My journey with Graves disease continues.
They say that it comes in waves or fluctuates – this is my experience now. My symptoms have come back. Not as bad as they once were, but enough to stop me from doing things I like to do – mainly yoga, running, physical exercise.
For me Graves manifests in my heart mostly, though I know for others symptoms differ. For me it’s my heart, pounding away at my chest, or fluttering like a little bird in my rib-cage. I see my heart beat in the corner of my eyes at night, throbbing, throbbing – feel it pushing blood through all of my pulse points. I can actually hear it thump most of the time.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling that your heart is struggling… it puts you down. Fast.
I admit I got lazy with my healing protocol. Or, more like I hoped that I was cured. Yay! But no, of course it’s not to be. So I have gone back to my notes and my books to get back on the wagon.
Since I have never really detailed all of the stuff I do to contain this malady, I thought I would here now – maybe it will help someone. It will def help me to organise my thoughts.
My main-stay is Tradition Chinese Medicine. I’ve been on TCM herbs for the past two years. Recently now I have also added acupuncture – my TCM doc wants me to go once per week for a while until the symptoms subside, then twice monthly. She says it helps to kick in my parasympathetic nervous system, which may not happen much if my body is essentially feeling like it’s always in fight or flight mode.
For those who are curious, “The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system has almost the exact opposite effect and relaxes the body and inhibits or slows many high energy functions.” (Source)
With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is pumping too much thyroid hormone into the body, which for me feels like rushes of adrenaline. In fact it feels like my body is always pumped up on adrenaline. At its worst I have been tied so tight I can barely breathe – raging, angry, smouldering, anti-social, intolerant, belligerent, impatient. My hair falls out, I lose weight and my muscles waste away. I am wheezy or out of breath and my heart thumps constantly. Kind of like I’m always jogging. At it’s best I don’t have any of the emotional symptoms. And my weight has been pretty steady all of the past year. My hair is still thinner than it used to be but looks healthy otherwise. It’s mostly just my heart and the adrenaline rushing feeling. I have notice that if I manage stress really well I do ok.
The TCM herbs have helped to keep things in check. However they don’t work on their own. The second step of my recovery has been diet. Specifically the autoimmune paleo diet – which is crazy because:
No grains at all – not just gluten
No seeds or nuts
No beans or legumes
No dairy including eggs
You do eat meat, organ meats, bone broths, fermented foods (kim chi, sauerkraut, kombucha), most vegetables and fruit. Basically meat and veggies on your plate. I also learned to bake with coconut flour which generally turned out better than I thought it would.
When I was on this diet last year and taking the TCM herbs, it took about six months for my thyroid to calm right down and for all of my thyroid hormone levels to go completely back to normal. My doctors were impressed at the same time as being annoyed that my crazy plan worked – my Internal Medicine doc wanted me to ablate my thyroid originally – which is basically killing of overactive thyroid tissue with radioactive iodine. I was not ready to do this. It seemed premature and extreme.
I also see a naturopathic doctor. A new one lately but over the past two years I saw a guy who had an electro-acupuncture machine. This machine can be used to test the electrical currents that run through all of the organ systems and meridians in the body and show us where the current is weaker than it should be. A really amazing machine that gives you a sort or translator for the body, it can also be used to test what is ailing the body, be it parasites, fungus, viruses, heavy metals or other toxins. It can tell you exactly what virus or toxin it is, which we can then treat for. This medicine has been a huge part of me getting well.
For me the diagnosis was and is something called micoplasma, which is an organism much like a bacteria. Micoplasmic infection can cause various sicknesses, such as Walking Pneumonia. For me it caused adrenal fatigue, which then caused my body to switch over into Graves. I take a supplement for this that kill the micoplasma, on top of the TCM herbs.
Other supplement I take include, Vit D, which is chronically low with Graves, Vit C to help alleviate stress on the body, fermented cod liver oil, a highly accessible form of fish oil and a super high-grade probiotic.
Back to the managing stress part? Yoga and meditation have been my best tools for this. And this kind of goes in the physical section but even when I am feeling like my heart is thumping too much to do any exercise and I feel like I’m too nervous to push through, I mean, who wants to push through a heart attack right? – I find that regular exercise is still the best. You do what you can. You find your limits and you work right up against that wall. I have found that if I just sit still and don’t do any exercise, even though that may feel like the ‘right’ thing to do, I inevitably end up feeling worse. More palpitations, more rushing more anxiety etc. So, yoga is great for this because there is simply so many levels that you can engage with, you just do what feel right that day. For me that has involved me learning how to really listen to my body and not just hear what my body needs, but consent to what my body needs.
In the past I would just ignore and push through. Now I stop. I hear my heart. I take breaths. I sit down if I need to. Who cares if you’re in the middle of an advanced Ashataga class! (although that would not happen much these days). Take breaks. I know when it’s too much now, from listening in.
Spiritually speaking I cannot express enough how much yoga has changed my life. Yoga teaches us to show up – to the mat and to life, micro to macro. One of my teachers says, ‘how you do your practice is how you do everything in your life’. So, need a little insight into you inner workings? Your practice can show you how you handle everything.
Yoga also brings us back into our bodies, grounded. For those of us dealing with trauma, PTSD, OCD, all of the anxiety disorders, illness, in my experience these can cause soul-parts to flee the body. For me when I’m triggered I feel like I am resting up on the ceiling and nothing gets in. Yoga, a continual practice of yoga, brings the spirit back down into the body. This can be alarming. We will feel feelings. But it heals us.
Yoga unites all of our bodies as well. Mind, Body, Spirit, Emotions. It’s a tangible, accessible tool for achieving true balance.
And prayer. When I pray I do a daily gratitude list, generally thanking the spirits, the Creator Mama Night, Mama Earth, my ancestors and my guides for my life. I do find this keep things in perspective. I am rarely bummed out these days. I feel grateful for much of my life. I am generally upbeat and optimistic.
Anger management is key also. Stress management and anger management. These two emotions are not good for Graves – not good for anyone! But especially for Graves and similar illnesses or imbalances.
Here’s a book list. I have done a lot of reading over the past few years, in many different areas. I always try to be on the look out for signs and symbols and synchronicities when it comes to my healing. Books have popped out at me over the course: