More than 25 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease. In my case, I have been diagnosed as hypothyroid (under active thyroid) due to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the thyroid gland. In this post I'd like to share with you part of my thyroid journey.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Diagnosis
In the fall of 2008 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I had been having some symptoms commonly associated with hypothyroidism (cold hands and feet, fatigue, dry skin, some depression). I was not experiencing weight gain, but I was not losing weight, either, even though I exercise nearly every day. TSH and free T4 test results were high normal, but the antibody test for Hashimoto's was sky high.
My thyroid is enlarged and has three nodules on it. Two ultrasounds about six months apart showed no growth in the nodules. They appear to be benign. My current doc has me get an ultrasound every 2-3 years to make sure they're still behaving.
My Results on Levothyroxin
I visited my doctor in November to get my thyroid checked again. My TSH and free T4 levels had come back at the edge of high normal range and the doctor suggested I try 25mcg Levothyroxin daily. He asked me to retest TSH and free T4 in four weeks.
When I specifically asked the doctor about diet or lifestyle changes I could make to treat the underlying causes of my disease, he told me there was nothing I could do. I should just get on medication and resign myself to my thyroid eventually destroying itself.
My symptoms did not improve. In addition, I developed moderately severe joint pain in my right knee (this knee has bugged me occasionally but rarely this bad). During my menstrual period, I had severe cramping (much worse than normal) and felt physically ill for 2-3 days. I felt that I had difficulty concentrating, and found myself rereading the same paragraph over and over again. With no previous history, I developed gastric reflux and by the third week it was starting feel as though my throat was closing up and it hurt/was difficult to swallow. This was similar to the (I believe) allergic reaction I experienced on amoxicillin and prednisone.
When it came time to renew my prescription I decided not to do it. I called the doctor and canceled the blood work and notified them that I was going off the medication. We had no health insurance and I did not know when we would have insurance again. (Note – my husband was unemployed at this time. Stress levels were very high.) I told them that I would check back in sometime in the future. The doctor was not happy and instead wanted to increase my dosage, but I declined.
Once I got Off Levothyroxin
December 2009 – The throat swelling went away in under a week once I stopped the Levothyroxin. I am no longer having acid reflux. My knee does not ache excessively. My hands and feet still tend to be cold and my skin is still dry, but it has been very cold this month with record breaking snowfall (over 3 feet for December alone). I have started using coconut oil as a face/body moisturizer, too. My head is clearer and I am able to read normally again. My menstrual cycle resumed without any significant cramping/pain/fatigue, etc.
Trying Alternative Thyroid Treatments
I decided to try alternative thyroid treatments. After doing some research online, I continued to use NatraBio Thyroid Support tablets three times per day. My supplements included about a teaspoon of coconut oil three times per day, a Women’s Multivitamin/Mineral, 1000 mg vitamin C and 2000 2000 I.U. Vitamin D.
I have been starting each day with listing things that I am thankful for and practicing counting my blessings instead of my worries.
January 2009 – Symptoms are about the same – skin still dry, hands still cold – but, hey, it’s winter! Joint pain has decreased significantly. I am exercising every morning again.
December 2009 – I started dry brushing and cold rinses in the shower, and decreasing my carbs while increasing my fat intake after reading “Eat Fat, Lose Fat”. Over the month of December, I dropped ten pounds, even with the holidays. Skin is much less dry and itchy, as are eyes.
January 2011 – Down about another ten pounds. Recently read “Primal Blueprint”, and other material indicating that gluten may be contributing to my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Working to reduce/eliminate gluten/grains in the diet, but I'm not there yet. I've changed up my work out routine, and started including “sprints” and weightlifting again. Still under a lot of stress due to job uncertainly. My skin is softer and smoother, and bowel movements are regular (constipation is a common symptom of an under active thyroid).
Eating for Thyroid Health
Where I'm at nutritionally:
- Plenty of fat, protein and veggies
- Less carbs, especially grains
- No refined salt, only sea salt
- Kelp, nori or other sea vegetables daily
- Coconut oil before every meal
- Limit cruciferous vegetables, and cook or ferment them before consumption
- Eat a Brazil nut every day, as they are high in selenium
- Consume one or more fermented foods/drinks per day, including kombucha, water kefir, milk kefir, sauerkraut, raw milk cheese, yogurt and other fruit and vegetable ferments
- Include turmeric and plenty of other anti-inflammatory foods and spices
- Avoid unfermented soy, excessive amounts of peanuts and raw cruciferous vegetables
- Processed foods, fake fats and all the other garbage passing itself off as food is a no-no
- Sourcing my meat and eggs locally, from people I trust. All of the critters spend time on pasture and are light on grains
- Grow most of my own veggies, and try to source the rest organically. Working towards the same with fruits
Continuing on My Thyroid Journey
Since I wrote this back in 2011, I was able to find a doctor who finally listened to me and was willing to switch me to Armour thyroid. I felt even better, and lost a little more weight. For supplements, I use a probiotic, selenium, zinc, magnesium, B complex stress formula with C, and vitamin D3 in winter when I can't get much sun. I don't have any joint pain now.
I made some mistakes. For one thing, I think I overdid the kombucha, which led to candida overgrowth that threw my system out of whack. This in turn led to psoriasis over much of my body in 2015. Again, the doctor said, “Live with it”, but thankfully I got back on track again and am doing well. You can read the first post of that series, “Psoriasis – The Year my Face Exploded“. After that round of diet changes, I lost even more weight, even though my thyroid medication remained the same.
I had food allergy testing done, which flagged several types of beans, kale, pineapple and Brazil nuts. No more daily Brazil nut, and no more bean flour as a gluten free baking substitute, no more scrambled eggs and kale. Dairy and grains, which bother many people with thyroid conditions, didn't show up on my testing. That said, because autoimmune conditions are commonly associated with a leaky gut, I still limit grains and dairy. It makes it easier to get more veggies in, which tend to be more nutrient dense, and I feel better.
Do you have a thyroid disorder? If so, what have you done to help your thyroid heal? I hope you find my story and these resources useful.
Additional Thyroid Health Resources
Some folks has asked for additional resources, so I'd like to recommend the following books that I found helpful:
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions and Finding the Root Cause – If you only get one thyroid book, this should be it. Dr. Wentz breaks down all the connections to thyroid health, and gives you tools you need to make lifestyle choices and ask the right questions to get the thyroid treatment that is right for you.
Iodine: Why you need it, Why you can't live without it by David Brownstein, M.D.
I read Dr. Brownstein's books first, and they opened my eyes to the importance of iodine. I've read some mixed reviews on Dr. Brownstein's supplement recommendations, so please do your own research before making any decision to supplement and speak with a trained healthcare provider.
A couple more related books that deal with coconut oil that may also be helpful are The Coconut Oil Miracle and Eat Fat, Lose Fat. I know saturated fats are currently demonized, but I have lost weight on coconut oil, and these books explain why.
Related posts on the site:
- Start Healing Thyroid Problems by Identifying Key Toxicity Sources
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – Common Questions, Misconceptions and Myths
- How To Heal Thyroid With Foods
Originally published in 2011, updated in 2017.