AIP Stories of Recovery is a success story series about regular people from the Autoimmune Protocol community who are changing their lives using the protocol. Each month a new person is featured and readers have the opportunity to discover all the different health challenges that are being overcome by folks just like themselves on the same path. At Autoimmune Paleo we hope you’ll be inspired by, empathize with, and learn from these stories. If you are interested in sharing your story, please let us know by filling out our interest form.
Sabrina received her Hashimoto’s diagnosis at 15 years old, which meant that her exhaustion and brain fog became so normal, she couldn’t remember life any other way. She relied on synthetic thyroid hormones into adulthood, until her ever-increasing dosage made her begin to question whether they were truly working. Six weeks after discovering AIP and beginning the protocol, Sabrina reduced her dosage for the first time in her life and began feeling a degree of mental clarity that she’d never known.
What health issues are you dealing with, when did they begin, and how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis at the age of 15. I always was a very active and energetic child. In my teens though, this changed drastically. My energy levels went down and I was constantly tired and felt drained. It came to a point where I could hardly get out of bed in the morning, just barely getting through the school day and then went straight back to bed again.
Since my aunt has Hashimoto‘s as well, she recognized the symptoms. It was her doctor who diagnosed me with the same autoimmune disease.
Describe what the lowest point on your health journey was like.
After my diagnosis, I was put on synthetic thyroid medication and my symptoms improved, though today I know they never fully disappeared. I was diagnosed at such a young age, symptoms like brain fog and a need for more sleep felt normal to me. I just couldn’t remember it any other way and never questioned it.
After my daughter was born in 2010 my symptoms got more noticeable again. Of course, in the beginning I thought the deep exhaustion I felt had to do with the fact that I was a new mom and just didn’t get a lot of sleep anymore. But it was more than that. I was very fatigued, even after my daughter started sleeping through the night. For a few years it was normal for my husband and daughter to start the day without me, as I just needed those extra hours of sleep and though I slept up to 12 hours a night, I never felt rested and fully awake.
What challenges influenced you to look for a solution? Basically, what was the tipping point?
My husband and I have always been into a healthy lifestyle. Maybe that‘s the reason why he became aware of an ad for Dr. Sarah Ballantyne‘s book The Paleo Approach. After digging into the topic for a few days, we finally understood that my immune system was misguided and mistakenly destroying my thyroid tissue. The medication I took wasn‘t preventing this but only balanced out the lack of hormones my thyroid wasn‘t able to produce anymore. Now the constant increase in my dose made total sense.
This was never explained to me by any of my doctors; neither was the fact that I had a higher chance of developing other autoimmune diseases and that my daughter, through my genes, had a higher chance of getting ill as well. This really upset me and my husband. As a result, we as a family decided to take our health completely into our own hands.
When you found a protocol to help you heal, what was it and what was your first indication that it was working?
I started the AIP in March 2017 and never looked back ever since. Taking inflammatory foods out of my diet and adding nutritious foods totally resonated with me.
The first sign of my improved health was a slight increase in my energy levels and my migraines went away. It took another few weeks in the elimination phase that I noticed real progress. I needed less sleep but felt way more rested. Also, I had the feeling a curtain was slowly lifting, giving me the feeling of being more present in the moment and not somehow watching my life go by through a foggy feeling in my head. In the beginning those moments of clearness would only last for a few hours, then days and now I don‘t have any signs of brain fog anymore at all.
What resources have you used on your healing journey so far and how did you find them?
As mentioned before, it all started with an ad for Dr. Sarah Ballantyne‘s book The Paleo Approach. From there, her blog and other blogs like Autoimmune Wellness, Phoenix Helix, Unbound Wellness, Dr. Hyman, and Chris Kresser were really helpful for more insights (posts and podcasts) and inspirations for recipes.
A half year into the elimination phase I finally found a doctor who was open for a more holistic approach and who actually listened to me and now collaboratively works with me on improving my health. She supports me in treating my mineral deficiencies and changing my thyroid medication to NDT‘s (natural desiccated thyroid), as I have problems converting T4 to T3 and the synthetic thyroid medication I took before couldn’t help me with that.
Did your doctors suggest any treatments that you rejected and if so, why did you choose to try other methods?
The only thing that all my other doctors had to offer was synthetic thyroid hormones and the hints that diet and lifestyle don’t have anything to do with my thyroid disease. And this, even after my dose had to be reduced for the first time in my life six weeks into the elimination phase.
It can seem like our lives are consumed by a chronic illness, but there is so much beyond those struggles. What brings you true joy right now?
Most importantly my family. This is where I find peace, love, comfort, and acceptance. It’s really interesting to see that the AIP brought us even closer together in our everyday life. Diet and health are always topics we talk about whilst cooking and eating together. We all really enjoy this, though it does take up quite some time.
Besides my family I find real joy in nature and spend a lot of my time out in the woods and surrounding lakes. Rainforests and coral reefs really fascinate me, too. This is also the reason why I like to travel. My absolute favorite destination is Maui. This is where I always want to go back to.
Would you like to share your Story of Recovery? Let us know by filling out our interest form.