I spent several years putting Hashimoto's Thyroiditis into remission. I get lot of questions about what that process entailed so I share my story here. The wellness courses I teach are informed by the research and interventions I have connected with on my autoimmune journey.
My Hashimotos Story
In 2005 after some blood work for infertility, I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis. As my endocrinologist explained that my immune system was malfunctioning and attacking my own body, I asked him what I could do help my thyroid. He told me I was lucky because this was an autoimmune condition that was completely treatable but that there there was nothing I could do except to keep taking my synthroid. Over the years my dose increased from 1.25 to 1.50 to 1.75 mg a day and I cycled through several other practitioners. Each time I got a new doctor I asked again, what I could do to help my thyroid. I got some counsel to increase my protein intake and just to keep taking my synthroid.
In 2014, after weaning my daughter, getting a puppy and working on a start-up business, I started to have a lot of brain fog along with difficulty sleeping. That same year I did a frozen IVF cycle and afterward my body did not rebound. My joints hurt. My stomach hurt no matter what I ate or drank. I was bloated all the time and my energy was non-existent. Some nights it was all I could to do get dinner on the table and lay down on the couch while my family ate. I would get shaky and dizzy. I worried about falling asleep while I was driving. My hair started to thin. My back started to go out with small things like sneezing. I had limited ranged of motion in my neck and shoulders and I was completely drained physically and emotionally.
I went to another doctor, this time a DO. He told me I had acid reflux and that I was pre-diabetic and needed to come in for treatment. He also mentioned that I might have Celiac's Disease. I asked what the treatment is for a 33 year old pre-diabetic and they sent me some high protein recipes. I was as active as I could be and I ate whole foods. When I told my mom that I was pre-diabetic she told me that didn't make very much sense. I didn't think it made sense either but I was so used to trusting experts before trusting myself that I assumed that maybe my body was just a lemon and this was yet another broken part of my physiology.
I was confused, in near constant pain either from my joints or from faulty digestion and I was scared about the steady and rapid decline of my body. One night I sat on the floor in the living room of my house in tears, telling my husband that I wanted to be a fun and active mom. I wanted to play with our daughter and at that point I couldn't even pick her up because my back was so sensitive. I told him I felt like my body was breaking and I was scared because I had no idea how to stop it.
I started keeping meticulous notes and drawing up timelines about when certain symptoms appeared. I had always been a very healthy person and none of these things made sense to me. At that point I just wanted to stop the decline before it got any worse. At the time, I had no idea it could actually get better. A friend recommended a new family practice doctor and I made an appointment and went in with a long list of symptoms and my timeline. I told him that I thought all the ailments were related as there seemed to be a rapid progression in conjunction with a synthroid dose change. I told him I thought those symptoms were were related to my Hashimotos. He looked me in the eye and said "Mrs. Miller, you're a great historian but this has nothing to do with your thyroid." He prescribed me some antacids and testing and told me he thought it might be time to take out my gallbladder. He said I was a female in my mid-thirties and often that's when gallbladders get removed. He also mentioned IBS but told me that IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion so we'd have to rule out everything else before he'd diagnose it. I went in for the first test. Nothing was amiss. I looked at the total amount I would pay for the remaining tests and it just didn't sit right with me. What bothered me the most is that he hadn't heard me. He hadn't listened when I said "I think these things going on in my body are related. I need your to help me connect the dots." Instead he told me I was using an imaginary marker and there were no connections.
I decided at that point to trust my own knowledge of my body and get another opinion before undergoing more tests. The last thing I wanted was to start removing organs without understanding the root cause of my trouble. About that time a friend, who also had Hashimoto's, asked if I ever had digestive problems. I told her that I struggled with digestion every day. She recommended Izbella Wentz book "Root Cause." I read it through over Christmas break and connected with all the symptoms she described. I felt more confident in my conviction that my many health problems were related and I determined to find someone who would help me problem solve instead of slapping a label on me and sending me out the door with a prescription.
After some research I landed in the office of a Thyroidologist. She was from the East Coast, she'd gone to medical school in her 40s and she was no-nonsense. I took the same history in to her and said "I think all of these symptoms are related, can you help me figure out how?" She looked at me and said "Well of course they're related." I got tears in my eyes and breathed the biggest sigh of relief in my life (except for maybe when we found out we were expecting our daughter) and listened as she started drawing a bunch of graphs and illustrations on her whiteboard to help me begin to decode what my body was trying to tell me.
First of all, she said, you're insulin resistant right now and we need to get that under control because a bunch of excess insulin running around your body causes inflammation. Decreasing inflammation is going to help with your other symptoms and it's certainly going to help your metabolism which happens to be closely related to your thyroid. I told her I was willing to make some pretty drastic changes to feel better and get my life back. She confidently sent me home with hope and instructions to eat only green things and meat until my next appointment 4 weeks later.
