Hashimoto's and Autoimmune
Wow, those are two words I never thought I'd write about, heck, I had no idea what either of those words even were 3 years ago! I also had no idea that hearing those 2 words would change the way I'd look at food forever. I'm going to try my best not to get too technical, but no promises, I know too much! LOL #sorrynotsorry
The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones (namely thyroxine) that coordinate many of your body's functions. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Disease with a blood test (TSH, free T4), ultrasound of my thyroid gland, and physical examination of my thyroid. When my general practitioner looked over my blood work she said I my numbers were in the "normal" range, but thankfully she was aware that GPs read numbers differently than an Endocrinologist would and referred me to her doctor. For example, my TSH was 4.8 (MIU/mL), this is actually within the recommended normal range of 0.50-6.00 (MIU/mL). My first appointment with my Endo went well, he explained that every person is different and can have symptoms all over the map (my symptoms could have been brought on by stress), one person may never feel symptoms at 9.00 (MIU/mL) and another could feel all of them at just 3.00 (MIU/mL). His goal was to get my numbers in a range of 0.50-2.5 (MIU/mL). I was cool with that, ANYTHING that was going to help me get out of my funk.
Relating to disease caused by antibodies or lymphocytes produced against substances naturally present in the body. In layman terms: your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, oops. There are more than 100 types of autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, IBS, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and Celiac's Disease to name a few.
Here is a compiled list (although I see it is missing a couple of diseases, but you get the picture): Autoimmune Disease List
A condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck below your Adam's apple. Inflammation from Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
When I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's my doctor didn't really tell me anything about them. The only explanation I got was that Hashimoto's makes my thyroid enlarged, have nodules, and have bumps all over it (which on an ultrasound could show up as nodules), and that my Hypo was slowing my metabolism which made me feel like a slug and overwhelmed. He immediately suggested biopsies (cancer screenings, and they aren't effective at it all, my mom had 9 biopsies that all came back benign, had her thyroid removed and it was literally full of cancer), and surgery (which I declined *for now*), and I was put on Synthroid immediately. Ugh. This all makes me so sad looking back. Many just accept this explanation and treatment because we are trained to trust our doctors and trust they are telling us everything we need to know. Unfortunately this is not the case, and I just followed doctor's orders for a long time. It took me over a year to start really deep diving into what the root cause of an Autoimmune disease *could be* (especially Hashimoto's) and how to better naturally control my symptoms that were not going away:
weight gain (unable to lose weight)
joint pain and swelling, anxiety
still having "bad"days
slowed heart rate
sensitivity to cold
I researched and researched, I probably read more than 100 articles and papers on Hashimoto's and Hypothyroidism, what they were, how they can be treated and what natural remedies or therapies I could do to help get these under control.
The first thing I started searching for was medication options. Listen, I'd been working pretty damn hard on eating clean and fixing my gut, why not "clean" up my medication? My Synthroid medication was upped for probably the 5th time and I'd had enough, I knew it wasn't working, well something wasn't working.
A little background, Levothyroxine was developed in the 1970's when Big Pharma started entering the scene. They were pushing synthetic drugs made in a lab, and that they were better than natural ones that doctor's had been prescribing for years, and going a step further by discrediting the natural (non-patented) medications on marketing materials. Doctor's believed this and many started prescribing these new "better" medications. One lie is that natural thyroid varies too much from one batch to the next, there isn't enough research or clinical studies, and some doctors don't agree with the philosophy of dosing according to symptoms instead of dosing to achieve "ideal" lab results. <Insert the biggest eye roll of the century.> Unfortunately for patients, some of these new and "improved" medications were not better after all, but the damage had been done and many doctor's still today discredit natural medications (my doctor included). On a happier note, I feel that a tsunami of change is coming, many are seeking out natural medications and therapies to compliment their healthier lifestyles, doctors are going to HAVE to change their way of thinking and get educated on nutrition or lose out to Functional Medicine Practitioners, even though many are out-of-network. If you want to find a doctor that has more of a holistic approach, I highly recommend finding a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree). DO's are MD's (Doctor of Medicine degree), but with more training on the nutritional side, they actually have to attend more schooling than MD's do!
