First for Women Magazine - April 18, 2022
Where am I? What’s next in the lesson? Elaine Morrison wondered, alarmed, as she sat down in the middle of the Pilates class she was teaching, experiencing yet another bout of overwhelming fatigue and brain fog. “I’d been pushing through, but I knew my clients could see I wasn’t functioning at my highest level,” recalls Elaine. “It was impacting my career, and I knew I couldn’t keep going like this.”
Tired all the time
“I ate well, worked out regularly and felt healthy. In my 30s, I was an example of fitness and energy. In my 40s, though, I was managing two Pilates studios and a private club and I noticed it took more effort to get through my busy schedule, and I just didn’t have as much to give. My energy seemed more sapped than
it used to be, but the brain fog that came with the fatigue was almost worse. After class, I’d spend the rest of the day trying to recover.
“Then I started to gain weight and lose my hair. One day, I was at my hairdresser and she asked, ‘What is going on with your hair?’ I went home and cried. I always had a ton of hair, so to think I was going to lose it on top of every- thing else drove home that my body wasn’t my own at that time and things were happen- ing I just didn’t understand.
“At that point, I went to my doctor, who told me, ‘This is what happens to women in their 40s. Not willing to believe that, I did some research about all the symp- toms I had. I suspected Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid, because it covered all my symptoms. I wanted testing for it, but the doctor would only run a blood test to check my thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level. I read that high TSH levels can mean your thyroid isn’t making enough thyroid hormones, and it can indicate Hashimoto’s. A normal range
is .14 to 4, and mine was an 8!
The doctor immediately put me on the thyroid medication levothyroxine. While I started to feel slightly human again within a couple of weeks, my skin began to develop red dots, which turned into full red, scaly psoriasis patches from my scalp to my ankles. Concerned, my doctor told me to immediately stop the levothyroxine and referred me to allergy testing.
“Before I did that, I went to a naturo- path because I wanted a full workup, including testing for Hashimoto’s, which I still believed was my problem. She was very thorough and took a full health history. She also did a full thyroid panel and blood panel. She didn’t know what the skin issue was, but confirmed Hashimoto’s based on my symptoms and TSH score. She also found I was extremely deficient in vitamin D and anemic, so she put me on vitamin D and selenium. “Then a friend with some medical background recommended I see an endocrinologist and a dermatologist. The endocrinologist said this was an autoimmune disorder and I could never reverse it, only manage it with medications. How can I be this sick? How is this happening to me? I wondered.
“I’m usually an optimistic per- son, but this caused depression and concerns that I’d be ill for the rest of my life. I decided not to accept this.
I read books written by doctors and went back to the endocrinologist with notes. One thing I read was that I should rid my diet of inflammatory foods. The doctor patronizingly told me if it made me feel better mentally, I could try. I never went back to her. The dermatologist wanted to treat the psoriasis with UV light. Each 45-second treatment was $250 and not covered by insurance, and I’d have to sign a waiver since it could cause skin cancer. I thought, This is insanity and walked out.
“Diet changes seemed like the easiest, least expensive and most promising treatment I’d found in a while. So I removed gluten and grains from my diet, weaning off them because I’d been a vegetarian for 20 years and these were regular components of my diet. I started adding protein slowly, beginning with fish, and eventually I adopted an autoimmune Paleo diet.
“After six months, my TSH levels were down from their high of 8 to just 1.8. It took another five months for my psoriasis to go away. I got my energy back and was able to start my own business, Elaine Wellness (ElaineWellness.com). And today, I feel fantastic! By reducing inflammation in my body through diet, I kept myself from falling chronically ill.”
—As told to Cynthia McVey