I have Hashimotos. Should I give up gluten?

This is probably the most asked question concerning Hashimoto’s: should I be gluten-free? Well, guess what – there’s no ‘one’ answer. Many experts and patients will contest that a gluten-free diet helps reduce the autoimmune reaction which attacks and therefore slows down the thyroid. But just as many will say it’s unfounded – even my doctor says I can probably eat gluten if I want to. So why give it up?

Well, some science-y people have reason to believe that there is a correlation between Hashimoto’s disease and gluten sensitivity (links below). The theory is that gluten has a very similar molecular structure to the thyroid cells, so when it enters your body the evil little bastards (sorry, autoimmune antibodies) swarm into your lower bowel and attack the gluten. This raises the autoantibody levels, so the attack on the thyroid is worse, too, accelerating the disease.

Some Hashimoto’s sufferers claim that a gluten-free diet did not help them at all – so each to their own. Giving up bread and cake and bagels and donuts and pudding… well, that’s not something you want to go into lightly. You want to make sure you’re doing it for a good reason. Still, there’s no harm in trying it out and seeing if there’s any change in your symptoms/autoantibody levels. This is called an elimination diet – but it’s not something you can do for a few days and decide on. The autoimmune attack provoked by gluten can last for months, so it’s important to give to take the diet seriously (no cheat days!).

In my experience, I just feel a lot better when I’m not eating gluten. I get less headaches, less rashes and my digestive system seems to work a bit better. Plus, since going gluten-free my TSH, T3 and T4 levels have all gone into the normal range. My autoantibody levels though? Yep, still skyrocketing towards infinity.

It’s my choice to eat gluten-free. I may never find out whether it’s directly impacting my thyroid health, but right now it’s working for me. If you have Hashimoto’s and think you could help yourself out in a completely natural way, then I encourage you to try it. Once you get over the shock, giving up bread isn’t really that bad… really. And there are some AWESOME gluten-free almond cake recipes that totally blow the gluten-y ones out the water.

There’s only one side-effect to going gluten-free – and that’s the looks of judgements and incessant scepticism that comes from friends, family, waiters, randoms of the Internet. But, to them, you can just say…

Links:

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/hashimotos/

http://www.drtraviselliott.com/blog/2012/04/most-gluten-tests-fail-those-with-hashimotos-hypothyroidism-2/

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/wellbeing/health/how-a-gluten-free-paleo-diet-changed-my-life.php

http://thyroidbook.com/blog/tag/hashimotos/

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110310p52.shtml

http://thyroidbook.com/blog/changing-your-diet-is-the-first-step-in-addressing-hashimotos/

Famous People with Thyroid Problems

If you feel all alone in your thyroid issues, it’s important to remember you’re not. 850, 000 people in Australian alone experience thyroid disorders (though statistically, nearly half of these people don’t know they have it yet). And even celebrities can fall victim to the thyroid’s tricks. Check out these stars who have experienced hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Graves Disease or Thyroid Cancer.

Gena Lee Nolin

 

Gena Lee Nolin is perhaps most famous for being in Baywatch, but to thyroid disease sufferers she’s a champion of thyroid awareness through her website and social media channels, ThyroidSexy. She was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease after becoming depressed, tired and gaining weight.

Oprah Winfrey

For all the shit Oprah gets in the press about her weight, it would only take a little compassion to consider the difficulties with a dysfunctional thyroid. Of her troubles Oprah said, “My body was turning on me. First hyperthyroidism, which sped up my metabolism and left me unable to sleep for days. (Most people lose weight. I didn’t.) Then hypothyroidism, which slowed down my metabolism and made me want to sleep all the time. (Most people gain weight. I did! Twenty pounds!)”

Sia Furler

She may sing like an angel and have the record of 2014, but that doesn’t mean she’s invulnerable to the kinds of problems that can strike anyone. Sia was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease in 2010, saying “I had to have radioactive iodine therapy and that killed my thyroid. So I went from being like insane, skinny, freaky, shaking, mad, hair falling out, crazy person to I want to sleep 20 hours a day and I put on 20 kilos in three months.”

