S2 E8 Angie interviews Ryan Monahan, who is recovering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

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Welcome to The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast Season 2! We’ve created this podcast as a free resource to accompany our book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness.

Season 2 Episode 8 is our final episode of the season! And what an episode to end on. We don’t often hear stories from men in the Hashimoto’s community but today, Angie is interviewing our friend Ryan Monahan who has managed his Hashi’s symptoms in one of the most challenging professional environments: a tour bus.

As a traveling musician, Ryan had to become an expert at thinking ahead and being proactive about his healing. No matter your career, you will definitely find takeaways here. Scroll down for the full episode transcript!

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Full Transcript:

Mickey Trescott: Welcome to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast, a complimentary resource for those on the road to recovery. I’m Mickey Trescott, a nutritional therapy practitioner living well with autoimmune disease in Oregon. I’ve got both Hashimoto’s and celiac disease.

Angie Alt: And I’m Angie Alt, a certified health coach and nutritional therapy consultant, also living well with autoimmune disease in Maryland. I have endometriosis, lichen sclerosis, and celiac disease. After recovering our health by combining the best of conventional medicine with effective and natural dietary and lifestyle interventions, Mickey and I started blogging at www.Autimmune-Paleo.com, where our collective mission is seeking wellness and building community.

Mickey Trescott: This podcast is sponsored by The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook; our co-authored guide to living well with chronic illness. We saw the need for a comprehensive resource that goes beyond nutrition to connect savvy patients just like you to the resources they need to achieve vibrant health. Through the use of self assessments, checklists, handy guides and templates, you get to experience the joy of discovery; finding out which areas to prioritize on your healing journey. Pick up a copy wherever books are sold.

Angie Alt: A quick disclaimer: The content in this podcast is intended as general information only, and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. On to the podcast!

1. Introducing our guest, Ryan, and his diagnosis story [2:30]
2. Learning about holistic treatment [13:17]
3. Treatment with the greatest impact [19:53]
4. AIP on the road and touring [24:54]
5. Biggest dietary impact on symptoms [33:06]
6. Stand-out supporters [36:17]
7. Highest point of the journey [40:11]
8. Final takeaways from Ryan [44:29]

Angie Alt: Hi everyone! Welcome back to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast, season 2. This is Angie, and today I’m interviewing Ryan. He is a Hashi’s warrior, and also a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner. And additionally, with all of that going on, he’s also a passionate musician who has been in the music industry for 15 years, and member of a regular touring band, Easter Island. We are going to dig into that, you guys; touring and AIP. It can be done.

We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that you guys find it helpful to hear from folks who have taken on the healing journey in real life. So today we will be sharing a little bit of Ryan’s story. Thank you, Ryan, for joining us from Georgia. Are you ready to get started?

Ryan: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

1. Introducing our guest, Ryan, and his diagnosis story [2:30]

Angie Alt: Yeah. We’re really excited to share a lot of different stories this season. So let’s just dive in with some questions. You know, one of the areas we love to explore with people is diagnosis, and folks’ diagnosis story. Because as you probably know, in the autoimmune community, that can be kind of a harrowing journey. What was the first symptom you noticed of your autoimmune disease?

Ryan: Yeah. So I had really struggled with allergies and asthma my entire life. And just generally symptoms of related to ear, nose, and throat. I was one of those just kind of sick all the time kids. Like, oh he’s on antibiotics; oh, he’s had bronchitis, the croup. You name it. Strep throat, just constantly. And that kind of persisted into my adult life. And then it started getting worse when I was in college. And it was really when I noticed that things were getting really bad was when I was sleeping for 10, 12 hours at a time, and was having trouble waking. So I would set three alarms, and that still wouldn’t wake me up. And I would set an alarm on my stereo system, and it would be shaking the entire room.

Angie Alt: Oh boy! {laughs}

Ryan: Yeah, and I would still just sleep through it and miss classes. It took me a few years to really piece it together. Because at that time, I had just assumed I’m burning the candle at both ends, I’m a busy guy, I’m just exhausted. I’m just kind of burnt out. And you know, that was kind of the narrative I told myself for a while.

Angie Alt: Ok. So it was probably since childhood that you were kind of dealing with some of this stuff, and it sounds like it kind of came into full being in probably your early 20s, in college. I think that happens to a lot of us, actually, in this autoimmune world. And it can be hard to separate it, right? From, is this just regular, like you said, burning the candle at both ends, or not?

