How I curbed my Hashimoto’s symptoms in the past two months and improved my fitness
Self improvements are not always easy, but can be fun
by Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor
Hashimoto’s…Hashimoto’s….Hashimoto’s. I think I have heard every joke, every question and every self proclaimed one-cure-fits all with Hashimoto’s. I have also seen judgement in people’s eyes seeing me as simply fat. Nobody is “simply fat”. Nobody is “simply” anything (put whatever word you want: tired, forgetful, angry)… What we are, is simply or less simply different with our joys and struggles. Enough philosophy. This is what I have done with my Hashimoto’s in the past two months.
It was the end of March. On that particular morning our fridge at home was empty and my blood pressure below its usual low.
I gave the last carrot to our guinea pigs the night before. Now I was in the dear need of some sugar. The only service we have in the vicinity of our home is a bakery. I went there and got myself a croissant to pump my blood pressure to a level allowing the “operational-me” to take our dog out for a walk.
Croissants should be the amazing food of happiness, but for me that happiness I feel on my tongue quickly turns into a dismay when croissant reaches my intestines. I am intolerant to both dairy and wheat, making croissant a time-bomb travelling through my digestive system.
And, this one, on that particular March day did set off my symptoms with such a force. I spent the afternoon and evening lying in fetal position and refusing to eat anything. The next day I felt slightly better. I also felt it is the high time to once more reconsider my priorities. I decided to figure out my menu for the next couple of days before venturing into eating any food.
I knew I need to try to stay away from all the foods making me sick for as long as possible. I also knew that the best way to do it is to create my own healthy habits. There is no way I will do 30-day hard-core detox followed by a massive relapse. I needed to make a change in my lifestyle and only if necessry allow myself very rare food sins.
Above all, what I wrote is an experiment, and a work in progress. I think it is a lifetime work in progress. I am aware I might fail any time, and if I do, I will try again, until I get better and better at sticking to it. Because that is the part of the struggle.
Farewell to Foods
I did my food sensitivity blood tests a few years ago, so I knew AND had a proof in a form of quantifiable research lab grade results indicating what foods I should keep away from. And through the years, I managed to do it, more or less successfully for some, but not all of the foods.
That March day I decided all of the heavy, hurtful, unhealthy foods will not touch my lips anymore. Or, better said, my lips will not pursue any of the foods my body can’t handle. It was a hard promisse.
My so far diet was already restricted, but on one to two days a week I would relapse, now it was the time to step up. I completely took the following out of my diet:
Peas and almonds
I already do not eat chocolate or candy since November 2015.
The list may not seem like much, but all of the pasta, bread, pancakes were off my plate in a single day. That asked for a big shift in a way I do eat or consider eating my food: no more sandwiches, unless there is a bread made of other stuff than wheat, which takes time and energy to find (even the oat, corn or rye bread are actually a mix including wheat).
I allowed myself once a month to drink alcohol, and in a reasonable amount of one or two drinks.
What has changed?
Since stopping to eat the foods from the list above, my headaches were gone. It took a couple of days, and they were absent from my list of daily struggles. It was amazing! My memory and focus improved, and my digestion once again did not pose any threat to my social or professional life.
But, the most amazing revelation of all was the obvious improvement in my ability and the endurance in sports. I can run longer distances than I ever did! So far, I managed to ramp up to 12km. In all the years before, my absolute maximum was 5km. Running longer gave me more endorphins, which I like to think helped me stay both happy and focused.
This year I started running on March 5th, and managed to do 1.9 km on that very first run, my standard start-of the running season achievement. Three weeks later, a couple of days into my new food routine, March 31st I did 3.4 km.
In April I did my first 5 km of the year and by mid April I was doing 7km every second day. I had run my first ever 10 km on April 23rd. And on May 6th I reached the new peak with 12 km!
My first official 10 km race was on May 14th. By that time I got into the routine of running three times a week. It took me two months to get from 2 km to 10 km. I am still amazed by this transformation.
The story so far is not without challenges. I cannot run on hard surfaces without having problems with my knees. I did injure myself a few weeks ago when running in Amsterdam’s Vondel park, and it took me two weeks to recover and run a painless 10 km length again. The next race is in three weeks, it is a 11 km one, and I cannot wait for it!
I am trying to maintain my passion for running and healthy eating a part of my daily routine. I run three times per week, and the rest of the time I do long walks. Summer helps.
This is my path, with all it’s challenges and rewards. I am embracing it, because I want to be healthy, be good and enjoy my life. Hashimoto’s is a part of me, it made me who I am. Having it was not my choice. But living healthy with it is my choice.
What has helped?
Seeing I am doing better helped a lot with keeping up my motivation. Understanding there will be days I will have issues unrelated to my lifestyle helps not feeling too disappointed or discouraged to continue. Temptations are there, they are good for training my will.
Planning meals at least a day ahead was a good exercise routine in the beginning. Making sure that I have at least an apple or an orange in my fridge to help in the days of my super-low blood pressure is a must.
And lastly, accepting this is my personal experience, and that all of us differ, and what works well for me might not work well for others is helpful. We share the need for a personalized path to understand and maintain our health. Whether the food we will exclude will be peas, soy or barley, and whether we will run, swim or lift weights comes as a second priority.