Sofia Vergara

You would never guessed that Sofia Vergara battled thyroid cancer, but that’s another lesson in not judging a book by its cover – illness happens to everybody and you don’t have to look sick to be sick.

Kelly Osbourne

Kelly says her weight loss is not down to healthy eating, but an untreated thyroid problem. Her choice to stay hyperthyroid for the sake of her figure could mean osteoporosis, high blood pressure, panic attacks, depression, heart problems, insomnia and thyroid eye disease as the condition progresses.

Kim Cattrall

We all loved Kim in Sex and the City, but would have never guessed the woman behind the fabulous Samantha Jones actually has Hashimoto’s disease.

George and Barbara Bush

The former first couple both suffer from Graves’ Disease – at least they know what the other is going through!

Jillian Michaels

Super fit Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels has battled thyroid issues – which just goes to show it can happen to anyone, no matter how healthy your lifestyle is.

 

Thyroid Days

Even though I’ve been told my TSH is normal, there are still days when I feel like complete rubbish. I call these Thyroid Days – fellow butterfly warriors, do you know what I mean? It usually comes on when I’m stressed, tired or overworked – and so is my thyroid. I start to feel confused, fatigued, my skin gets dry and breaks out in rashes, my eyes become itchy and sore and I lose my appetite. It’s a horrible feeling, but apart from the deep dark circles under my eyes I look pretty much normal. And so people just tell me I need more sleep, when actually I’m getting more sleep than usual, due to being so tired all the time.

Days like these really get in the way of my life. When I’m trying to work or study, it’s so hard to concentrate or even keep my eyes open. My motivation to exercise drops because, really, when you’re that tired and sore AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Then I start to rely on sugar and caffeine to keep me energised, which only makes it worse when my adrenaline levels crash. I guess what I’m trying to say is, thyroid days suck and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

It makes no sense because a week later, I might be happy, revitalised and running thirty minutes on the treadmill. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is often characterised by periods of hypothyroidism punctuated by hyperthyroidism, but I have no idea why the cycle would be so short. Everyone’s experience is different.

For now, here are some tips for surviving days when your thyroid is making you feel like crap (and some baby animal gifs to make you feel better):

Sleep (more)

I know, it’s extremely obvious. But the thyroid gets stressed out when you’re sleep deprived, so really, plan your days well, don’t leave deadlines to the last minute and always try to get a good amount of shut-eye – or suffer the consequences.

Exercise (a little)

The hardest thing to do is exercise when you’re ill. But I’m not talking about running 5k or doing a bajillion squats – you could make your fatigue worse by overdoing it. A simple walk – even if it’s only 20 mins, even if you’re going at a snails pace because your legs feel like they’re about to drop off – will help your metabolism and accelerate your healing.

Avoid stimulants

Trust me, there’s nothing I want more than a Venti Caramel Latte from Starbucks, but I know it makes me feel like shit. The more you use sugar and caffeine to cope, the more you’ll rely on it, the worse your health will be.

Socialise

Face it – we all feel a little worse when we’re wallowing alone. Don’t shut your friends out – complain to them and you’ll feel a lot better once it’s out there. They’ll also make you feel supported to face tough times together.

Treat yo self

I’m all for using little things to keep me happy and motivated. The only treats I don’t think work well are food because I think it’s ridiculous to rationalise eating a piece of cake – it reinforces those feelings of worthiness and guilt that are compounded with eating. Instead, I say “if I do all my assignments, I’ll go to that play I’ve been dying to see”. It gets me going and happiness is the best medicine!

A Collection of Thyroid Memes You Can Use Right Now

I think the most frustrating thing about having thyroid disease is that nobody really understands what you’re going through. When you try to explain how tired you are, your mood issues or how hard it is to control your weight, you’re often met with dismissive comments or even jokes. In fact, if you look up “thyroid” in Google images, you’re often met with images like this.

Side-splitting stuff, right? It seems the people on the Internet are getting a very wrong idea about thyroid disease, and this ignorance is making its way into everyday discussion about a debilitating condition that deserves to be taken seriously. I propose we fight fire with fire and post these REAL thyroid memes on every platform to get people to sit up and notice what living with a dodgy thyroid really feels like.

