10 Stress Relief Tactics for Living Chronic Illness

Recently, I asked my readers what they thought would make their healing journey easier. Recipes, cooking advice, and more health and lifestyle tips were among the most common answers of course, but there was no avoiding that everyone wanted to hear about stress reduction. When I told my husband that this was a common concern that I needed to address here on the blog we both looked at each other thinking that I myself could really use a refresher on this!

I am not immune from the stresses of daily life. Not in the least. On any given day I’m stressed about getting in enough nourishing foods for the day, about getting in some sunshine and movement, stressed about how much sleep I’m getting (or not getting), stressed about¬†every aspect of self-employment… just to name a few.

Regardless of who you are, living with a chronic illness like autoimmune disease comes with a lot of stressors! Being sick is stressful by nature, and trying to get better is stressful as well.

So, what do you do about it? How do you roll with the punches of daily stressors and reduce stress in general?

10 Stress Relief Tactics for Living Chronic Illness

1.Embrace movement

Nothing increases endorphins quite like movement does! Of course, everyone with a chronic illness or autoimmune disease will have a different level of what they’re able to tolerate at any given time. You can still practice movement while honoring and accepting what your body can do.

Here are just a few ideas of movement that may work for you and your body…

  • Daily walks
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Weightlifting
  • Fitness classes
  • Sports (tennis, soccer, volleyball, etc.)

For me, most of my movement these days is walking. Not only does it add in movement, but it allows me to really clear my head which is huge for my stress reduction. I also love yoga and weightlifting! Playing sports is more of a stressor than a stress reliever to me… but we’re all different ūüėČ

 

2. Meditation and prayer

Meditation and prayer earn a top spot on this list because they’re one of the best ways to deal with stress. Meditation practices involve calming down the noise in your mind, and just slowing down for a few moments. That can be incredibly powerful when you’re going through a rough, stressful time.

Prayer is something that I personally practice more so than meditation and I find it to be incredibly stress relieving. Spending time with God, and reassuring myself that I trust Him to guide me through the storm always brings me comfort.

Here are some resources to get you started…

  • Meditation apps like Calm or Headpsace
  • Yoga Nidra videos on YouTube
  • Devotional books or apps
  • Guided prayer books or podcasts

 

3. Practice visualization

This has been one of my favorite stress relief tactics recently that’s a bit more out there, but bear with me! Visualization is picturing a relaxing scenario in your mind to where you can take a step back from your current situation for just a few minutes. Of course, we still have to come back to reality and face the stressor head on, but taking a tiny break can revitalize our energy!

Visualization can be as involved as doing a guided prompt, or as simple as just picturing a place that you love and sitting in silence for a few moments. It can be picturing yourself at the beach on a warm summer day when you’re fed up with a cold winter or visualizing yourself spending time with a loved one when you’re feeling lonely. When I used to be stressed at a fulltime job, I would take an extra second washing my hands in the warm water in the bathroom and picture myself on vacation feeling the water of a hotel pool. Yes, that literally lasted 10 seconds, but it was often enough of a happy moment to get me through the last 2 hours of a monotonous day!

Another way to practice visualization is to visualize yourself on the opposite end of the problem you’re currently facing. How do you feel being out of it? What is life like now that this stressor is gone? Picturing your life after the stressor is passed is one of the best motivators to get through it.

 

4. Spend time in nature

Spending time outside is proven to support our health and wellbeing for a multitude of reasons. Of course, we’re less likely be sitting and spending time immersed in technology while we’re spending time in nature, but there are also benefits to breathing fresh air, getting sunlight, and being around trees and plants.

Make plans to take a walk on a nearby hiking trail or in a park at least once a week when weather permits! Taking a short trip to a cabin is another amazing strategy when you really need an extra boost of nature.

A hack for adding more nature to your life is bringing the outside in with plants! Of course, it doesn’t replace actually getting outside, but every little bit helps.

5. Start a gratitude practice

Staying grateful for what we already have is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It’s hard to be stressed for that long about that flat tire that we need to go replace when we practice gratitude for the fact that we weren’t hurt on the highway in a blowout.

Something I’ve tried to do in the past is kept a physical gratitude journal, and it was incredibly powerful. Not only was it helpful to write down what I was grateful for at the moment, but it was amazing to go back and read everything I had written in the past. Recently, I’ve been doing this on my phone, but I really need to start keeping a journal again!

I highly recommend picking up a daily gratitude practice or writing in a gratitude journal weekly. It’s something you wouldn’t regret doing!!

 

6. Help others

The self-help and health world is very focused on self-love¬†right now. It’s all about putting yourself first, and pushing others expectations aside… which is great! We do need to fill ourselves¬†up first. There’s no way we can pour from an empty cup.

