This post was long time coming. I was so excited to share some of my recipes first that I had to put this post in the back burner. Well, now it is time for me to talk about the very thing that made me decide to change my diet and lifestyle for good.
The diagnosis of a chronic autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis made me take a hard look at what I ate, chose to think, the way I exercised and my general attitude in life and make a decision to try and heal myself by making changes to those aspects of my life. The option would be to not making any changes at all and go on to develop other autoimmune diseases and taking medication which comes with terrible side effects.
For me, making the choice to live a long, healthy and functional life holistically was a no brainer. It is not easy especially giving up certain foods that I loved to eat in my ‘previous’ life but I don’t regret it one bit. You can read more about my story and how it all began here.
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
It is an Autoimmune disease – a disorder in which the body’s immune system produces antibodies which attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis it is the Thyroid gland which is affected. The antibodies attacking the Thyroid gland causes the thyroid tissue to slowly die and slow down the Thyroid function reducing the thyroid hormones being produced. In most cases Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the cause of Hypothyroidism – an underactive Thyroid gland but not always. Medication and other factors can cause Hypothyroidism as well.
To be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis one has to present clinical symptoms of Hypothyroidism (under active Thyroid gland) and one of the following:
- Test positive to Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
- Enlarged goiter with or without nodules
- Low thyroid hormones
At the time of my diagnosis, I had symptoms of Hypothyroidism, tested positive to Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb) and had an enlarged multinodular goiter but my thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) clinically tested fine at 2.9mIU/L (the normal range is between 0.4mIU/L and 4.0mIU/L). At that time I did not know that in functional medicine a TSH below 2.0mIU/L is the optimal level for a well functioning Thyroid. The only way a conventional doctor does treat Hashimoto’s is with Levothyroxine – a synthetic hormone. Since my levels were fine I was told by the Endocrinologist that there was not much she could do for me at this stage and was told to do blood tests every few months and if my thyroid levels went above 4.0 then she will treat me with Thyroxine.
Needless to say I was frustrated and flabbergasted. Here is a doctor basically telling me to wait for my Thyroid gland to be destroyed sufficiently enough and stop producing the thyroid hormones before she could actually offer me any treatment.
In the meantime, I was developing other symptoms like joint aches, inflammation and stiffness, numbness, tingling and inflammation on one side of my body, memory loss, extreme exhaustion EVERYDAY, weird rashes and constantly being brain fogged. I went from being an energetic and articulate person to someone who was starting to resemble a brainless Zombie hit by a garbage truck everyday.
After further tests, these symptoms seemed to be related to a developing undifferentiated Autoimmune disease which was yet to be specifically identified. The Rheumatologist I was seeing suspected that I was developing Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. She recommended that I take Plaquenil a Disease Modifying AntiRheumatic Drug. This medication though comes with some serious side effects and I would have to do regular liver tests and eye check ups to make sure my liver is not shutting down nor am I going blind from the medication.
One thing to be aware of once being diagnosed with an Autoimmune disease is that sometimes when someone has one Autoimmune disease they tend to go on to develop another one or more. Some examples of Autoimmune diseases besides Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are Celiac, ME/CFS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Ulcerative Colitis and Multiple Sclerosis.
According to Healthline:
There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Many of them have similar symptoms, which makes them very difficult to diagnose. It is also possible to have more than one at the same time. They usually fluctuate between periods of remission (little/no symptoms) and flare-ups (worsening symptoms). There are no cures for autoimmune diseases, so treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms.
Well, I knew I had Hashimoto’s which was in the early stages and I was enroute to developing another Autoimmune disease or even two. I decided that I will try the holistic way of addressing the condition instead of starting on the Disease Modifying AntiRheumatic Drug straightaway and see how I feel, I hoped that I could heal my body in this way instead of having to take medication which came with terrible side effects.
I never looked back since.
This journey of healing is ongoing for me. I am and will always be learning new ways to improve the ways I can stay healthy – Mind, body and spirit. The whole lot because that is how it works really.
This how I manage my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis holistically and keep it in remission:
Foods that I avoid:
- Gluten and all grains except rice (Rice is the only grain which agrees with me and it is also a form of resistant starch, something I will go further into in a future post)
- Dairy and all products made from Dairy
- All processed food including the Gluten free & Dairy free varieties (except for air dried or smoked ham, sausages or fish with only salt and no other additives.)
