A Hashimoto’s flare is an awful thing. The symptoms can seem to creep up on you slowly. One day you feel a little tired, the next day a little low, and then your whole body starts to ache. The next thing you know, you’re right in the middle of a horrible Hashimoto’s flare.
Symptoms of a Hashimoto’s flare can be wide-ranging and insidious. Fatigue, depression, memory issues, aches and pains across the joints, dry skin and hair, sudden weight gain, constipation, even cold hands – all are conditions that can occur during a flare.
What’s worse, is they can pop up when you think you’ve gotten control over your Hashimoto’s. You’re taking your medication, you’re careful with your diet, you keep yourself healthy, but a flare still comes along.
A Hashimoto’s flare is terrible, but it doesn’t last forever. Careful care can have your flare easing, and your Hashimoto’s under control. When you find yourself in the midst of a flare, this guide is here to provide you the help and support you need.
Dealing with Hashimoto’s Disease
For many of us, managing Hashimoto’s disease is a careful balance of diet, lifestyle, and medication. Although it can be tricky to get the exact balance that’s needed, once you’ve found a system that works for you, it is possible to gain a good level of control over your Hashimoto’s.
However, life doesn’t always allow us to thoroughly manage our every move. It’s easy for one thing to start to slip, life to throw us a curveball, and suddenly your meticulous diet and planning has fallen to the wayside.
In some cases, it’s easy to quickly get yourself back on the right track. Crisis averted, everything goes fine.
Other times, you may find yourself experiencing a slight flare. This can feel like a warning more than anything else, your body giving a signal that you need to take care of yourself. As long as you listen to what your body says, the flare can soon ease.
And then there are those other times. The times when a flare grabs hold and won’t let go. If you’re lucky, they might only last for a few days. But be aware, because sometimes a flare can last for weeks. And if you don’t take the time to reassess and get back on track, this flare can stick around for an uncomfortably long time.
A Hashimoto’s flare isn’t something that can just be ignored. It’s vitally important to stop and take that control back. Hashimoto’s isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s an autoimmune disease that is damaging your thyroid. When a flare occurs, it needs to be sorted for your own wellbeing.
Questions To Ask If You’re Experiencing A Hashimoto’s Disease
It’s easy to ignore symptoms until they start to become a real problem. When you begin to experience a flare, we all want it to work itself out quickly. However, the best reaction is to actually react. Sit down, assess any lifestyle changes, and ask yourself some important questions.
When A Hashimoto’s Flare Starts, Ask Yourself
- What have I been eating? It’s easy to make small slips in diet, and I’m sure we’re all guilty of it at one point or another. If you have a known food intolerance, take a second to think back over what you’ve been eating. If you don’t have any known intolerances, now might be the time to consider an elimination diet.
- What have I NOT been eating? Taking foods out of our diet can be a great way to gain some control over your Hashimoto’s. However, sometimes we spend so much time cutting things out, we forget what we’re leaving in. Make sure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients necessary for a healthy body.
- Am I experiencing a higher level of stress? Stress can be a major cause of a Hashimoto’s flare. Stress can also be insidious. While sudden changes are an obvious cause of stress, it also has a habit of creeping up without us noticing. Unfortunately, it can be hard to remove stress from our lives.
- Am I taking time for myself? While cutting stress out completely is, sadly, next to impossible, we can reduce it by taking time for ourselves. Make sure you’re spending a moment every day dedicated to your own wellbeing.
- Have I been exercising enough? Exercise is vitally important for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Body health helps autoimmune health, which can reduce the chances of a Hashimoto’s flare. Ask if you’ve been able to fit regular movement into your schedule.
- Have I been exercising too much? Being sedentary can lead to a flare, but so can too much exercise. High intensity training with no time for rest puts stress on the body, and that can lead to a Hashimoto’s flare. Reflect on if you’ve recently upped your routine, and if you’ve compensated for it with extra rest.
Asking these questions can help to quickly narrow down the causes of your Hashimoto’s flare. Be honest with yourself – we’re all guilty of occasionally neglecting our own health.
Recognizing Personal Triggers
Once you’ve suffered with Hashimoto’s and the occasional flare, you can start to see the patterns occurring. Ask yourself the questions above to help identify your own triggers. Here are some personal triggers that you may recognize.
