I recently learned that I have Hashimoto's, an autoimmune condition that can cause hypothyroidism. I'm actually not particularly surprised, but I think I'm still processing/figuring out how exactly I feel, because I'm mostly annoyed at my main doctors for brushing off my previous complaints and just telling me to eat less carbs and sugar, and work out more. So, I wanted to share a few things I've learned thus far, because apparently 10% of women in the U.S. have Hashimoto's and it's the #1 cause for hypothyroidism in the U.S. And though thyroid issues commonly affect women, it can also affect men.
1. It often takes a long time to diagnose or goes undiagnosed.
The reason, I gather, for this is that two of the common symptoms for Hashimoto's is weight gain and fatigue. So, it often gets brushed off as something else - stress, aging. Still, seeing as Hashimoto's is very common, especially amongst women, you'd think doctors would do more to at least rule it out. And this leads me to the second thing I've learned.
2. Your doctor is not usually getting/giving a full picture.
At every check-up I've had over the last several years, I've wondered if I had any thyroid issues, but after my blood work, my doctors always came back telling me that my thyroid numbers were normal.
And then I finally learned that our doctors typically only check our TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones) level, but you can have Hashimoto's with normal TSH levels. That's because Hashimoto's is found by getting a thyroid antibody test.
This to me is unbelievable, especially when Hashimoto's is so common.
3. Hashimoto's is often genetic, but not always.
My understanding is that thyroid issues are often genetic. A friend of mine has had hyperthyroidism since we were teenagers, and she inherited it from her father and grandmother. I've read other stories about people who discovered their own Hashimoto's, and later found out their sisters, their mothers, and aunts all had it, too. So, of course, when I learned about my Hashimoto's, I told my family to all get checked, just in case. It's a good idea to know if this thing in me is genetic or not. I could just be the oddball, but I may not be. And they could all be fooled, because they're only ever getting their TSH levels checked.
4. Bye bye gluten...and the significant role diet plays.
The first action item I was instructed to do (or rather not do in this case) was to cut out gluten from my diet. If you google the connection between gluten and thyroid issues, there's a mixed bag of literature about it. But from what I've been told and what I've read, gluten is inflammatory and can negatively affect anyone with any autoimmune disease.
Whether you believe it or not, from others sharing their stories about managing their Hashimoto's, it seems like diet plays a big factor in improving and managing health, and gluten is the one thing they each say they've cut from their diets. In fact, over the last year, I've learned firsthand how much diet and gut health truly impacts our overall health.
I haven't noticed any drastic changes yet from being gluten-free, but I've definitely noticed that I'm feeling less bloated and a bit better. The challenge is that sometimes I discover gluten in things I never would've thought was in gluten. And after a month of being "gluten-free," I discovered there's gluten in soy sauce! So, I think it'll take some time for me to totally clean up my diet, but I think that I've done pretty well being gluten-free thus far. And hopefully I've now ruled out all the gluten in my diet.
5. Why is our health care not more wholistic?
My recent health experiences have made me wonder why doctors are not really looking at the whole picture. The Hashimoto's was a big discovery, but thankfully I'm seeing a doctor who is looking at my whole health, and also figured out certain deficiencies in my system, and is now helping me get my body back to a balanced state and hopefully operating optimally. If we only treated the Hashimoto's, it wouldn't have helped me with the other issues, and I probably still wouldn't feel 100% even with my treatment plan for Hashimoto's.
6. The #1 lesson...advocate for yourself.
Through all this, the #1 lesson I've learned is that we have to advocate for ourselves, and trust our gut. I've experienced too often now, being dismissed by medical providers. For example, my labor and delivery may not have had to have been as traumatic as it was if it weren't for my medical providers dismissing my pain, leading me to arrive at the hospital 9cm dilated.
Also, if I just listened to my son's pediatrician and eczema specialist, I never would've figured out that sugar and processed foods trigger my son's eczema. Instead, I would've had to resort to constantly using steroid creams on him.
I'm not saying we should totally distrust our medical providers and turn to google for our health issues, but if something feels off, at least in my own experience, I've found we have to keep digging for answers. Find others who have gone through something similar. Find doctors who will listen to you.
I saw a great tip on social media the other day, from a doctor. She said to ask your doctor with their differential diagnoses are, and make sure they rule those out first. That's basically asking them to list other possible conditions that share the same symptoms.
Do you or someone you know have Hashimoto's or other thyroid issues? How have you managed your thyroid issues?