- Refined sugar
- Too many fruits a day (I eat a maximum of one fruit a day and sometimes non at all. I eat plenty of vegetables instead and I feel best this way)
- Ready made sauces
- Anything with additives, preservatives and artificial flavours or colouring
Foods that I eat:
- All vegetables (I buy organic whenever available. I am blessed living in KL – the organic market here is huge and I can almost find any organic produce I want that is in season locally or overseas. You can read more about organic living in KL in one of my previous post here )
- Grassfed Meat
- Basmati rice & Organic brown rice
- Bone broth ( it pacifies my digestive issues & help heal my leaky gut – one of the possible causes of Autoimmune diseases)
- Celtic salt, Himalayan pink salt or good quality sea salt
- Cold pressed Olive oil, Organic coconut oil or Rice bran oil (I do not use any other oils for my salads or cooking)
- A glass of fresh vegetable juice
- Additional vitamins to rectify any nutritional imbalance – this happens when you have a leaky gut and healing it is an ongoing process (I make sure that the vitamins are of good quality and contain as little fillers as possible artificial fillers or otherwise, this is not easy to find but there are companies who do make good quality vitamins)
- I don’t use any meal replacements, I just eat regular meals
In the past, I have hiked my hip out, did gym Hatha yoga classes, Body Pump, Body Jam, Zumba and Body Combat classes, Bikram yoga up to 4 times a week and Pilates. Non of these activities really did anything to soothe my symptoms and some have actually caused me more misery than relief. Sometimes, we just have to admit the truth to ourselves when something is not working especially after a few years and move on.
Exercises that I do for my body:
- I keep it simple – I walk everyday at least for 30 minutes
- Simple yoga stretching, nothing fancy
- Be aware of my posture and breath
- Household chores – A clean and comfy home equates to a healthy body and mind, no one feels good living in a cluttered mess. Cleaning up is not something I enjoy or grew up doing, my mum did everything for us. It is something I had to embrace and make peace with after I moved away. So now when I am doing household chores I practice mindfulness and accept the process of cleaning my humble abode even if it is not something I enjoy but it is something productive. In the process of cleaning my home I also clear any negative thoughts in my mind and cultivate happiness in whatever I am doing.
- Cooking, washing up and lifting my cast iron pans everyday – it is no joke, those things weigh as much as me!
- Weekly Infrared Sauna session – gets rid of any accumulated toxins in my body and helps in the healing process
Exercises that I do for my mind and soul:
- Breathe – It may sound silly but sometimes we just need to close our eyes and breathe mindfully, doing so relaxes our muscles, minds and brings about a sense of calmness
- Pray and give thanks for all the goodness in my life
- Practice meditation regularly
- Be kind to self
- Be kind to others
- Surround yourself with authentic, positive, kind, and inspiring people
- Keeping a positive mind (the glass is half full and not the half empty mindset)
- Making a conscious choice to stay away from toxic people who exude negativity (e.g. the haters, the constant complainers, the naysayers and the compare & compete jealousy driven wrecks etc) and suck my energy dry – this comes back to being kind to self. In the past, I have given too much of my time and energy to such people but not anymore. Forgive them for their ignorance, acknowledge that you can’t help them with their misery only they can do that work themselves, wish them happiness and move on.
Being truly happy and healthy to me means much more than a healthy and fit looking body but also our mind and soul being healthy and at peace, working together harmoniously. This is a task that is always ongoing and always in progress.
I have not healed myself completely and I do get flare ups when I fall off the wagon sometimes, especially with my food choices but I am 80% better than when I first started on my healing journey.
That is a huge deal for me and every day, I just keep at it.
What is your story in your own healing journey so far? Leave me your comments, I would love to hear them!
Important Notice & Disclaimer:
Please be smart and don’t stop taking your thyroid medication or any other medication without first consulting with your doctor. I am not a licensed medical professional nor am I against medication. I am here to share my journey in the hope of bringing more awareness to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – a chronic autoimmune illness and give hope to fellow sufferers that it is possible to bring the symptoms into remission and live a healthy and happy life by making holistic changes either with or without medication.
A qualified functional doctor helped me in my healing journey and I definitely did not do it all by myself. I continue to consult a functional doctor for follow ups regularly. I did do my research and educated myself in order to manage my illness better, bringing the symptoms into remission and am in the best place I have been in years. Finding a medical professional registered with the Institute of Functional Medicine will be the first step for anyone looking to approach managing their chronic illness in a holistic way.
There is no cure for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis but you can manage it and bring your symptoms into remission with diet and lifestyle changes and addressing other triggers and factors which may be causing a flare up.
I am here to tell you that you can feel healthy again, it will not be an easy process and possibly a long one but you will make it through better and brighter you have ever been.