Like many people, my personal health crisis brought me here today. I was a high-flying advertising executive, had a knack for my trade (strategic planning), worked on Fortune 100 brands, covered the Asian region, lived in 6 different countries and was the go-to-person in the industry. I loved it and was addicted to it. Until a crisis struck.
Intensifying anxiety attacks, forgetting events that happened the day before, severe mood swings and sliding into depression landed me with a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease. My TSH, T3, T4 were within range but my TPO antibodies were over 1,000(norm is <30). Based on these, modern medicine only treats TSH, T3 and T4 and has no solution for the high antibodies that were a reflection of the raging inflammation in my body; I was therefore sent home with “we have no cure for you.”
It was the most lonely and helpless time of my life. Looking back at it now, it’s hardly surprising that my immune system is weak; in my tweens I lived through theChernobyl nuclear disaster and ate contaminated food for a week after the explosion. Due to a number of food sensitivities (mom had no idea), I suffered from chronic ear infections and eczema as a child and later severe acne, migraines and hormonal imbalance for early adulthood; all clear signs of chronic inflammation and a suppressed immune system.
As my advertising career took off, I was under chronic stress, worked 10-12-hour weeks and used to joke that “you sleep when you die.” Having lived in polluted Shanghai, China led to the high mercury and lead levels which I also had to battle to combat the recurring chronic case of Candida. Not surprisingly, all this led to an adrenal burnoutthat was only made worse by my intense and competitive athleticism.
In other words, I was an ideal candidate for an autoimmune disease.
Refusing to accept my disease, I went to a nutrition school to become a Certified Nutrition Coach, to really know how food can heal. I also dove into every thyroid book I could buy, sought answers from numerous endocrinologists, alternative healers and naturopaths to filter it all down to what’s critical in managing this complex condition.
Today, I feel better than ever before. Free of all symptoms of hypothyroidism, I have more energy than most 28-year olds, my skin is glowing, I have not had the flu or cold in 5 years, I sleep well and enjoy a wonderful equilibrium in my life.
Thyroid problems in women is what I dedicate my life to. I own a coaching practice Thyroid Diet Coach focused on teaching people with thyroid conditions how to self-heal with dietary and lifestyle changes.
It’s ironic but true: my disease became my destiny.
Like with most things in life: there is no black or white. With new and complex conditions like a compromised autoimmunity, there are only many shades of grey.
I was compelled to write this article as I get daily emails and calls from people stating the things they have done and how frustrated they are with the results.
Let’s get right into them.
1. “I don’t have Hashimoto’s, only hypothyroidism.”
Have you been tested to rule out Hashimoto’s?
Most people have not.
Doctors don’t like to test for the TPO and TGB antibodies as there is no medication to reduce the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland. 90% of people with hypothyroidism have it due to Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition. This means that the immune system gets mutated and starts attacking the thyroid – which causes hypothyroidism.
70% of your immune system lives in your small intestine (duodenum).
This is important to know as in the case of Hashimoto’s, it is the digestive tract that needs your help and not the thyroid alone.
2. “I’m already off gluten, dairy and soy but…”
But, you are still not feeling good, right?
It’s great that so many of us make these life-altering nutritional changes. For many, however, they do not produce desired results and this is when frustration and doubt step in.
If you have Hashimoto’s Thyroidistis and/or any other autoimmune condition, chances are that you have had digestive issues or infections that triggered this condition a long time ago. Integrative doctors say that we walk around with Hashimoto’s for an average of 8 years before getting diagnosed.
During this time, the digestive tract lining gets damaged by the food we do not tolerate well (see more on this below), pathogenic bacteria, yeast overgrowth (aka candida), and parasites. Any of them can be the trigger for an autoimmune condition.
So yes, gluten, dairy and soy are considered big food triggers but for many people there may be more. Read on.
3. “I eat really well.”
This is one of the first sentences that I hear from people who contact me. It’s not surprising. After all, if they did not eat well and have love and appreciation for good food and nutrition, they wouldn’t be searching for diet and thyroid-related solutions.
