After finishing college, seemingly unrelated health issues began to crop up: anxiety, insomnia, swollen ankles, exhaustion, restless legs, acid reflux, acne, brittle hair, dry skin, cold hands and feet, lightheaded sensations when standing, joint pain, weight gain, digestive issues, headaches, mood swings and hypoglycemia. Friends and family jokingly called me a hypochondriac because I always had something wrong with me even though I “looked healthy.”
I was basically in denial about the state of my health for those few years of my life. My symptoms were constantly changing, so it was difficult to pinpoint what was going on. I had a lot of joint pain, but the pain would move around throughout my body. It hurt to even think about running, even though I was a former cross-country runner. Stomach issues were just something that I tried to deal with as part of my daily routine. I was always exhausted, and I wasn’t sleeping well– a vicious cycle that led to anxiety and weight gain. I’d never experienced any of these ailments before, so I tried to blame them on the stress of my job and commute.
With all of these unrelated symptoms plaguing me constantly, I thought I was going crazy. I’d suddenly become the girl who always had all of these little ailments. It took time to realize that they all might be connected somehow.
Finally, when my parents were visiting DC from New York, I tried to put the anxiety I had been feeling into words. I remember breaking down and trying to tell them, “I know this isn’t normal.” I was thinking about going to a therapist for my anxiety when I stumbled onto a holistic type website. The website suggested looking into diet and herbal medicine before trying anxiety medications and discussed the impact that adrenals have on anxiety. That was my first tangible clue that I had the power to heal my laundry list of ailments through lifestyle changes.
After years of being “borderline” hypothyroid, (even though every single member of my family has a thyroid disorder) I saw an endocrinologist, who finally diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland causing hypothyroidism.
Before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I never made the connection between what I ate and how I felt. I was used to being a skinny cross-country runner who could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. In high school, family dinners always included bread and desserts, and I’m pretty sure almost everything we ate came out of either a box or a can. Lunch was fast food almost every day. I wasn’t a picky eater, so I never considered myself unhealthy. But, even my better meal choices were usually salads drenched in dressing or sandwiches and wraps that I could eat on the go.
After I got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I started on medication, which I am still taking. While the medicine helped right away with my energy, its effects started diminishing over time. Even though I was put on medication, I didn’t like the thought of my body attacking my thyroid, so I read everything I could about my disease to see what else I could do.
After going to a naturopathic doctor, who also diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and possible mold exposure, I went through a four-month mold detox and low carb/low sugar diet. I finally realized the impact that holistic nutrition can have on my disease! Over time, I have learned the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods to control– and hopefully put into remission– an autoimmune disease.
Currently I am gluten and grain free and have eliminated other food sensitivities like eggs and tomato. I try and follow a Paleo diet. I still have days where I get down and wish that I could eat “normal” again, but most of the time, my new diet (coupled with supplements and the medication that I began with) has me feeling better than I have in years. I have even enrolled in the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program so I can heal myself further and spread the word to others about the importance of a nutrient dense diet.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Read more about the causes and symptoms of Hashimoto’s on Dr. Wentz’s best-seller, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause and get over 125 Hashimoto friendly recipes on Hashimoto’s Cookbook and Action Plan.
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