How To Manage Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Guest Post by Tina Christoudias, RDN, MBA
The worst part of having a chronic condition such as Hashimoto’s is that, to the outside person, you look totally normal. In fact, the observer of you may just see that you complain too much, that you are making up excuses, or that you create symptoms just to get attention. This scenario was a big part of my journey to healing and it took a lot of patience and understanding from me and from my loved ones, to comprehend how this disease not only affected my physical being, but my emotional one as well.
What Is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
For those of you that do not know, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the thyroid. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the middle of the throat. It produces hormones that are involved with all the metabolic processes in the body. The thyroid helps the intestines to digest food, it allows the brain to think, it regulates stress as well as sex hormones, and it even allows our scalp to grow hair. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, you are left with a body that cannot lose weight and with a brain that feels sluggish and depressed (to say the least).
The Beginning of My Journey
Having the knowledge that I do now, I must have had a thyroid problem from as early as my late teens. I gained weight without even trying, I started to lose hair, I had a lot of headaches, and I got tired easily compared to other kids in school. I didn’t even think I had a problem back then. I just accepted this as normal and went on with my life. This did not go without any repercussions on my sanity, however.
Because I gained weight at such a young age, I would try anything and everything to keep my weight down. Back in the ‘90’s when the low-fat craze was in full swing, I decreased my fat intake to dangerous levels in the hopes of shedding a few kilos. I would eat processed, diet foods and exercise like a maniac; anything to keep the weight down. Looking back, I was doing everything wrong. My actions were adding fuel to the fire instead of helping me to achieve my goal of weight loss.
The truth is, getting the right fats from foods like avocados, pasture-raised meats and wild-caught fish, olive oil, and coconut oil are a very big part of healing the immune system and ultimately the thyroid. Also, avoiding anything processed is vital to allowing the thyroid to work optimally. Exercising like a maniac? Well, this just makes things worse. Now that I counsel patients, I advise them to choose moderate exercise regimes like walking, pilates, or yoga. When your immune system is out of whack, the worst thing you can do is go for a 10-kilometre run or do a cross-fit challenge. Your body needs calming movement to heal. Otherwise, you will end up feeling more exhausted than you already do and probably with a few more kilograms as well.
Although I had already been diagnosed and on thyroxine medication, I think I felt at my worst after I had given birth to my first child. I gained even more weight, I was exhausted no matter how much I slept, I lost handfuls of hair daily, and I was depressed and nervous at the same time. I felt so lost and hopeless because the first doctor I went to see about these symptoms told me, “You are a dietitian and you don’t know how to lose weight?! Start exercising.” I told him, “I can barely get out of bed in the morning, how can I even think about exercise? Something else is wrong.”
That must have been rock bottom for me. My husband, seeing me in this difficult state, took it upon himself to try and find a solution since he saw that I had lost hope in trying to find help for myself. He went online and found a book called, Stop the Thyroid Madness. With every page that I read, I started to understand that there was more to hypothyroidism than just “that disease where you gain weight.”
A Glimmer of Hope
After reading that book, my husband and I, whilst on holiday in England, found an integrative doctor that took a detailed history of not only my medical background, but of my lifestyle habits (which included nutrition) as well. He talked to me about diet and gave me nutritional supplements to help support the thyroid. This encounter was the “AHA!”moment for me. This doctor was the one that opened my eyes to how I could use my clinical nutrition background to better serve my health and my future patients.
Although I am a registered dietitian and knew how to look at the research behind nutrition, the knowledge I needed to know to help myself was not attained from my training. I started to research holistic nutrition protocols and found that a diet from real, whole, unprocessed foods free from gluten, dairy, and soy was the first big step towards healing. I learned supplements that can enhance one’s journey to feeling better as well as lifestyle factors like good sleep and stress management that are vital to healing.
This entire journey culminated at the point I am today. I became known as “The Thyroid Dietician” amongst my patients and ultimately decided to brand myself that way. Because I had been suffering with Hashimoto’s for so long, it became my mission to help others understand their symptoms, know what questions to ask of their health care providers, and to optimize their health through better nutrition and lifestyle factors. I wrote a book, Tired of Feeling Tired?, which offers nutrition tactics to help alleviate the symptoms of hypothyroidism and I started a Facebook group to create a community in which people can share their own journeys as well as find solutions.
Having a disease where you look “normal” is difficult and frustrating. Through constantly acquiring knowledge, however, I was able to explain my condition to the people that surrounded me in a way that made them understand and even be supportive. This is now one of my goals as an advocate for health; to empower people with knowledge so that they can better serve themselves and the people around them.
My hope and wish for anyone reading this is to find the strength to take your health into your own hands and become your biggest advocate. Only you have the power to make changes for you. And I’m sure that, just like me, you can change your life for the better.
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.
Tina Christoudias, The Thyroid Dietician
Tina Christoudias is a Harvard-trained registered dietitian with nearly 18 years of experience as a nutrition counselor. Having had personal experience with hypothyroidism, she specializes in diet protocols for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism and has recently finished her book, Tired of Feeling Tired? She also writes for several international nutrition blogs. Tina is a strong advocate of the Paleo diet and is currently getting certified as an autoimmune protocol certified practitioner.