Part 1: Stops and Starts for Autoimmunity (Hashimoto's, Graves, RA, etc.)
In a previous post, I discussed the root causes of Hashimoto's. If you have not already checked out that post, I suggest that you read it here. Even if you do not have Hashimoto's, Graves, RA, or another autoimmune disease, this article will still be very valuable and useful for you. If you have PCOS or endometriosis, it will be really helpful to take these tips to heart, as having PCOS or endometriosis greatly increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
Although most people who have any diagnosis (or are simply struggling in their health) will most likely need 1:1 support to some degree, it's 100% possible to take many steps on your own using this guidance that I am sharing. The most important things for you to know if you have Hashimoto's or if you are at risk includes:
What you can stop doing
What you can start doing
What You Can Stop Doing and Start Doing
Notice how the title of this section is "What you CAN stop/start doing,"not what you should stop doing. I always aim to educate and then invite you to make decisions based on what you believe will be a good choice. With that being said, let's dive in. If you have Hashimoto's, one of the number-one things you can do is reduce stress in every area of your life. Stress is the #1 enemy of a robust immune system, and research shows that stress increases the level of TPO antibodies in women with Hashimoto's. We know from other extensive research that the same applies with Graves, RA, and other autoimmune conditions.
It's important to understand that there is eustress and distress. Eustress is "good" stress, and distress is "bad" stress, but with advanced autoimmunity, it can be valuable to note that oftentimes, all stress can do harm on the body. For some, a season of stepping away from even "good" stress like intense workouts, a new higher education or business venture, or anything related, might be necessary. Hopefully this is not the case for you, but often, taking steps like this can be helpful when there is a lot of healing that needs to take place. Sometimes it's helpful to have an exact list of what can be stopped, so here is a list of what I suggest all Hashimoto's sufferers take to heart, from a former Hashimoto's sufferer herself. My entire approach when it comes to healing from most autoimmune based conditions is to strategically reduce stress and increase vitality.
Stop Staying Up Late, and Start Being Strategic About Sleep: Aim to Have a 9:30 pm Bedtime and Wake up With Sunrise
I know that this sounds a lot easier said than done, and if you have Hashimoto's, you might also be dealing with low morning cortisol and high evening cortisol, making a midnight bedtime almost a guarantee. If this is you, understand that getting to bed before 10 pm (which means actually being in bed by 9:30 pm), must be a non-negotiable. Getting to sleep before 10 prevents you from getting your "second wind", which, in reality, is just another wave of cortisol that comes if you are still awake when you truly should be asleep. Another valuable tip is to wake up with the sun starts to rise, and aim to keep that time the same every day, even on weekends. This helps you have a regulated sleep/wake cycle, which will greatly lower stress, which will be the foundation of a strong immune system.
Take away: stop saying up late, and start getting in bed by 9:30 pm, wake up with the sunrise, and aim to keep this the same sleep schedule every day.
Stop Resisting Rest and Neglecting Boundaries: Start Viewing Self Care as a Need, and Understand the Boundaries are Necessary, Not Optional
Although I don't have a research article to link (though there probably are a few), I know from personal experience (and from working 1:1 with hundreds and hundreds of women with autoimmunity), that neglecting self care and never having boundaries are two major common themes.
Stop: continuously putting other's needs first WHEN it's causing your health to deteriorate. This includes personal life and work life. Self-sacrifice is a beautiful and admirable thing, but excessive overexertion can put someone in the hospital if they have an autoimmune disease. Let your loved ones know when you need help, and if there is anything you can outsource (even grocery delivery), try to make it a priority if possible. It's still possible to care for others while caring for yourself. If you need help, tell someone. If you feel the weight of life starting to press upon you, reach out before things get worse. Compassionate friends will understand canceled plans (if you are not feeling well), and you might be surprised by the amount of support that shows up when you simply let others know that you are in need.
Practical steps for self care and boundaries:
Practice great hygiene and aim to take a nightly warm bath, or a warm shower to decompress for the day
Get to sleep before 10, as discussed above, and wake up when the sun rises
Stretch daily, especially if you sit a lot during the day
Be intentional to eat lunch, even if you have things to do (emails, laundry) - you cannot accomplish tasks efficiently if you are not properly fueled
Consider taking entire days off from social media, emails, and even texts, and have at least one complete day of rest. If you have kids and a spouse/partner, it can be helpful to both have a day of rest where one parent take care of the kids while another rests. This will not apply to everyone, but it will apply to the average family and can be a useful plan
Monitor your energy and be aware of when something will fill your cup or drain you; a call with a friend might be just the thing you need, but if you have already had a crazy day, you might need to let them know that
Keep nights peaceful, and avoid doing potentially stressful tasks, like paying bills, budgeting, or introducing a new conversation (i.e. a discussion about a stressful situation, work, a speeding ticket - anything that could be increase stress before bed
Stay tuned for part 2, which shared all about the "stops and starts" for food, and then part 3, which shares all about the "stops and starts" for supplements.