At the young age of 17, my life changed for what I now know was for the better. I went from being what a doctor would call was a relatively healthy child, to a statistic. Another woman doomed to deal with thyroid problems for the rest of her life, and likely struggle with weight, infertility, and chronic fatigue.
My hashimoto’s diagnosis was a shock… it rocked my world. I was scared, I was confused, but to quote Monty Python, “I got better”. Is that insensitive? But really, it looked bleak, but I healed. It was possible for me, and is for you, which is why I share my story.
My Early Symptoms
My symptoms started when I was 16. I didn’t realize it then, but the amount of fatigue that experienced was not normal. I would come home from school and immediately go to bed.
The fatigue that lasted a year finally came to a head with my first autoimmune flare as it worsened, and invited more unwanted symptoms friends. Though not typical of all Hashimoto’s patients, I first experienced a hyperthyroid swing and experienced weight loss, severe heart palpitations that would reoccur daily, mood swings, and regular fainting spells.. Throw in way too many days off of school, and unexplained food allergies, and I was off to a specialist, after specialist.
My Diagnosis with Hashimoto’s
The pediatrician wrote me off. I mean, I was 17 and totally over the pediatrician, but they were zero help to me. I would come in with complaints of heart palpitations and a clear 20 lb weight loss, and was told that I “drank too much energy drinks”.
From there, it was onto the chiropractor, the OBGYN, and the cardiologist. All of which also gave me eye roll answers, until the cardiologist told me that it was ridiculous that my doctor hadn’t checked my thyroid yet.
Though I did have my thyroid tested several times, my TSH was always normal for months and months. Finally, my TSH dropped below normal and that one blood test became the canary in the coal mine that got me referred to a Endocrinologist who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s disease.
I was confused, I was tired, and I was told over and over again that my diagnosis was entirely abnormal. That thyroid problems were “only for menopausal women”. I felt like an outsider, and that I was totally alone in my diagnosis. I desperately wanted to get better but struggled to find others to compare my journey to at the time.
My Initial Treatment
My endocrinologist was a typical, allopathic straight shooter who had to Google “Celiac Disease” during one on of our appointments. So, it was no wonder that the first drug I was put on was levothyroixine. This was also by far the worst thyroid medication that I took that had the worst symptoms for me personally. I was depressed, my hair thinned, and I put on more weight than I had initially lost. I was miserable.
While on levothyroixine, I started my freshman year of college as a dietetic major. I loved food and nutrition and determined to find the way to heal myself through whole foods. That’s where a gluten free diet came in. I loosely learned about the connection to Hashimoto’s and gluten in school, and went all in. Well, if you can call gluten free waffles and occasional gluten cheats all in. My approach was tremendously flawed as a result of never really getting a real food education in college, and I suffered for it as my diet continued to get more and more carb-centric.
After switching doctors somewhere along the way, I was then put on synthroid which I surprisingly had a better reaction to than levothyroxine. I can’t stress enough that we’re all individuals and what worked for me likely won’t work 100% for the next person, but I was slightly better on synthroid. Not good, but better. I stabilized enough to where I wasn’t getting heart palpitations daily anymore, but I was far from thriving.
At 20, I decided that my lack of real food education from Dietetics wasn’t the path I wanted to go down, and I transferred to a new school and changed my major. The summer before and my first semester at this new school was one of the lowest points in my life, and the worst flare I experienced.
I began have worsened digestive issues as my diet shrunk down to smoothies, egg whites, yogurt, sweet potato, and oatmeal with the occasional gluten free grilled cheese. I could barely stomach even these limited foods, let alone add in more. Everything I ate made me nauseous, hurt my stomach, or made me incredibly tired.
This fatigue that was always followed by a meal was crippling. I would go to class for 5 hours a day, spend 1 hour on homework, and literally spend the remaining 18 hours a day sleeping. I had no energy to get out of bed, and would frequently cry at my lack of ability to accomplish even the simplest tasks.
Then came the panic attacks. I recall one experience in particular where I was leaving my parents house after eating homemade french fries, then stopping for gas, and having what felt like an out of body experience. One second I was stepping out of my car, and the next I was hysterical, and felt like I was dying. I jumped back into the car bawled for longer that I even care to remember.
Clearly, something had to change.
My Leaky Gut Epiphany
When a family friend suggested I see a holistic doctor for my issues, I was in. I was willing to do literally anything to get out of the situation I was in. The doctor immediately mentioned leaky gut and administered a food intolerance test. I was afraid that it would all come back negative and that I was hypochondriac. However, quite the opposite happened. My immune markers were through the roof, and I had tons of food intolerances which had indicated a leaky gut.
Leaky gut is essentially increased intestinal permeability, and is often the root cause of any autoimmunity like Hashimoto’s. Food that passes through our digestive barriers confuses our immune system and it begins to attack itself.
I was likely dealing with this for three main reasons…
- I ate a terrible diet that didn’t feed good gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria contribute to the overall integrity of our gut, and when we feed them terrible food, they don’t thrive.
