My Journey So Far ...
My journey to restoring my thyroid health started in 2010 when I suffered a myriad of symptoms that built up over a year following the birth of my second child - extreme exhaustion, menstrual irregularities, hair thinning, loss of the outer part of my eyebrows, cold intolerance, insomnia, digestive disturbances (IBS), rosacea and eczema in my eyebrows, to name a few! I’d developed Hypothyroidism as a result of Post-Partum Thyroiditis (PPT).
Whilst really common after birth, PPT usually rights itself after 2 months, but mine unfortunately didn’t and was triggered from the trauma and stress my body experienced during my lovely 26-hour labour and emergency C-section birth. None of this was ever explained to me by my doctor and at the time, I didn’t know anything about it either!
About 6 months after she was born, I came down with pneumonia (severe chest infection) and was prescribed strong anti-inflammatory pain killers, known as NSAIDs, and antibiotics.
Unfortunately, whilst these were absolutely necessary for me to recover, both are proven to not only kill the bad bacteria causing the infection, but also a hefty chunk of the beneficial good bacteria that live in our digestive tract (aka the gut).
Up to 80% of our immune system (our body's defence system) is located in our gut, so overuse, high or repetitive doses of NSAIDs medications can put a severe dint in its ability to fight not only the infection, but also rebuild itself afterwards. They're also known triggers for it becoming 'trigger happy' i.e. overactive and confused, and thus unable to distinguish between friend (our own body's tissues and organs) or foe (a foreign invader it’s programmed to eliminate), and this is what leads to the development of autoimmune diseases.
As the year progressed, I kept getting more symptoms and feeling progressively worse – I continuously felt as if I’d just had my new born baby but this was now months and months after her birth! My periods were now hit and miss and changing duration and that was probably the first real wake-up call that something was really wrong and I couldn’t keep struggling on. Do you know there are over 300 symptoms related to Hypothyroidism!
The final straw that got me to the doctors, was when I found I couldn’t stay awake past 3pm in the afternoons. I was frequently falling asleep with 2 young children (aged 3 and 1 at the time) playing around me – don’t worry, I did make sure both were safe before I zonked out! But it needed to stop ASAP and I needed to know what was wrong with me and what was causing it.
After loads of tests, I was finally diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and like so many of us, put on Levothyroxine replacement thyroid hormone and told that I would be on it for life. But the doctor couldn’t tell me what had caused it, nor offered any other solutions other than the Levo pill.
Within a couple of weeks on Levo, I did feel much better in comparison to how bad I’d been feeling. No insomnia, no IBS or bloating. I was able to make it through the day and put the kids to bed before crashing around 8pm, and eventually my periods returned to normal too.
But Not All My Symptoms Went Away,
Some Got Worse
My hair still kept thinning at an alarming rate blocking the shower drain and refusing to grow past my shoulders. The outside of my eyebrows also showed no signs of returning. Some symptoms got way worse - the cold intolerance became unbearable, no matter how many layers I wore in winter and any breeze in summer felt like an arctic blast! And some were new - OMG the weight gain battle. It just kept increasing no matter how much I exercised or what I did or didn't eat. It's way more noticeable on my petite 5' 1" frame.
By now, I was desperately researching and falling down countless rabbit holes in search of 'the one solution' or 'a quick fix' so I didn't have to take a pill for the rest of my life. But I finally came to the realisation, that there isn't a single solution or a quick fix - it has to be a whole-body approach focused on proper nutrition, lifestyle modifications and stress management. After all, these are what can contribute to developing Hypothyroidism in the first place, and are certainly the path out of it.
For me, there were a few key contributors to developing Hypothyroidism. After my mum died of breast cancer aged just 45, I read how the growth hormones found in cow's milk can be a contributing factor to the rapid growth of cancer cells in the human body. So I cut all out all dairy products substituting with soya alternatives instead. Consuming soya for over 10 years wasn't that great either. Its isoflavones compounds compete for the same enzymes that make thyroid hormone, especially if there is an iodine deficiency, reducing the levels of thyroid hormone in the body. So I could have unwittingly contributed to the development of my hypothyroidism and as pregnancy puts a huge extra demand on the thyroid, this may have accelerated any slight hypothyroidism already there into full blown Hypothyroidism.
I paid privately for more comprehensive thyroid testing (known as a Full Thyroid Panel) than what's available on the NHS. This panel also looks at the active form of thyroid hormone (T3) that actually gets into the cells, the inactive hormone (T4) floating around in the bloodstream, the hormone from the brain that tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce (TSH), as well as thyroid antibody levels (TPO and TGAb). I had high antibody levels and thus had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – the autoimmune underactive thyroid disease.
The single biggest driver for Hashimoto’s is gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt grains and products. Gluten looks structurally very similar to thyroid cells, so when it gets into the bloodstream, the immune system becomes confused and has troubling distinguishing between the two (a process called Molecular Mimicry) and mistakenly sees thyroid cells as foreign invaders (like a virus or bacteria) and attacks and destroys them.
Less thyroid cells = less production of thyroid hormone = Hypothyroid symptoms.
Like so many of us, I was eating a lot of gluten containing products - typically cereal or toast for breakfast, sandwiches/wraps for lunch, pasta for tea. All contributing to the development of and fuelling my Hashimoto's.
After understanding the connection, I went gluten free thereby helping to remove the fuel for the fire. I also started to include foods and supplements in my diet that supported the production of thyroid hormone and increased the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3 in my body to get more into my cells. I included more antioxidant fruit and vegetables to bolster and support the immune system and excluded inflammatory processed foods and ingredients – those complicated long-named additives, flavours and preservatives that are toxic to the thyroid. And I prioritised quality restorative sleep, exercise and stress reduction techniques into my daily schedule.
As a result, I put my Hashimoto’s into remission in 2016 i.e. my antibodies are now at the bottom of the ‘normal’ lab range and I'm able to keep them there.
It's not just a problem with the supply of T4 thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland that causes Hashimoto's and Hypothyroidism. It's critical to look at the underlying root causes and triggers of your own Hypothyroidism / Hashimoto's rather than just managing symptoms with Levo. This 'pill for every ill' conventional medical approach, can lead to the development of other health problems and symptoms down the line and once you have an autoimmune disease, you're extremely likely to develop another such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac, and ME.
Seeing how well my body responded and the transformation in my overall health and symptoms through my natural whole body (holistic) approach, ignited and fuelled my passion to become a qualified Holistic Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist. And I'm dedicated to helping others suffering with thyroid conditions to achieve the same transformational results through my Thyroid TLC Transformation Plan.
I still take a small dose of Levothyroxine to keep my thyroid hormone levels normal, but have adjusted the dose downwards (under doctor supervision) as my holistic support approach continues to improve my overall health. The next stage on my healing journey is to move from Levo to Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) replacement hormone.
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