Published and interviewed by Mariah Wilson
Interviewed June 20th, 2022
Featuring Makenna Lewers
Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Makenna Lewers is a wife and mother of 2 children, business owner and passionate whole body healer. At the age of 18, she was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease called Graves’ Disease that almost killed her, but learned years later that chronic illness was not going to be her life. She restored her body by taking the dissatisfaction for her own health issues and turning it into a passion for root-cause research and education.
After 8 years, she was finally able to wave her health issues bye-bye and now inspires other people to restore their health from the ground up.
Jump into this health journey:
- When did you notice your health started to change?
- How did you get diagnosed with Graves’ Disease?
- What is Graves’ Disease
- Once diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, what was the treatment plan?
- Do you have any theories for how your condition developed?
- Why did you search for treatment options outside of conventional medicine?
- Do you still get symptom flare ups?
- What do you focus on changing when you have flare ups?
- Is physical activity a part of your daily routine?
Mariah: Thank you for joining us, Makenna. Before we begin today’s interview where we talk about your health journey with an autoimmune condition called Graves’ Disease, can you give our audience a brief introduction about yourself?
Makenna: Hi, Mariah. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really glad to be here and I appreciate the invitation. My name is Makenna Lewers. I’m 27 years old from Scottsdale, Arizona, and I’m a mom to a four year old boy and a ten month old baby girl. They are my world. I’m a stay at home, working mom, currently working during nap times. I call it my “nap time hustle”. I currently own a social media management company for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I’ve been running my own business for about four years now. An interesting fact about me is that I’m originally from Texas, born and raised and graduated from Texas A& M University with a health and kinesiology degree in pursuit of becoming a Naturopathic doctor, but motherhood decided to come first. I got pregnant with my first baby in my last semester of college and I have loved mom life ever since.
Mariah: Amazing. Thank you very much for sharing all of that. I actually didn’t realize that you planned to become a Naturopathic doctor!
Makenna: Yeah, I did. That dream is on hold right now because I’m putting my babies first.
Mariah: Yes, that’s totally understandable. I actually have quite a few colleagues who did that.
Makenna: It all began when I was 18 years old, as I was starting my first semester of college. It was horrible timing. I was dealing with weight fluctuations, hair loss, skin rashes, a racing heart rate, facial swelling, and severe brain fog and fatigue. I couldn’t deal with these symptoms anymore. So I went to my campus hospital. The nurse I saw there told me I needed to get a hold of an endocrinologist immediately because my heart rate was dangerously high. I think it was at 135 bpm at the time, resting, so that’s extremely high. I was actually able to get into an endocrinologist that day because of the emergency that I was facing. I posted some of the photos of myself on my Instagram page of how bad it got. I mean, there are times I didn’t even look like myself.
Mariah: I did see some of those photos, and it looked like quite severe.
Makenna: It was a full body rash that caused a lot of swelling.
Makenna: They wanted to give me steroid shots and allergy medicine, but that didn’t fix the root cause of what was happening.
Makenna: I got diagnosed when I was under the care of an endocrinologist out in Houston, Texas. He was able to just feel my thyroid and look at my symptoms without even taking my blood work right away and was confident it was Graves’ Disease. Eventually, I did get my blood work done, and they confirmed the diagnosis.
Makenna: Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune condition that affects your thyroid gland. It can cause you to produce too much thyroid hormone, resulting in hyperthyroidism and swelling of the thyroid gland. There was a time when my thyroid was 20 times the normal size, which is a goiter. Now, these thyroid hormones are really important for the body to function properly. They control the way your body uses energy, so they will affect nearly every organ in your body. When these hormones are out of whack, your whole body can feel off balance and have varying symptoms.
Makenna: My medical doctors treated my autoimmune condition only with drugs. I was on a high dosage of methimazole, which is a medication that prevents the thyroid from making or releasing as much thyroid hormone, and I was also on propranolol for the rapid heart rate. The doctor saw my thyroid as a “troublemaker” and such an issue that he wanted to treat my condition by destroying the thyroid with radioactive iodine. However, I did not go that route. The optimist inside me told me that I would recover from this condition and that lifelong medication would not be my destiny, and it hasn’t been! My thyroid hormones are now an optimal range.
Makenna: My theory is that the body never attacks itself in the first place. I think that our immune system doesn’t all of a sudden become confused and go after our own organs. I feel that an autoimmune disease develops due to an imbalance in the biological system from environmental toxins, stress, and or the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). It involves a perfect storm of events that line up just right. Genes can make a person more susceptible to developing autoimmune disease, but it won’t show up until a trigger is involved. I think that your environment plays a profound role in autoimmune disease. So in my case, I believe that the Epstein Barr Virus and stress is what triggered my Grave’s Disease.
Makenna: Yes, my blood work showed a past history of infection with EBV. I do believe that played a big part in why I developed this autoimmune disease. At the time I was starting college, I had a lot of stress and pressure as a new student going out into the world. So I think it was a perfect storm of events that triggered it. I was also eating like a college student, drinking like a college student, so diet had a big factor to play as well.
Makenna: After my doctor basically told me there was no hope for me and my disease would be something I would have to battle forever, I started to really dig deep into root cause research.