Ryan: Absolutely. I think as a society, we’re just kind of accustomed to accepting a really low baseline for health. And when everybody is more or less sick around us, I don’t think. It’s kind of like that quote, “The last thing a fish would ever notice is water.”

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: And so I think, yeah, we just kind of assume that because symptoms are common that they’re normal. And we just try to cope with it, and maybe try things here and there. I’ll try some vitamin C, and kind of self-medicate a little bit. But as you know, that only lasts for so long until your symptoms are sort of screaming at you for help.

Angie Alt: Right. So how long did it take you, then, to actually get an official diagnosis from that point when you were kind of like; “Oh, this is not normal. I can’t even get up to my stereo system screaming at me. What’s going on here?”

Ryan: Well. You know, it’s really hard to say. Because I had been dealing with these things most of my life. It was just really in college that they kind of reached a peak. But I would say it’s at least 10 years. I wasn’t diagnosed with Hashimoto’s until I was 28. And this is kind of insane, but I actually had visited over 40 doctors before I received a diagnosis.

Angie Alt: I actually don’t think that’s insane. I totally hear you brother! {laughs} I’ve been there too.

Ryan: Yeah.

Angie Alt: But yeah, it feels insane in comparison to a lot of other people. But you’re just searching and searching. Do you think that in part being a male was a barrier to getting a Hashi’s diagnosis, because it’s so commonly women?

Ryan: Absolutely. I think doctors just didn’t think to check with the sort of constellation of symptoms that I was experiencing. Although, those are more commonly associated with women, I think I got overlooked by the traditional medical system. And no one had ever thought to look for those kinds of markers for the thyroid. Because it’s, what, 8 times, is that correct? About 8 times more likely in women than in men?

Angie Alt: Boy, I don’t know the exact percentages. But yes, it’s much, much more common in women. But it does happen. I know of a lot of other men actually out there in our community, too, dealing with Hashi’s. It’s too bad that it’s not on more doctor’s radars.

Ryan: it also makes me wonder how many men are just not seeking the kind of medical help or advice. I suspect that maybe they wouldn’t be as inclined to visit the doctor if they were experiencing the same symptoms that a woman would be.

Angie Alt: Right. Yeah.

Ryan: So there might be; in other words, there might be a little bit of male pride kind of issue going on there.

Angie Alt: Yeah, maybe some male pride. And then the combination of the doctor’s kind of overlooking it. And it makes it tough for somebody like you to get a diagnosis. When you got the diagnosis, how did you handle it?

Ryan: When I got the diagnosis, I was sort of a combination of scared and confused. And also really thrilled.

Angie Alt: Yeah.

Ryan: Like, this weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Like, I didn’t even really know what the thyroid was or what it’s function was. But I was also just really extremely excited to have a diagnosis, and to know that I wasn’t crazy and that this wasn’t all in my head. I now had something concrete to work on.

Angie Alt: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I totally relate to that feeling. For me, I kind of relate it; it was sort of like naming my enemy. And now I could actually fight effectively. Before that, I had no idea. It was kind of like being in the dark and sort of hoping that I could figure it out. So I really relate to that. How did your friends and family handle your diagnosis?

Ryan: Well, I think everyone was just relieved to see me get better. I remember a good friend of mine seeing me only a week after I had been on Synthroid. And he said, “What did you do with Ryan?”

Angie Alt: {laughs}

Ryan: Because I just had this pep in my step all of a sudden. And my face physically looked different. I lost this sort of puffiness in my face. And my voice changed. It was kind of freaky. So people kind of looked at me funny at first. But I think everyone was relieved. Everyone kind of knew something was up, but nobody really knew what it was.

Angie Alt: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I can totally understand that. Do you think that; this is a pretty common experience, but not everyone shares it in the community. Do you think that some of your friends and family kind of doubted that there was something really there? Did you ever feel like you were kind of desperately trying to make people believe that something really was wrong?

Ryan: Yeah, 100%. And I won’t name names.

Angie Alt: Yeah, I get it. {laughs}

Ryan: But I think a lot of my friends and family thought I was a little bit of a hypochondriac, that it was in my head. Or some of the things that I had expressed to them that I was going through, I think they maybe overlooked, or had just kind of passed off as, oh that’s normal. You’re getting older. And it’s like, but wait a minute! I’m in my early or mid-20s. I shouldn’t be sleeping 12 hours a day, I shouldn’t be this depressed. I shouldn’t be this fatigued all the time. So it was really hard for that reason. I feel like I had to sort of internalize it. And kind of internalize the suffering, to an extent. In the sort of darkest hour, I remember feeling like I thought I was dying, and had no idea what was going on. And then I would beat myself up. Like, “Oh, you’re being so dramatic. You’re not dying.” And you know, I maybe wasn’t that far from it. Because when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, my TSH was above 150.

