2014 Update: Wow, things change! I now eat a Paleo AIP diet to control and reduce my autoimmune symptoms. Check out more about that diet in Sarah Ballantyne (AKA “The Paleo Mom”)’s awesome book The Paleo Approach. Just for kicks, here’s my understanding of this disease and what I was learning about the important effect of diet back in 2012:
When was the last time you had blood drawn at the doctor’s office?
If you’re lucky, you can’t even remember! But if you’re me, it’s never more than three months since my last one. And it stinks.
In 2004, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disorder that affects a lot of things like your mood, memory, and energy levels.
I’d like to share my experience because it is important to come to terms with your personal narrative, and I am always interested in other people’s stories– by sharing mine, maybe you’ll share yours!
The following conclusions, opinions, and suggestions are all heresay and according to my experience only (with the help of a few other notable peeps), so please don’t think I am pretending to have solved AI disorders!
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis/Auto-Immune Disorder?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a type of auto-immune hypothyroidism in which your immune system comes to see your thyroid as an outside attacker. So it attacks and, over time, kills it.
Your thyroid is kind of important, taking care of your metabolism (energy levels and digestion) hormones (mood and functioning) and nervous system (desire to move, ability to heal).
A damaged thyroid leads to a slowed production of various hormones you need to sustain life (your period, your hair, your nails, your will to move or live… etc).
How Do You “Get” HT/AI?
There are a lot of things that can add up to this kind of diagnosis – for one, trauma (such as a surgery) can cause your body to overreact.
It is also a delicate cocktail of genetics, hormones, and stress (though many think it’s mostly stress).
And having such a disorder can lead to a lot of food intolerance, depression, and just kind of general life-pain that makes it really hard to be a dependable, friendly person to the outside world.
It can also lead to (or is linked to) all kinds of digestive problems, like IBS, Crohn’s disease, Grave’s disease, and general gluten-intolerance. But more on that in a minute.
I suspect that this process started when I was born with some kind of hormone problem (passed over at birth, because my mom was rightfully put off at the thought of putting a newborn under anesthesia for testing).
I struggled with managing my weight through most of middle school, which cleared up with a lot of exercise in high school, but then reared back up after knee surgery in my second year of college (I think this is the kind of trauma that causes AI to rear up).
Over a period of 1-2 years, I would sometimes take my medicine and sometimes not.After my surgery, and after a few months of feeling exhausted upon waking and gaining weight, a random nurse took a random blood test and we found out my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) was at 11 (read: very high). We went the pill route, until I finally saw a specialist for a ultrasound and further testing.
I remember a doctor getting frustrated with me for not being consistent about taking the prescription, and me being just as frustrated back that no one could explain to me what was happening or tell me what to do besides take a pill.
Since college was so much more important (read: interesting) to me than my health, I just sort of stumbled on, having bouts of depression and up and down weight problems, always wondering what was wrong with me that I was so lazy and un-inspired.
But my experience Teaching (you might know how that turned out) opened my eyes a little more about what was really wrong.
Over the years, my TSH number has jumped up and down. I started on 25mcg of Levothyroxine and have since blasted through the medication increments of 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200 and up. Then I felt sick in the mornings and switched to brand-name Synthroid (yes, there’s a difference!).
And even now, just the other day I got the call from my doctor saying we’re going up (again), now to 225 per day and 300 on the weekends.
So… it never really ends.
I have never been more consistent with my medications, and yet my TSH has still floated around based on time of year, stress, and other medications. I have been as low as .5 since (love it!) and as high as 8.5 (a few weeks ago).
Frustrating to say the least.
My symptoms range from a deep moodiness, cloudy-foggheaded memory loss, to just knowing it’s time to sit in a dark room to brood. Then there’s the physical symptoms (they’re all true…). And sometimes, I’ll just not be able to move.
I remember one time a few years ago, playing tennis with JHubbs, I just… stopped. I tried to lift my arm and it felt like a huge internal shrug. And I just shuffled off the court and sat on the sidewalk, not really sure what was happening around me.
Glad I wasn’t driving, I guess?
