When I tell people the name of the autoimmune disease I developed a few years ago, they usually give me a peculiar look. They almost have never heard of it or if they have, they either also have it or know someone quite well who does. Hashimoto's Thyroditis according to the American Thyroid Association is "is an autoimmune disorder involving chronic inflammation of the thyroid". It means your thyroid stops working and well, frankly, you want your thyroid to work properly. Again from the American Thyroid Association, "The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should." As you can see, it's pretty important to your body's function.

During an annual visit with my doctor, a thyroid blood panel showed my antibodies were high. I now see this is as a major marker for Hashimoto's, but at the time she just asked me a string of questions that included: "Are you stressed?" "Are you sleeping?" "How do you feel?" And to be honest, I was stressed, I wasn't sleeping and I felt terrible. But I wrote it off as I was working harder than ever at my job and thought I wasn't taking care of myself the way I should have. I fought my own doctor when she tried telling me something was wrong because I didn't want to hear it. I thought I could make myself feel better with self-care and a vacation.

My doctor encouraged me to do some research on Hashimoto's and I realized I had every, single symptom. This included tiredness, unexplained weight gain, trouble tolerating the cold, muscle weakness, constipation, brittle hair and skin, brain fog, wheezing, a slow heart rate, depression, and debilitating anxiety. I finally acknowledged I was sick and now take a dose of Levothyroxine every morning.

The research continued and upon going gluten-free, I have found the most success with managing my symptoms. When I was first told to go gluten-free, I didn't because of a stupid reason. I ate less gluten, which I later learned was not the same thing if I wanted to feel results. I didn't want to be a burden to my family and friends for needing a dietary restriction for an illness they couldn't see or understand. It seems silly now, but at the time I didn't want to be "that girl". The one who calls ahead to the restaurant to see if they have gluten-free pasta or checks labels to make sure it's not hiding in the sauce or dressing. It's not an allergy and I feel very fortunate that it won't kill me if it sneaks into my food, although I did develop a mild allergy to nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, paprika, and peppers just to name a few). But after finally giving it a try, going gluten-free cleared me of almost every symptom, especially the brain fog. I can still remember the day it lifted as I was in the thick of planning a trip to Australia and could finally arrange some travel items with a clear head.

I share my story because it is just the beginning, as Hashimoto's is incurable and I will continue to manage it for the rest of my life, they tell me. My goal is to let the world know more about autoimmune diseases and why they are happening to more young people at an alarming rate. According to multiple reports, it is not uncommon for a person to develop multiple autoimmune issues as their immune system breaks down. As medicine advances and we learn more about why these diseases are occurring, my hope is to spread the word of their existence in order to find preventable measures and possible cures. My personal word of advice is to listen to your body and recognize when you feel off. My body was trying to signal for help and I didn't want to listen. I was angry with my thyroid for not working properly, but I have come to terms with what I can't control and continue to focus on what I can. It has been a journey to loving the new me, but I'm on it. You can find out more about the Thyroid at the American Thyroid Association website.


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