Your thyroid needs certain hormones to function properly, your thyroid is made up of the hormone thyroxine: T1, T2, T3, and T4. Generally, when your thyroid is slow, you have Hypothyroidism and need T4 therapy to help it run efficiently. Levothyroxine is a synthetic T4 medication. I found many articles that suggested a T4 medication may not be enough, and that combining it with a T3 medication could be beneficial for some because their T4 isn't converting to T3 like it needs to. Oh, ok, so what are those medications? Enter "Alternative Medicine." Hmmm, I feel like I've always had an aversion to this term, like that those medicines wouldn't be as good or it would be some voodoo crazy concoction that a witch might brew up. I dunno, but sure, I'll research it. Wait for it...PIG THYROID. Wait, what?! There is an actual medication made of pig thyroid and it's been used since , also called porcine thyroid, natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), and it's been around since 1881! There are only 3 name brands of this medication: Armour, Nature-Throid, and WP Thyroid. WP Thyroid is the only hypo allergenic option, but I can tolerate Nature-Throid and it's actually my personal favorite of the 3. I'm lactose intolerant, and many thyroid medications have dairy in them, I know, weird. Seriously, research all your medications, you should know exactly what's in them and what the fillers are!
Food as medicine
In my research, I found something really interesting that started to pop out at me from almost every article I ready. INFLAMMATORY. Most of the autoimmune disorders have something in common, they cause inflammation! How can I combat this symptom? What could I do to reduce inflammation in my body? Um, maybe start eating more anti inflammatory foods?! HOLY COW, I just had a breakthrough! What are anti inflammatory foods, foods that are low in acidity. Therefore, incorporate more alkaline forming foods and eat less acidic foods. I learned a lot about getting my body to it's right pH balance and alkaline when I did an elimination diet called The Ultimate Reset. It helps you slowly eliminate certain foods and by the 3rd and final week you are eating all Vegan meals and no grains (which by the way made me feel amazing), then you can slowly reintroduce foods so you can pin point which ones are giving you problems (my issues were greek yogurt, meat, and beans). I mean, look at my face, pretty sure I successfully got rid of some inflammation, the right photo was taken about 2 weeks after I finished The Ultimate Reset and my joints feel so much better:
Once you start researching foods you're going to find there are a lot of contradictory or confusing information. For example, one nutritionist says broccoli is great because it reduces inflammation which is great for autoimmune diseases, yet another one says those with thyroid issues should stay away from cruciferous vegetables because they contain goitrogens that can inhibit the body's absorption of iodine (which your thyroid needs to function properly, now you know where the word goiter comes from, see related posts). Eggs are inflammatory, but an excellent source of iodine, which is again awesome for your thyroid. Here's my thought on this. Vegetables are good, fruit is good, incorporating more of them in your diet is beneficiary. Actually, most people don't eat enough of these items or enough nutrient dense foods period, it's better to not restrict those foods if you are willing to eat them in the first place. Kapish? So eat those veggies!
Personally, I just try and eat more plants, it's really that simple.
Fermented foods are another food item I've tried to incorporate into the rotation including Miso, Tempeh (fermented soy and it's DELICIOUS), sauerkraut, and Kombucha. They all have probiotics and are great for your gut health, which I believe is the epicenter of your overall health.
One thing to take note of, unfermented soy products ARE proven to be endocrine disruptors and cause bloat, this includes soy milk, soy oil, soy protein, soy sauce (Coconut Aminos is a great alternative), edamame, and tofu. Those of us with thyroid issues should try to avoid soy as much as possible because it can mimic the effects estrogen which confuses your thyroid gland and soy may decrease the absorption of your thyroid medication (try not to be obsessive about it, a little bit won't hurt you!). You'd be surprised in how many items its in since it's used as an additive (soy lecithin), and soy protein is used in many protein shakes and bars. I wanted to start drinking a total nutrition protein shake, I landed on Shakeology, because it has no soy, no corn (inflammatory), no gluten, and no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners, AND they have a Vegan version for those of us who are dairy free (I mix with Unsweetened Almond Milk).
So, my magic treatment has been a combination of the right foods and the right medication after much trial and error. Every person is different and you need to find what's right for you and your symptoms. My hope is that this may give you some insight to make better informed decisions around your own thyroid or autoimmune treatment plan. If you want to further discuss my personal experiences and thoughts on medications and food plans (such as Vegan, Keto, Carb Cycling, Balanced Nutrition) please contact me, I love to chat about these areas and have done it all.