Interview with Boost Health

#14 Hashi & Me: meet Natalie

Hashi & Me is a series of stories published by Boost Health for people with Hashimoto’s told by people with Hashimoto’s and other thyroid problems. In each piece, one of us will share our experience with Hashimoto’s, our personal findings and tips. We believe one person’s experience can be useful for others, especially newly diagnosed people. This week meet Natalie, leader of a User Experience team for a consulting company in Chicago.

You can read the original interview on Medium if you like, but the full text is also available below. This post is one in an ongoing series I’m writing about my health issues. You can see the other posts here.

Introduce yourself briefly.

My name is Natalie Hanson.  I live north of Chicago, and I work full time for a consulting company, where I lead a User Experience team.  I am married with my partner of nineteen years, and I am also mom to two kids (11 and 9).

How and when did you discover you had Hashimoto’s? Tell us your story.

I started feeling unwell – low energy and depressed – after my youngest son was born.  It took a while to figure out what was going on, but it seemed like post-partum depression at the time.  My GP diagnosed me with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and prescribed Prozac.  That helped elevate my mood a bit, but a lot of the underlying issues with fatigue and inability to lose weight persisted.A few years later, we relocated from Pennsylvania to the Chicago area for my new job.  I still wasn’t feeling right, and I got more aggressive about seeking medical help.  Over the course of those five years, I met with more than fifteen doctors.  I sought out all kinds of practitioners, including my ob-gyn, an acupuncturist, and more.  The second-to-last one (a traditional endocrinologist) diagnosed me with sub-clinical hypothyroidism.  In other words, my antibodies were very low (under 40).  She diagnosed me based on my lab data plus my symptoms.

What did you learn since? Do you have some tips or findings to share with other Hashimoto’s people?

The past ten years have been one lesson learned after another!

In patient communities, people often get angry that Hashimotos is dismissed as a relatively mild condition.  It is aggravating to have a doctor tell you that, especially when you feel terrible.  But what I have learned is that Hashis is often the ‘canary in a coal mine’; said another way, a Hashis diagnosis is often just the beginning of a health journey.  That was definitely the case for me.

In my case, I have since learned that I have leaky gut and food sensitivities, EBV, chronic Lyme and two co-infections, as well as lead and mercury poisoning.  All of those need to be dealt with.

I started by addressing the food issues, because that was something well within my control.  I took Angie Alt’s SAD to AIP in Six Weeks course, which helped me learn the basics (including batch cooking), as well as some of the science behind AIP (Auto Immune Paleo / Protocol).  I tested for food sensitivities and eliminating all the things I was reacting to.  That alone made me feel light years better.

Most recently I have been focused on chelating heavy metals using the Andy Cutler Chelation (ACC) protocol, since Lyme thrives in a metals-toxic environment, and it can be a factor in hypothyroidism as well.

What does your day with Hashimoto’s look like?

I’ve had to make a lot of changes since realizing I wasn’t going to get better overnight.  I think the most important thing has been reducing stress and getting more sleep.  I have been making changes at work to ensure that I’m not overloaded.  I am home in time to have dinner with my family at 6 pm every night, and I don’t look at my laptop or iPad after that, because I have found it really disrupts my sleep.  When the kids go up to get ready for bed at 8 pm, I go with them.  We brush our teeth and put on jammies at the same time, and I usually go to sleep after their lights out at 8:30 pm.  That discipline at bedtime permits me to get up between 5-6 am and do something for myself (like a walk or journal or cook) before work.

When I get up in the morning, I pack both breakfast and lunch to eat at the office.  I am still following AIP, though I’ve successfully reintroduced some foods like eggs and almonds.  My meals mainly consist of veggies and leafy greens, with meat of some kind.  I eat few to no carbs (typically less than 50 grams a day) since I am still struggling with blood sugar regulation issues.

I take a ton of supplements.  I am really hoping some day there won’t be so many – right now I feel like I am taking pills all day long.  I have compounded vitamins (by prescription), a number of pills, and I’m on T3 (twice a day), adrenal support, a variety of enzymes (for pancreas, stomach, liver, and kidneys) with every meal, and detox products like DIM (for estrogen).

With so many pills, sometimes it’s hard to tell what is helping.  But there are two things that have made a world of difference for me.  One is low-dose naltextrone (LDN), which has helped with inflammation and the horrible body aches I get from Lyme.  The other is GABA, which promotes relaxation.  Other people prefer 5-HTP or l-theanine; for me GABA has been a godsend.  I didn’t even realize how much I was anxious and churning until it stopped.  Both of those have really helped improve my sleep.

What was the biggest struggle and biggest victory you experienced?

Well, I would stay that I’m still in the fight.  Although I feel much better than I did five years ago, I still feel like I have a long way to go.  The small victories have been in finding supportive patient communities and taking control of my own health.  Each change I’ve made has taught me something and improved my health in some incremental way.

I also feel some satisfaction in helping other people navigate their own auto-immune journeys – mostly by sharing my own experiences.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed to ease their first steps with Hashimoto’s?

In retrospect, I have learned that managing an autoimmune disease is a marathon, not a sprint.  While it’s important to get the help you need, it’s also essential to manage your own expectations – you’re not going to be healed overnight.

Insist on finding a doctor who will listen and support you – likely a Functional Medicine Practitioner (FMP).  Don’t put up with physicians who diminish your experience, or who want to treat you based on labs and not how you feel.

Recognize that you’re responsible for your own healing process.  I read Isabella Wentz’ Root Cause book shortly after my diagnosis, and I systemically worked through every single thing she recommended.  Each one led to changes in my routine, and ultimately to health improvements.

In the midst of the chaos of your daily life, carve out a little time to take care of yourself, whether it’s to cook a healthy meal, call a friend, or snuggle a loved one.  It sounds remedial, but if you don’t take care of yourself at least a little bit, you don’t have the energy you need to continue to learn and advocate for your health.

Connect with me …

You can read more about my health journey on my blog, and you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter as well.

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