This week was a wake up call.
I like to think of myself as an extremely healthy person. I eat clean, avoid sugar and processed foods, exercise regularly, make sleep a priority and try to manage stress as much as possible.
So to find out that not only am I not fully healthy, I’m living with a disease that, left untreated, can have devastating effects on my body and quality of life.
I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
What the heck is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
In basic terms, my thyroid gland is under active, and on top of that, my body is attacking it.
On top of that, the gland itself is underproducing thyroid hormone, which means my metabolism is slow, I don’t have as much energy as I should and I am cold almost all the time.
Hypothyroidism runs in my family, and when I started having symptoms about a year ago I got tested. My doctor confirmed my levels were low and prescribed medication.
Stubborn as I am, I wasn’t convinced and didn’t follow through with treatment. It involved getting blood drawn regularly (every eight weeks) to track my levels and see how the meds affected them. I really dread getting blood drawn and so when it was time to have it done I made excuses and didn’t do it.
Long story short I wasted a year before finally going to see an endocrinologist. By this time I was starting to feel some of the fatigue that is so often associated with hypo, which I hadn’t felt before.
My test came back positive not only for Hypothyroidism but also Hashimoto’s. In the year since I was last tested, my levels had jumped big time.
Realizing I very likely allowed this condition to grow and do further damage to my body is sobering. I take my health very seriously but in this case I was simply irresponsible.
My approach now is to be as pro-active as possible. This means taking a pill every morning, probably for the rest of my life. But I’m not just taking medication. I believe in treating through nutrition and will be making these changes to my diet to hopefully help my thyroid heal:
- Adopting a gluten free diet. Fortunately I was mostly gluten free already just from eating healthy and avoiding wheat. But now I am label reading and removing all sources of gluten from my diet. Experts recommend anyone with an autoimmune disease avoid gluten because it triggers your antibodies to attack, and we are trying to get antibodies to settle down.
- Going dairy free. Again, I was mostly dairy free already with the exception of greek yogurt, but it is getting tossed now as well. Dairy contains a sugar called lactose and studies show many people have difficulty digesting lactose. Much of my symptoms are digestive so I don’t tend to do well on dairy.
- Avoiding soy. In the nutrition world soy can be pretty controversial. Some say studies show it can lead to increased estrogen production and put women at risk for reproductive cancers. Others say those studies are not accurate. Either way soy is not recommended for autoimmune patients. This means no more tofu or Bragg’s aminos. This is another one that will require a lot of label reading because soy hides in things you would not expect.
- No caffeine. Ugh. This one is tough for me. Coffee is a staple in my diet (as much as 3 cups a day) as well as green tea and both are highly caffeinated. However, caffeine is a stimulant and causes a hormonal fight-or-flight response in the body. Just like with gluten, this could set off my already delicate endocrine system. I don’t want to put anything in my body that will cause it stress, and that means coffee and caffeine must go. (I should mention I don’t drink alcohol already.)
- Saying no to sugar. If you’ve been following me for a while you know I’m pretty anti-sugar (refined and artificial) and don’t eat much of it. However, I do occasionally enjoy my dark chocolate or dessert. Sugar is difficult for the body to break down, causes digestive issues, is hard on the liver and inflammatory. All bad things, and especially for a person with a compromised system. Sugar is out for good.
Survive or Thrive
My body is dealing with a disease that can be debilitating and frustrating. Thyroid treatment is not an exact science and often takes months or years of testing to find the right medication and dose.
But I refuse to be a victim. I may not be able to control what happens inside my body but I can control what I put in my body, and the proper nutrition can do wonders for healing disease.
Yes, I love my coffee and it is going to be tough always reading labels and finding foods I love I can’t eat. Going out to restaurants is going to be extremely difficult.
I’m aware of all of this, but prepared to deal with it. What I want is a body that looks and feels as good as it can, and is healthy from the inside out. This is going to mean following an even stricter diet and making sacrifices. But if it means I could potentially heal my damaged thyroid and be the difference between surviving or thriving, I see no other choice.
Bring it on Hashimoto’s. I love a challenge.