Where my journey began
My healing journey began two years ago being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. As I look back over my life, I realize, though, that this was just another step in my lifelong journey toward health. Growing up, I was always active. I played sports all the way through high school. Then in college, I ran a lot and actively involved myself in intramural sports.
Reflecting on this lifestyle, however, I recognize now that I had obsession with fitness. I also had an unhealthy and misguided view of health and wellness. I think for many, though, this was and maybe still is the norm. Run or workout and then eat what you want. Don’t worry about stress—it’s what pushes you. Oh, and toxins? What are those? In my desire to stay “fit” (read: skinny), I had unintentionally developed an unhealthy relationship with exercise. What I was missing was the whole picture and the power of food.
Signs & symptoms I didn’t recognize
I remember clearly my senior year in high school that I started having fairly painful digestive issues. Specifically, I was no longer able to eat in restaurants without getting sick almost immediately. I was also starting to have severe pains in my stomach each month. I never knew each day how my gut would react to what I was eating. Honestly though, it never occurred to me that food was actually causing my pain.
Fast forward to my senior year of college: I still had the same gut issues I described above. This year, though, someone saw a photo of me online and noticed that my thyroid looked enlarged. With mom receiving a diagnosis of thyroid cancer years before, we immediately made an appointment to see a doctor. I had atypical cells/nodules on the right of my thyroid and a fluid-filled cyst on the isthmus of my thyroid. At the time, the recommendation was to either remove these parts of my thyroid or watch it for 6 months. In all honesty, I was scared…scared because my mom had had thyroid cancer, and I felt that cancer might be my fate as well. I felt powerless, and so I decided to remove the right side of my thyroid and isthmus.
My autoimmunity diagnosis
Five years after my surgery, I gave birth to our first daughter, Caroline. I continued to have stomach issues, but then I also started having post-partum anxiety. Adding to that, my thyroid was fluctuating between hyper and hypothyroid, making me feel super emotional all the time. After the birth of our second daughter, Leah, two years later, my anxiety was even more intense. It was so intense that my husband caught me crying uncontrollably pretty much every morning as I made the girls’ lunches for the day. I was also taking excessive naps just to get through the day. Normal for a new mom, right? At my next post-partum appointment, I found out that my thyroid was over worked. It was so over worked that the numbers (TSH) weren’t even registering on the scale.
Per the doctor’s suggestion, I made an appointment with an endocrinologist. There, I received news that I should just take medicine and accept the fact that my thyroid would eventually die. When I asked about diet and/or supplementing for my thyroid, I vividly remember the doctor saying that those things would not have affected or would have any future effect on my Hashimoto’s. However, right around the same time, a friend of mine also received a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s. Fortunately, her doctor recommended looking into the autoimmune protocol for thyroid issues and leaky gut, claiming diet can play a huge role in healing your gut. That’s when I threw myself into research mode and took my husband, Phillip, along for the ride.
Adapting to a new lifestyle
We began reading everything we possibly could about the autoimmune protocol, functional medicine, leaky gut, and topics related to “you are what you absorb”. And it all made sense. Of course, that didn’t mean I wanted to do this. In all honesty, I spent a couple of months just pretty frustrated and angry. I was angry at my body because I felt like it had failed me, angry that I had to give up cheese dip possibly (y’all. That’s a big sacrifice!), and the list goes on. After a few months of wallowing, Phillip reminded me that I didn’t have to let Hashimoto’s control my life. I can say now that those were some of the wisest words I think anyone has ever said to me.
From there, we started easing into a 30-day elimination diet. We started by cutting out gluten. Then I did it: I cut dairy. Then I cut sugar and so on. The first 30 days were hard for sure. We first identified the foods causing issues and started healing my gut. Then after that, I reintroduced some foods and started a new sense of normal – a healthier normal.
Our family now maintains a paleo lifestyle, one that seeks to incorporate strategies to reduce stress (it is doable – we are two working parents and now have three young kiddos!). We now choose foods that nourish our bodies and have ditched and switched out products that include toxins. While it’s a continual process of learning and growing, my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s woke me up to so many things. Mainly, it woke me up to take better care of myself and live a happier and healthier life.
Where I am today
Now I have the wonderful opportunity to work alongside Dr. Kat Hopkins, who helped me learn, grow, and ultimately take control of my health. I am not only fortunate enough to learn each day about health and wellness, but I now have the chance to help others do the same.
This year, amidst all of the craziness of 2020, I am taking another step in my healing journey. I am becoming a functional health and wellness coach. In taking this step, I am going to be able to do what I love. Specifically, my goal is to help others learn how they can make health and wellness do-able and affordable. As I look back over this past year, I can testify to the many ups and downs for sure. However, I am grateful for this new part of my journey. I am thankful I can now help others take control of their health like I have done myself.