This post on Managing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is sponsored by Actalin. All opinions stated are my own!
As if I didn't already have enough medical issues with avascular necrosis, a total hip replacement at 38, multiple stress fractures, iron deficiency and years of amenhorrea, I also have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Many clients come to me with questions about managing Hashimoto's disease which prompted me to write this post.
Hashimoto's is where the body's immune system destroys the cells of the thyroid glands. I was diagnosed with it in 2015, but given my complex medical history I suspect I've been living with it much longer. Most doctors only test TSH levels in regular labs. For years, I knew I was hypothyroid but it wasn't until I saw a functional medicine doctor who ran thyroid antibody tests (TPO and TG antibodies) that I discovered how severe my thyroid disease was. These tests are the best for diagnosing Hashimoto's and are generally covered by insurance, but most doctors won't run them unless you ask.
At the time I was diagnosed, my life came to a screeching halt with a car accident. Leading up to the accident, I knew something was very wrong with me. However, no matter how many doctors I saw or how many tests I had done, no one could tell me why I could barely get through a normal day. I had extreme fatigue and brain fog. All I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like I was slowly dying.
Eventually, through the right tests and with the help of the right doctor I was able to start managing Hashimoto's disease. Like any disease, you accept there's no cure and learn to manage your life around the limitations of the disease the best you can. For me, that's been the most frustrating part of living with Hashimoto's. Accepting I can't do everything I once could do or that I want to do.
Now, two years later I've learned many things about managing Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Today I want to highlight a few things that have helped me. I share these and other ways with the clients I coach with this disease as well and I hope they help you.
Managing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
When I was initially diagnosed with the disease, my diet was out of control. I had uncontrollable sugar cravings and the more sugar I ate, the worse I felt and my gut was growing by the second. I was able to get this (and my growing gut) under control by eating a low carb diet. Lots of green vegetables, lean protein, avoiding gluten, dairy, grains, legumes and consuming small amounts of fruits. Looking back, all the foods I cut out were foods I was turned off by. So there's something to be said for listening to your body.
Overtime, the cravings stopped and I was able to introduce complex carbs and grains back into my diet. To this day, it's still a balancing act though. People will often ask me what diet I recommend for this disease (i.e. Paleo, AIP, Whole30, etc.) and I always say the one that works for you. I don't like labeling a diet to a disease because there's too many personal factors that go into what a person eats.
The biggest lesson I've learned managing Hashimoto's thyroiditis is how critical stress management is for managing the disease. For years, I traveled and worked long hours as a consultant. Stress triggers this disease and it is what triggered mine causing me to feel fully depleted and had me dragging through the day. Eventually, I hit a wall. I knew something major had to change in order for me to be able to survive and live a real life.
The answer for me was quitting my 9 to 5 corporate job. This was hard. Very hard. In the end, quitting corporate work was the best thing I ever did for my health.
Exercise is tied to stress which means I can't go hard core everyday. It raises my cortisol level too much and fatigues me. The trick I've learned with exercise is doing enough to get the benefits but not too much that my body can't handle it. This is why I balance my workouts between hard and light workout days. On hard days, I'll teach a spin class and lift weights and on a lighter day, I'll walk or swim. It takes time and experimentation to strike the right balance, but this is what's worked for me.
I need a lot of sleep. I've learned I can't push myself when I'm tired. Sometimes my boyfriend and friends make fun of me for going to bed early, but I can't help it. The disease makes me tired, and some days I just need more sleep than other days. If I need a nap, I nap. If I need to go to bed early, I do it. There's no negotiating anymore with me and sleep.
For years I've battled unexplained iron deficiency and B12 anemia. On multiple occasions, I was so low I was threatened with transfusions and had to give myself injections. Now I take a spectrum of supplements for nutritional support as well as things to maintain my gut immunity.
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