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?
Wow! I can’t imagine dealing with all that during high school and college. My health “crisis” in college was just trying not to gain too much weight from pizza and beer. I feel like so many people deal with this kind of stuff in silence, I’m glad you’ve gotten a diagnosis and educated yourself!
Thank you, Amber! Yeah, the hardest part is the not knowing. It’s much easier these days now that I’m working hard to be my own health advocate 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, as I am not familiar with the disease. So much with our diet & health seems trial and error, so when we don’t feel like we are being heard by physicians, it makes it that much more difficult. I hope that by sharing your experience it may lead to another person’s relief!
Thank you!! Sadly, it’s quite common even though it sounds pretty exotic 😛 And I totally agree it’s a lot of trial and error. It took a lot of time, but I feel like I’m in a good place 🙂
This helped me a lot. I am 13 and in the eighth grade and I have hashimotos. I was diagnosed when I was 9 years old. Dealing with school( especially missing school) has been really hard for me. I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse, but because I was diagnosed so young, I don’t really know any different. Being in pain all the time was my normal. Thank you for sharing your story and experiences!
thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. i was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 7th grade and dealt with pain and fatigue constantly and nobody really cared because they didn’t believe that a condition as “simple” as this could cause me so much distress. thank you for letting me know that i’m not alone!
So sorry to hear about that, Zoe. I so know how you feel… and so many others do too!! You’re not alone and healing is possible <3
Hi Michelle, I am in college right now and was diagnosed with Hashimotos at the beginning of this semester. I did not think that it would be that big of a deal because my mom also has it so I did not even try with disability services. But now, I sleep almost 14 hours a day or at least experience terrible spells of exhaustion where I’m awake but cannot actually do much at all. My mind feels slower than it was before and I’m behind in classes due to my sleeping (and I swear the medicine I’m taking is making me anxious). I do not know what to do.
Did you ever experience anything like this? If so, what did you do? I’m hesitant to go to disability services because I don’t feel disabled, just tired, and I’m not sure if there is anything they could help me with.
First of all, I’m sorry you’re going through this! There is zero shame in going to disability service and taking a helping hand while you’re healing. I have a full blog post on what else I did here. Sending love!
Hi! I have a story pretty similar to you. I was diagnosed when I was 17 during my senior year of high school. My symptoms started the month before school started when I started cross country practice. My symptoms got pretty severe during the season but I just thought I was tired from practice and that it was all in my head. Once the season ended and I was still feeling this extreme exhaustion, I was afraid I was going crazy. After receiving my diagnosis, I thought that just taking levothyroxine would solve all my problems. However, it is over a year later and I am in college now and I have tried every thing we can. This whole process has been so crazy and time consuming and confusing and I am sticking to the gut healing process right now. After stuffing my mouth with whatever I pleased for 18 years, I have been corn, gluten, dairy, soy, and peanut free for the last 8 months. I am still having symptoms and it is very difficult to get work done for all my classes. I recently started CBD oil and I wanted to know your opinion on this. I also wanted to see if you could recommend any recipes that I could eat on my diet that I could make in my dorm and if you recommend any other foods to cut out (my mom has mentioned night shades but I don’t know what those are). I also want to hear about your gut healing process and how that helped. Thank you.
Hi Tyler! I don’t have any experience with CBD, but as for food to prep in your dorm… I would for sure look into the brand EPIC for meat bar snacks. Canned fish like salmon and sardines are a great option too. And of course, vegetables, fruit, avocado, nut butter, etc. Dorm life is hard, but it gets easier as new food options come to the market. Good luck!
I got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroid when I was in 7th grade. Like you I felt like nobody else was diagnosed and all I could find was adults talking about all the diets I needed to go on to survive when I tried to learn about it. Thank you for posting this as a help to all the teens out there as we struggle with this.
So glad it was helpful Rebekah!!
Thank you so much for this. I was officially diagnosed today after about a year of showing symptoms. I am 15 and have three years left in high school. Honestly, the testing and consultations leading to today have overwhelmed me, but reading this has helped assure me that I can take some measures into my own hands. Thank you!!
So glad it was helpful, Hannah! I know it’s overwhelming but there is hope!
Wow. It’s almost like someone read my story right back to me. My Hashimoto’s was diagnosed when I was 17, but was present for about a year before. I would get home, go to bed, wake up, and go to school. My parents noticed I was sleeping a lot and would ask if I was sick. I always just said that I was tired. I didn’t feel like myself and just felt trapped. I feel a lot better than when it was undiagnosed, but I still don’t feel like my normal self.
This was appreciated. I’m a junior in high school (17) but was diagnosed almost two years ago. It can feel so isolating at this age to live with a thyroid condition, since it seems like an “invisible problem”. The lack of young people to talk to or just complain to can be frustrating. Hearing and reading about the changes it feels like you have to make can seem restricting at an age when you’re supposed to be invincible. Sometimes it makes me sad, but this article made my day.
Aww, I’m so glad you found it helpful!!
What kind of doctor do you see?
I just got diagnosed this past year, and I am now in my first year of college. My senior year of high school was extremely difficult due to the confusion on what was happening to my body. It has been really hard dealing with the fatigue and the extreme hair loss. I used to have long, thick, curly hair, and it is so hard for me to accept my now short thin hair. Thank you for sharing your story and your sort of success journey. I am hoping to understand ways to eat better and nourish my body more. It is just a little difficult with dining hall food ha! ha!
So sorry to hear what you’ve been going through! Glad you found this post helpful!