There are a couple of challenges with this belief: what does “eating well” really mean? Many people would perceive, for example, protein powders, to be healthy food. In my practice I see amazing results every time I switch a person from the miracle product marketing claims to real, unadulterated and whole food.
However, the bigger issue is this: for people with autoimmune conditions it is not so much about what we eat but what our body does with the food we eat.
Take eggs as an example. They are one of the superfoods, in fact they are so rich in nutrients that we can survive eating them and nothing else. However, if our body does not tolerate eggs well they become a toxic substance that will inflame the immune system even further.
Sadly, the list of “good foods” that many people with autoimmune conditions cannot tolerate is long and can include nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, legumes, and grains.
A simple elimination diet would help reveal what food a person is reactive to. For a person with an autoimmune condition, it is of paramount importance to remove food that causes digestive distress.
4. “I’m already a vegetarian.”
I know I’m not going to get in good books with the vegetarians here but if you want to heal yourself, you need to remain open-minded.
Please bear in mind that I’m a big proponent of bio-individuality which honors the distinct nutritional needs of every human being. I’m not saying everybody needs to eat meat. I’m saying: listen to your body if it needs meat.
Sadly (or not), I found many of my ex-vegetarian clients turn a corner with even small amounts of animal proteins in their diet. This is why:
VITAMIN B12 and IRON – you probably know this part already. We get plenty of vitamin B12 and iron from meat. Both Vitamin B12 and iron are key in converting the T4 to T3.
GLUTAMINE – provides cells in the digestive tract with a vital source of energy that is required for regulating their production. Its role in re-building and strengthening the gut lining is critical.
TYROSINE – is also the precursor amino acid for the thyroid gland hormone thyroxin, and a defect in this may result in hypothyroidism.
5. “I’ve stopped eating goitrogenic vegetables.”
This is another highly controversial topic. It is true that food high in goitrogens will inhibit the thyroid gland’s ability to uptake iodine to produce the T4 hormone. This can be highly frustrating as this food includes some of our all-time favorites like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, Brussels’ sprouts, kale, collard greens, etc.
Here is the good news: when cooked, these vegetables lose 70-80% of their goitrogenic properties. Let’s remember that when we have Hashimoto’s, our primary focus should be restoring our digestive tract and detoxifying the body – as they were the original triggers of this condition. Omitting these vegetables completely will not address this concern.
These vegetables are richer in vitamins and minerals than any other of their distant veggie cousins. As it stands, most Americans are undernourished, taking out food like these will further make us rely on supplements – which is not the way we should be living and healing.
Lastly, goitrogenic vegetables are rich in a substance called DIM (diindolylmethane) which is key in liver detoxification as well as elimination of mutated estrogen metabolites. Most pre-menopausal women I work with have some level of estrogen dominance which is barely surprising given the estrogenic cocktail of skincare products, cleaners, packaging and food we live in today. Keeping a healthy balance of estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormone is key not only to the overall hormonal balance but also to the immune system.
6. “I lost my thyroid, is there anything that I can do?”
The short answer is: absolutely YES!
I want to empower you with some understanding why that is so:
a. Even if you lost your thyroid, the meds you are taking depend on your gut and your liver for proper break-down and absorption.
b. If you are only on synthetic T4 (like Synthroid), your body still depends on the health of your liver to convert the inactive T4 hormone to the active T3 hormone utilized by your cells.
c. If you have/had Hashimoto’s Disease, you have an autoimmune condition. Why would removing the thyroid gland stop this immune mutation? This is why 50% of people with Hashi’s develop other, often far worse, autoimmune conditions like MS, fibromyalgia, lupus, RA and so many more (it’s a pandemic now).
In all three points, nutritional changes can make a huge difference. Starting with cleaning up your gut and liver to maximize the thyroid medication utilization to preventing other autoimmune diseases from developing.
It’s true that once you have Hashi’s you have it forever – this includes me. But, you can get to a place of remission, be symptom-free and live a full and awesome life.