Going 'against the grain' to heal Hashimoto's
Updated: May 11, 2020
I wrote a post last month about how to survive on an autoimmune diet (you can check it out here: https://bit.ly/36PeEkU). This is an elimination-type diet that has been specifically designed for those living with autoimmune disease to help them reduce, and in some cases remove symptoms. It is extremely anti-inflammatory and gut-healing. Over time, once your gut has healed, you can start to reintroduce certain foods and tweak it to what it best for your body. However, there are some foods that will never be ok to reintroduce again for most people such as gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar. I know in my experience and in many others, it has been life-changing for me. Changing my diet has alleviated so many symptoms and I have so much more energy - more than I’ve ever had in my life! I am amazed by the healing power of food and am a massive advocate for using diet as a key healing tool in Hashimoto’s.
However, changing your diet this radically isn’t easy, and so I wanted talk about one of the main ‘blocks’ that stop people from trying or sustaining this type of diet for their health. Changing your diet in this way is going against the social ‘norm’. It is going against what society deem as acceptable and ‘normal’.
I wrote the below post in my journal almost 2 years ago now - it shows how I was feeling about the diet change and thought it would be useful to share so that if you are feeling the same and having the same problems, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you can get through the other side. Despite me finding it so difficult to change my diet (so drastically) I eventually managed to accept that not everyone was going to approve with what I was doing and I’m now okay with that. I don’t let their opinions affect me as they don’t understand, and why would they understand? I have also completely changed the way I see food. I see it as purely a healing fuel for my body, and no longer something to get ‘fixes’ from or to ‘numb’ painful emotions with. I now see junk food as ‘0 nutrition’ and therefore not good for my body. I actually don’t feel any longing towards eating it any more. I now crave fresh organic vegetables and fruit. I now appreciate the sweetness of a banana so much now. I am much more mindful around eating now. I have a new love and passion for food. Real, pure, nutritious food.
Another thing I have realised is that going against the social ‘norm’ can be a good thing. Many highly successful people are quoted by saying that they wouldn’t be where they were today if they hadn’t of gone against what society had expected of them. Sometimes it’s good to break away from conventions and do your own thing. Do what is right for you. Do what feels right for your body, not what feels right for everyone else. Autoimmune disease is your body trying to tell you that something is not right. Listening to it paves the way for healing to take place.
What’s the big problem with food? (written Nov 2018)
Going on the autoimmune diet may sound extreme to most people, but when you are desperate to heal from debilitating autoimmune symptoms, you will try anything to feel better. However, it can be hard changing your diet to the extreme in a society where everyone around you is eating salted caramel chocolate cakes, spaghetti in chilli-tomato pesto, cheese, freshly baked bread, drinking lattes, and drinking alcohol all night at parties. I’m talking about when you are faced with a life-changing chronic disease (that conventional medicine has no clue how to treat) in which the only way you are going to feel worth living and get your life back is if you take matters into your own hands and improve your health naturally. Improving your health naturally means looking at your diet. Big time. Not just taking out a couple of things. Pretty much taking out everything and anything that could possibly promote an auto-immune attack and inflammation. This means no more ‘Oh, I’m running late this morning - I’ll just grab lunch at work’, or ‘Ah I’m too tired to cook, let’s get a takeaway this evening’, or ‘Shall we try out that brand new Italian restaurant?’. Say goodbye to spontaneity! No - better yet - say goodbye to your entire lifestyle!
I realised that my diet which mainly consisted of Italian food was like a poisonous cocktail for my thyroid. Gluten + Nightshades + Dairy = auto-immune disaster!! However, this was just scraping the surface of what I had to change. The biggest thing that makes it difficult to eat out at restaurants, or for that matter, at friend’s houses, is that most vegetable oils used in cooking are extremely inflammatory. In fact, only coconut oil is safe to eat when cooked. Therefore anything with vegetable oils in is out too. Most things that you buy in your supermarket pretty much have wheat listed as an ingredient, or some sort of vegetable oil, or sugar. SUGAR. Wow, I learnt that sugar is pretty much just as bad as smoking!! It has been found to be more addictive than heroine. I think that speaks for itself. Its one thing having to cut these foods out and transition to a new diet and new way of looking at food, and its another doing it in a society which is so obsessed with the food that you are cutting out!