Angie Alt: Wow.

Ryan: And for those of you who don’t know, optimal thyroid range is maybe between 0.5 and 1.5. So my TSH was actually above the detectible lab limit. So it was somewhere above 150; the lab couldn’t even detect it that high.

Angie Alt: Wow.

Ryan: But I remember my doctor saying, “I don’t even know how you were able to get up in the morning,” for years, potentially, that I was dealing with this without having any diagnosis.

Angie Alt: Right. So you’re at the extreme end of experiencing, to that point, this undiagnosed autoimmune disease. And you’re unable to find answers. You’re seeing upwards of 40 doctors at this point trying to get those answers. And the people around you are beginning to doubt the validity of the problem. And yeah, you’re right. Of course you’re going to internalize all that. So then getting a diagnosis, in some ways, I think sometimes, maybe outside of our autoimmune community it can sound like we’re a little kooky, being a little thrilled or relieved to be given a diagnosis of having a chronic illness. {laughs}

Ryan: Yeah.

Angie Alt: But it’s actually really validating when you’re in that terrible spot for so many years.

Ryan: Yeah. It’s incredibly validating. Because you realize that you didn’t have to beat yourself up so much over your diagnosis, you know. And I think sometimes even people get into the more psychospiritual aspect of their condition. And think, maybe it’s karma. Maybe I deserve this for some reason. I think you can get kind of deep into blaming yourself for your illness. And once you realize that it has a physiological root to it, I think that’s incredibly relieving. Because you can kind off cast aside that narrative that it’s your fault.

2. Learning about holistic treatment [13:17]

Angie Alt: Mm-hmm. Right. So, how long after receiving the Hashi’s diagnosis did you start to dive in and learn about autoimmune disease itself, and start to kind of understand that process? Were you somebody who really wanted to kind of gather as much knowledge as you could, or did you feel a little fearful or tentative about getting some of that information?

Ryan: It was a pretty gradual process. I would say the first 9 months I really didn’t understand much about what was going on, and I just sort of trusted the advice of my endocrinologist at the time. Which was just to take the Synthroid, there’s nothing you can do about it. And I kind of left it at that.

Then, like many people experienced, the Synthroid only had a positive effect for so long. And a lot of my symptoms started popping up again. And that’s really when I started taking things into my own hands. Because I started to question. Ok, so my thyroid is malfunctioning. I get that. I get that my immune system is attacking my thyroid. But I wanted to know why, you know? I’ve never been the type of person to just kind of lie over and accept something. And that’s when I started to really kind of try to reverse engineer what was going on, and to do my own research and become my own health advocate. And at that point, I had started to do some internet research, and I came across Izabella Wentz’ book, which for many people is the thyroid/Hashimoto’s bible.

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: And you know, that was the first thing I had read that had opened me up to what functional medicine is, and what it could offer. And this whole concept of looking for root causes, and looking for nutrient deficiencies, and hormone imbalances, and gut infections, and even things like metal toxicity. All these things were just not on my radar until I had discovered her book. So that was really a game-changer for me. Because it provided a road map to how to manage the condition. And in some cases, people are even able to successfully put it into remission through implementing some of these strategies.

So shortly after discovering her book, I came across Mickey’s website. Which, at the time, had her Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, which was just an eBook at the time. So this was kind of really at the beginning stages of things.

Angie Alt: That was back in the way back. {laughs}

Ryan: Way back, yeah. And I can’t even say I remember how I found her website. But I did somehow. And I really resonated with her story, because I felt like we had a lot in common in the sense that we both had Hashimoto’s, we were both former vegans, we both had gluten intolerance, we both had an MTHFR mutation, all these different things. And just through that kind of connection, even though I hadn’t met her yet, it had really led me to want to find out more about, what’s the whole autoimmune paleo thing? That’s when I kind of dipped my toes into making dietary and lifestyle changes.

Angie Alt: Ok. So it sounds like kind of your first initial reaction was to kind of go with the conventional approach, and you gave yourself a little bit of time to, at least let the hormone replacement help you get stabilized a little. And then digest this new information, and then you kind of were like; ok. This conventional approach isn’t enough, or all of the picture, for me. And you started really digging for information on your own.