However, in our constant pursuit of¬†self-love, sometimes we can lose sight of loving others. Turning our focus outward and helping those around us not only accomplishes the goal of actually helping someone but it washes away our own stresses and zeros our focus in on improving the lives of others. It’s a lot harder to stress over all of the dishes you have to do at home when you’re out helping a family member move, volunteering your time at an animal shelter, or even just giving a good friend a shoulder to cry on.

Helping others and being a good steward of our time here on earth is one of the most beautiful¬†things we can do as a human being. I know, it sounds overwhelming, but here are some simple ideas to get started …

  • Bring a meal to a sick friend
  • Host a free community class on something you’re an expert on
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or adoption event (it could be as simple as walking¬†dogs!)
  • Mentor someone (a teenager, a college student, or someone who wants to be where you are)
  • Just be a good friend… never goes out of style!

 

7. Embrace community support

Helping others comes back around to others helping you! There’s nothing like having a strong network of friends, blood relative family, church family, or other to

When someone offers to help, you don’t have¬†to be too proud to accept it. Accept help! Especially when you’re going through a flare or hard time with your health.

8. Play, explore, and take breaks

In my opinion, the fact that we stop play as adults is¬†just one of the many reasons why we’re so stressed out. Kids know how to drop worries and just have fun, but as adults, we feel like we have to much to do for that. Yes, we have to find time to play, but we also have to make time.

Here are just a few ways you can do this…

  • Go to a show, concert, or movie
  • Read books at a bookstore
  • Go to a local zoo, museum, or botanical garden
  • Revisit¬†your old favorite hobbies

 

9. Form a stress reduction routine

One of the biggest issues with stress reduction is that we feel like we don’t have time. The only way we can have time is to make time, and make it a habit and routine!

Here’s a brief outline of what my own routine looks like…

  • Daily movement
  • Daily prayer
  • Self care practices weekly (taking time for hobbies, lazy afternoons, etc.)
  • Weekly gratitude practice
  • Weekly time spent at church
  • Time with my family/community at least once a month, and quality time with my husband at least twice a week
  • Helping others when I can (honestly, I need more of this!)
  • Meal prep on Sunday to take away the stress of food prep throughout the week

 

10. Recognize that stress is all about how you deal with it

I saved the best and most important for last. There is no eradicating stressor from your life altogether. There’s just no getting around traffic, delayed flights, fender benders, broken toilets, and sprained ankles. It’s all about accepting the stressors when they come, and dealing with them accordingly!

That’s easier said than done, I know… I’m telling this to myself here too.

But rather than asking “why me?!” and having the world stop every single time there’s a stressor, step back and say “how do I best deal with this?” Every situation is unique, and that answer will always vary. But facing stress head-on, accepting it, and dealing with it accordingly is the only way to make it manageable long term. The only way out is through, and having a positive outlook throughout stressful situations is the best way to remain healthy and happy.

What Is Hashimoto’s? Symptoms, Causes, and Lifestyle

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease at 17, I thought I was completely¬†and utterly alone. I thought of it as a rare, and mysterious disease that doctors couldn’t understand and no one could relate to. Little did I know that it was one of the most common autoimmune diseases that there is, and the number of people that have it is staggering and unreported.

It’s estimated that over 14 million Americans have Hashimoto’s disease. Keep in mind that that’s just the US, and that’s only an estimation. As the number of those with autoimmune disease climbs, it’s important to get a firm understanding of what this disease actually is, and get a grasp on how to heal it… because you can heal!¬†

What Is Hashimoto's? Symptoms, Causes, and Healing Naturally

What is Hashimoto’s disease?

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign¬†invader. The thyroid gland is essentially our bodies thermometer. It regulates our temperature, our metabolism, and is crucial in the overall balance of our hormones.

Typically, it’s characterized by hypothyroid symptoms and presentation. However, Hashimoto’s can present as hyperthyroidism and even swing back in forth in many cases, including my own.

How do you get a diagnosis?

Getting a diagnosis¬†can be easier said than done. It took nearly a year (that felt like an eternity) of debilitating symptoms¬†for me to get a diagnosis, but in reality, that’s quite short considering how many people go decades without a diagnosis.

The two main routes that you can get a diagnosis from a doctor include blood testing and¬†a sonogram. The blood test tests the level of antibodies that your body is producing towards your thyroid. This test is called TPO¬†and it’s crucial in a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Most doctors will just test your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which can tell you how your thyroid hormone is doing, but it doesn’t actually¬†determine whether or not you have Hashimoto’s. You typically have to push your doctor to test your TPO, but it’s worth the effort!

Another route that can help in diagnosis is a sonogram of the thyroid. This helps determine the amount of thyroid tissue that’s been destroyed. It’s also still a good idea to get a blood test, but this is another great option to ask your doctor about.

What are the symptoms?

