Last February I wrote about my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, and many of you commented that you were battling many of the same problems that I was. So when I recently shared that I am feeling a lot better these days (and my antibodies are down to almost normal levels), you wanted to know what changes I made on my path to healing. I have been a little hesitant to share, because while I am in a much better place than I was at the beginning of the year, things aren’t perfect (and it’s also more fun to write about knitting.) However, I may never reach a place where I feel perfect. The important thing is that I am feeling better than I have in many years. That’s something, right?
Were I to break it down, the three categories on my journey to healing are: diet changes, guided supplementation, and boundaries. Today, I am going to talk about the first two, and I’ll save boundaries for a second post. This first post won’t be relevant to all of you, but I suspect that the next one will!
Radically changing my diet was difficult, mainly because it’s time consuming to eat differently than the rest of my family. In addition to my already gluten free diet, I eliminated dairy, eggs, sugar, all grains, and corn (edited to add: I forgot to mention no soy and legumes!) I’d say eliminating eggs was the most difficult because they are such a quick, easy protein source and I was previously eating a lot of them. In order to work on healing my gut, for a couple weeks I actually ate something similar to the GAPS intro diet, so basically bone broth, meat, and vegetables. Then I added back nuts, seeds, and fruit. I attempted to re-introduce eggs, but I seem to have an intolerance to them, which is sad. Over the course of about five months of eating this way I lost almost 30 pounds. However, 30 pounds was all I needed to lose, so my continuing challenge has been to get enough calories to maintain my weight. Over the past month or so I have been reintroducing some foods (mainly yogurt, trying eggs again, and sourdough spelt bread), somewhat haphazardly. I’m feeling a little achy, so I need to keep working in this area. I am now waiting on the results of some bloodwork that should help me identify which foods are giving me the most trouble, and that will help.
I am blessed to have a holistic medical doctor who has been working with me this year to run the necessary tests to get an overall picture of my health, and address my specific issues. I have never been a huge fan of taking supplements, believing that we should be able to get all we need from good food, but I’ve learned that for various reasons, oftentimes your body isn’t able to absorb what it needs to (And of course there’s the argument that our modern food supply isn’t as healthful as it needs/used to be, but that is a topic I won’t go into here.) While I have been taking a magnesium supplement for years as a migraine preventative, I now take a handful of other supplements per the results of my lab results. I call this guided supplementation: determining what I am lacking and supplementing accordingly. For those struggling with Hashimoto’s, there are several books out there that will walk you through supplementing to support thyroid health (I’ll link at the end of the post), but finding a doctor to work with in addition to doing the reading is ideal. Through bloodwork I learned that I am an “under-methylator” (heterozygous for the mthfr gene). This means that I have a hard time absorbing/utilizing b-vitamins (I’m simplifying). I think this has played a role in my lifelong struggles with anxiety, and taking the necessary b vitamin supplements has been very important for me. If you struggle with anxiety, ask to be tested for the MTHFR gene mutation. Wellness Mama wrote an informative post about that topic here. My vitamin D levels were also very low, and since beginning a supplementation regimen to bring those levels up my immune system has greatly improved. No more sinus infections! In addition to taking probiotics for gut health (I rotate brands) I have taken a handful of other supplements over the past few months to target specific issues, but as far as my longterm health goes, I will be focused on watching my b and d levels and will probably always take a magnesium supplement. I believe that supplementation is highly personal, and think it’s a good idea to have bloodwork done before taking broad spectrum multivitamins or other “miracle cures.”
The other diet change I made was to completely eliminate caffeine. (I know. You don’t want to hear this!) I had already made the switch from coffee to tea, and I only had one cup each day, so you might not think that my one cup was a big deal. IT WAS. I (along with many others) strongly believe that caffeine contributes to anxiety, something I have long struggled with. As an aside, my very laid back husband, who doesn’t worry about a thing, had a full blown panic attack recently that landed us in the back of an ambulance thinking he was dying. We strongly believe it was related to caffeine consumption and are a caffeine free household now. I am no longer struggling with the crippling physical anxiety that I had been battling off and on for years. We have been in a very stressful place financially for the past six months or so, something that would typically really handicap me, but I am still sleeping well at night (no insomnia in about 6 months, no struggling to fall asleep) and carrying on with life during the day just fine, doing what I need to do rather than sitting on my bed, paralyzed by anxiety. I won’t contribute all of that to being caffeine free, but I know that it’s an important factor. A friend recently asked me how I have energy to get through the day without a caffeine boost, and I couldn’t give her a precise answer. I just do. I’m eating right and sleeping well. I think we all tend to neglect these very basic needs which leads to being tired. There have been long periods of my life when I couldn’t sleep well (babies!) but thankfully, right now Mabel sleeps at night and so do I. I’ll talk more about sleep when I write part 2 and talk about the personal boundaries I have set for myself over the past few months. For now, I hope that sharing what has worked for me might help you, even just a little bit.
(Edited to add: The changes I have made in an effort to move towards better health are in addition to taking prescription thyroid medication.)
p.s. It’s tickseed sunflower season! I’ve been collecting these favorite yellow roadside flowers for my dyepots, and will share more about that over on Instagram this week!
Amazon affiliate links to books I found helpful: