On having hashimoto's

A post from Indiana . . . 

I've mentioned this on Instagram, and since then I've been trying to figure out how to write a post about it without making it a "feel alarmed or sorry for me" kind of post. So up front, don't be alarmed for me! Things are under control. 

It's been quiet here and with the podcast because I've been working very hard this last month to get my health in check. Some background: 

In 2008, after being misdiagnosed with Lupus in college, I finally got a handle on my health with a correct diagnosis of Hashimoto's Syndrome. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder in which my white blood cells attack my otherwise healthy thyroid. It leads to an eventual total destruction of the thyroid gland and is the number one cause of Hypothyroidism. However, before that happens my body is trying so hard to make my thyroid work the way it's supposed to work, which means I exhibit symptoms of both an overactive and an under active thyroid. The side effects vary from person to person, and triggers make symptoms ebb and flow and manifest in lots of different ways. 

When I'm pregnant, my symptoms pretty much go away. When I'm nursing, my flare ups are few and far between. For the greater part of the last five years I have been either pregnant or nursing. 

And right now, I'm not either of those things which means my Hashimoto's complications are back, and this time they seem to be a lot more pronounced. 

It started with my hair falling out. I chalked this up to typical postpartum hair loss, but when I began having to step out of dance class or conversations at church to throw away strands of hair, I thought, "Well, this isn't normal!" And then I saw a photo of Chris and I from St. Lucia and realized that the braid I had on the top of my hair in July was larger than the braid was I currently sporting-- a braid of ALL of my hair. Where my pony tail holder would usually just wrap around my pony tail twice, now it was going around five times. 

Then my insomnia came back. Most nights I couldn't get to sleep before 3 am, although I was exhausted by 6 pm every evening. Some nights I'd be too hot to sleep. Some nights too cold. Some nights I just couldn't get comfortable. 

In October, I saw a new doctor who let me me try a different medicine, but it was suggested that I also try a gluten-free diet*. I scoffed. New medicine I could do. Give up gluten? NEVER. I literally have a bottle of wheat gluten that I add to every bread and cake that I bake. I add extra gluten to foods! 

Until four weeks ago. 

The final straw was hand pain. I was trying to braid Caroline's hair (a difficult task given her wispy fine baby hair), but the pain in my joints almost brought me to tears. As I gritted my teeth to get through it, I had a horrible thought: what if, by the time Caroline's hair got long enough to actually braid that I couldn't do it at all because of the pain in my hands? 

The new medicine seemed to stave off the hair loss, but I was still having digestive issues, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue and brain fog, too. I needed to get my health under control, STAT. 

My doctor again suggested that I try a gluten-free diet. "Just try it for 12 weeks and we'll evaluate it then. Can you give it twelve weeks?"

I thought about how Chris has to rub my hands and elbows every morning before he goes to work so my joints warm up and I can use them. How the pain never completely fades. "Yes. I can try it."

Then I thought about how inconvenient going gluten-free over Thanksgiving, Chris' birthday, Christmas, and our vacation to the midwest would be. "I mean, no!"

Then I thought about Caroline's pathetic little braid. And MY pathetic little braid. "I mean, YES!" 

But then I thought about having to give up my daily McDonald's double cheeseburgers. "Uh, no. I can't do it."

But then I thought about never being able to thread a needle and make my kids' Halloween costumes. I suddenly felt determined. If I could give up 90% of my wardrobe for 12 weeks, I could give up gluten for 12 weeks, right? "Okay. I'm in. I'm all in. Let's try it." 

I'm four weeks in. In addition to going gluten-free I'm also being more regular with my exercise (weight lifting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, dance classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and yoga on Friday or Saturday). I haven't had McDonald's or missed a gym day, yet. 

And things are improving. I feel more rested. My digestive issues are completely gone. I feel like I can dedicate more time to my creative pursuits (or... watching Gilmore Girls!) and less time napping. 

I hate making (and failing) at promises that I'll be back to blogging and podcasting more regularly, but I'm feeling very hopeful these days. 

Also, if you need a good laugh, I posted some of my junk food confessions the other day on Twitter. I've Storified them / made them readable in one place here


I'm no doctor, but there's some anecdotal evidence that going gluten-free may help those with auto-immune disorders. There's also some strong evidence that links Hashimoto's with celiac disease (1, 2, 3). I'm skeptical that these are causal, but I'm a hopeful that an overall healthier lifestyle is all the correlation I need to get back on track.