How I Reclaimed My Health from Hashimoto’s - Part 1
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Are you not feeling like yourself since your thyroid diagnosis? If so, you’re not alone. In this two-part blog series, I’ll be sharing my story: from sickness turning me into someone I didn’t recognize, to my reclaiming a vibrant, happy life built on thyroid-healthy choices. Click here to read part 2.
For a condition that is considered “easy to treat,” it sure has changed every aspect of my life, and in many ways, for the better. My healing journey didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. In hopes that you may find yourself in my story, and be helped by it, I’m honored to share it with you.
I’ve outlined my journey in 10 steps. These are the first 5 steps that helped me reclaim my health…
STEP 1: Coming Out of the Thyroid Closet
There is a troublesome undercurrent of shame around aging and disease in our culture. As thyroid patients, we take our synthetic thyroid hormone and try to pretend we’re not tired all damn day. We try to contain our issues to the privacy of our medicine cabinets and we don’t talk about it openly. At the doctor’s office, we try to be good little patients who don’t question the doctor’s advice, even when that wise little voice inside us has questions, or disagrees.
That's why I think this critical, and in some ways most difficult first step must be mentioned. When we decide to try and heal our bodies (or minds, or souls, for that matter), it makes a statement of acknowledgment that there is something to heal, and that takes courage. It also takes a commitment to self-care, sometimes radical self-care, and some of us mistakenly associate that with selfishness.
In order to heal, one must first acknowledge the wound, the disease, the so-called imperfection inside us. And then we must love and accept ourselves enough to make our health a priority.
People close to me squirmed and expressed discomfort with my coming out of the ‘thyroid closet’. They discouraged me when my life and livelihood veered into thyroid advocacy. Why would I want to highlight and focus my work on my so-called imperfection? My illness?
Here’s why: Because shame wouldn’t help me get my health back or gracefully navigate this disease.
Healing does not happen by keeping things hidden. If we're scrambling to mask our symptoms while further damage to the thyroid continues, how is that serving our health? If we refuse to accept, learn about, and even lean into our diagnosis and what it means for our bodies, there is a risk for worsening thyroid issues, like nodules or cancer. With Hashimoto’s, there is also an increased risk of developing additional autoimmune conditions, many of which are debilitating.
Learning those things got my attention. And I guess I just reached a point where I was done pretending I didn’t feel sick and tired. So I threw insecurity to the wind and went public that I was struggling with this so-called imperfection. I surrendered to it, accepted it, and allowed it to change me for the better. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
In case you need to hear it, the quest to improve and protect your health is worth it. Even if it means your friends and family are sometimes disappointed or inconvenienced by what that entails. Take deep breaths, do the personal inner work, and then take the leap. This quest has its challenges, but it can be a profoundly positive thing.
STEP 2: Getting Educated
I’ve learned so much from every book in my growing thyroid library, as well as from trusted online resources. There are too many amazing resources and experts to list, so I’m going to keep this limited to my top 3 reading essentials.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause by Dr. Izabella Wentz
- The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight– and How to Get Your Life Back by Amy Myers MD
- Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You… That You Need to Know by Mary Shomon
These have been the most helpful books on my healing journey. They are littered with sticky tags and emblazoned with highlighter. While each book has its own thumbprint, these author-experts created a road map for this journey. They all share the stories of how they reclaimed their health and helped others do the same.
Reading these books reminded me that I’m not alone, I’m not crazy, and it’s not all in my head. Better yet, they showed me that there were things I could do about my compromised health. They empowered me and helped me get more out of my medical appointments. They saved me money and time. Ultimately, they started me down the right track to solving the mystery behind my Hashimoto’s.
STEP 3: I Recorded My Health History
I opened a blank document and started at the very beginning: a childhood home along the banks of a polluted river, a fluoridated water supply, an increasingly industrialized food supply, antibiotics galore, the standard American diet—you know, a typical 1980s American childhood.
Later, there was an incident that required emergency surgery and a hospital stay: an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. In the aftermath came shingles, anxiety, and a noticeable increase in hair loss. One year later, there was chronic and debilitating stomach pain, investigated with endoscopy (among other diagnostic tests), and treated as acid reflux with long-term PPIs, but never diagnosed with certainty.