A switch flipped for me that day. For the first time in my life, I was empowered with knowledge about how to heal a condition. I had watched The Biggest Loser so I knew it was possible to reverse chronic conditions but that visit was the first time I was given tools for how to do it. I dutifully followed my doctor's protocol. It was hard to munch on raw cabbage when I wanted to crunch pita chips but I did it.
Because my doctor believed in the body's ability to heal and because she'd taken the time to educate me I started to do some research on insulin resistance. I found Chris Kresser's website and then I finally landed on the Paleo Mom's site. She was seeking to put an autoimmune condition into remission using her knowledge as a PhD Immunologist. Her method made sense and I could relate to her efforts because she was a mom and trying to tackle health struggles when you're the mom is really hard. The more I read about her reasoning and results the more hopeful I felt.
I went back to the doctor's office having lost weight and gained energy. My blood sugar levels were down and she was pleased with the progress I'd made. I took her the Paleo Approach book that I had ordered and asked her if she knew anything about the diet. She didn't but she was open to supporting me while I tried it. I took the book home and I took my life back. It was hard work and I stayed on that diet for a year and a half (now they encourage you to just do it for one month).
The Paleo AIP Theory is basically that an autoimmune body is a body with overwhelming levels of inflammation and that by lowering all levels of inflammation, the body would be able to regulate itself again and get the immune system back on track.
With all of my other inflammation issues (gut, joint, brain) I decided I was a prime candidate for her approach. And since I was already feeling better with my doctor's dietary protocol (no more shakiness or feeling faint, no ravenous hunger, fewer headaches) and since my doctor's protocol was very similar to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (Paleo AIP) I decided I may as well give it a try.
People told me I was crazy, that what I was trying to do couldn't be done. They were skeptical of the vast amounts of time, energy and money I was using to chase a goal they didn't think I could meet. They thought the diet was too stringent, too expensive. Their love for me was showing up in their fear that I was wasting my time. I surrounded myself with a few key people who could support me and believe in me. This was so important because believing you can heal and change is the first step. Often we need help to take that step and I'm here if you need that help.
Every time I went back to my doctor's office she applauded my progress and within a year she had DECREASED my synthroid dose. She didn't completely understand what I was doing but she kept saying "Well obviously it's working keep it up." I kept eating clean and learning how to take better care of myself. I practiced yoga, I got massages, visited the chiropractor. I saw an environmental medicine doctor, took some supplements, went to bed early. Over the next 6 months she continued to decrease my dose until the day I went in and she told me I no longer needed to take synthroid. She looked at me and said "This is really unusual. Tell me again what it is that you've been doing?" I said "Oh, just completely changing my lifestyle and learning how to care for myself while avoiding nightshades." (I still don't comfortably digest tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant).
When I was first diagnosed with Hashimotos, my autoantibodies registered at 2700. When I left her office the last time they were at 17. She released me from her care because I no longer needed a thyroidologist. My new functional medicine MD would be keeping tabs on my thyroid along with all my regular bloodwork.
I was in remission.
Around that time I was ready to start transitioning to a way of eating that was more sustainable. I was scared to move away from the AIP but it was taking a toll on me mentally, emotionally and financially and I felt like I'd gotten what I needed from it. I knew food made a difference. I knew my habits around eating were crucial to my well-being. I also knew I wanted to approach nourishment with more balance and less fear.
Around that time I happened to get on an email list for Cate Stillman's Ayurveda Summit. To this day, I still don't know how I got on the list but I listened with rapt attention as speaker after speaker described a system of health and wellness that was balanced, sustainable, plant-based and gentle. It felt like an answer to prayer.
I started doing more research and the following year I bought Cate Stillman's book Body Thrive. I began following the habits and I saw balance returning to my life and my body. The lingering digestive problems went away, I gained some weight to plump up my nearly emaciated frame. I went to the eye doctor and my perscription had improved (it's continued to improve over the last 3 years). My hair started growing back thicker and more colorful and my skin got more vibrant. I found a friendly and peaceful relationship with food and with life. I could see from external indicators that my body was coming to a place of balance and health that I hadn't been able to achieve before even in my years on the AIP.
I have more energy now than I've ever had in my life and it comes from knowing how to care for my body. I don't take supplements or sythroid. I do nourish myself with consistent daily habits and quality food. I am living the life I want to live the way I want to live it. There was a time when I didn't think that would be possible. I'm so glad I found out that it is.
It took a lot of time, energy and money to understand what my body needed in order to thrive. I started coaching people because I want to take you to the most effective solutions right away so you don't have to spend years and years and thousands and thousands of dollars guessing or experimenting. I share the tools and strategies that have been the most effective and sustainable for me. When you work with me I'll share everything I've learned about health and healing to help you reach your goals.
The other day I was telling a friend, it's a funny thing, doing something that everyone tells you is impossible. It forever changes your relationship with what is possible. That's true for me and it's true for you too. It's possible for your health to get better. It's possible to age gracefully. Let me show you how to take steps to a better healthier future.