The list of symptoms related to Hashimoto’s can technically be a mile long, which is why I wrote a separate blog post about Hashimoto’s symptoms explained, here.¬†

Here are just some of the main symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s-

  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Cold extremities
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Increased menstrual flow
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Dry Skin
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Hair loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Thinning eyebrows
  • Weight gain

What are the root causes?

How exactly you get Hashimoto’s varies from person to person. However, the following three triggers are said to be a common¬†thread in all autoimmunity.

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Stress (both mental/ emotional stress and physical stress like an underlying infection, or stressful surgery)
  • Intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”

What are the lifestyle and diet factors?

It’s important to remember that the real issue lies within the immune systems confusion, and not the thyroid gland itself. Thus, calming down the overactive and confused immune system is the real key to healing the body. So, how do you do that?

First, I wrote about my own experience with healing Hashimoto’s here, but¬†here are some key factors that everyone can look more into…

1. Diet & gut health

Diet was one of the biggest factors in healing my own autoimmunity. The food that we eat has a huge potential to set off autoimmune reactions and inflammation. The autoimmune protocol is a healing protocol that has changed my life, as well as the lives of many others. You can learn more about this protocol here.

But before we can fully understand the food piece, we have to get a handle on the gut. The gut is connected to everything, including our ability to develop autoimmunity. Having an unhealthy gut and intestinal permeability is one of the main triggers in developing an autoimmune disease as it creates confusion and inflammation in the body, and damages the immune system which lives in our gut.

Working with a doctor is a huge factor in healing the gut. Another helpful resource is my e-book, The 30 Day Gut Healing Diet Plan & Guide which lays out more support for meals, recipes, and more.

2. Working with a doctor & healing your root cause

You can’t do this alone. Working with a doctor is a crucial step to getting the proper testing and understand your own personal root cause. Though it’s great to know that stress or gut issues may be triggering your Hashimoto’s, you don’t necessarily know what level of stress your body is under, or what the exact gut issues you may be struggling with. That knowledge and targeted treatment towards treating your root cause comes from getting professional help

Struggling with finding a good doctor? I have a blog post about finding a great doctor here. 

3. Get your mindset in check 

Before we can make a physical change, we have to commit to a mindset shift. For years, I struggled to try to heal Hashimoto’s because I felt sorry for myself. It was only when I was able to shift my mindset and see myself as strong and capable to heal this was I able to really commit.

4. Personalizing your journey 

Everyone is different, and no one case of Hashimoto’s is like the other. What brought your body to the point of autoimmunity may be entirely different than mine, and for that reason, you need to personalize your own journey.

Read books on Hashimoto’s, work with a doctor, and listen to your body to find what works best for you. This is your journey and you have the power to take control!

 

Photo by Karla Janneth.

Hashimoto’s Symptoms Checklist (With Printable PDF)

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this content is general information. This does substitute for medical advice, diagnosis treatment. Always work one on one with a doctor.  

Hashimoto’s disease comes with a myriad of uncomfortable, and often debilitating¬†symptoms ranging from brain fog to weight gain, to intolerance to cold. Though the symptoms¬†may seem endless, there is a way to alleviate them and heal, and that process starts with awareness!

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at 17 years old, I thought it was an incredibly rare disease. I had no idea how common it was for both men and women, and how it’s becoming increasingly more common in younger women as well. I spent hours Googling my list of symptoms trying to get a handle on what was going on and continued to come back feeling confused and alone.

The list of Hashimoto’s symptoms is long, confusing, and has a lot of overlap with other conditions. It’s important to remember that just because you experience Hashimoto’s symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have Hashimoto’s. Also, even if you have other symptoms that aren’t on this list, it could still be related¬†to Hashimoto’s. Autoimmunity and thyroid issues are both complex, and this is only scratching the surface!

The most important thing to remember with Hashimoto’s is that it’s an autoimmune disease that impacts multiple layers of the body, from endocrine, to neurological, to gut health, and more. Rather than just having one huge list, we’re going to break the symptoms out by

Hashimoto’s Symptoms Checklist

Hashimoto's Symptoms Checklist (with a free PDF download)

Endocrine Symptoms

What are they?

  • Cold extremities
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Increased menstrual flow
  • Decreased libido
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Hair loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Thinning eyebrows
  • Weight gain

Why do they happen?

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and helps balance the rest of our hormones within the body. When the thyroid gland becomes compromised it can impact the entire endocrine system. This is why we can experience things like estrogen dominance, heavy periods, weight gain, and more.

Neurological and Mood-Related Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration

Why does it happen?

The body is all interconnected! The gut¬†has a direct line that connects it to the brain, and when we have gut issues, we can have mood-related¬†symptoms. It’s also said that inflammation as a whole can cause brain fog, and more, which is a huge factor in all autoimmune disease.

