As you may already know, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease earlier this year. I’m writing about it because it affects my ability to show up to my art making and my ambitions. I’ve been really quiet lately and I miss being here. Lately, my adventure with Hashimoto’s is like an art project and I wanted to share that with you.
My doctor told me that I would need to take a pill for the rest of my life … oh, and “why don’t we start me on hormone replacement therapy early?” I left her office that day feeling really confused. She knows a lot more about medicine than I do, but I was in no way on board with her prognosis and I didn’t know what to do. For awhile I just didn’t do anything; her words “Trust me…” and the look she gave me when I suggested that I might adapt my lifestyle to address the issue kept replaying in my head.
In early July I was participating in a #DareToExcel challenge and my symptoms kept getting in my way. It became clear that not only was I not going to be able to do the challenge but this was getting in the way of me living life. So I used the dare to directly face my Hashimoto’s. In the month of July I educated myself about the autoimmune disease and discovered there were people who have indeed cured themselves of it. I knew it was possible and I decided I was going to be one of them. I also knew it was the beginning of a long road. There wouldn’t be any quick fixes but I’m still game.
After reading books from the library, meeting with a few functional medicine gurus via Skype, I overturned a few fallacies about Hashimoto’s Disease:
- Hashimoto’s disease is a thyroid issue. No, it’s an autoimmune disorder. This is a significant distinction to make. If I tried to fix my thyroid, I would not get well. I needed to tend to a cycle of bodily triggers that have gotten botched along the way and are no longer operating correctly. This cycle involves hormone balancing, liver filtering, gut biome thriving, immune functioning in the gut and not leaking into the bloodstream and brain, proper rest, and other nuanced events that work together to make sure my body knows what to fight against and what is actually part of my own body.
- Medication and hormone replacement will fix the problem. No, medication “manages symptoms” and decrease the rate of decline. Hormone replacement does just that – replaces hormones. Over time your body figures it doesn’t need to do this for you. Taking medicine and hormones can temporarily alleviate my symptoms, but my body will continue to attack itself. I learned that in order to get better, I need to:
- Reshape my diet to heal my biome and gut lining. This means no: gluten, GMO foods, processed foods, sugar, foods I’ve become allergic to, alcohol, caffeine, skipping meals. Yes to: fiber, vegetables, healthy fats, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, probiotics and prebiotics, green tea.
- Manage stress: get enough sleep, rest when needed, don’t overexercise, meditate, MAKE ART!
- Detoxify. Get rid of heavy metals, chemicals, molds in my environment and body.
- Hashimoto’s disease is incurable. No, the conditions which cause my body to attack itself are, in fact, reversible. My body has known wellness and it can again if I shift conditions to make it so.
- Only a doctor can help me heal. No, I have what I need to heal myself. The two biggest things I need to do this are: a good source of information and ability to monitor and self-correct. A good doctor can help me do these things, because I’m not always very good at them; it’s very daunting and overwhelming, especially on those days when the fatigue is so great I’m in bed. But what I mean here, is more of a mindset: I have the resources to fashion my environment that will aid my wellness. I have the capacity to be proactive and effective about my own health; I am my own life long experiment.
- You do something ‘wrong’ which results in having an autoimmune disorder. When I started learning more about autoimmune disorders, the complexity and multi-facetedness of it had my head spinning. At one point I started to feel like this disease was incredibly unreasonable. But no, I realized it’s really our modern diets, toxic environments, and stressful lifestyles that are extreme and need to be rethought, for the sake of our wellness. We are all on our way to autoimmune dysfunction. Some of us are more sensitive to the extremes of our culture and we deal with it first. One woman I talked to told me that some people react to her as if she’d done something wrong to have the disease; the truth is, she’s not doing anything different to what everyone else is doing. She’s just more sensitive to the extremes of the situation. I’m in that boat, too.
- You have to live with having an autoimmune disorder; you’re sick, that’s who you are. The End. No, this is a bump in the road, but I refuse to believe that I am perpetually sick. Sure, I feel like I’m making excuses when I can’t go bike riding with my son or run with my husband because my joints hurt so much and I lack energy to pull it off. But this is temporary. This isn’t who I am.
I’m continuing to learn loads more than this, but these six points are what got me started. Now, midway through August, I’ve changed my diet (and continue to do so, this is an ever-refining process) and started taking chloride dioxide and have had very positive changes. My joint pain is nearly disappeared, my eyefog has cleared and I am not dipping into what I call “zombie-ism” (extreme fatigue and fogginess). I am heartened and excited about the road to wellness ahead!