Dealing with Hashimoto’s as a Teenager in High School, College and Beyond
I was 17 when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroid disease) after showing symptoms since I was 16. A chronic disease that attacks your thyroid, Hashimoto’s disease is quite debilitating if left untreated or uncontrolled. I was desperate for some kind of success story, or support group for my disease as I held this strong belief that girls didn’t get Hashimoto’s in high school. Seven years later and wiser, I’m here to share my story and tips on how I dealt with Hashimoto’s as a teenager through high school, college and beyond.
My health in high school was never anything to be proud of. I was often sick and being down for a week at a time with sinus infections, strep throat, and colds. My diet was incredibly standard and laden with fast food, cafeteria cookies, and nearly void of animal protein. However, my symptoms were very sudden and pronounced.
- Fatigue and Weakness. In my junior year, I found myself coming home and taking naps every day after school. I hadn’t taken a nap since I was three so this was incredibly significant. Yet, everyone assured me that I was just growing.
- Heart Palpitations. I distinctly remember watching the movie “Music and Lyrics” with my dad (I know, very specific, but it was a pivotal moment) and my heart began to race for about five seconds. This had never happened before, and it didn’t really alarm anyone at the time. It took a few more times of this happening before I went to the doctor.
- Fainting. I went from heart palpitations to straight-up fainting in a few weeks time. I fainted at my after school job, I fainted at school, and I even fainted in the school parking lot.
- Weight Loss and Hair Loss. I dropped around 20 lbs, and fast. My hair started to thin out and I was unrecognizable to myself when I saw my high school graduation photos.
My diagnosis took around 7-9 months. Doctors first told me that I was “drinking too many energy drinks” which is why I was having the palpitations and fainting. When I told them I didn’t drink those they then told me, “too much Starbucks”. I didn’t drink Starbucks either but they didn’t dive any deeper. I visited more specialists than I can even remember looking for answers, to no avail. I went on being incredibly fatigued and weak for months and months.
My parents requested that my doctor test my thyroid as thyroid issues run in my family, but they stopped at TSH which was “within normal range”. I got several blood tests until my TSH finally started to tell my story. It was dipping too low, indicative of a hyperthyroid.
I then was referred on to an endocrinologist, and got the following levels tested-
All was normal except for my TSH and TPO which finally gave me my Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
DEALING WITH HASHIMOTO’S IN HIGH SCHOOL
High school is rough, period. Having your hair fall out in clumps and fainting in the parking lot doesn’t make matters easier for your social life. I was pretty clueless with what to do with my disease during high school, but here’s how I managed it…
- I was transparent with my teachers. Hey, I got to sit out in P.E. Wasn’t a bad situation.
- I rested when I needed it. Which was a lot of rest.
- I didn’t push myself past my limits.
- I read as much as I could about my disease. As I said, I didn’t think such a young diagnosis was common, so I didn’t have many people to relate to, but I still learned what I could.
- I began to eat healthily and learn about nutrition. This is where it started for me. I was still a bit fuzzy, but I majorly cut back on fast food and started eating animal protein around this time.
DEALING WITH HASHIMOTO’S IN COLLEGE
College was a totally different story. At first, I thought I had it all under control. I was feeling better, for the most part, was studying to be a Registered Dietitian, and felt like a different person after my weight loss. About six weeks into my freshman year, I was back at square one sleeping 16 hours a day, and all of a sudden gaining weight.
Around Halloween, I went back to the doctor, furious, to find that I was now hypothyroid. I didn’t understand what was going on or why my levels were now swinging. I felt some relief after going gluten-free but was constantly slipping further and further until my junior year when I had enough… I was going to kick this once and for all and heal myself by healing my gut. Here’s what I did in college-
- I cut out gluten in my freshman year. I wasn’t 100% strict, but the small changes gave me a taste of what feeling better felt like.
- I sought out support.
- When it came to exercise, I listened to my body. I became a gym rat in college but didn’t push myself. If I couldn’t do it anymore, I left. It was hard to accept but necessary.
- I healed my gut. Bingo! This changed everything. Focusing on the fact that my Hashimoto’s had this root cause of leaky gut changed my perspective.
DEALING WITH HASHIMOTO’S NOW
I’d be foolish to say that I have it all figured out. There’s always more to learn, and I’m figuring it out day by day. I wasn’t the same person that I am today just a few days ago, nor was I dealing with my Hashimoto’s the same way.
However, after 7 years, I have learned a lot about my body, my disease, and how to manage it. I’m in a far better place than I was back in high school and college. Here’s how I manage my disease today…
- I trust in God’s plan. God has a plan and a purpose for my health story, as He does for you!
- I love my body for all it does for me rather than hating it for my disease.
- I healed my gut… again. And still working on it, thank you. This is a process that’s much longer, laboring and intensive than I originally perceived it.
- I follow a rotation diet. This was recommended by my doctor, and it really helps me to not develop any more allergies, and heal my gut.
- I eat fat, vegetables, fruits, animal protein, and real food. I enjoy the occasional processed food snack of some enjoy life chocolate chips or plantain chips, but 99.9% of the time, I’m eating vegetables, animal protein, fats, and strictly real foods.
- I eat nightshade-free, grain-free, paleo etc.
- I’m in tune with my micronutrient deficiencies. I got just a very general micronutrient panel at my doctor and find my symptoms to improve dramatically when I take supplements to correct my deficiencies.
- I rest.
- I still listen to my body when working out.
- I got to the doctor regularly. I skipped out a lot when I was in school, but I’m sure to never miss an appointment now.
Hashimoto’s isn’t fun, but when working closely with a doctor that you trust, eating real food, and finding what works for you, there is hope for recovery!
Did you deal with a health crisis in college or high school? Do you want me to write more about how I deal with leaky gut?