I’m not sure if it is just a British thing, but people talk about food all the time. It seems to be a conversation starter, and people are always talking about the pasta they had at a restaurant, or the pizza at the boutique cinema, or the sugary dessert at their friend’s dinner party. These are conversations that, somebody who can’t eat out at restaurants, can’t be involved in. Especially as our nation loves cheese and coffee and sugar. All of which are like putting gas to a flame for autoimmunity. You can’t join in with these conversations, which usually help others relate to each other. These foods which they are talking about so lovingly, are foods that are have horrendous consequences for those with autoimmunity, if eaten.
Then you have the people who just don’t get your diet. They can’t get their head around why you are not eating ‘normally’. They say things like ‘Oh can’t you just pick the croutons out of your salad so that it will be gluten-free?’. The answer is no. You have to explain to them again that even a trace of gluten has been found to stay in the system for 6 months, where it can continue to cause havoc and perpetuate the auto-immune attack. It is difficult to live this way, whilst having people not understanding your diet, and not taking it seriously. Some can also crack jokes about ‘gluten-free’ and undermine the fact that it has allowed you to heal when removing it from your diet. They think that it is just a ‘fad’ diet and that you are trying to be trendy.
This leads me onto my next point, which I know a lot of people in the auto-immune community have spoken about, which is that people constantly say things like, ‘Well you look perfectly well to me’, because they can’t physically see it. And because they can’t see it with their own eyes and it is not as obvious as a broken arm, they can’t understand it, and can’t get their heads around it. This is actually one of the most insensitive things you can say to someone suffering with an auto-immune disease.
It’s become the norm in our society to have cereal (gluten + sugar + additives) for breakfast with milk (dairy), and then go on to eat a sandwich with cheese for lunch (gluten + dairy), and then for dinner have spaghetti and garlic bread with more cheese (gluten + gluten + dairy). In addition to this, it has become the norm to have copious cups of coffee and tea (caffeine) with teaspoons of sugar (sugar) or fizzy drinks (caffeine, sugar, additives), together with all sorts of exciting biscuits (gluten + sugar + additives) and cake (gluten + sugar + dairy + additives + preservatives) all throughout the day as ‘snacks’ or ‘treats’. You can see how this average day is a nightmare for those with auto-immunity. But this has become the norm. This type of food is available everywhere from anywhere. It is easy to make, easy to buy, easy to get and fairly cheap.
So you can see when changing your diet to one that heals auto-immunity, its going against the grain of society, and what everyone believes to be the norm and a ‘healthy’ diet. This isn’t just about giving up certain foods. It’s much more complex than that (despite overhauling your diet, food prepping for hours and hours, and saying goodbye to your old lifestyle being quite traumatic and having to deal with it like a grievance). Its about societal norms and dealing with them being shoved onto us. It’s about how political food is. Many people react sensitively and guarded when hearing the truths about westernised diets. They don’t want to believe that (some) of the food they are eating is contributing towards many diseases in the western world. It’s about how others treat those who do not conform - and this is one of the hardest parts about changing your diet.
Everyone is and should be welcome to eat whatever food they choose and live whatever lifestyle they choose. We should be accepting of everyone’s eating habits and allow them to make their own decisions about what food works for them.
This is why building a resilient mindset is so important in healing from autoimmune disease. (See my post on building a resilient mindset here) Your mental and emotional health is key to helping you get through and facilitating healing to take place in your body. I will be writing a post about building a resilient mindset and tools I used to get me through so you can try these for yourself and get on the path to healing and living your most vibrant and healthy life possible!!