Contributed by Kirstie Muttitt
This post is a little bit about the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (or Hashi’s for short – it’s cuter) and how it’s changed my life.
In case you don’t know, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. Yeah, my body likes to attack itself – what does yours do?!
The thyroid becomes inflamed and stops making enough hormones. Hormones run our interior world, they control your mood and metabolism and your metabolism affects every single chemical reaction carried out by your body, you know, so it’s kind of a big deal!
Let’s step back to about 18 months ago. After a couple of years of feeling absolutely crappy and finding it very hard to get out of bed (I put it down to laziness), I had a blood test that showed I have Hashi’s. Great! So I wasn’t lazy! And I even had a name for it!
It’s a name for the absolute, bone deep, complete exhaustion I was feeling, my ridiculously low immunity, my decreased IQ and crap memory, my intolerance for being around large groups of people… the list goes on!
Compared to some Hashi’s kids I’ve read about I think I got off lightly, but feeling below par every day gets very, very boring. So, the diagnosis that there was actually something wrong – and it had a name – came as quite a relief.
My doctor gave me a prescription for thyroxine, which balances the thyroxine levels in your body. This little pill had an almost immediate effect for me and it was amazing to feel “normal” again. But a few months later the old feelings of exhaustion and the frequent illnesses reappeared. I knew I had to take my health into my own hands. So I started looking in the direction of food and lifestyle.
The first thing I had to deal with was stress. It affects your immune system (inflammation again), your endocrine system (hormones again), your digestive system (linked to immunity and hormone production) – and that’s enough to be getting on with, right?!
I was lucky in that, although I had a fab job that I loved, I also knew my time had come to see what else was out there so I drastically cut down my hours and went back to college to study nutritional medicine. Regular acupuncture also really helps.
And then I came to food. Now, I’ve always eaten pretty healthily – brown rice and wholemeal pasta all the way! – but I soon came to realise that this kind of eating isn’t what constitutes good health.
In a nutshell though, my healing process has involved the below five lifestyle and food tweaks and I’m feeling a whole lot better for it:
1. Reduce stress – it causes inflammation, so it had to go!
2. Cut out chemicals and processed foods – most of what I eat I make from scratch, and I buy the ingredients from suppliers who don’t use chemicals, pesticides and hormones in their food. Any animal products are grass fed and free-range (more omega 3 = less inflammation).
3. Cut out sugar and gluten – in very basic terms, the make up of gluten and the thyroid gland is very similar. If gluten gets into the blood stream the immune system gets confused and sends antibodies to attack the thyroid as well as the gluten. And we do not want that! Sugar causes inflammation, so I cut out added sugars and reduced natural sugars as much as possible (I have 1-2 pieces of fruit a day).
4. Eat loads more vegetables and good fats. This means more vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals that do wonders for your health. Also, good fats (i.e. coconut oil, olive oil, whole fat dairy) consumed in moderation support the optimal function of all our body systems.
5. Add in fermented foods and drinks – approximately 80% of our immune system us in our intestine. So we need to look after the gut flora that lives there, to make sure they look after us. Fermented foods and drinks top up our levels of good bacteria, so I make and eat kombucha, kimchi, etc, everyday.