Ryan: Yeah. Absolutely.

Angie Alt: Do you think that as you got more and new information and implemented it into your life, that your collaborative skills with your health care team grew? Or were there any bumps in the road there?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say once I kind of found the right practitioner for me, that things started going a lot smoother. I had to do a little bit of digging, at first. I had to fire my endocrinologist because he wouldn’t run anything other than a TSH, which is really common. But I asked to run thyroid antibodies again, and reverse T3, and the free T3 and free T4. And he straight up told me that it would be a waste of my money.

Angie Alt: {laughs}

Ryan: So you know, I was diplomatic about it, but I essentially just didn’t book a follow-up appointment. And then through a friend of the family, I found a really great integrative doctor out of Atlanta. And he’s been a really instrumental part of my team, and helped me make the switch from Synthroid to Armour, which I had felt like I did a lot better on once I made that switch.

And then, you know, in terms of building a health care team; at first my team was kind of virtual. In the sense that I found you guys, and Sarah Ballantyne, and Chris Kresser, and Izabella Wentz. I think that was kind of the beginning stages of feeling like I was part of a community. And I think we’re living in this really amazing time where these tools are at our disposal, and we’ve never had more power to sort of help ourselves and be our own health advocates than we do now.

Angie Alt: Right. I couldn’t agree with you more. I feel like in some ways I feel kind of lucky that if I was going to have autoimmune disease in my life, that it happened at this point in history. Because the information is all out there, and the community is really strong. Especially on social media, for that kind of support. So in some ways, we’re kind of lucky.

Ryan: Yeah, it couldn’t be a better time. If I had been diagnosed like even in 2010, I don’t think I would have been able to follow the same successful trajectory that I have.

3. Treatment with the greatest impact [19:53]

Angie Alt: Mm-hmm. Totally agree with you there. So, at this point, you’ve gotten some hormone replacement on board; some conventional therapy. You’ve also started to dig into some of the natural dietary and lifestyle stuff that you can do for yourself. What do you think was most effective initially, back then, when you were relatively newly diagnosed? Relatively new to the natural DIY healthcare community. And then over time, what do you think has been the most effective treatments?

Ryan: So, the most effective, beyond just the diet and lifestyle, which are just absolutely critical to maintaining your autoimmune disease. And not just maintaining it, but thriving. For me was really digging a little bit deeper and looking at potential root causes. For example, in my case, I had run a series of gut pathogens panels, and found out that I had Blastocystis hominis, which is a fairly common parasite that’s associated with Hashimoto’s, in addition to H. pylori. So I had this kind of infectious load going on in my gut, and it wasn’t until I did the proper antimicrobial protocols and eradicated those infections. That’s when I saw a really huge, not only drop off in my antibodies, but a really big improvement in my symptoms.

So, for that reason, having this knowledge, I always try to encourage people to; diet is the cornerstone of your health in addition to getting the proper rest and stress reduction and all these kinds of pillars of health. But looking a little deeper can be really, really critical because it’s often the case that something’s triggering that autoimmune imbalance, for your immune system to be attacking your thyroid in the first place.

Angie Alt: Right. It’s sometimes useful to go searching for those deeper things and treat them, if you can. So let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about that diet. You talked about finding Mickey’s site, in those early days, finding what was an eBook at that time. The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, and starting to bring diet on board. How long into the AIP transition was it before you realized it could impact your healing? Like, it wasn’t just that you were reading this could happen, but you were actually feeling it yourself?

Ryan: It was pretty quick. At that point, I guess when I believe that something’s going to work, I just kind of dive into it, you know? And I had tried several other things that didn’t work for me. So I was pretty open minded to trying the diet out, and really just kind of diving all into it. Thankfully I’m a pretty good cook, so it wasn’t too hard to make the change and kind of start incorporating grass-fed meats and bone broth and things like that. I wish I had bought a pressure cooker sooner; that would have made my life a little easier.

Angie Alt: Right!

Ryan: But I noticed the changes pretty quickly. And it was a big adjustment, though. Because you have to cook a lot more. So I definitely had to adapt and change my lifestyle quite a bit. As you mentioned at the beginning, I’ve been a touring musician on and off for 10 or 15 years. And one of the hardest parts about incorporating this into my life was pursuing this passion I have for my music career, while also maintaining this new lifestyle. And that required a real commitment to my health, and to putting that first. And to really be conscious about that on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, in a way that I never had before.