Gut Health Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Digestive issues
  • Frequent infections
  • Gluten and dairy sensitivity
  • Leaky Gut
  • Multiple food intolerances
  • Yeast overgrowth

Skin Symptoms

  • Dry skin
  • Acne
  • Hives
  • Vitiligo

Why does it happen?

Skin issues can often be very related to our hormone balance which the thyroid plays a huge role in.

Muscle-Related Symptoms

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness

Why does it happen?

Those with autoimmunity can experience a lot of inflammation. General chronic inflammation can lead to joint pain, muscle weakness and more.

 

How Do You Address These Symptoms?

The million dollar question… what do you do?!

Get to the root cause

Many people go symptom by symptom to see how they can alleviate it, rather than treat the underlying root cause. Yes, having some coffee in the afternoon may perk you up, and yes, using a heating pad can help cold intolerance. However, it doesn’t get to the root cause of why the symptoms are happening, thus it doesn’t prevent them from developing and getting worse. Taking a holistic approach that gets at the root cause is why enables symptom alleviation longterm! The next two steps can help you get to a root cause…

 

Work with a doctor

I am not a doctor, and none of this is medical advice¬†diagnosis or treatment. You have to work with a doctor to guide you on your Hashimoto’s journey. There’s just not doing it alone. I have a blog post to help with finding a doctor here.

Educate yourself of holistic strategies

Working with a doctor is necessary for the beginning, and I’m an advocate for medication when it’s necessary and prescribed. However, the journey doesn’t stop there.

There is so much we can do holistically with diet, lifestyle, and more, to manage our symptoms and address the root cause! I’ve documented my own journey of healing holistically here.¬†

Track your progress

In order to move forward, you have to have a clear path and track your progress! So often, we get caught up in the day to day and don’t realize when we’re improving, or taking steps backward. That’s why I created an easy little PDF for you to download to help track your symptoms!

Download the PDF here *

Hashimoto's Symptoms Checklist (With Printable PDF)

You can either print this or edit it on your computer and save it. It’s both helpful to track your own symptoms for your own benefit, and it’s great to have a record to bring to your doctor to better work with them!

Regardless of how overwhelming this all may seem, there is hope! I can tell you first hand as someone that struggled with all of these symptoms and more on a day to day basis that there is hope. Keep your head high, keep trying new things, and keep learning and growing.

Top 10 Most Asked Hashimoto’s Questions… Answered!

When I first started Unbound Wellness two and a half years ago, it was to share my healing story with Hashimoto’s. I wanted to give practical tips, share my personal experience, and of course, post delicious recipes. Regardless, there are still so many questions to be answered about Hashimoto’s!

First, what is Hashimoto’s? It’s an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the thyroid as if it were a foreign invader. This leads to hormonal imbalance of the thyroid hormone, degradation of the thyroid tissue, and a whole other host of symptoms.

It’s no walk in the park, and as someone who has had it for nearly 10 years, I’ve had a lot of questions myself. So, I’m answering the Top 10 Most Asked Hashimoto’s Questions that I receive, right here!

Top 10 Most Asked Hashimoto's Questions... Answered!

1.Is it possible to address Hashimoto’s naturally?

Yes, yes, and yes! While I always recommend seeing a doctor as well (see below), that doesn’t mean that that’s the only option. There is so much you can do naturally and holistically to support your health.

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s I had no idea that natural options even existed. I thought there was no point, and that medication was the only answer. Though many do indeed need medication as an other tool for healing, improving your general health status is still always a good idea!

So what are the steps you need to take to address Hashimoto’s naturally? I have an entire blog post about how I addressed Hashimoto’s naturally here.

 

2. What kind of doctor should I see?

Typically, we’re all used to going to an endocrinologist to address our Hashimoto’s, and that’s not wrong. This is honestly the best choice to get a diagnosis, get tested, and get covered by insurance. It’s so important to see a doctor, listen to their advice, and continue to follow up with them. However, an endocrinologist alone isn’t always necessarily going to help you address Hashimoto’s naturally.

When it comes to zeroing in things like heavy metal toxicity, adrenal fatigue, gut healing, and really addressing Hashimoto’s naturally, you need to be working with a functional medicine doctor. These doctors work on helping you address the entire system, and your body as a whole, rather than just masking symptoms. Typically, I recommend that people consider¬†seeing both an endocrinologist and functional medicine doctor.

Functional medicine doctors aren’t easy to find, but they’re completely worth it. You’ll find my personal recommendations and advice on how to find one here.

 

3. What kind of thyroid tests should I ask for?

Typically, conventional doctors just test your TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone. This is really only one piece of the puzzle and cannot tell you much about your status with Hashimoto’s. Rather, you want to ask for the following…

  • TSH
  • TPO
  • TBG
  • TSI
  • Free T3
  • Reverse T3
  • Free T4

Of course, there are other functional tests you can get like gut health testing, etc. For that, I would really work with your doctor one on one to see what you need personally. These tests can get expensive, so you really want to make sure that it will help your specific case before just testing anything.