- Gluten. Gluten and grains can be a significant trigger of a Hashimoto’s flare, but they’re also so hard to avoid. Sometimes it can feel like so many foods secretly contain gluten that it’s almost impossible to avoid.
- Salty foods. Excess iodine, something that’s often found in salty foods, can cause issues with hypothyroidism. Polishing off a few packets of chips might be leading to a flare.
- Lack of nutrients. Focusing too much on what’s left out can lead to neglecting what’s left in. A busy week and a few rushed meals leads to a lack of vitamins and nutrients, and a Hashimoto’s flare.
- Pushing too hard. When a work-out routine starts to feel easy, we naturally want to build on it. Pushing too hard too fast without the adequate recovery time can lead to some terrible flares.
- Neglecting to rest/sleep. One bad night’s sleep every so often is unavoidable. But when sleep gets pushed to the back of your schedule, the consequences are not good. Fatigue, joint pain, lack of appetite – all symptoms of not enough sleep, and Hashimoto’s.
- Gradual indulgences. What harm can one cake do? It’s a thought we’ve all had, and honestly, most of the time that slice of cake is fine. But sometimes these indulgences can gradually sneak in, until every day is a treat day. Sugar can then lead to a flare up.
- Stress. This is the big one, and the one that often sits behind other triggers. When stress starts to build, it’s suddenly so easy to neglect all the other careful regulations we’ve put in place.
Learning to recognize your potential triggers helps you to react closely when a flare up begins. If you’ve experienced a couple of flares, you can generally start to get an idea about what triggers it for you. For some it may be diet, for others exercise, and for some flares will coincide with periods of heavy stress.
Reacting When Your Hashimoto’s Flares Aren’t Under Control
If you’re currently treating your Hashimoto’s exclusively with thyroid medication, then this section is about how to change your lifestyle to help with the condition.
(If you’ve experienced a flare, and you already monitor your diet and ;lifestyle, skip to the later section.)
When Your Hashimoto’s is Under Control
When you speak to your doctor about Hashimoto’s, you’ll probably find yourself prescribed a medication called Levothyroxine. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which your body (specifically the immune system) begins to attack your healthy thyroid. Levothyroxine (and other variations) is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone, and it helps bring your thyroid levels back to normal.
Bringing your Hashimoto’s under control means preventing the disease from attacking your own body. A prescription of Levothyroxine can definitely help to get the effects of Hashimoto’s under control. Unfortunately, in many situations, this prescription will be the end of the discussion with your doctor.
Although medication is incredibly useful, it shouldn’t be your sole means of controlling Hashimoto’s disease.
Don’t just rely on thyroid medication
Levothyroxine responds to bring your thyroid hormone levels back up to the correct dosage. It doesn’t remove the Hashimoto’s from your body. The Hashimoto’s will still be sitting in the background, attacking your body. Levothyroxine simply means that the results of this attack can be negated.
(Levothyroxine isn’t the only medication, but it’s used here as a catch-all.)
However, our bodies have to go through a lot. Thyroid production changes as our bodies change and our lifestyles differ. We’re prescribed a dosage of Levothyroxine to match the needs at the moment of prescription. When we have a flare up, it can be because a change in lifestyle means our prescription is no longer accurate.
When this occurs, we can get our prescription changed. However, when we aren’t addressing the root cause of these flares, they’ll keep on happening, and we’ll keep needing a medication change.
Relying solely on the medication to deal with the problem means exposing ourselves to flares, and not being able to react when symptoms worsen.
Medication is important, and you absolutely should keep taking yours. But diet and lifestyle work alongside the medication to keep you as healthy as possible.
Looking for control over your Hashimoto’s
Controlling your Hashimoto’s can be a bit of trial and error, as you search to find exactly what’s right for you and your body. Always speak with your doctor for advice on treatment, and what will work with your medication.
Finding the right diet is an important piece of the puzzle for controlling Hashimoto’s. The right diet for Hashimoto’s has nutrients that are necessary for a functional thyroid. These nutrients are: iodine, zinc, and selenium.
Many find that the paleo diet provides them with what they need, and removes what they don’t need. AIP (autoimmune paleo protocol) is another diet that many find helpful. Whole30, vegetarian, and vegan diets have also been shown to be helpful for sufferers of Hashimoto’s.