There’s one for every occasion…

When you wake up and gotta take your medicine

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When you forget something really important … oops.

When it’s Winter and no matter what you do you can’t get warm

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When you feel terrible but your thyroid levels are “normal”

When someone says you’d feel better if you went to the gym

When your doctor won’t listen to anything you say during the five minute appointment you’re paying 100s of dollars for

When people complain about your weird food restrictions

When friends complain they’re never going to be ready for bikini season

“Just get up and do something!”

When people try to convince you to go out past your bedtime

And finally, when people say “but you don’t look sick!”

Feel free to use these memes in your everyday conversations – I’m thinking of putting them on signposts and then whipping them out of my bag interchangeably when confronted by ignorance.

Do you have any thyroid related memes you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Thyroid Beauty Tips

Okay, so this post might be a little geared towards the ladies (but if you’re a man, these tips will work for you too!). The vast majority of people with thyroid disease are women, so I think it’s justified. And as a woman myself, I can say that definitely thyroid problems can hugely affect your beauty routine and body image. When you have dry hair, itchy eyes, dull skin (etc) you don’t feel that cute. I’ll be going through my best beauty tips by the body parts most affected by disease.

Hair

Thyroid dysfunction can make your hair coarse, dry and even fall out (yayyy). I remember clumps of wet hair just falling out in the shower when my Hashimoto’s was at its worst. My best advice is to use coconut oil as a mask – it softens the hair and moisturises the scalp, removing flakes. Once it’s dry, bulk up volume with dry shampoo or powder.

Eyebrows

Did you know one of the most recognisable symptoms of thyroid disease is losing the outer third of your eyebrow? Yep, weird. For the uninitiated in eyebrow filling, there’s range of products your can use such as brow powder, brow gel, brow mascara and brow pencils. I’d say to fill in a big area like this, a brow pencil is best – use light, feathery strokes to extend and thicken.

Eyes

The eyes are the window to the soul – or to your disease, rather. People with hyperthyroidism experience something called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which makes the eyes bulge out, while hypo patients can have swollen, dry, puffy eyes.

To be honest, Grave’s ophthalmopathy is something only a doctor can treat, but you can protect your eyes from exposure damage by using eye drops. If you feel comfortable wearing makeup, the careful application of black eyeliner to your waterline to make the eyes look smaller. But it may be better to just leave it if your eyes are super sensitive.

To treat swollen and dry eyes caused by hypothyroidism, it’s a lot easier. You can use soothing cucumber, cold tea bags or even spoons to soothe the eyes, as well as eye drops. (Hint: if you can’t keep your eyes open for 10 seconds without them stinging, you probably have dry eyes.) Concealer will help with the dark circles that, for some reason, often come with hypothyroidism.

Case in point: my eye shadows with make-up, good lighting and nine hours sleep. WHY?

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Skin

I’ve struggled with skin changes since I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s – unbearably dry skin that’s worse in Winter, keratosis pilaris all over my arms (yay) and seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp (double yay). For scalp problems, I strongly recommend washing hair AT LEAST once every two days with the Body Shop Ginger Shampoo – that stuff works miracles and I can’t even explain why.

For my dry skin, I avoid soap all together. Soap is the devil. Scentless, pharmaceutical-approved products like Cetaphil are great for sensitive skin and is even used in hospitals for newborn babies. The DailyAdvance Ultra Hydrating Lotion is instant relief, and improves skin moisture in just days.

Nails

I’ve kind of given up on having nice nails now – they just flake and tear and make me sad. My best advice is to use a really good intensive hand moisturiser, clean off nail polish every week and keep your nails trimmed so they don’t catch on anything and break.

What are your best beauty tips for living with thyroid disease? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Thyroid Disease and Mental Health

Because it’s Mental Health Week, I thought I’d dedicate some time to talking about the connection between thyroid disease and mental health. I’ve spoken before about the indiscriminate nature of thyroid disorders, and mental health issues are no different. Like many illnesses, mental health issues can affect the young and old, rich or poor, active or sedentary. Nobody asks for mental illness – it’s just one part of life we’re still trying to figure out as a human race.