 

4. How do I address “x” symptom? i.e. brain fog, hair loss, weight gain, etc.

This is one of the most common questions that I get, and with good reason! The list of symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s disease is incredibly lengthy. From hair loss, to brain fog, to dry skin, to fatigue, to weight gain, and more… there’s a lot to deal with.

So, how do you address all of the symptoms? It’s a good question… but not the right one.

In order to address the symptoms, you have to address the entire system and focus on healing the root cause of your Hashimoto’s. Cherry picking symptoms doesn’t address the root of the problem and often only finds quick relief, rather than lasting healing.

Working with a functional medicine doctor to address my Hashimoto’s holistically, and doing the work to change my diet and lifestyle is what allowed me to address each symptom.

 

5. Can I ever get off thyroid medication?

I get this question often, and have asked it myself many times. Here’s the thing… there’s nothing wrong with getting help from thyroid medication if you need it.¬†In fact, if you have enough damage to your thyroid from Hashimoto’s, it’s dangerous to be without thyroid medication. That’s not to say that everyone stays on thyroid medication forever, but it’s your main focus should be improving your overall health… not just getting off of a pill.

Never take yourself off of your thyroid medication. If you want to learn more about the potential of this, talk to your own doctor first and foremost. Every situation is different, and being without thyroid medication can be life threatening to many. Check out this posts for my own thoughts on this.

 

6. How do I find the root cause of my Hashimoto’s?

There’s no easy answer to finding your own root cause of your Hashimoto’s. Likely, it’s more than one thing. For me, there were multiple factors that came into play with my Hashimoto’s like stress, diet, gut health, genetics, heavy metals, and more. Finding your root cause takes time, diligence, and a lot of patience.

The best way to start finding the root cause is working with a doctor, and educating yourself on what you need to be looking for. Educate yourself on Hashimoto’s, on gut health, on hormones, on adrenals, on heavy metal toxicity, on all of it. You may not have to worry about all of it, and it may still take you a very long to figure it all out, but education and collaboration with a good functional medicine doctor are the most effective strategies.

For more information on this, we did a whole episode of my podcast on finding your root cause.

 

7. Is AIP really necessary to heal?

The autoimmune protocol is designed to help autoimmune sufferers find relief from their symptoms by cutting out immune stimulating foods, and focusing on healing foods. The autoimmune protocol template was huge for me in my own journey, and in the lives of many with Hashimoto’s.

However, it’s not necessarily perfect for everyone. Though I highly recommend doing your own research on the autoimmune protocol and giving it a try, I recognize that it’s not the perfect solution for every person with Hashimoto’s.

Regardless, if I’m just speaking from personal experience, I would not be the person I am today if it were not for following an AIP template!

 

8. Why is gut health so important? How do I heal my gut?

Compromised gut health is said to be one of the main triggers in all autoimmunity. The majority of our immune system is located in our gut, so if that becomes damaged, we open ourselves up to a whole host of problems. Poor gut health also opens us up to food intolerances, infections, and more that only complicate the issue.

When it comes to actually healing your gut, the journey looks a bit different for everyone. However, here are some basic steps that need to be followed to heal your gut…

  • Optimize your digestion
  • Remove inflammatory foods, infections, and parasites
  • Replace with healing foods
  • Reinoculate the gut with good bacteria
  • Repair the gut lining
  • Zero in on lifestyle changes, stress reduction, sleep, etc.
  • Reintroduce foods mindfully and slowly

Again, working one on one with a doctor is an important step to finding out exactly what issues you’re dealing with.¬†

When it comes to diet, I created an e-book, The 30 Day Autoimmune Makeover Guide that features 30 days of meal plans, meal prep guides, recipes and more! Diet may only be one piece of the puzzle of healing, but this e-book really makes it a lot easier to follow!

You can get your digital copy here. 

9. What lifestyle changes should I make?

This is an amazing question, and such a necessary task if you want to heal long term. Here are a few of the lifestyle changes to consider making…

  • Focusing on self care and stress reduction
  • Zeroing in on sleep
  • Switching to cleaner body care and non-toxic¬†beauty products
  • Shifting your mindset towards healing and health in general
  • Focusing on healthy movement and exercise

 

10. How can I “stay on the wagon”?

How do you stay the course with all of this? It seems like so many steps, and can indeed be very overwhelming.

Here’s how I stay on track… I remind myself why I’m doing it. I remind myself that I am making these positive changes to heal, to feel better, and to show up more in my life. For myself, for my family, for my readers, and more.