In 2011, there was the birth of my son via C-section, and two months later, a hypothyroidism diagnosis.
Following my hypothyroidism diagnosis, my energy declined, slowly but noticeably, in spite of normal TSH numbers and thyroid meds (levothyroxine). Paralleling my increasing fatigue was an increase in viruses and infections, which warranted multiple courses of antibiotics. My diet required more and more attention to maintain a healthy weight, and I was gaining weight on a calorie-restricted diet. My overall health profile was at odds with the demands of my life as an active mom, and passionate individual with goals and dreams to accomplish. It was taking a toll on my entire existence, including my mental health.
Once I put it all down on paper, the story of my health was laid out in undeniable clarity. I bullet-pointed my goals and challenges, and began tracking the interventions I was implementing, like going gluten-free or taking probiotics. In this way, I could review results and side effects, both positive and negative, and notice patterns.
Having a health timeline has been one of the most powerful tools in my thyroid toolbox. I continue to update it regularly.
With this clear and complete birds-eye view, along with a list of specific questions and concerns, it was time to find someone to help me unravel the mystery of my health.
STEP 4: I Hired a Detective
I struggled along for four years after my diagnosis, feeling crummy in spite of treatment, and still had no idea I even had Hashimoto’s.
My original doc never tested me for Hashimoto’s, because it didn’t change her standard course of treatment: TSH testing and synthetic thyroid hormone, probably for life. Meanwhile, my body was quietly carrying out an ongoing autoimmune attack on my thyroid, unbeknownst to me.
She was okay with that ongoing treatment plan. I wasn’t.
I set out to find not just a new doctor, but a private health investigator who could help me solve the mysteries behind my declining health, who could help me choose which rocks to look under, and formulate a plan for finding the root cause.
Finding the right doctor can be a challenge. The best option for me was a local ND (naturopath). It was not an easy decision to spend money out-of-pocket for medical care when I was already paying for health insurance. But after hearing time and again from experts and from my growing hypothyroid community that a whole-health approach was crucial, I decided to make this investment in my health.
Today, I can tell you it has been absolutely worth it. It took time to find the right doctor. I had to wait 6 weeks for a new patient appointment. I had to take all kinds of tests. There have been supplements, dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and more…And it’s all been 100% worth it.
P.S. My ND was thrilled to have my health timeline.
STEP 5: Testing, Testing, Testing…
While I was searching for my Dr. Right and then waiting for my initial appointment, I asked my GP if she would run a full panel of thyroid tests. Not just TSH, but also free T3, free T4, TPO antibodies, and TG antibodies.
By this time I had learned that up to 95% of people with hypothyroidism (in the U.S.) have Hashimoto’s, or autoimmune thyroiditis. I figured I was probably one of them, but having never been tested, I still didn’t know.
My GP agreed to run a complete thyroid panel, and when her nurse called to inform me that I had Hashimoto’s, she said that it was what the doctor “expected”. If she expected it, why hadn’t she tested me for it, or educated me about it?
In that moment, something shifted in me and broke. I wanted answers. I wanted my life back. I was DONE letting someone else tell me it was all in my head, and I was DONE accepting this compromised health and quality of life.
It may have been rock bottom, but it was also the beginning of my recovery. At that moment, I took the reins and became the CEO of my health. And it all started with getting an accurate and complete thyroid diagnosis.
Now that I had a clearer picture of what was at play in my body, it was time to dig deeper in search of the root cause.
My ND helped me work within a budget, prioritizing which tests were most important to our investigation. Nearly every bodily substance was tested for hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, parasites, and bacteria, all of which can be associated with Hashimoto’s.
Some of it wasn’t fun, like getting six vials of blood drawn in one sitting, or collecting samples of things we normally flush down the toilet. But the payoff was huge. It gave us a more comprehensive picture of what was going on behind the scenes in my body and revealed a number of hidden issues. All those vials and samples provided us with clues that were key to me getting my life back.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of this article, where I cover the next five steps I took to reclaim my health from Hashimoto’s.