If you’ve read my story, you know that part of how and why this weight loss journey began was due to a big weight gain largely connected to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In my case, it’s hypothyroidism which means my thyroid was shutting down due to damage from an autoimmune reaction. My body was attacking my thyroid.
For several years, starting roughly after the birth of my second child, I was symptomatic. And yet every time the doctor ran a thyroid panel, I was told it was normal. Nothing to worry about, right? Well that’s not what my body was saying. So after a couple of years of feeling worse, having a foggy brain, mood swings, and yes, a BIG weight gain, I finally had enough and decided to see an endocrinologist. With one full thyroid panel, I tested positive for Hashimoto’s. My antibody load was high. The doctor framed it as good news/bad news. Good news: She knew exactly what the issue was and it was treatable. Bad news: Based on the antibody levels, she assessed I had the disease for awhile and there was probably irreversible damage to the thyroid. That meant I’d probably have to be on medication for the rest of my life. I remember asking “Is there anything I can do as far as diet?” Her answer was “1200 calories a day, eat less and move more.” That was it. No discussion about the fact that the medication I would be taking was not actually fixing the root cause, it was simply replacing what my thyroid wasn’t making enough of. And later, I found out it was only replacing one hormone.
My symptoms at that point were a little scary. In fact when I googled Hashimoto’s, one of the scary things was irreversible dementia. And in some cases, quite literally going a little crazy–like permanently. Had I not gotten this diagnosis at that stage, the disease could have continued to wreak havoc on my mind and body. My other symptoms were constantly achy joints, early menopause, fatigue, and hair loss. I am blessed with very thick hair. As a result, the doctor didn’t seem to be too worried about that aspect. So, I got on the medication, and it did help me feel better. But not completely. I was so grateful to have gotten at least some relief, I was convinced this would finally be the answer to taking off the weight and restoring balance to my life.
It wasn’t. In the beginning, I didn’t do much research. I wanted to give it some time and see how the medication worked. My antibody load went down, but I was still symptomatic; I still didn’t feel that much better. Life, stress, work, all distracted me from really focusing my attention on fixing the underlying cause. There are SO many articles written about Hashi’s and so many long torrid stories about what people had to do to halt the autoimmune. It was overwhelming. When I hit the 100 pound mark, it was in that desperation that I finally got serious about finding an answer that would work for me.
It is estimated that approximately 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, but only half are diagnosed. This is largely due to the blood panels doctors perform (known as thyroid fast panels). These panels don’t tell the whole story. And while there is a new “normal” range, my normal can be very different than yours, and just because you’re normal, doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue. What’s more, those standard panels don’t test for the Hashi’s antibodies. In my case, my doctor estimated I had the disease for many years. The sad news is, had it been diagnosed earlier, I may have actually been able to squash it before it did permanent damage.
There is a lot of research coming to the forefront now about autoimmune. So much so, it can make my head spin. What’s more, there is conflicting info on diet. What works for one, may not work for another. So what does a person, who doesn’t want to become a scientist as a second career, do? I focused on diet since I was so overweight and that was the number one symptom I wanted to address. Coming up with my plan of attack took awhile, and for the most part, the best advice seemed to be going Paleo. However, Paleo for me didn’t solve the weight loss completely. I need more structure and I needed to understand what other things were at play around my body’s resistance to losing weight. With this plan, I was able to address the other hormonal issues, like leptin and insulin and adrenal fatigue. I was able to get completely unhooked from the powder (sugar and flour). And I was finally able to see significant weight loss, like extraordinary progress in just a few months. My joint pain went away, my brain fog disappeared completely, and I felt an overall feeling of peace. FINALLY. As of today I’m 70 lbs down and done. And that’s GREAT. But the weight loss has slowed over the last couple of months, and I’m not stopping now.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my doctor to go over blood work. Hashi’s patients typically need to be screened every 6 months to check levels, and to make sure the thyroid medication is still at the effective dose. My Hashi’s antibodies were way down to the point of no apparent autoimmune issue. YAY! But now, phase 2. My gut is telling me Synthroid is NOT the answer for me. And, while other medications may be a bit trickier in getting the dose right, I’m diving in. I want to get all the way to goal, and I want to be symptom free. So, I am changing doctors and heading to an integrative medicine doc who has her MD but also has a LOT of experience with patients like me and gets how important nutrition plays into all things. So, I’m taking my plan to show her what has gotten me to 70 lbs down, and I’m taking my labs. I will do a follow up with you all once I start on new treatment.
So, here’s my call to action for you. If you have any symptoms that lead you to believe something is awry with your thyroid, do not take the answer of NORMAL from your regular doctor. If you have been told you’re peri-menopausal, get thee to an endocrinologist or integrative med doctor who knows their stuff when it comes to hormones. Sometimes, thyroid issues show up as peri-menopausal and some doctors look at your age and pass it off as that. In fact, go one better and see a doctor who acknowledges the connection between diet and hormone issues. Finally, get a FULL screen of ALL hormone levels including thyroid, and including the autoimmune antibodies. Yes, the blood work is more expensive, but your health is way more valuable than allowing a possible autoimmune and/or thyroid issue to develop. If you’re already on the plan, FANTASTIC. This plan is a road to good hormonal and immune system health for sure. But some may need additional support. Trust your gut–literally. And be not afraid to assert for what you need.