I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease almost ten years ago after having battled a multitude of symptoms for over two years. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an incurable autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid. It basically means your immune system is attacking your thyroid. Symptoms vary and may include metabolism issues, a tendency for hormonal imbalances, trouble tolerating cold, irregular sleeping patterns, anxiety, a weak digestive system, joint and muscle pain, and fertility problems.
My diagnosis also revealed that I suffered from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is manifested by a severe gluten intolerance and can cause long-term digestive problems, if not well managed, and prevent the body from adequately absorbing nutrients.
While it may all sound pretty bleak, the good news is that, after years of trial and error, I finally learned to manage my disease and to gradually ease its symptoms. I attribute this accomplishment to two major factors: lifestyle and mind-set!
It was a long journey, especially considering my issues with gluten, but I eventually found the right diet. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet was a turning point for my health. It happened gradually and I kept listening to my body throughout the process.
Finding the best diet for you is a very individual process – it should not be forceful. What really made a difference for me was ruling out inflammatory foods (sugar, processed ingredients, and foods containing hormones and antibiotics).
I started by completely eliminating gluten because of my celiac disease. I then gradually cut down on sugar and processed foods (including canned products) before switching to a plant-based diet that is low-glycemic and fully wholefoods-based.
I stick to natural and fresh ingredients with a rotation of fruit and vegetables, as well as protein at each meal, in addition to a balanced and diversified intake of carbs and healthy fats.
Apart from fresh fruit and vegetables, my diet consists mostly of seeds and raw nuts, wholegrains and pulses, raw cacao, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, and adaptogenic foods like maca.
My experimental journey with nutrition completely altered my perception of food, as I could sense its healing power for the body and soul. I subsequently developed a passion for cooking and exploring flavors and textures; it was my way to “defeat” my illness. I even took my passion one step further and completed a plant-based cooking course, then launched a recipe blog and a page on Instagram to share healthy anti-inflammatory recipes. I also host regular workshops and cooking classes to spread awareness about lifestyle and nutrition.
A New Fitness Routine
I experimented with different forms of exercise throughout the years until I figured out the balanced routine that would help me stay fit without putting unnecessary stress on my hormones.
Having grown up in the mountains of Lebanon, I have always enjoyed running outdoors. For years, I used to do it almost daily until I realized that it was straining my body.
I currently squeeze in a session of cardio up to twice a week. In between that, on other days, I do 30 minutes of resistance training in the comfort of my home (while watching cooking shows). I also make sure to stay active by walking around and taking the stairs whenever possible, as well as swimming on weekends.
The Importance of Sleep
My relationship with sleep has always been quite complex and even frustrating at times. I have my symptoms and the very busy Dubai lifestyle to thank for this inability to switch off and relax.
After years of irregular sleeping patterns, I had tried almost every natural remedy, including homeopathy and melatonin. Finally, I visited an Ayurvedic resort in Sri Lanka to address this problem. My sleeping troubles were eased with the help of daily acupuncture, meditation, herbal remedies, being out in nature, and disconnecting.
I am still working on getting this right by focusing on my attitude towards sleep as well as my sleep routine. I now go to bed by 9:30 p.m. on most weekdays and try to squeeze in a few minutes of light breathing exercises and inward reflection. Limiting the use of technology right before bedtime is also making a huge difference.
Set Your Mind
Hashimoto’s symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and even debilitating. One of the major learnings for me was that positivity is as important as nutrition! There is no magic pill – it is rather about taking the decision to embrace the illness and to even turn it into an advantage through a healthy lifestyle.
Being well-informed about this disease by reading, listening to podcasts, and so on will go a long way in putting your mind at ease. Being equipped with the knowledge to make the right decisions on a daily basis is incredibly empowering.
Though my uncomfortable symptoms have significantly eased thanks to these lifestyle changes, I am aware that they will not fully disappear. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and conducting regular check-ups to test my thyroid are essential. That being said, I consider my disease to be a positive contribution to my life as it allowed me to discover and develop my passion for cooking and to fully embark on a journey of health and wellness.
What to Do If You Have Hashimoto's
- Find an endocrinologist with whom you feel comfortable. Make sure to undergo regular medical check-ups, including periodically testing thyroid antibodies as well as undergoing an annual/bi-annual ultrasound.
- Evaluate your diet. Try to identify any inflammatory foods that you should gradually phase out.
- Experiment with new flavors and ingredients.
- Find an exercise routine that suits your body. Try to mix it up to keep it interesting.
- Cheer up. Surround yourself with positive people, and keep a daily journal or mood board.
- Prioritize self-care. This includes sunset walks, baths, sitting by the sea, meditation, and massages.