What the heck is Hashimotos and how do I know if I have it too?
[Disclaimer: I want to remind you that I am not a doctor and cannot diagnose you, I'm a Health Coach that studies this disease and I can speak from my own experience. I help women that have been diagnosed with diseases associated with hormone imbalance by their doctor. Most doctors only have time to diagnose you, and hand you a prescription. They rarely have the time to sit down and explain exactly what's going on with your health, and/or how to fit the prescribed medication into your life, also how to implement the lifestyle changes needed to treat the disease, etc. One of the things I do as a Health Coach is I spend the time with you to talk about your doctor's "what" and help you create the plan for your "how". I then guide you through your health plan every step of the way.]
A little more about my story:
When I left my doctors office with my test results in hand, I was both relieved to hear that there was somethingthat could explain all of the crazy symptoms I was experiencing and that I wasn't just a crazy hypochondriac. Also at the same time, I was completely devastated when she told me that this is an incurable disease, I was in stage 4 and that I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life. I didn't even tell people for a long time about my diagnosis, including Trevor, because I didn't want to accept it.
The ugly prideful truth is that I was so embarrassed that I had it.
I'm a Health Coach.
I was pissed that I had to spend hundreds of dollars every month on medication.
I had way cooler plans for my money.
I felt betrayed by my body because I thought I was taking care of my health.
What more do you want body? Too many fresh fruits + veggies + exercise for ya?
So many emotions!
I had a pretty epic pity party.
I started taking the medications: Armor Thyroid, Testosterone, Progesterone, DHEA, and some Iron supplements. I was told that these medications would help with some symptoms and would hopefully help my body to not go into fat-storing and muscle-wasting mode. I took the meds for a year and I still gained 25 pounds, even though I kept eating healthy and exercised as usual. I did the Moab Half-Marathon, Vineman Ironman and St. George Marathon that year and tracked everything I ate...I mention this because I know some of you have felt frustrated that your body doesn't seem to respond to nutrition and exercise anymore. Stop the negative dialogue you've probably had going on in your head too, and know that It's not because you're "lazy, not working out hard enough or because you are eating crap."
I believe you.
I know that even doing things "perfectly" in the areas of nutrition and exercise isn't enough to stop this frustrating symptom of Hashimotos.
Unexplained weight gain is just one of the lovely symptoms you'll experience if you have Hashimotos. Others include: Fatigue and sluggishness (I describe it as "bone-tired", it's beyond just feeling sleepy), increased sensitivity to cold, cold hands and feet all the time, constipation, pale + dry skin, a puffy face, brittle nails, hair loss, enlarged tongue, muscle aches, joint pain and stiffness, muscle weakness, mennorrhagia (prolonged and excessive menstrual bleeding), depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory lapses, frequent and severe headaches, more susceptible to infections and viruses and slower to recover from them, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, loss of hair on the outer part of your eyebrows, blurred vision, fullness or choking sensation in the throat, insomnia, hypoglycemia...guys, the list goes on! Theres something like 100 symptoms associated with Hashimotos.
It aint pretty.
It makes sense why there are so many symptoms when you learn what Hashimotos is, and how it effects the thyroid gland. Hashimotos, simply put, is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. Think about everything our thyroid gland is responsible for in our body. The thyroid is part of our endocrine system and it produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, bone maintenance, in fact, pretty much every cell in our body is effected by the hormones produced by our thyroid. So, if yo thyroid aint happy, no body gonna be happy.
So what causes Autoimmune Disease?
Genetics are obviously a large part of the equation. The genes you inherit from your ma + pa play a role in your predisposition for developing an autoimmune disease like Hashimotos. Because of this, it is very common for autoimmune diseases to run in families. However, genetics only accounts for about 1/3rd of your risk of developing one.
“Genes load the gun, environment, diet & lifestyle pull the trigger!”
The environmental triggers are another area that we can place blame for autoimmune disease. Pathogens, chemicals, certain bacterial and viral infections, toxins, pollutions and other exposures directly impact our immune system.
The other areas that contribute to development of autoimmune disease is poor diet and lifestyle choices. We know that a poor diet exacerbates intestinal permeability (leaky gut), creating nutrient deficiencies, that can over-activate the immune system. That's a biggie! We will definitely be talking about the importance of gut-health soon.
But, as I talked about before, these above mentioned lifestyle triggers aren't the only ones:
Sleep issues, excessive stress, lack of physical activity, or too much physical activity are the main lifestyle triggers that can lead to auto-immune disease. (Oops! Yep and yep, nope and yep for me!)
While studying at IIN, I was also interested to learn that there are 5 big triggers that could have happened to us while growing up that basically guarantee that we will develop an autoimmune disease in our adult years:
1. Cesarian Birth
2. Not breast-feeding
3. High-exposure to antibiotics
4. Contracting a virus or infection that lays dormant in the body (Epstein Bar, Herpes, Strep, etc.)
5. A highly stressful event
(Again, every single one of those are true for me.)
Are we screwed? Seems so. But, the Pollyanna in me refuses to believe all is lost.
While we can’t control the genes we’re born into, how we were born into this world, or the exposure to infectious diseases, we can certainly work on reducing our contact with toxins and chemicals while being diligent in eating a healing diet and prioritizing our healthy lifestyle choices!
Tomorrow I will talk about the real tests you need to ask your doctor for to receive a proper diagnosis. How to deal with it. And, I'll also be sharing how we can conquer this dis-ease and bring ease back to our bodies.
I hope you'll join me again and I would love it if you wanted to share any thoughts you have with me in the meantime!