The thyroid can play a part in mental health and just how you’re able to cope with the stresses of everyday life. Depression and fatigue are often the early symptoms of hypothyroidism, where you feel like you just want to stay in bed everyday and have no energy to deal with responsibilities. Depression is an awful thing to go through and many people don’t understand why you just can’t “cheer up”. It can make you feel lonely, worthless, emotionally fragile, hopeless, guilty and restless – and often dealing with all of these feelings on your own.

On the flip side, hyperthyroidism (and often hypo too) can make you extremely anxious and even diagnosed with panic disorder. This is a terribly scary thing to go through – anxiety can lead to heart palpitations, breathlessness, tremors and panic attacks, making you feel like you are dying. It can also affect everything from your sleeping patterns to your appetite – nothing to be scoffed at.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “how horrible”, then that’s the correct reaction. But the fact is we rarely treat mental illness with the seriousness it deserves – the simple act of calling someone “crazy” reinforces the stigma attached to a very real condition. Nobody knows what causes a single person to have mental illness – it could be genetics, it could be past trauma and yes, it could be thyroid disease. But this hardly matters – all people should be treated with respect and compassion.

I have high hopes for the future – I’ve seen the attitudes to mental health changing – slowly, yes, but they are changing. One day it may be socially acceptable and even encouraged for a person to speak openly about their mental illness. One day people may be so well-informed by their social circles and education systems that they won’t stereotype and judge. But until then, there will be people living with mental illness who are silenced and suffocated by the fear to speak out.

Is thyroid disease a feminist issue?

In the Telegraph article “Painful proof that one thyroid test does not fit all“, an interesting tangent opened up in the comments section (which, by the way, had 209 entries – that’s nothing to sneeze at). The article was about the way thyroid disease testing is not inclusive of people – mostly women – that have normal TSH but suffer from unmistakable thyroid symptoms – denying them from proper treatment.

BecJT wrote: “I think thyroid treatment in this country is a feminist issue, the patients are mainly women, there is no real money in thyroid care, and we are dismissed as a bunch of moaning women with our hormones.”

Of course, this was then quickly shut down by Politically_Incorrect (name says it all really).

“Well stop bringing feminism into medicine now. If that were the case, there wouldnt be any funding for breast cancer. Thyroid disease is very complicated and difficult to diagnose, monitor, treat and titrate,” he or she wrote. “No one is trying to undertreat you purposefully and there is certainly no agenda against women as you make out.”

Lorraine Cleaver (a huge petitioner for thyroid change) interjected: “This IS a feminist issue when the disease affects ten women to one man! How very patronising of you imploring the little women to shut up and wait for the big boys to sort it out, at some time in the future. They have had long enough.”

BecJT came back with a roundhouse kick: “Undertreated thyroid is implicated in a lot of issues for women including infertility and menstrual problems and it’s a scandal that they are as badly treated as they are.Breast cancer survival rates are also a joke and all this dressing up in pink ribbons and jogging round the park and ‘staying positive’ (I’ve had cancer remember?) is infantalising nonsense, and keeps women passive and not kicking the doors down for better treatment – focusing instead on their own part in it rather than focusing on how medicine is failing them.”

The whole thing kind of descended into name calling from there, but it did get me wondering: is thyroid disease a feminist issue? Well, seeing as the majority of thyroid disease sufferers are women, and this disease is pretty much ignored by … well, everyone, I’m inclined to say yes. This doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the many men who suffer this thyroid issues either – in fact, as true feminists we shouldn’t be happy until both genders have the rights and resources to combat this horrible disease.

I’m sorry to say that my doctors, friends and family have not treated my illness as seriously as I have seen with men in my life. Often I have gone to the doctor (or a friend) complaining of weight gain, tiredness and irritability only to be told that perhaps I’m just being “moody” or my self-esteem is low. Well, I’d say fine but only because my body is attacking itself from the inside out!

Why is it that a woman has to go through weight gain, fatigue, emotional distress, hair loss, skin changes, irregular and painful periods and fertility issues just for people to dismiss it as some kind of “feminine weakness”? We are smart, we are strong, we know when our medication is not working and our bodies are giving the signals. This isn’t 1853.