About four years ago, star Peloton instructor Hannah Corbin noticed a sudden, dramatic shift in her overall health. A dancer by training and a fitness guru who reaches millions a day through the popular home workout platform, Corbin noticed she was tired — constantly.
“My level of exhaustion was hard to describe, I would tell people I was tired and would try to verbalize how I was feeling. Some people would see my career choice and go ‘of course you’re tired, you work out for a living, duh,’ ” Corbin told Healthline.
“I think it was more than that, it was an exhaustion in my core that was so daunting to even open my eyes some days. All I wanted to do was sleep, and even sleep wasn’t fulfilling that exhaustion. I never felt my cup was full.”
She explained that being a New Yorker, surrounded by others who are on the go, made it hard to compare levels of exhaustion with friends who were also constantly jumping from one thing to the next.
She downplayed these symptoms of fatigue, believing it was part of life in the city.
However, Corbin also experienced weight fluctuations that weren’t in keeping with her approach to nutrition and fitness.
She gained 15 pounds suddenly and said she felt “swollen” all over. She considered mixing up her exercise routine, to train even more, but found she had no energy for more rigorous activity.
She saw several doctors and medical professionals who brushed off her concerns. Explanations were given that her body was changing as she was getting older, that she “was hormonal.”
Corbin was even told that she was “just tired” and there was nothing out of the ordinary going on with her health.
Eventually, one dietician performed a series of blood tests and told Corbin she had never seen bloodwork like hers “in the history of her practice”
That dietician told her she needed to seek out a specialist “not next month, but tomorrow.”
After more blood testing with an endocrinologist, Corbin was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder that impacts the thyroid gland, situated right below your Adam’s apple.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate many of the crucial functions of your body, like your metabolism and body temperature.
Hashimoto’s disease creates chronic inflammation of the thyroid, creating a roadblock to its ability to generate thyroid hormones. It results in worsening function and an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism, according to the American Thyroid Association.
The association reports that it most commonly occurs in middle-age women, but can present at any age, including in men and children.
It affects about five in 100 people in the United States, according to Cleveland Clinic.
When asked how common it might be for Hashimoto’s disease to be mistaken for other illnesses at first, given that it shares a lot of common symptoms with other conditions, Dr. Marius Stan, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said that thyroid testing is performed very frequently when symptoms of hypothyroidism are present.
“It is therefore uncommon for hypothyroidism related to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to remain undiagnosed for an extended period of time,” Stan told Healthline.
Learning to focus on an ‘auto-amazing’ mindset
When asked what it felt like to put a name to what was affecting her body, Corbin said the confirmation her official diagnosis presented was “so justifying” but was also a “double-edged sword.”
“As soon as someone told me I was as tired as I was, I didn’t have that blissful ignorance to push through. I kind of gave in to the exhaustion, but it was starting to become mentally draining the longer the experience lasted without any help,” she said. “That relief mentally of ‘oh my goodness, light at the end of the tunnel, I’m not going to live like this forever, I’m not going to feel like this,’ was pretty wonderful.”
“I came to the conclusion that my body — and more importantly, I — am more than what I can’t do,” Corbin stressed. “It was my husband who helped me when I was really stuck on this ‘autoimmune’ word. The thought of my body attacking itself was so hard to digest, but I transitioned it to ‘auto-amazing’ in my mind, and all of a sudden, I started to see possibility in front of me again.”
Living with Hashimoto’s disease
How does one manage the condition once diagnosed?
Stan said the most important thing is to “normalize thyroid levels.”
“Beyond that, it is important to look for other possible associated conditions that might be responsible for those symptoms,” he said. “A healthy lifestyle which includes appropriate attention to food choices and physical activity are also important for all chronic conditions.”
However, not everyone with Hashimoto’s disease develops hypothyroidism.
Given that Hashimoto’s disease increases your risk, your medical provider might monitor you over time to assess if you could develop the condition later.
For those who do have hypothyroidism, a doctor might prescribe a synthetic form of thyroid hormone, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Some people might seek out a holistic approach to managing the condition.
Cleveland Clinic reports that there is no specific Hashimoto’s disease diet, but some foods might impact a person’s ability to absorb their thyroid medication.
As always, consult with your healthcare provider about any questions surrounding your personal dietary needs or medications you are taking.
Treating your body like it ‘belongs to somebody you love’
If anyone following Corbin’s story might recognize parallels to their own experience, Stan said it’s important to discuss any concerns with one’s primary care provider and then receive thyroid testing to get a conclusive diagnosis.
Corbin said her experience getting diagnosed and living with Hashimoto’s disease inspired her to use her platform to shed light on this specific autoimmune condition and raise awareness.
“You never really know what’s happening backstage, what’s happening behind the curtain. Everyone has their own struggles. It just might not be happening at the same time as yours,” Corbin added. “It’s important to show I have an autoimmune disease, my body is attacking itself, I can still be successful, still lead a happy life, still be a positive person even in spite of that.”
She said for anyone who might be in her shoes, finding the right medical team is half the battle. While it is helpful to lean on friends and colleagues when you are going through a change in your health, it’s necessary to find the right medical specialist who can give you the diagnosis and care you need.
When thinking back on her experience, and the roller coaster of doubt and confusion over what was causing the fatigue and physical changes, Corbin had to reorient how she was thinking about her situation.
“I think I had to mourn the story I had written about myself. We all have this path we’re convinced we’re on and about to take, and obviously, there are all of these bumps, which are different for every person on the way, but I had to redefine what ‘healthy’ meant for me,” she explained.
“When you do everything ‘right’ all your life and then things go wrong, it’s so disheartening. Once I moved through that sad phase — which is important to allow that frustration and that sadness to come out or otherwise you hold on to it forever — I realized I couldn’t hold on to that and live there in that place of ‘blah.’ [I] had to put one foot in front of the other and treat my body like it belongs to somebody I love.”