Friday, 28 November 2014

Reclaiming my Health - Beating Hashimotos Thyroiditis

I went to my Endocrinologist today for my annual checkup. I pushed it into the end of this year because I have been getting concerned about how much hair I'm losing on a daily basis. It's coming out in my hands in chunks every time I shower! Also, some unexplained weight gain creeping up on me again. And because the rest of this year has been such a cockup healthwise, I thought I may be experiencing a Hashimotos relapse.

The brilliant news is that I'm not! In fact, she says I have the best Thyroid stats ever since I was first diagnosed three years ago! Shew! That is such a brilliant thing to hear today!

So what, you may ask, is this disease you have with such a weird name. Here's a definition from the Mayo Clinic site:
Hashimoto's disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck below your Adam's apple. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body's activities.
The resulting inflammation from Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

So basically your body's autoimmune system attacks your thyroid. Until it's dead. And stops working. Then you need chronic meds to replenish the hormones the thyroid produces. Because it's like one of the gears in the engine of your body, and when its stops working, your body goes ballistic.

How did I know I had Hashimotos? Well I Google-diagnosed myself at first: I was tired. All the time. My brain was coming and going. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate. My moods were up and down. I got fatter and fatter whilst eating exactly the same food as my perpetually thin husband. His opinion was that I just lacked motivation and discipline, and that I should get out there and exercise more. Only I couldn't. Because I couldn't get off the fucking couch!

They symptoms for Hashimotos Thyroiditis, also according to the Mayo site, are as follows:

You might not notice signs or symptoms of Hashimoto's disease at first, or you may notice a swelling at the front of your throat (goiter). Hashimoto's disease typically progresses slowly over years and causes chronic thyroid damage, leading to a drop in thyroid hormone levels in your blood. The signs and symptoms are mainly those of an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). 
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include: 
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • A puffy face
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unexplained weight gain — occurring infrequently and rarely exceeding 10 to 20 pounds, most of which is fluid
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
  • Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
  • Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
  • Depression

When I went to my local GP to say I thought I had a thyroid problem she did some basic tests. And said that I didn't have a thyroid problem. Which confounded me because I was sure I did have a Thyroid problem. So I made my own appointment with the Endocrinologist. She was obviously a lot more thorough with her testing of me, and came back with the Hashimotos diagnosis. And whipped out her prescription pad to prescribe me some Altroxin to start.

I said No. I had done enough research to see that it seemed to be possible to manage Hashimotos with diet. I had done this successfully once before in 2003 when I had a horrible bout of Chronic Fatigue and I was resolved to try it again - use food to heal myself. She was very skeptical - as with all western medicine practitioners - she wanted to see the clinical trials before she was prepared to support such an action. I made a deal with her that I would try it for 6 months and we could retest. I would take her meds if I couldn't make a dent in my stats. She reluctantly agreed and I set to work.

I cut gluten out of my world immediately. And, for good measure, eliminated sugar and dairy completely for 6 months too. It's a tough way to live, but my husband and mom-in-law were very supportive and I managed to pull it off without a single lapse. The theory around eliminating gluten is that people are starting to think that gluten triggers autoimmune responses in intolerant people. Years of gluten onslaught in the gut system starts to create 'Leaky Gut Syndrome' (Google it!) where more than just good stuff permeates the gut and is released into the body. Gluten proteins approximate human proteins in some way and so the immune system is triggered and attacks the thyroid, slowly killing it. So eliminating gluten should reduce the autoimmune trigger and slow down the destruction of the Thyroid, giving it a much longer functional life.

I also joined an online Facebook support group for Hashimotos sufferers (search for Hashimoto's 411 on Facebook). That has been a godsend - people from all over the world, living with Hashi's, and sharing practices that help and hinder the progress of the disease. I have also seen that the more committed and disciplined people are to lifestyle management, the more likely they are to find wellness and vitality. Thousands of people on this site complain bitterly about not getting on top of the symptoms, but refuse to make the lifestyle choices that can actually bring relief. Because its' too hard, living with this disease. I get it. And it's easier for me because I'm in the earlier stages of disease progression. But I just feel like I owe it to myself and my family to do everything I can to retain ME, and not lose myself to the dark hole of fatigue, pain and depression that I see sets in when this disease really gets hold of you.

So I'm thrilled that after a few years of very committed lifestyle management, I am winning this particular battle to save my Thyroid. As I'm rereading this piece I see it sounds upbeat and easy. It wasn't. Dragging yourself through every day, fighting the fatigue, the brain fog, the weight gain is a very hard thing to do. And pulling off that AND raising a family, AND running a challenging business, AND dealing the abusive Narcissist onslaught at work every day - wow - I'm amazed I'm still standing!

It's not really a battle won. Actually it will continue to take focus and energy and discipline from me for the rest of my life. Vigilance in watching every ingredient that goes into every sauce that I eat; saying no to the most delicious and enticing treats, no to comfort food. Exercising regularly to keep my body strong and healthy. Managing the emotional and spiritual part of my life so I don't continue to carry negative and destructive energy around in my body. Choosing the people I surround myself to be more supportive and healing human beings, instead of the Narcs I've chosen through most of my life so far. And also tackle the other Autoimmune conditions I have - the Rheumatoid Disease, Asthma, and the chronic fatigue that is always hovering, looking for a weak moment to set in.

So. I'm gaining weight and my hair is still falling out in chunks. If not thyroid, then most likely culprit would be that chemo I take every week for my RA. Next stop, Rheumatologist - let's see whether we can solve those issues soon, before I end up bald!!

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