Easter 2019. 11:00am. I could barely keep my eyes open waiting for Easter dinner to be ready. I’d slept 8 hours the night before but I felt like I’d just run a 36 hour marathon and it was 2am. I finally got up from the table of polite conversation and just said, “I’m sorry, I have to go lay down.” They pushed dinner back another 2 hours for me to sleep. I could barely stay awake during dinner and I kept eating to keep myself from falling asleep. I ate every single carrot and radish in the salad one by one to keep my coherent.
And still. My doctors told me that my tests were normal.
For years upon years, I’d been beyond exhausted (despite getting plenty of sleep and eating well). I’d had trouble concentrating. I’d felt sluggish. I’d felt like I can barely function sometimes.
And my tests were all normal.
In January 2020, I started seeing a new doctor because I’d been experiencing debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. During routine bloodwork, she saw that my thyroid was borderline low but nothing to be concerned about (it’s been that way for years.) Your thyroid can affect your energy levels, weight, and brain function (fogginess and concentration- as well as fertility).
She was the first doctor to look into WHY my thyroid was low and found that my autoimmune levels (which are supposed to be between 0-20) were at 143- which indicated that my immune system was actively attacking my thyroid. (But clearly my thyroid is a champ because even while being viciously attacked by my immune system, it was still holding on and just barely below normal levels).
During the next rounds of bloodwork, the autoimmune levels in my thyroid ranged from 75 to 243 and she diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s Disease.
Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disease where my immune system attacks my thyroid. Autoimmune diseases have no cure and there’s still research about why they even occur.
I could get on medication to help my low performing thyroid- but because the actual issue is my immune system, this only masks the symptoms and requires continuous adjustments (since my immune system will fluctuate on a daily basis and the medicine will sometimes be too much or not enough).
What I CAN do is to limit the things that will cause an inflammatory response in my body and calm down the autoimmune response and attack on my thyroid: decrease stress, sleep enough, cut out inflammatory foods, keep my immune system healthy.
In February, I stopped eating dairy and gluten. The proteins in dairy are in similar shape and size to the proteins in your thyroid- if my immune system is triggered by dairy proteins, it’ll also mistakenly attack my thyroid. I also did the Everlywell Food Sensitivity test that confirmed that milk, yogurt, and other dairy products cause an immune response for me. (This is difference than lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is when your body cannot process the sugars in milk and causes GI issues. Dairy triggers an immune response in my body and causes inflammation). Gluten didn’t show up on my food sensitivity test but I cut it out for good measures since it can cause brain fogginess, sluggishness, and immune reactions.
To be real, cutting all that out was HARD at first. Everything had dairy. All good things were gluten (especially my beloved donuts). I struggled with what I could actually eat. I wanted to bargain and argue that I could eat it and maybe just see how I felt after… But I stuck to my guns to feel better.
I didn’t feel a difference at first (besides being annoyed I couldn’t have chicken tenders or pizza or mac and cheese).
It wasn’t until I accidentally had cheese in my burrito bowl that I realized how it felt. Sick. Gross. My body didn’t feel like itself. Gluten gives me a hangover within a few hours and into the next day. Dairy makes me ill and like I just ate 10 deep fried cheeseburgers.
As much as I want a donut, as badly as I want nice, cheesy pizza… It’s not worth it. Not at all.
I eat a lot of salads, lots of rice, burrito bowls, almond milk, fresh fruits and veggies, potatoes, and, on occasion, gluten free pasta and rice. There are a lot of gluten free alternatives but dairy free alternatives leave a LOT to be desired. (Dairy free milk and ice cream = good. Dairy free cheese= bleck).
My brain fog is mostly gone, I’ve lost 10 pounds, I don’t hit the 3pm slump as hard.... but I still have bad days.
Stress hits me hard and wipes my body out. Sometimes I’m still unnaturally tired and can’t keep my eyes open. I’m nervous about being invited to events and I don’t have the energy to attend them. (And let’s not get started on driving more than an hour). At night, I struggle with insomnia despite debilitating exhaustion.
As of right now, I’m not on thyroid medication because it’s still within reasonable low levels and not completely necessary. My doctor isn’t pushing it because 1. She wants to see how my diet/lifestyle changes help in the next few months. 2. Thyroid medication can cause anxiety (which we just got under control). We made a deal that if my thyroid dips too low, medication will be non-negotiable.
I don’t want to use my diagnosis as an excuse, but I promise, it’s not that I don’t like you/want to hang out, I just legitimately don’t have the energy for it and I wish I could fix it. I get anxiety wondering about the what ifs. “What if I say yes to this now but then the day of, I have no energy?” “What if I can drive to the event but I’m too exhausted to drive home?” “What if I start feeling too tired and work myself up to a panic attack?”
I still take things day by day and give myself and my body permission to rest, allowance to not be okay, and to listen and give my body what it needs. Hopefully the next time I get bloodwork done, my autoimmune levels have decreased and my thyroid is functioning properly. If not, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.