Fern Olivia is the founder of Thyroid.Yoga and an L.A.-based wellness expert renowned for her artful approach to self-healing. This week, we’re sharing her expertise on yoga, meditation, breathwork, and plant-based alchemy and her own journey recovering from Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. To learn more, check out her new mindbodygreen course, Thyroid Yoga: Holistic Health Practices, Postures, & Self-Care Rituals To Restore Vibrant Health.
My journey with thyroid disease began when I was 16 years old. I had red bumps on my arms and legs and battled with a sluggishness that never went away—a feeling that only worsened when I came down with mono. During my senior year of high school, I was constantly exhausted and had to miss out on things a healthy teenager would attend without a second thought, like homecoming. Doctors diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and said a dose of Synthroid each morning would relieve all my symptoms. I was put on the birth control pill at the ripe age of 18 to balance my hormones, help me lose weight, and clear my skin.
Fast-forward to college, when I was constantly dealing with sinus infections and sore throats. The health center had a prescription Z-pack for me waiting whenever I visited—a quick fix for the congestion, puffiness, brain fog, and body aches. Wherever I went, I had a steady supply of meds like Lactase, Ex-lax, and Pepto, to ease the bloating, constipation, and post-meal nausea I experienced daily.
I graduated with honors in biomedical engineering and landed a swanky desk job at a prestigious investment bank in New York City. I often experienced vertigo when staring at my computer and starting getting daily migraines, for which I took Excedrin. I’d also pop a Zyrtec with my Synthroid before my cereal and milk each morning to clear my stuffy, runny nose. Even with all of that, I still felt awful. I went to some of the best endocrinologists in New York and was told over and over that the symptoms I was feeling were “normal” for those with hypothyroidism.
Finally, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroiditis, the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism. My own immune system was destroying my thyroid cells. This “attack and destroy” can cause wild symptom swings from hypothyroid to hyperthyroid and back. If this continued, it would lead to a lifelong dependence on thyroid hormone medication.
I’d had enough. I thought to myself, I studied biomedical engineering. Why can’t I figure this out? Turns out, I could...but in an unexpected place.