4. AIP on the road and touring [24:54]

Angie Alt: Yeah, in the beginning you really have to think about it like that, on the hour-by-hour basis. It does get better. I think most of us would say over time it’s not quite as intense. But in the beginning, it takes a lot of commitment and just reaffirming all the time that you’re going to keep doing this and follow that path. What kind of changes were you able to implement while you were out on the road touring? And were your band-mates supportive of you and all these changes?

Ryan: You know, they’re great people, and they’re absolutely supportive. In my head, I tend to think that everybody thinks that I’m extreme. Whether that’s the case or not. But I have to do what’s best for me. So sometimes that means packing a little cooler with me, like a lunchbox, and having some snacks in my backpack. Having some Epic bars always ready to go, in case the only thing around is a gas station. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where the only thing available to me is a bag of Doritos.

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: So if that means bringing some Epic bars, and some Seasnax and some carrots and bananas, or plantain chips, or what have you. I’m always prepared in that sense. And you get really good about doing research ahead of time. “Ok, we’re headed to St. Louis; what restaurants are there that might be accommodating to having a gluten-free menu, dairy-free menu, etc.” So you get a little bit better about planning in advance. And usually, everyone will be on board if you’ve made that determination ahead of time and be like, “Guys, this is where we’re eating.” {laughs}

Angie Alt: Deal with it. {laughs}

Ryan: Deal with it, yeah. And there are some other helpful little things. I’m still kind of figuring it out. It’s not entirely easy, but I’ve been making it work. I’ll bring a sleep mask with me, if I need to just block the light out and get some good sleep. Last tour I went on, I brought a yoga mat with me. So if we’re in an AirBNB or hotel, I can just roll out the yoga mat, pop open a little 20 or 30-minute yoga session on my phone, and then I’m getting some exercise in. And after being in the van for 8 hours, I can stretch it out. Even one time I led the band in a group yoga session.

Angie Alt: Awesome!

Ryan: So, yeah. You have to find ways to make it work, and adjust. You get a little bit better at it every time.

Angie Alt: You know, I’m totally loving this right now, Ryan. A couple, maybe three or even four years ago now, I wrote this blog post about my top 3 tips about how to really make this transition work in real life. Including maybe being part of a touring band, or whatever. And one of the things I said was, “Don’t be weird.” Basically, if you really respect your process and value your health, and just put the right changes in place to put that at the top of your list, the people around you will actually come around and respect it and be supportive. Because you’ve put that signal out there that it’s not weird. That it’s a great thing to do. And it sounds like you’re really successfully doing that. Even though you’re part of a cool touring band, and they’re ok with it and supporting you.

Ryan: Yeah, I would absolutely agree with that. You kind of just have to own it. You can also help others by just being yourself. Like leading by example. Because often times, other people will kind of dip their toes into some of the lifestyle changes that you’ve made. Even if it’s just little bread crumbs you’re leaving for them along the way. They’re still becoming more conscious of it. And next time they order a burger, they might order in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun or something. So in that sense, you can have a little bit of impact on people. And I’m not like an in your face type of person. I just do my thing. I just do what I have to do, what’s right for me. And I think people respect and appreciate that approach. Because I’m never trying to be like, “You need to eat this!” you know. That would never; you can’t be in a touring band and tell your band-mates they need to get to bed on time.

Angie Alt: {laughing} Right!

Ryan: But you can just go to bed earlier, and you might have a little more energy, and they might notice. Like, “Hey, Ryan’s killing it and we all have a cold.” Or something.

Angie Alt: We’re all dragging, right.

Ryan: We’re all dragging, yeah.

Angie Alt: I think sometimes in working with people and kind of seeing fears that people have in the community initially, adopting AIP, I think they can sometimes be a little nervous about; you know. It is a really big dietary change, and it does have an impact on your life. Even your social life, and potentially your career. And for somebody like you, your career is, in part, a really heart-centered career. You’re obviously very passionate about music. You’ve been doing this a long time. But it sounds like for you it might have even made you a better musician over time. Do you think that’s true?

Ryan: I can say I’ve never thought of it directly in that kind of way. But yeah, maybe that’s the case. I certainly think; yeah, maybe in the sense that AIP requires such discipline that I think that can translate into whatever you pursue.

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: Does that make sense?

Angie Alt: Yeah, yeah. Do you think that your creative juices are stronger, kind of flowing better these days as compared to when you were sick and trying to make music?

