Several months after the birth of my second child, I began having terrible fatigue. It wasn’t that I was just tired. Of course the baby was keeping me up at night some and I was back at my teaching job, but I would sit down at lunch and just feel dizzy and like I could go to sleep right there. It was an overwhelming feeling. My hair was falling out more than usual as well. I went to my doctor for tests. The nurse called me and told me that my thyroid levels were “way off”. They referred me to an endocrinologist that was “conservative”. He didn’t just prescribe medicine to everyone.
At my endocrinologist appointment, I had more tests run. My thyroid levels were “within the normal range”. (I never found out what that was because that doctor never shared numbers with me, even when I asked, but I trusted blindly. He was the expert, after all.) I did, however have a nodule on my thyroid, so my doctor prescribed Synthroid, the synthetic form of thyroid hormone prescribed most for hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. I also underwent a biopsy, which came back negative for cancer. After a few more appointments where my doctor acted evasive about my questions regarding numbers and if I should be taking supplements, I decided to see someone else.
I chose a female doctor because I had some wonderful experiences with female doctors who had treated my son for allergies and seemed to spend a little more time educating me. The doctor I found was really good. She asked me why no one had ever done an ultrasound to get exact measurements of my nodule to use as a baseline for growth. Good question! She also told me that my T3 was at a level 2 and she preferred that I be at a level 1. She thought I would feel a lot better. Really? Finally, I was getting some numbers! She increased my medication slightly and I did feel a little better. I was happy with her, but unfortunately she moved.
I’ve since found another female doctor, but she is not into natural healing. She shares all of my numbers with me on a patient portal at least. She also believes in having my T3 at a level 1. I asked her about taking gluten out of my diet a while back and she shared a story with me about a 16 year old patient of hers that had removed gluten from her diet and her numbers of T3 and T4 completely stabilized. However, when she went back to the standard American teenage diet, her numbers were totally off again. My doctor told me it was worth a shot to try it.
It’s time for me to find a functional doctor that knows about more natural ways to heal my thyroid, or at least keep my disease from destroying my thyroid even more. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid as if it is a foreign invader. My thyroid became underactive, not producing enough hormone.
Why Didn’t I Know This Is An Autoimmune Disease?
No one ever told me it was an autoimmune disease! I was just told to take a pill for the rest of my life. I should have questioned more, but my aunt and grandfather both had thyroid disease, so I didn’t think much of it. I thought, oh well, I have what they have.
I’ve since learned that it is an autoimmune disease, which your genes can pre-dispispose you for, but you also need a triggering event. That triggering event can be stress, child-birth or a virus. However, you can turn off the autoimmune response with nutrition and lifestyle changes. I was never told that, and I suspect most people aren’t. We’re just given a pill and told, “Here, take this forever and you probably will have to increase your dose over time as your immune system continues to assault your thyroid.”
But, guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way. Many people have successfully reversed the immune response. If you’re like me, and have taken synthetic thyroid hormone for years, you may have to continue taking medication but you can halt the destruction of your thyroid and keep your dosage of medication steady.
How Do You Halt The Immune Response?
There are several things you can do to slow or halt the immune attack on your thyroid. Everyone is a little bit different, but you should see a lot of improvement with these changes.
1. Cut gluten and dairy out of your diet. I know it seems a bit extreme, and you may have thought the whole gluten thing was a fad, but statistics show that many people with autoimmune diseases have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Here is a great article about it from Chris Kresser, with studies attached.
2. Cut out processed foods. Processed foods contain genetically modified foods and preservatives that cause inflammation and effect your hormone response. Stick to real foods that you know all of the ingredients in. Vegetables, lean meats and fruit with some healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and nut butters will have the nutrients your body needs to operate at its optimum level.
3. Add Supplements. See your doctor for recommendations and add one at a time in case of adverse reactions. Izabella Wentz is a great resource for this. She has a book called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditits: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause. Her website can be found here. I have great resources for high quality supplements on my resource page.
4. Find a great functional medicine doctor or holistic practitioner. Find a doctor that will work with you on finding the best solution for your personal health. A functional or holistic practitioner will help you with diet and lifestyle changes as well as testing for thyroid levels and gluten sensitivity or other food sensitivities.
5. Get In a Routine. Go to bed at the same time every night, (or close to it), get up at the same time every morning and get 7-9 hours of sleep. Your body needs this time to repair and a routine helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the night.
6. Reduce Stress.I know, I know, it’s hard to control stress, but stress causes or worsens diseases. A few minutes of meditation or prayer can significantly reduce stress. You can use guided meditation like the one here:
This one says it is for depression, but it helps me relax when I’m laying awake worried about something or I’m feeling stressed over a situation out of my control. You can also try a relaxing form of yoga. I just started this one a few weeks ago:
I hope these tips help you. Let me know if there is something that has impacted your immune health that I have not listed. Obviously, I could go on and on with tips about food and other stress relievers, so I’ll save some for another post.