It can take some time to find the exact right diet, and it often works by slowly eliminating foods and monitoring your reaction. Speak with your doctor before making any sudden changes.
Diet can help, but it won’t completely solve the problem. But, a healthy diet supports a healthy body, and eating well can go a long way to making you feel good.
Gluten-sensitivity and Hashimoto’s appear to be closely linked. Many who suffer from Hashimoto’s find that their symptoms can be improved by cutting gluten from their diets.
Many people suffer from gluten intolerance and don’t realize it because they think the symptoms – fatigue, bloating, gas – are something everyone feels after a big sandwich. Often these symptoms crossover with Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases. Cutting out gluten can expose these intolerances, because you suddenly find yourself feeling better in your everyday life.
It’s recommended that if you want to find out if you have a gluten intolerance, then you need to cut out gluten completely for three months. And completely means completely – no sneaky snacks when you think no one is looking. It might seem like a lot, but you might quickly find that it’s easier to live without gluten than you think. Try combining a gluten-free diet with a paleo or AIP diet for a couple of months, and see how your body feels.
Stress leads to some serious changes in your lifestyle, often without us noticing. Stress can cause a lack of sleep, a lack of movement, and a horrible flare of Hashimoto’s.
It’s important to find time within your day when you can focus on yourself, and take some time to rest. Meditation, yoga, or even a comfortable sit down can help you to balance your mental health.
Finding time for even light exercise is also necessary. Pick an activity you enjoy, and keep yourself moving. It’s good for the body and the mind (and your Hashimoto’s).
Stress can also cause you to forget the carefully planned diet that you worked so hard at. It’s normal, when in a stressful circumstance, to find yourself reaching for a slice of cake, or forgetting to cook. Pre-planning, and some time out from a packed schedule, can help you get back on track.
When you’re suffering from a Hashimoto’s flare, one of the last things you need is someone saying a positive attitude can turn it all around. But even if a positive attitude isn’t a “fix-all”, a negative attitude can make things worse. It’s important to never view your Hashimoto’s as a punishment, or a failing.
During a flare, when you feel liable to beat yourself up, try and focus on the good you’re doing. Don’t think: “I feel bad”, think instead about how you will feel better. If you know a lifestyle slip has led to a flare, don’t think “I’ve failed my health”, think “I’m working to make improvements”. Take note every time you make a step forward, and draw focus to the parts of you that feel good.
Finding a practitioner
A bad doctor will prescribe Levothyroxine and send you on your way. A good doctor will discuss how to manage the condition, what symptoms to be aware of, and useful changes you can make.
Finding the right practitioner can, unfortunately, take some time (and sometimes money). If you’re able to spend time looking for someone you can work with, then it’s worth it. You deserve support.
Keeping yourself educated
Dealing with Hashimoto’s can seem overwhelming at first, but within time you can gain control. When you’re first trying to react to the condition, it helps to seek out as much information as you can. It won’t all be relevant – after all, every single body is different – but it gives you a complete picture of the kind of help out there.
Reacting when your Hashimoto’s flares are under control
If you’ve been successfully managing your Hashimoto’s
A Hashimoto’s flare is a scary prospect anyway, but it can be particularly overwhelming if you’ve been keeping your condition under control. Once you’ve found a diet and lifestyle that works alongside your medication, the negative symptoms can start to fade in your mind. When they come back, it can cause panic.
If you’ve been successfully managing your condition, and you’ve gone through the questions and can’t find an issue, then speak to a doctor. Don’t just let the flare carry on in the hope it will fade. A flare doesn’t just come out of nowhere – something in your body is causing it. Left too long, the flare can quickly worsen.
When you can’t identify what might have led to the flare, speak to your doctor. The cause may be something like:
- A hormone fluctuation.
- BPA or chemical exposure, or air pollution.
- H.Pylori, bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.
- Other medications.
- A change in supplements.
These are just a few potential factors that can lead to a flare up, and are hard to identify. Sometimes, these will happen alongside other lifestyle changes. If you’re changing your diet and your flare isn’t easing, then contact your doctor.
Dealing with panic
Finding yourself in the midst of a Hashimoto’s flare is a horrible feeling. Especially as the symptoms can seem to build. All of a sudden, it can feel as though the hard work you spent managing the condition was for nothing.