Ryan: Oh absolutely. One of the hardest parts, actually, about the period of my life when I was undiagnosed was that I started getting to a point where I was too tired to play music. And it just became this requirement. And I felt like I had to show up to rehearsals. It was awful, because I remember thinking I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Or I couldn’t wait for a performance to be done. I didn’t want to hang out after a show. I just wanted to go home and get into bed and sleep for 12 hours. That’s how I knew that something was really, really wrong. Because I just started to completely lack the passion and motivation to really do anything.

So by turning my health around, yeah it absolutely helped me become a more prolific musician and writer and performer and to be able to have the energy and passion to put into it. And that’s why I think this stuff is more important to me than anything. Getting your health figured out. Because until you have that, you really don’t have anything. You’re not going to be able to be effective at whatever you’re doing in life. And so, yeah. By getting the diet squared away, by getting on the right medication. By investigating some of these root cause issues. Every year I feel like I’m getting a little bit better and better.

And I really love this idea of sort of improving yourself 1% each day. That could be meditation, journaling, making a dietary change, taking a 20-minute walk. Just little things; just 1% every day. And it might not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year, you’re a completely different person by the end of it.

5. Biggest dietary impact on symptoms [33:06]

Angie Alt: Right. Yeah, it adds up to something totally amazing by just those little changes. So, ok, one last question in terms of specifically the dietary changes. Was there any one aspect of the dietary change that stands out to you as having made the greatest impact for you, especially initially. Like, some people go; “As soon as I took gluten out of my diet, it was amazing. That was such a huge change.” For other people, it’s adding in the nutrient density. Maybe it’s blood sugar management. Was there any part of the dietary change that just really stood out as huge for you?

Ryan: So I had actually gone gluten-free around 2006 or 2007. So I incorporated that change pretty early on. And I noticed a huge improvement with my brain fog, and depression. But at first, I had nightmares. I had withdrawal symptoms. I don’t know if you had experienced or have ever heard of that kind of thing. But I definitely; gluten is like crack or something.

Angie Alt: {laughing}

Ryan: I had crazy withdrawal symptoms where I was having night terrors, and I would wake up thinking someone was breaking into my house. But yeah. The huge improvement in my mood when I removed gluten permanently from my diet. And then once I started getting really serious about doing AIP; clearly bone broth is like liquid gold.

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: I mean, it just gives me this kind of energy that’s pretty unparalleled. You can just feel it. It feels good in your gut. Yeah, that made a huge improvement in my health. And I would say that incorporating the lifestyle factors, too. Beyond just the diet. Because the autoimmune protocol is this comprehensive, holistic approach.

Angie Alt: Right.

Ryan: And for me, I would say sleep was the biggest factor in improving my health. For me, sleep is kind of the lynchpin. If I don’t get enough sleep, my health crumbles and all my symptoms start coming back. And it took a long time to adjust to that. Because as a musician, I’m sort of used to going to bed at 1 in the morning. And it wasn’t until about 2 or 3 years ago that I started to shift my sleep schedule and try to get to bed closer to 10 at night. And that actually really helped me to kind of reset my circadian rhythm. I just feel like I wake up with a lot more energy now than I did when I was getting to bed really late.

Angie Alt: You guys heard it here; even touring musicians can go to bed on time. {laughs}

Ryan: {laughs} Not always. {laughs}

Angie Alt: {laughs}

Ryan: That’s the hard part. Because when I’m on tour, I have no choice sometimes but to go to bed at 2 in the morning. So when I get home, it’s just all sleep all the time.

Angie Alt: Good. Yeah, really focused.

Ryan: Yep.

6. Stand-out supporters [36:17]

Angie Alt: Have you had any; kind of shifting to talking about support in this process. Have you had any standout supporters who you feel really contributed to your healing journey?

Ryan: My girlfriend, Lindy, has been absolutely essential through the whole process. And has been really encouraging for the past few years as I’ve continued to work on my health, and make lifestyle changes. We’ve made most of the same dietary changes together. Which is really extremely helpful to have a partner, somebody to do the diet with. Otherwise you can feel like you’re on your own.

Other than having her support, I would really say that I’ve had to become my own cheerleader and my own advocate in the sense that no one is going to care about your health more than you will. So I reached this really critical point where I realized that I really had to get to a point where I was making my health a priority, and just became kind of a research nut. And all the research led me to thinking; “Hey, maybe this is more than just a hobby.” And that’s when I enrolled in functional diagnostic nutrition and got really, really serious about wanting to use this knowledge to help other people.