Change is not easy. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to wake up 20 minutes earlier, switching to a new job, or changing your entire diet and lifestyle. None of this is easy. However, remind yourself why you’re doing it, and that it’s completely worth it.

 

Have more questions?? Please feel free to email Unboundhealing @ gmail dot com to have your question answered on my podcast! This is the best way to make sure that you receive the best answer possible!

My Thoughts & Experience with Thyroid Medication

A quick disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, nor am I giving any medical advice. The opinions expressed in this post are personal and this is my own personal experience, that was guided by a doctor. Always consult a doctor for medical advice and information on your own thyroid medication. I cannot comment on any personal questions and will not be able to respond to any comments related to this.¬†

When it comes to Hashimoto’s and thyroid issues, everyone wants to know about medication. Easily one of the most common questions I get is about thyroid medication and whether or not I’m still on it. With thyroid medication being the main way that allopathic medicine tackles any thyroid issue, it’s with good reason that people have questions about it. Synthroid is one of the most commonly prescribed pills, and millions of women have a thyroid imbalance of some kind that is both being addressed and not addressed. So the million dollar question… am I still on thyroid medication even though I’ve changed my diet and lifestyle? The answer is Yes.

So first… let’s tackle the in’s and out’s of thyroid medication along with my own experience…

First… As Always, Never, Ever Make Any Changes To Your Own Medication Without Talking To Your Doctor.

Thyroid medication is serious business. Truly, you can die without thyroid hormone. That’s not me being dramatic, it’s the truth.

Never¬†take yourself off of thyroid medication or adjust your dose by yourself.¬†This is dangerous.¬†These conversations need to be had with a doctor. I will¬†never¬†give advice to anyone one on their own thyroid medication and this post isn’t for that.¬†

The purpose of this blog post is to help give you more general information and tell you about my own experience. It is not medical advice on thyroid medication.

Thyroid Medication 101

First, what is thyroid medication, and why do people need it?

Thyroid medication is essentially a hormone replacement that can replace the lacking hormone in the body, or help balance imbalanced hormone. Thyroid hormone is incredibly important to keep ourselves alive and is given when the thyroid hormone is imbalanced and insufficient.

Common¬†synthetic thyroid medication includes…

  • Levothyroxine
  • Synthroid

Common natural¬†thyroid medications include…

  • Armour
  • Nature-Throid

 

Why I Don’t Think Thyroid Medication Is The End Of The World

Most women that I come into contact with, whether they be my clients or readers of my blog, are all on a mission to get off thyroid medication as soon as possible. They ask me when I got off mine, and how¬†quickly they can expect to get off theirs. And let’s be honest… being medicated is never an ideal situation. It’s a sign that something is off in our body, and it propels us to want to fix it to the point where we no longer need the medication. It also comes with unpleasant side effects, and sometimes high cost.

Here’s the thing though… I don’t think that thyroid medication is the end of the world.

As previously stated, the thyroid hormone is incredibly crucial in the body. We need it to stay alive, to regulate our body temperature, and to keep the rest of our hormones in balance. And all¬†too often, women get their Hashimoto’s, hypothyroid, or thyroid disorder diagnosis fairly late in the game. If we’ve been in an imbalanced state for weeks, months, and sometimes years, our body often needs support to come back into balance.

Especially if we have Hashimoto’s and damaged thyroid tissue, our thyroid just can’t produce a proper amount of thyroid hormone naturally. Medication is necessary to help the body heal in this case, and so many people are in this spot. I can’t tell you the number of women that I see refuse thyroid medication because they want to take a natural route but continue to suffer poor effects¬†because they truly need some added support of extra hormone.

Clearly, I’m still an enormous advocate for managing your health holistically. I’ve written an e-book on healing your gut to manage your autoimmunity, and blog posts on how to manage Hashimoto’s naturally. This is the life that I live, the approach that I teach, and my saving grace.

However, when it comes to thyroid medication, I like to view it as a tool to help jump start your healing. Your dose may change, your blood work can change, and your situation can change. But there is zero shame in taking your doctors advice to get on thyroid medication to help jump-start your healing.

 

My Experience With Thyroid Medication

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at 17, I was put on a moderate dose of levothyroxine. At the time, I just wanted relief and didn’t know to ask for a certain type of medication or really do my research. Levothyroxine is a synthetic thyroid hormone and was easily my worst experience with thyroid medication. I was shaky, jittery, depressed, my hair fell out, and I gained weight. Even when my dose was adjusted, it just didn’t jive with me.¬†From there, I went to Synthroid which is another synthetic drug that I felt iffy on, but better than levothyroxine. I begged to be taken off Synthroid and get onto a natural medication, but my requests were ignored by my doctors.