I learned through my own experiences that there are ways to heal and reverse an autoimmune disease. I started by reading all of the Medical Medium books by Anthony Williams and I became my own health expert by using what I learned and experimenting with my own body to figure out what works and what doesn’t regarding diet, eliminating environmental toxins, and stress.
I became so passionate about this whole body healing that I dove deeper into Dr. Ben Lynch’s book Dirty Genes and Kate Deering’s book called Heal Your Metabolism. These books were great, and I’ve really learned a lot from just diving in and doing my own research.
Makenna: The first changes I made were diet changes. I remember my first investment in my health was a juicer. I juiced celery every morning for years. Celery juice was a savior when it came to my chronic illness.
I also eliminated gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, and canola oil from my diet completely for a short period of time, focusing on eating lots of fruits and clean meat.
Makenna: I did follow the autoimmune protocol for about 30 days and that was extremely helpful in alleviating some of my symptoms. Currently, I do not follow a diet or a specific way of eating.
I eat whatever I want. However, I’ve invested a lot of time to learn what foods fuel my body and what foods don’t. So over time, as I healed my body and balanced my thyroid hormones, I’ve been able to reintroduce certain foods without repercussions, like dairy and eggs. So I eat a lot of dairy and eggs now. Which were two items that I did not eat for a period of time while I was healing.
But honestly, I do not think my root cause was necessarily diet, but reducing the inflammation while I was healing was extremely helpful.
Makenna: Supplements have been really important in my healing journey. I found zinc, lysine, vitamin D, liver support supplements, and probiotics to be helpful and I take them every day to keep my body strong and the virus at bay.
Makenna: Yes, I do. After I had my second baby, I actually started getting some more of those hyperthyroid symptoms. So I had to make sure that my diet was looking right and that I was on top of my supplements and doing everything I could to stop the progression.
Pregnancy and birth are metabolically hard on your body and quite stressful, and it can weaken your immune system. I’ve been doing my best to support it and I got my thyroid hormones checked. My thyroid hormones are still optimal but my antibodies have gone up.
Makenna: I really focus on minimizing stress as much as possible. So taking off some of the things that I have on my plate. Something I really focus on is being intentional and graceful with myself while my body is healing and making sure that I sit down to eat my food. I make sure that I’m eating nourishing high quality foods.
Makenna: I have not been doing the celery juice, but I would love to get back on it. Right now I wake up and I drink just some lemon water first thing in the morning. After that, I have a breakfast which usually consists of an animal protein, like pasteurized eggs, uncured bacon, homemade pico and avocado. Then I have my coffee. So I try to eat breakfast before I drink my coffee.
Then lunch is usually leftovers from the night before, and a fruit salad. For dinner, I usually have another animal protein, like wild caught salmon, grass fed beef, or chicken with healthy carbs such as potatoes, rice, carrots, or gluten free pasta. I always try to have some sort of vegetable at every dinner.
I also eat a ton of fruit because fruit is the most virus fighting and anti-inflammatory foods on the planet, and I’ve witnessed it. I feel really good when I eat fruit, so I know it is something that fuels my body.
Makenna: Having a positive mindset and practicing meditation can shift your body into a rest and digest healing mode of your nervous system. Your mindset can be a huge contributor to promoting healing or sickness.
Showing yourself grace and self love, and keeping a positive mindset while you’re trying to heal is so important because it’s not an overnight success. It took me well over a year before I really started seeing changes, but once I started seeing changes, I was like, okay, it’s working, let’s keep going.
It’s important to note that people with an autoimmune disease sometimes have multiple root causes, not just one. This means that there is often quite a bit of trial and error and peeling back the layers of the onion to get to the core of the problem.
Makenna: Something I do every day is I stay off social media first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. I give myself time to wake up, I go outside, enjoy the sunrise, read a book that I’m interested in, and just have that time of solitude and quiet by myself to get ready for the day ahead. I honestly think that time in the morning, during sunrise has been huge for my healing journey.
I also do what I call a “whole body grounding” routine. I just lay on the ground and I can feel the energy of the earth coming up into me and I can feel how restoring it is to my body. It is so peaceful just laying on the earth.
At this time I’ll also read or journal and then I’ll just lay and meditate on the ground in the sun for about ten minutes a day. That’s a part of my routine now and it’s been extremely beneficial for me.
Makenna: I actually don’t have a strict workout routine right now. I think while your body is healing and in recovery mode, it’s important to take it easy. You don’t want to be doing these high intensity workouts while your immune system is fighting off a virus or a disease. So some things that I do to incorporate movement daily are yoga practices, stretching, walking, and also just being a mama!
I’m carrying around a 20 pound and a 40 pound baby. That’s my workout right there! Just chasing kids around, carrying kids and making sure my posture is right when I’m holding them and really being intentional with the way that I’m moving as my body is not only healing from an autoimmune disease, but also healing from having a baby too.
Makenna: I’m actually in the process of creating an online series that I’m calling “Restored” where I’m sharing in detail everything I’ve learned over the last eight years while healing my body in order to help others do the same.
Once this is completed, I’ll be giving it away for free in exchange for feedback. I’m really excited to see how I can help people that are struggling with an autoimmune disease or chronic illness because I know how difficult, frustrating and lonely it can be. I truly believe that there is healing for the people who are seeking it.