Angie Alt: So that’s one thing that I think is really important, as a health coach and a nutritional therapist. Really focusing on the empowerment piece, when I’m working with an autoimmune client who is really new to this way of healing. I think empowerment is a particularly important issue for autoimmune folks, because most of us have gone through that experience of kind of being dismissed, or invalidated by not only potentially family and friends, but even the medical system itself. You can kind of; I guess lose steam a little bit in doing what you need for yourself. Do you feel like having that experience personally has helped you with your clients, working on empowerment?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Because through just a decade or more of trial and error, I had realized that I was just kind of masking the symptoms with either medication or even supplements, to an extent. Just because it’s a supplement doesn’t always mean you need to be taking it. It took me a long time to not only realize that I had to be my own health advocate, but also this sort of concept of ending that cycle of trial and error by getting the right testing done. Finding out what’s really going on. And yeah, that takes a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline. And until you have that mindset, I think you might not be ready yet for that kind of journey.

So us health coaches always keep that in mind, I think. When you’re taking someone on, you want to make sure that they’re somebody that’s really serious about helping themselves. And if they’re not, you might have to do a little more coaching and hand-holding through the process. Providing lots of encouragement. So yeah, I would definitely say that my own journey helps me to better understand what it’s like; to empathize to be in that position.

7. Highest point of the journey [40:11]

Angie Alt: Right. Ok, so earlier you kind of said that one of your really particularly low points in your disease experience was feeling like you just didn’t even have enough energy to make music anymore. That you were kind of dreading practice; you just kind of wanted to leave a show and go home and go to bed. You just weren’t enjoying this thing that had been your passion. On the other side of that; have there been any high points, especially since you started healing where you just either felt really good, or felt really empowered in managing the disease. Has there been a high point where you were like, “Yeah! I feel great again!”

Ryan: I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, per se. It’s just more like this process. This gradual process. Like every month, every year, I’m feeling better and better. I’m traveling more, and I’m doing things in my music career that I never thought I’d be able to do. And I feel like I just keep reaching these new plateaus. And that’s super exciting to me. I’m living the life I wanted to live before I had a diagnosis, you know?

And also I just nerd out on all the information. The blogs and podcasts and just the community of practitioners that’s growing online in this functional space is just incredibly exciting for me. And for me, that’s actually this continual high. I get really excited when I learn some kind of new bit of information that I hadn’t known before. And I can incorporate that into my life. I can use that information to help other people.

Angie Alt: Right. Right. What do you still find yourself working on? Are there any areas that are still a little difficult for you?

Ryan: Yeah, sure. So, I definitely still struggle with a little bit of fatigue. It comes and goes. I definitely have more better weeks than I used to. And those sort of balance of symptom flare-ups get further spread apart. But I would say that my sort of allergy and congestion and my fatigue, those are things that tend to come back when I have a flare-up. But it’s all a lot more manageable than it ever has been.

Angie Alt: Yeah, I really relate to that. There’s definitely still things that I’m managing, and probably will have to manage to some extent for the rest of my life. But in comparison to what it was before, it’s practically a gift. {laughs}

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And when you’ve been sick, and had a chronic illness like Hashimoto’s, it makes you appreciate health more than anything.

Angie Alt: Right. I think Mickey and I were lucky. We recently got to work on a project, and we talked a lot about that. We were saying it can be this huge cliché than nothing is more valuable than your health; yadda, yadda, yadda. But for those of us in this community, having experienced really not having our health. For some of us, literally feeling like we might be close to death, actually. The other side; I am so much more deeply appreciative of what I have than what I was before. I’m kind of grateful for that.

Ryan: Yeah. For me it really came down to this quality of mind sort of thing. When your symptoms are at their worst, everything just feels miserable. And I don’t know if you experienced this; but just everything irritated me. {laughs}

Angie Alt: Right. {laughs}

Ryan: Because you can’t really focus on much else than your own suffering. The symptoms are just; they get in your way of your moment to moment ability to just live your life and enjoy it. So when you come out on the other end of that, everything just feels amazing.

8. Final takeaways from Ryan [44:29]

Angie Alt: Yeah. Agreed. Ryan, do you have any tips or takeaways for anyone that’s beginning their autoimmune healing journey?

Ryan: Yeah. Your symptoms may be common, but they are not normal. Meaning that your symptoms are a sign from your body that something is wrong, and you need to go and do the work and find out what’s going on. Build that team. Try incorporating all the aspects of the autoimmune protocol. Keep digging at what’s causing your symptoms. Because your health is worth it, and your life will be infinitely better once you commit to your health.