After college, I suffered a huge health flare with hormone imbalance, gut issues, and Hashimoto’s symptoms galore that stemmed from stress from a new job and poor diet choices. At this point, I was seeing a new doctor who put me on armour thyroid, which is a more natural thyroid medication made from porcine glandular. At first, the dose was way too high and I swung to a hyperthyroid state with anxiety and weight loss. There was lots of tweaking involved until I went down to a quarter grain on armor… essentially the lowest dose you can get to my understanding.

The low dose of armor¬†was just enough to keep me stable if I suffered any swings due to stress or diet (as I’m very prone to hormone imbalance as result of stress) but not too much to the point where it threw off my natural hormone balance.

Here’s the kicker… I’m still on this dose of thyroid medication.

Shocked? Don’t be. I’m not. Like I said, my thyroid medication is not the end of the world. It’s a personal choice that I made with my doctor’s guidance to help support my continued healing. My labs have been normal for a long time now, but I’ve made the choice to keep it a part of my journey for now.

 

You cannot do this alone, nor can you copy and paste what someone else has done. We’re all bio-individuals and have incredibly different needs. Even with my thyroid labs normal, I still take a very low dose of natural hormone. Is that to say that¬†everyone in a similar situation as me needs the same exact dose, medication, etc.? Of course not. We’re all different.

As previously mentioned, the¬†risk of getting off thyroid medication with Hashimoto’s comes back to tissue damage. Hashimoto’s is the process of the immune system targeting the thyroid tissue and destroying it, so if our tissue is damaged enough, we can’t effectively produce thyroid hormone naturally. The best way to gauge how much of an issue this is for you is to talk to your doctor about getting a sonogram of your thyroid to determine tissue damage. Thyroid tissue can regenerate, but it’s good to be aware of how much tissue damage you have if weaning off thyroid medication is your goal.

What I will say is that I have indeed heard of folks who have worked with their doctors to stop taking thyroid hormone. It’s not unheard of to get off of it. However, this requires working with your doctor to customize a plan for¬†you, and to continue to test your thyroid regularly.

 

Advocating For Yourself

Thyroid medication isn’t always a walk in the park. It can produce a boatload of side effects that may make you feel worse than before, which is why so many people are scared of it. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most important part of dealing with any chronic health challenge is being your own advocate. Do the research, understand your labs, and talk to your doctor about what direction you want to go in. Have a so-so doctor? Find a new one! You don’t have to be stuck with any one doctor.

As for transitioning from one medication and onto another (like how I went from Synthroid to armor) don’t be afraid to have the conversation with your doctor to determine what works best for you. In my case, it took seeking out a new doctor to have a conversation about moving onto something that worked better for me. Doctors exist to serve and support you and you have every right to have an informed conversation with your doctor and advocate for yourself.

 

In summary, thyroid medication isn’t the end of the world. I view it as a tool to help jump-start the healing process, and there’s no shame in it. And as always… always¬†work with a¬†doctor that you trust to customize your own approach!

How To Stop Letting Your Health Control Your Life

I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone when I say that health is an enormous focus in my life. It has been since the second I got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. My focus has only grown more and more after discovering that the way to manage my illness was all lifestyle and diet based. Health is something that we all want to strive for regardless of our health status, right? It’s not wrong to want health. However, there’s a fine line between being focused on your health, and letting it control your life. So, how do you stop it from controlling your life?

First, I want to draw the distinction between obsession as in Googling and Instagraming health topics too much and obsession as in developing a disorder. If your obsession is literally dominating your life and creating disorder, I highly, highly recommend speaking one on one with a counselor or therapist to talk about your own situation. I am not a therapist by any means and I’m only sharing my own experiences here, and not professional advice that substitutes for treatment of anything. I often recommend my own clients to therapy, and having done it myself, I can’t talk enough about the benefits…

There’s a balance between being your own health advocate and having your health control your life in a negative way.

In a world of some less than perfect health advice, and tons of contradicting information, we all need to be our own health advocate. Research and staying up on health news is necessary! We need to be our own health advocates! We need to Google, we need to read books, we need to listen to podcasts, and we need to stay up on new research. I never would’ve found AIP if I didn’t research it, and that research has literally changed my life.

However, there’s a fine line between educating yourself and feeling like your obsessed. Let’s loosely define what I’m talking about here…

  • Being your own health advocate is when you’re proactive about your own health and pursue a healthy lifestyle
  • Obsessing over your health is feeling that you’re constantly thinking about it, and you just want a dang break already!

How I Knew My Pursuit of Health Was Controlling My Life…

Fine lines can be incredibly hard to distinguish, but let’s be honest… you know when you’re just over it. I’ve had plenty of times in my health journey when I knew I just was over it. 