When you find your Hashimoto’s has started to flare, the first thing to do is take a step back. It’s easy to throw ourselves straight into panic, but this harms rather than helps. Panic and fear will only worsen the symptoms, and it makes it harder to find a path out.
Begin by reminding yourself that this won’t last forever. In the midst of a flare, it’s difficult to remember a time when you were feeling good. But, every flare is only temporary. Remember that you’ve gotten through it before, and you can get through it now. A calm mindset can go a surprisingly long way to finding a solution.
When you’ve relaxed your mindset, go through and ask the questions above. Consider your diet, and what you’ve been doing recently. It may be that the answer comes to you quickly. Then, you can work with a positive attitude to implement any changes. If this doesn’t work, contact your doctor.
Hashimoto’s flares can happen to any of us, no matter how much care we take. Always remember that it isn’t a failure on your part, and that you will get through it.
Reach out to others
A Hashimoto’s flare can feel like the worst thing in the world. Always remember that no matter how awful it is, you aren’t in this alone. There’s always someone out there who has experienced the same thing, and knows how you feel.
If you have friends who’ve suffered from Hashimoto’s, reach out to them. They can offer you advice, but also support.
Otherwise, have a look online. Hashimoto’s afflicts 14 million people in the USA alone. There are so many support groups online who will welcome you, commiserate with you, and help you through. There are also support groups and chat rooms for people trying the paleo or AIP diets, and they’ll welcome you with open arms as well.
Record your symptoms
Have you ever experienced a new symptom with a flare and started to wonder where did that come from? And then your flare fades and you kind of forget it ever happened and move on with your life.
And then another flare comes around, that strange symptom comes back, and you start to wonder where did that come from?
Hashimoto’s doesn’t just come with a set of simple symptoms – there can be some pretty odd and frustrating effects. Writing down what you’ve experienced might be really annoying when you have to keep on adding symptoms. But the bright side is when you get to start crossing them off as everything fades. That feels amazing.
Writing your symptoms can also help you prepare for the next flare. When you start to feel a bit weird, but you don’t really know what’s going on, you can see that it’s happened before. Then you can stop, assess your diet and lifestyle, and hopefully stop a flare before it takes hold.
As well as your symptoms, take note of any changes you implemented, and the effect they had. Try and keep going with your new good habits for as long as possible.
Although we’d all love to pretend we never slip into bad habits, life doesn’t quite work out like that. Writing down your symptoms and reactions lets you get ahead.
Hashimoto’s can sound confusing when you first get your diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to understand. We’re learning more and more about autoimmune diseases all the time, and as we learn, we can adjust our own diets and lifestyles.
Learn from others
Autoimmune diseases and thyroid conditions affect numerous people, and we all find different ways to deal with them. And while no one else’s solution will work for your unique needs, they can help to guide you.
Learning to control your Hashimoto’s doesn’t have to be stressful. Look for guides that can help you to negotiate your way through flares. Some can teach you about the basics, while others will go more in depth regarding what a Hashimoto’s flare actually entails.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed, then educate yourself about what symptoms you need to be aware of. Many of us dismiss symptoms such as fatigue as a general bad feeling, but we shouldn’t live feeling unhappy. By learning to recognize the symptoms, we can respond quickly and keep ourselves in good health.
Helpful people have also documented their journey to controlling Hashimoto’s. Whether it’s diet changes, new exercise regimes, or taking time to meditate, someone out there will have tried it. This is a great way to get some new ideas if you can’t find anything that’s working.
Exploring your diet
Our diet has such a major role to play in our overall health, and especially in coping with Hashimoto’s. Gluten, dairy, sugar, and excess salt, have all been potentially linked with autoimmune issues.
Paleo and AIP can really help to take control over your Hashimoto’s. They can sound off-putting – paleo is also known as the caveman diet – but once you’ve learned the basics, paleo and AIP are incredibly satisfying diet choices. As they grow in popularity, it becomes easier and easier to find paleo appropriate foods in major grocery stores and restaurants.
Hashimoto’s can be difficult, but your diet doesn’t have to be. In no time at all, you can find a large range of paleo recipes to guide you through your next flare (even as we hope they never come around again).