Shelby had been diagnosed with not just Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, but also IBS, and she was looking for a good tracking system to help her in adapting her lifestyle to her diagnosis when she found us. Here's how she adapted to the challenges her autoimmune disease threw at her.
Before my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis, I was relatively unaware of the butterfly-shaped organ known as the thyroid gland, which hovers at the base of the neck. This gland, no greater than the length of an average pinkie finger, is a salient part of the endocrine system. Thyroid hormones are active in nearly every cell of the body, orchestrating growth and development, and regulating our metabolism. To give you an idea of how important the thyroid gland is to our state of wellbeing, consider this: when your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, your body temperature, sleep, mood, digestion, and even your cognitive function is impaired.
In my teen years, after an unusual episode where I collapsed during physical activity, I was promptly diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is often, though not always, the precursor to a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. At that point in time, my thyroid stopped producing the level of hormones optimal for health, so my doctor prescribed thyroid hormone replacement and told me that with the correct dosage, I would be back to my normal self. Nearly a decade later, lab results confirmed that my thyroid condition was, in fact, autoimmune related. This meant that antibodies would continue attacking my thyroid, leading to increased inflammation and loss of function over time. All those years later, I felt anything but back to my normal self. Where was my former energy, glow, and enthusiasm?
Additionally, I learned that those of us with an autoimmune condition have a higher chance of developing a second or even third autoimmune disease. Studies note that this occurs in approximately 25 percent of individuals and is called multiple autoimmune syndrome. With this new information, I felt powerless, as if a sword had been sharpened to hang above my head. In the course of time, my symptoms of fatigue, poor digestion (diagnosed as IBS), anxiety and depression, muscle aches and joint pain, and brain fog had returned. I couldn’t remember who I was before these symptoms became a part of my daily life. Looking for a way out, I decided to take back my health by examining how my diet and lifestyle could promote healing.
I made adaptations to my diet and lifestyle, but initially found it challenging to track any change in my symptoms or to measure my progress. No template existed for this form of health tracking, or so I thought. I knew I wanted to record my progress in a journal—already, journaling served as a daily tool for me as a writer, so why not implement this for my healing journey also? It wasn’t until I came across The Food Diary Company—which emphasizes health and symptom tracking—that I was able to finally take control of my health. The food diary itself is elegantly designed and discrete. The customizable pages left me feeling empowered as I tracked my symptoms and food intake. For the first time, I felt curious about my health and began experimenting with changes like going gluten-free, adapting the paleo autoimmune protocol, addressing food sensitivities, taking healing supplements, and balancing my blood sugar levels.
Unexpectedly, my favorite component of the food diary is the community that comes with it. Living with chronic illness can leave you feeling alone, isolated, and misunderstood. Reading TFDC in the Wild stories remind me that I’m not the only one embarking on this wellness journey and that progress isn’t necessarily linear. I continue to follow The Food Diary Company on social media and check the blog regularly for personal stories, tips on optimizing the use of my food diary, and nuggets of health wisdom. I believe that The Food Diary Company’s small community and other supportive, likeminded communities are what will heal us all in the end.
My food diary has been pivotal in tracking how well I’m managing my autoimmune disease. It’s helped me pin down food sensitivities and record symptoms that are unrelated to Hashimoto's, but which are on the autoimmune spectrum. I now better understand how crucial a good night’s sleep is for my health and how much my mood and digestion suffer when I don’t get adequate rest. For the first time, I’m able to track the subtle cues that show whether my body is benefitting from the use of a supplement or not. And after reading the “Let’s talk about…poop” post on the blog, learning how to track my bowel movements in a discrete way has been life-changing (Seriously, go take a look!).
Most importantly, the food diary helped me realize just how unique and exceptional my body truly is. Before using the food diary, I thought the key to my health was prescribing to a diet and lifestyle that had worked for others in their health crisis, when all along I had the power to heal and even thrive, just by opening the food diary and picking up a pen.
—Shelby Anne Newsom, [Pittsburgh PA, USA], @S.a.newsom
Thank you so much Shelby! It's amazing to hear that not only the diary is a great help to you but also that our blog posts our too! We're all about showing everyone just how common autoimmune issues like IBS really are, and how a food diary can be an amazing tool to help people better understand their own health!