Here are some of the signs that I’ve seen in myself…

  • Always thinking about what I was going to eat that day/the next day
  • Making tons of unnecessary health purchases 
  • Constantly judging what other people are eating
  • Endlessly Googling my own condition (Hashimoto’s and leaky gut)
  • Constantly starting a new regimen every single week/month to find relief
  • Just feeling exhausted over health news 

Sound familiar? Here’s what I do…

How To Stop Letting Your Health Control Your Life

 

1. Make finding and addressing the root cause of your health struggles your top priority 

Health trends like short detoxes and fast workout plans are quick, short, and offer results in a matter of weeks, which is why they’re insanely popular. However, when it comes to chronic health challenges like autoimmunity, leaky gut, or other, it’s all to easy to lean on quick fixes for relief. If we just try this one 30 day diet, then this other one, then this program, and so on and so forth. It becomes a cycle of quick fixes that offer little long term relief, and the constant change of routine makes it feel like health is controlling your life. 

Rather, the most important thing with any health challenge is to insure that you’re working to find the root cause. Why do you have gut issues? What triggered your autoimmunity? Spending your time and energy on finding and addressing what’s causing your issues helps you get at the heart of what’s wrong rather than obsessing over the next new thing to help you find relief. 

 

2. Focus on hobbies and entertainment completely outside of health 

If you’re anything like me, your netflix suggestions are all filled with food documentaries, and Amazon wishlist is nothing but health books and supplements. I’ve gone through phases where all I wanted to consume was health related. Everything I bought, everything I did, and everything I consumed was all about health and the pursuit to better my own health. Though it’s important to learn and continue to be an advocate for your own health, this is were it can start to control your life.

Find hobbies and entertainment that have absolutely nothing to do with health and embrace the heck out of them! Maybe it’s art, music, a sport, writing, or other. Something that I’ve gotten more into fairly recently has been collecting plants! Yes… collecting plants. Luckily I have a husband who is also into it and we’ve been slowly growing our collection while we make plans for a custom succulent wall, and more!

Yup. These little plants have nothing to do with health… and I love it! 

 

3. Accept and acknowledge that health struggles happen

The misconception in this health and healing community is that if we Paleo hard enough, we will be forever healed. If we just research more, eat more kale, do more crossfit, or meditate more, we’ll heal. That’s not always the case.

Sometimes health struggles can be out of our hands. Sometimes we’re hit with a stressful event that we just can’t control. And sometimes our bodies just change. We age, our environment changes, and we change. 

As always, there a fine line here. If you’re not able to thrive, there’s a real issue there that needs to be addressed. However, if we let every sniffle, every off day, and every yawn control our life, we’re denying what it means to be human. Humans aren’t perfect, and no amount of obsession will change that. 

 

4. Create a routine 

If you’re at the beginning of your health journey, it will likely feel like you’re obsessing over it. So many decisions, so many different opinions, and so many new things to learn. Don’t freak out… this is normal in the beginning, and even necessary to form a new habit and routine. New habits, especially ones that are all encompassing like creating a new lifestyle take a lot of time.

It takes time to form it, but creating a routine always works for me. Even the most basic routine is an amazing way to make time for healthy habits every week, but makes it so you don’t have to obsess over them constantly. 

For example, when I first started AIP, I would obsess daily over what I would be having to eat that day, and the next. I’d spend my entire drive to work recounting everything in my fridge, my pantry, and would make plans to stop at the store daily. This was obsessive, and exhausting. 

Eventually, I had enough of it. Every Saturday, I would sit down and plan a rough outline of my meals for the week, and then I would take Sunday to prep 75-80% of what I needed for the week. I’ve done this for years. It keeps me from obsessing about what I should be eating everyday, and it’s a routine that I love!

I also do this with workouts. I used to schedule myself so tightly that I never had time to work out. Now, every week, I go into my phone and schedule my workouts like an appointment with myself. That way, I know that I’m making time for it and schedule around it. If I miss a work out… it’s no big deal. But, scheduling them helps keep me active without me having to obsess over whether or not I got enough movement that week.

 

5. Accept and embrace diverse friends and family who aren’t necessarily “heath” people

This goes against what most self help books will tell you. “If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people”. While I don’t disagree entirely, I think it can be a little much to be constantly surrounded by healthy people as it can influence more judgement against those who don’t pursue a certain lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong… it’s so important to have a support system of friends and family who support you. However, don’t snub friendships just because they’re not “health” people. Embrace social relationships with people who have different interests, and want to do different things rather than just going to a yoga class and getting a green juice all of the time. It’s refreshing to get together with friends who just want to watch a movie and play a game sometimes!

That doesn’t mean you have to do what they do, or eat what they eat. But it’s important to remember that relationships have so much more to offer than just feeding into your own interests.

 

I can tell you first hand that living with health challenges isn’t easy. You do have to stay on top of it to make sure you continue to progress, and it does take a lot of time and energy. However, by applying these steps, it makes it much easier to make it a healthy lifestyle rather than something that’s controlling and exhausting.