- I had terrible digestion, nausea, bloating, and reflux my entire life. Poor digestion is one of the biggest culprits of prolonged leaky gut. If our food is poorly digested in our stomach, of course it’ll damaging our small intestines.
- I took a crap ton on NSAID’s prior to my Hashimoto’s diagnosis because I had “headaches“. NSAID use in excess is terrible for our gut lining and immune function. I was borderline addicted for my headaches (which were likely caused by the two points above), and regret every second of it.
My Gut Healing Mistakes
My initial treatment for leaky gut was different than what I follow now and would recommend for my own clients. I followed only what my food allergy test said and wound up still eating dairy, most grains, and tons of crappy processed foods while on my first “healing” protocol because they were safe on my allergy test. Needless to say, I was unsuccessful. I wrote an entire post about this, here.
My Healing Diet That Actually Worked For Me
After experiencing yet another flare at 23, I was beyond over it and decided to take it seriously which is where I adopted more of a Autoimmune Protocol to eliminate the dairy and grains that I assumed were safe for me as well as seed spices, etc. It was a fairly easy transition as I had already tested intolerant for gluten, and nightshades and had been off them for three years, but it was totally different than what I had done before. Within a matter of months, I saw a huge difference in my energy and a bigger difference when I actually tried to add those foods back in and saw the negative effects that they had on my symptoms. Flares and symptoms that I was having for years that I could never really tie to any food became very apparently connected to poor quality dairy, grains like processed oatmeal, and seed spices.
Beyond just eliminating foods, I also focused on adding foods in that were nutrient dense and nourishing like warm soups made with bone broth, tons and tons of veggies, pastured meats and liver pate. Healing doesn’t come from removing foods… it comes from those that we add in!
Finally, I did more than just focus on food, but I healed my digestive process. I slowed down to eat, I learned to actually chew my food, I found the enzymes that work for me, and I balanced my meals to help them better digest.
With just diet and digestive healing alone, my energy was sustained, my panic attacks were gone, and my weight and mood stabilized. I finally reached the point where I was healing.
Of course, the supplements will vary for you, but here is what worked for me…
- IPS from Biotics for Gut Healing
- Gastrazyme from Bitoics for Gut Healing
- Glutatime Powder
- Collagen Peptides
- Glutathione Supplements for my MTHFR
Adrenal Health & Stress Reduction was a Missing Piece
I didn’t want to admit it, but I was seriously adrenally fatigued and chronically stressed. I stayed at bad jobs, bad relationship, and the like because I felt stuck. Little did I know that the stress on my emotions was transferring as stress on the body which impacted everything downstream including my thyroid levels and gut health.
I had to be honest with myself… this was the one thing that I couldn’t fix with diet alone. I learned from that really changing your stress levels and healing your adrenals comes from a mindset shift. I had to quit intense exercise, staying up late, and feeling like the world was out to get me. Not only did my gut health and thyroid levels heal further as a result, but so much more of my hormone health as well.
Marrying my amazing husband was a God send for my healing. He supports me, he lets me cry, he asks friends at parties whats in food for me, and he doesn’t care that I don’t buy him kraft singles. Having support from family and friends has been huge to me actually healing and getting over some of my emotional trauma from getting sick at a young age. My husband makes me feel normal, and I’m forever grateful.
Not only does support from others matter, but supporting yourself matters. Allow myself independence by learning to cook, and giving myself permission to have bad days is just as important as having a supportive spouse. We should always be our biggest health advocates.
Most importantly, support and trust from God, other Godly people and prayer! God is sovereign over even the littlest things in our life, and prayer was so powerful for me in my darkest times.
Routine and Planning is Crucial
Finally, getting into a routine where this became my life rather than a restrictive healing protocol was what made this all sustainable. Setting a new bedtime, changing my exercise routine, and prepping all of my food ahead of time to eliminate stress have been the biggest changes that have made the most difference.
My Life Today
Shocker, my life still isn’t perfect even after I’ve reduced my antibody count. I still have to go to the DMV and have the occasional thyroid-y day here and there. However, the bulk of my days are free from heart palpitations, fainting, panic attacks, and chronic fatigue and my hashimoto’s antibodies are within normal range! I still supplement and test my levels regularly, but I’m no longer debilitated by terrible symptoms.
Though my gut health has come a long way, I have to be honest with myself and recognize that it was so bad for so long and I still need to be nice to it. I can’t just jump back into a SAD diet (and frankly, I don’t believe anyone should) and grains and nightshades just don’t serve me. My diet is still paired down a bit, but I mostly don’t mind. I eat tons of veggies, pastured meats, fruits, and occasional egg yolks, rice, sunflower butter, chocolate, and coffee. Here’s the thing… real food actually tastes good. Once you get over the whole, “OMG I can’t have Oreo’s?!” mentality, life is just way better all around.
My Advice To You
My advice to you as a reader who may relate to some of what I went through is to not give up. Don’t feel unloveable and like you’ll never be a success story. Healing does not happen overnight. Your time will come with patience, effort, and trust!