Hashimoto’s, What is That? – Shannon’s Story
Hair loss. Check. Fatigue. Check. Weight gain. Check!
All the signs pointed to a thyroid issue. According to Google I was dealing with hypothyroidism. I called my mom that day to vent about feeling so tired and not my usual self. This had gone beyond the usual stressful week or month. It had been such a long struggle that I was starting to feel depressed. My mom said, “It must be your thyroid! You need to go to the doctor.” I struggled with symptoms for almost a year before I finally went to a specialist to get my thyroid checked. Thyroid issues run in my family so I wasn’t in disbelief that this could be the case. After running several blood tests and doing a full-body wellness assessment with a specialist it was confirmed. “You have Hashimoto’s.” My facial expression must have been priceless. All I could think of was, “What is that and is it serious?!” The doctor informed me that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid. The treatment was to manage the condition and that it wasn’t curable. My lifestyle would drastically have to change or else I could be at risk for other health issues. I was relieved on one hand to finally know what was wrong and why I felt the way I did. On the other hand, I was scared about the management of such a mysterious condition with no known cause or cure.
Stress? Oh stress. Yes. I feel like this word has always been a part of my life. I’ve worked hard as long as I could remember. In the past four years I had completed a postdoctoral fellowship, started a new job, moved out of state and back, started my own business, got married, and bought a house. Stressed? Who me?! The doctor’s first order was to stress less. Every time I experienced stress my immune system would start attacking my body. It was stress that triggered this disease and it was stressing less that was going to change my life. The more I researched Hashimoto’s I found that it is a condition that impacts mostly women. In fact, women are seven times more likely than men to get it. I also learned that it impacts your hormones on a serious level causing everything from painful periods to infertility. I felt as if my life had changed for a reason. Was this the universe telling me to slow down and relax? Whatever the message I was hearing it loud and clear. My plan was to take control of this condition and to make positive changes that would improve my mental and physical health.
Most thyroid conditions require careful diet and exercise. I chose to go on the Autoimmune Paleo-Protocol, which required eliminating foods that could irritate the gut and cause inflammation activating the immune response. Goodbye gluten, grains, sugars, nuts, seeds….. and many other yummy and delicious foods. I also started doing acupuncture, mind-body medicine, yoga, meditation, and relaxing self-care including massages, visits to the beach, leisure reading (non-work related), and adopting a dog. Every day is a process and I must remember that attitude is everything. I have really benefited from the support of other women. It’s amazing to hear about other women’s stories with thyroid conditions. I feel supported and validated. I was recently in a group for business development and opened up about my struggles with Hashimoto’s. It turned out that three of the six members were dealing with it in different stages! My mission is to talk about it and to help spread awareness about the importance of thyroid health. I am so thrilled that Words, Wine, and Women have teamed up with ThyCA: Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association. It is an opportunity to get the word out there to check your thyroid and educate yourself about thyroid conditions that affect women.
Written by Dr. Shannon Chavez