This post is all about me! It’s gonna be awesome (hehe)! And I do like to go on….so there’s going to be a few installments. The purpose of these posts is to explain a bit about how this blog came to be and why I focus on specific areas of nutrition such as immune and digestive support.
This post is a little bit about the auto immune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (or Hashi’s for short – it’s cuter), me pre- diagnosis and what happened when I first found out I had it. Post 2 starts to introduce food, the dietary changes I made and how food can be an amazing and delicious thing that can help us feel better! My favourite part 😉
You might be able to identify with some of what I talk about here, if you do – I feel for you! But don’t worry, it can get better. You might have a friend who feels the same way I did 2 years ago. Maybe send them a link to this post if you think it might help – information is the first step in learning to help ourselves.
1 in 20 people in Australia have been diagnosed with an auto immune disease and I’ve met, or have heard of through friends, at least 6 women with Hashi’s in the last 18 months – and I’m not that social! – so I’m thinking it must be fairly common. And yes, it does seem to particularly affect women.
Let’s step back to about 18 months ago. After a couple of years of feeling absolutely crappy and finding it very hard to get out of bed (I put it down to laziness), I had a blood test that showed I have an auto immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Great! So I wasn’t lazy! And I even had a name for it! A name for the absolute, bone deep, complete exhaustion that left me unable to do anything but lie in bed for a few days each month. A name for the reason my IQ had decreased by about 50% and my memory had gone to shit. A name for why I was unable to bear being around big, noisy, groups of people (without wanting to run away or punch them all, then run away). A name for that feeling of almost, but not, ‘depression’ that was mixed with a good deal of confusion as to why a “healthy” 30 year old woman was feeling this way. Now don’t get me wrong, compared to some Hashi’s kids I’ve read about I think I got off lightly, but feeling below par every day gets very, very boring. So, the diagnosis that there was actually something wrong – and it had a name – came as quite a relief.
In case you don’t know, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an auto immune disease that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. Yeah, my body likes to attack itself – what does yours do?! At this point, I see my immune system as an over active but well meaning child…I mean, it thinks it’s doing a great job, keeping me safe against my own thyroid, but all its energy is seriously misdirected! Anyway, the thyroid understandably gets pissed off with being attacked all the time and becomes inflamed (which is why I love anti inflammatory foods – more of that to come…), this also makes it hard for the thyroid to make enough hormones. Hormones run our interior world, they control your mood and metabolism….and your metabolism affects every single chemical reaction carried out by your body….so, you know, it’s kind of a big deal!
My doctor gave me a prescription for thyroxine, which aims to re-balance the amount of the hormone in your body. Taking this little pill had an almost immediate effect for me (although it’s supposed to take a few weeks – I think part of it was the relief of knowing something could be done!) and my mood and tiredness lifted, it was a amazing to feel “normal” again! But a few months later the old feelings of exhaustion and the frequent illnesses reappeared. My thyroxine hormone levels were fine according to blood tests, so I knew I had to look elsewhere for the answer. And when you think about it, it makes sense that if your immune system is stopping your thyroid from producing a vital hormone that affects every reaction in your body, then there are probably going to be knock on effects, right?
It was during these early days of looking for ‘something else’ when I discovered Sarah Wilson’s eponymous website (she’s a fabulous, clever, gorgeous, high profile Hashi’s kid – as far as I’m aware she also coined the term “Hashi’s kid”, so it’s Sarah that I am, er, “borrowing” it from) and met up with the inspiring and very helpful nutritionist / naturopath Tabitha McIntosh at Awaken Your Health in Sydney. These wonderful ladies pointed me in the direction of food (yum!) and lifestyle and made me realise how these key elements can affect our health (yes, yes, everyone knows this, I’m a late adopter!).
So number 1 is stress – deal with it, manage it or get rid of it. It affects your immune system (inflammation again), your endocrine system (hormones again), your digestive system (linked to immunity and hormone production) – and that’s enough to be getting on with, right?! I was lucky in that, although I had a fab job that I loved, I also knew my time had come to see what else was out there….so I drastically cut down my hours (thanks to a very understanding boss and even more understanding and supportive partner) and went back to college to study nutritional medicine. This greatly reduced my stress levels and started to equip me with the knowledge I needed to improve my health. Regular acupuncture from Emma Wong also really helped in the early days and it’s something I still turn to, to help ‘balance’ me when necessary.
And then I came to food. Now, I’ve always eaten pretty healthily – brown rice and wholemeal pasta all the way! – but I had to start looking at food from an auto immune perspective. This basically starts with ‘heal your gut’. So that’s what I started to do…..
Ok, that’s enough for one post! More next time…..xx