Shedding Some Light On Autoimmune Diseases

By: Maddie Schaaf ‘22

She wakes up every day only to be even more tired and lethargic than before she went to bed. She walks to the mirror and squeezes the fat around her stomach. “How have I gained so much weight.”

Mornings are difficult for teens that suffer from an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s or Celiac disease.

Roisin Mooney, a freshman at Regis Jesuit, was diagnosed with Celiac disease when she was ten years old “This disease is very specific, I can’t share pans with anyone who had gluten in the same pan,” explains Mooney.

“Not being able to eat gluten is the hardest part,” says Mooney.

The diet is a huge adjustment, some can adapt quickly, but others take more time to get used to the no gluten rule. This rule also applies to teens with Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.

Gluten sensitivity is only one of the many symptoms of Celiac disease. Some other symptoms include pain in the abdomen and joints, fatigue, and immense weight loss.

“Celiac hasn’t really affected me mentally,” says Mooney. While mental health is not a big area affected by Celiac, eating gluten can lead to depression in some teens.

“It is simply the body attacking itself.”

“It is simply the body attacking itself. With any autoimmune disease it is the body attacking some kind of tissue in your organelles,” says functional medicine practitioner Maggie Berghoff. Hashimotos comes in all shapes and sizes, which is why it is important to find a treatment plan tailored to you and your body.

“I took a full body approach and I made sure that every step of the way was individual to me,” Berghoff says. Some symptoms of Hashimotos include, depression, anxiety, immense fatigue, and weight gain. These symptoms are very harmful to a teen’s mental health, social life, and overall self-esteem.

“All the normal day things are very hard, because you cannot function, you’re so tired and all you want to do is take naps.” explains Berghoff. Teens who are just diagnosed, normally have no idea where to start, why they are gaining so much weight, and why they are depressed.

While it is a struggle, Berghoff shares some advice saying, “I would say to not follow one size fits all plans and that would go hand in hand with first making sure that your doctor is doing detailed labs to find a plan that will heal your body specifically and work with a practitioner who knows what they are doing.”

Fortunately there are ways to manage Celiac.

Now Mooney wakes up refreshed and energized, she walks to the mirror and smiles at her reflection.

I am getting healthy.”

WATCH: Shedding some light on autoimmune diseases 

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