. The doctor decided to induce. We didn’t question it at the time, but later did. At the hospital, he administered Pitocin, a synthetic oxytocin, without any nurses in the room and left.  The nurses later commented that they were surprised, since my blood pressure was back in the normal range upon admission. Pitocin is just one of my regrets. Why was my body not triggering labor? Gut dysbiosis? Maybe/possibly/probably or maybe she just wasn’t ready to come out.

A Truly Gifted Child

Kayla was an extremely bright child. She wanted to learn chess at four years old. By age 9, I stopped playing with her because she always won. She gave her math brilliant-grandfather a run for his money.  She was homeschooled through 9th grade followed by private and then public school. She was a straight ‘A’ student, participated in various athletics (swim, track, dance, horse riding, etc.) and mastered two musical instruments by the end of high school. Kayla ranked in the top 5th percentile nationally and did well in first semester of college, but little did we know how precarious her health had become. Perhaps because of her intelligence and achievements, many of her health issues and difficulties were disregarded by physicians. On the surface, she looks well. She is very high functioning, but she has been plagued with an assortment of complicated and largely unrecognized health and neurological issues since birth. During her first semester of college, a series of stressors brought her health crashing down and she is only now beginning to recover. Part of her recovery has been diet, part involves thiamine, but we are still missing some pieces, which is why we are publishing her story.

Early Childhood Symptoms and Triggers

Her early childhood was marked by early bouts of bronchitis necessitating antibiotics. She suffered croup through age 7 years and seasonal allergies through her teens for which she used Claritin regularly. Nighttime enuresis was a problem until we removed gluten from her diet when she was 12 years old. Similarly, her speech was often and seemingly randomly slurred. She received speech therapy through the school to no avail. In 2018, we removed dairy from her diet and the slurring disappeared. It appears that just as a gluten reaction triggered her nighttime enuresis, the ingestion of dairy was some sort of trigger for her slurred speech. I should note, before learning this, we experimented with probiotics, fish oils, digestive and pancreatic enzymes, and a variety of other supplements off and on for years with no noticeable or lasting changes. Her younger years were marked also by body temperature dysregulation, i.e., hot in the winter, cold in the summer. Finally, most things, not all, came easy to her. She had extreme strengths and weaknesses with her strengths often masking her weaknesses. Noticed by many of her extracurricular teachers hard things seemed easy, and easy things hard. Her brain craved complexity.

Vaccinations, Cyclic Fevers, and Green Drinks

In her preteen years, she received numerous vaccinations (required and strongly recommended) prior to our trip to China to adopt her sister. Shortly after, she began to develop worsening mood swings, anxiety, depression, brain fog and has experienced dizzy spells off and on since then.

When her menses began, she bled heavy for three straight weeks. Her doctor put her on birth control pills to stop it; again, a symptomatic treatment. She was borderline to severely anemic and often had PMS and painful periods.

During her teen years, she had repeat and unexplained fevers. She was sick with high fever/flu-like symptoms for three days every four weeks for three years. She’d get sick like clockwork! She would become weak, sleep a LOT, as if she were in a coma. Her doctor was stumped. I had been reading a lot about the use of systemic enzymes used by German doctors. The book by Karen DeFelice mentioned viruses often have a cyclical pattern. So we used high doses of ViraStop2x according to her protocol for a 3-week “holding spell” and it was gone. No more cyclical episodes.

In trying to get healthier, she began “green drinks” (spinach/fruit) 5-6x week. Six months later she was very sick: anemic again, double ear infection, abnormal EEG with heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The cardiologist had put her on a heart monitor for three days, but the results were normal. Perhaps oxalates? I began learning more about oxalates and we began eating less of these foods overall. I’m grasping at straws…

The Red Thread and Thiamine

In 2018, we learned about TTFD/thiamine and began taking Sulbutiamine. My younger daughter, Abby, has improved immensely. In fact, my entire family now uses thiamine and we all feel much better. Before taking thiamine, we all used to be so tired after spending a day at the beach and everyone would need to nap. Now, after supplementing with thiamine for a while, everyone still has high energy levels after these trips. Except for Kayla. Her results with thiamine have been mixed. There seems to be more at play. Perhaps she requires a higher dosage of thiamine or maybe additional nutrients are needed.

Her recent labs for CBC/CMP, thyroid, A1C, vitamin D are all normal. Manganese is low and prostaglandin F2 is elevated. There is some indication of malabsorption based on her bloodwork.  Recently, an Organic Acids Test indicated normal oxalates, low dopamine and serotonin, and extremely high ketones/fatty acids. She has had high folate levels in the past, but at present are normal. Her B12 levels at present are elevated.

In 2019, she began having occasional extremely painful periods where she would be on-the-bathroom floor curled in the fetal position until Ibuprofen kicks in. Her skin is often very pale. Her doctor is not concerned about the increasingly painful menses or the ketones/fatty acid elevations.

My frustration as a parent is that because most of my child’s bloodwork is normal, the doctors write-off her symptoms as stress-related and recommend things like yoga, meditation or saunas or some fluff. Not that these things are bad, but there is something more at work here and no one seems interested in figuring it out. I am bothered that when they do see markers of inflammation or malabsorption they ignore them or really don’t know what to make of it.

Environmental Causes Of Ill-health and Longstanding Thiamine Insufficiency

Over the course of these last years, I have come to realize how important diet and environment are to health. When the pond is poisoned, sadly the tadpoles are hit first, are hit the hardest and display the affects most noticeably. Our youngest child was hit hard. Her circumstances prior to adoption were not conducive to health and she has had many struggles to overcome those early stressors and nutrient deficiencies. Likewise, owing to my ill-health prior to and during my pregnancy and the subsequent western medical treatments, Kayla struggles too. The pond was poisoned for both of them. All lifeforms that drink from a poisoned pond will manifest problems at some point, in some way. Perhaps if we had known about thiamine when they were younger, their problems wouldn’t have manifested the way they did.

Fortunately, Kayla has always eaten healthy, and has been active and athletic throughout her life. As an adult, she experiments with the removal of foods for periods of time to see if things improve, such as grains or cow’s milk and she is cooking creatively. She has been sugar-free for over a year. She takes vitamins and minerals and Sulbutiamine. She recently switched to Lipothiamine and Allithiamine and is now slowly increasing it to see if her dizziness will abate at some point.

I would trade all of her past accolades to have her in better health. We don’t know where her road will lead. Healing is multi-dimensional and someday we hope to look back at today with those oft used words “remember when…”.

Michelangelo was nearing 90 when he said “I am still learning.”  I hope to be too.

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