And then sometimes I have good days and I feel like I am walking on tiny clouds, blasting through to-do lists, workouts, and party-planning.
That’s when I usually make schedules and plans (always a new workout schedule, right?) and when I write letters and call my friends to catch up. Because I know the mood can’t possibly last….
It really, really, really sucks.
Lesson Learned: Be Your Own Scientist
The most disappointing conclusion I have reached is that you must be your own scientist here.
I can’t do this topic any more justice than the amazing work over at Sarah Wilson’s blog, so here are some links and information that I found incredibly helpful.Which might attest to how Type-A I am– that I think taking care of myself and learning about what works for me is an annoying burden!
- A basic overview of Auto-Immune.
- What it feels like to have AI.
- How AI will just attack and ruin your day for no reason.
- Theories on how AI is linked to stress and unbalance. (and small things I can do here) and more about stress causing it here.
- Ways to solve AI with food..
- Technical information about T3 and T4..
Lesson Learned: Treat Your Stress
AI disorders are so deeply entwined with stress, depression, and living a balanced life that it is hard to avoid the rest of the pie. Here are some links to Stephanie’s Keeper of the Home, which helped me work my way through a little homeopathy and stress-related adrenal fatigue.
- What is Adrenal Fatigue and Do I Have It?
- My Journey to Burnout: Proof that I Can’t Do It All
- Treating Depression Naturally: Supplements, Foods, and Herbs for Feeling Better
Lesson Learned: Sometimes I’m Gluten-Intolerant
Talk about sucks! Sometimes I can chow down on homemade pizza and muffins just fine.
Sometimes (like this weekend) my gut says, “Dear God! No!” and let’s me know it’s time to stop (I’ll spare you any further details, because it gets pretty gross..).
When that happens, I start taking a probiotic, downing yogurt and kefir like there’s no tomorrow, and I cut out gluten (anything with wheat or most flours).
I heard some advice that it’s better to focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t… so when I am having a gluten-free week (or month) I turn to these staples and replace my bread and flour with….
- Rice – brown, white, cheesy, etc. Rice in the morning, rice under my Thai food, rice in my apple sauce. Rice. (Soaked).
- Corn – not as much as rice, but in my tortillas and my chips, corn hits the spot.
- Oats – you can find gluten-free, but I think most oats are okay. Homemade granola, granola bars, oatmeal. You got it.
And everything else is basically golden! Vegetables (as many as I can hold in my stomach), applesauce, and dairy (for now) keeps me from feeling too deprived (and thank goodness chocolate is not a wheat product….)
Though right now I am really, really craving a big pancake.
Lesson Learned: Slow Down & Appreciate Everything
Sarah Wilson frequently mentions that she thinks AI usually strikes those efficient, Type-A types who are doing too much.
I very much agree.
I am uncomfortable with free time, always working, blogging, cleaning, cooking, or planning, so go-go-go that I often leave my health and priorities in the dust.
HT, Depression, and AI were a big stop sign, a stop sign I still need every once in a while to tell me to, well… STOP. Read a book. Sit by the window with the cat (in a not-creepy way), and just enjoy life.
Dishes can be dirty another day without too many repercussions, and rooms can be cleaned later. But your health is now!
And Finally, My Fears:
In the spirit of following Jess @ MML’s Things I Am Afraid to Tell You posts, I can now say that I am very afraid about some things.
About my body’s ability to be healthy enough to get pregnant (let’s not talk about how much weight I carry around while I’m waiting to feel good enough to move).I am concerned about my body’s ability to get pregnant later on (because thyroid affects your hormones, which affects your fertility…).
(I guess you can see what JHubbs and I have been thinking about lately….)
About waking up and not being able to do anything I need to do (see: having a job, being dependable), about being sad forever (because depression just feels like that, right?) about getting sick all the time (infected finger joint, anyone? I mean really, how random is that…). And about my body in general.
But I think the positive that could come from that is realizing there is a whole other creature in the spirit and in the heart and in the mind to tend to.
So, lots of people have broken/malfunctioning bodies (and some to a more serious, more obvious extent).
I’ll just plan to do my best with what I have and focus on tending that patient spirit and friendly soul.