Angie Alt: Right. Right. I couldn’t have said it better. That was a great interview. I think our listeners are really going to enjoy hearing about your experience, Ryan. If folks wanted to keep up with you, can you let them know where and how they can find you? Maybe not only in your practice, but also with your music?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. They can find my health coaching information at www.TheMindfulNutrivore.com. And Nutrivore is spelled N-U-T-R-I-V-O-R-E. You can also find some of the music projects that I’m currently working on. One of those projects is at www.EasterIsland.band. And also; let me make sure I have this website correct. Also, www.CindyWilsonB52s.com. I also perform in a project with Cindy Wilson of the B52s. It’s her solo project. And we’ve been recently touring on that new material. So, check it out, and I’d be happy to hear from you. Angie, I can’t tell you how much fun I had hanging out, and helping you guys shoot footage for the upcoming AIP Health Coaching program. And, for you having me on this podcast.

Angie Alt: Yeah. It was a pleasure. Thanks so much for helping us out with launching that project, too. We’re wishing you a lot of success as you continue to navigate your autoimmune wellness journey, Ryan.

That’s a wrap, everyone. The Autoimmune Wellness podcast season 2 is in the books; or I guess on the airwaves. Thank you so much for all the great feedback about how much you’ve enjoyed the podcast, and the ways it has inspired you. Even though it’s a surprising amount of work to pull this off, I have a feeling we’ll probably be back again with a season 3. So stay tuned; and take care everyone.

Wait–before you go!

If you enjoyed the podcast, would you mind leaving us a review in iTunes? This helps introduce our work to a new audience as we climb the ranks in their system.

The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast is a complimentary resource to our book, The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness. Support us in our mission to revolutionize how autoimmune disease is viewed and treated by ordering your copy today!

Check out the previous episode, S2 E7 Q + A #4 – Friends and family, Epstein-Barr virus, white rice, and additional sensitivities. For the full podcast archive, click here.


About Angie Alt

Angie Alt is a co-founder here at Autoimmune Wellness. She helps others take charge of their health the same way she took charge of her own after suffering with celiac disease, endometriosis, and lichen sclerosis; one nutritious step at a time. Her special focus is on mixing “data with soul” by looking at the honest heart of the autoimmune journey (which sometimes includes curse words). She is a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy Consultant through The Nutritional Therapy Association and author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook: Eating for All Phases of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. You can also find her on Instagram.


  • Can’t tell you how grateful I am to have been a part of the Autoimmune Wellness Podcast, and to be able to share my journey with the world. The AIP diet and lifestyle has been such an integral part of my healing journey. Discovering AIP was the first time where a dietary protocol really “worked” for me. You guys are changing (and saving) lives, and I can’t wait to see how the autoimmune wellness community continues to grow!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Ryan, we are so grateful for your willingness to share your story with everyone, and happy for our friendship!

  • Ben says

    Thank you Ryan. Great to hear a story from a male’s perspective.

  • I would so love to share my story. I am 55 and an MD. I had symptoms all my life and it is totally amazing how well I feel now. Probably started before I was 10 with intestinal issues. Then the mood disorder as a teenager (attributed to being a teenager). Then the fatigue, weight gain, constipation, depression in college. Then the bronchitis in medical school. Then the knee pain in my late 20’s Then severe constipation 30’s. Joints were painful and with a family history of RA, I thought that was probably it. Never would take medications though as I just didn’t see they were that helpful with my family or patients. Diagnosed with thyroid cancer (never checked for hashimotos) Had my thyroid removed. Tried acupuncture, qi gong, meditation prayer for years. All were very helpful. FINALLY changed my diet. Sooo hard. Tried many diets. Finally did the elimination. Found that cutting out the gluten and dairy was the most helpful. But have stopped a lot of other things too that were triggering. I now have been able to reach out to so many of my family members with symptoms and encouraged them with their diet.
    A new life for me for sure.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Cindy! Thanks for sharing some of your story, so amazing to hear of doctors who are both experiencing renewed health using AIP for themselves and their patients! I took a cruise through your site and love your approach. We would be happy to connect with you if you’d like to contact us through the site here (select the “member of the media” dropdown): https://autoimmunewellness.com/contact/

    • Angie Alt says

      Wow! Thank you for sharing Cindy! We would love to connect w/ you. We are on such a mission to bridge the gap to conventional medicine and be a support to doctors like yourself.

  • […] This week, Ryan Monahan recovering from Hashimoto’s […]

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