How I Reversed Hypothyroidism in Two Months with Zero Medication
I don’t really keep any secrets around these parts, and a couple of months ago, I shared that I had received news that I had a mild/moderate hypothyroid, and, that I planned to buck Western medicine and was going to not get on a synthetic thyroid medication. As of today, I am back to normal and no longer have hypothyroidism.
Since I know many of you have hypothyroidism, I thought I should share the steps I took. If nothing else, they may give you some ideas of ways you may be able to reduce your symptoms as well. Reading about other people’s medical stories can be complete yawnsville, so I will not be offended if you just mark this read in your RSS reader and go about your day!
But, for those interested, here is the long story…
When I first got this news, I was relieved, because I had just not been feeling right. I was tired always cold, unmotivated, and generally, just not myself. I thought, “Great, at least I know what’s wrong.” Then, I started talking with people I know that have this problem. When I told them I was not going on the medication, they all sort of balked at me (this was a common theme – you have to go on the medication). Even my brother, who has hypothyroidism, flatly commented in his brotherly sarcastic tone, “Good luck with that.”
I was at an impasse. I could go on this medication and be on it for the rest of my life, or, I could do something now to get things under control naturally, and not go on the medication. I truly thought I could turn the ship around before it started to sink. What was the worst that could happen? I would eventually go on the medication? Well, that was a risk I was willing to take.
It bears noting that I am not a medical doctor, so none of the below should be construed as medical advice. I am just telling you what worked for me as a shared learning experience. I am not sure if what I did is really the result of one change, or the sum of the changes, but it worked for me as a whole, and these are the things I will continue to do.
Just for legacy sake, here are the blood tests. Your thyroid function is measured by the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) marker. There are other factors as well (T3 and T4, among others), but it seems TSH is generally the most looked at marker. While I am now in the normal TSH range, I expect to continue to work it down, and will get another test in a couple of months.
|1) October 18, 2012|
|2) December 10, 2012|
While I have been feeling great lately, and was confident I had made positive strides, I was still a nervous schoolgirl going in for my blood test. I knew I would continue to resist medication (why take it when I feel fantastic?!), the truth is in the numbers, and I really didn’t know what they would say! A drop of 1.59 points in really only about six weeks of focused effort is incredible to me.
Update, December 2013: My TSH has continued to fall over the past year, clocking in at 2.68 in late December, as I continue to do the items that I outline below. This has me super, super excited; it’s proof in the pudding that diet and lifestyle can positively affect metabolic health.
When I met with my doctor to discuss how to treat hypothyroidism, she told me three things:
- Most women over 35 are hypothyroid, though they may not know it (funny as I was very near my 36th birthday at this time)
- It’s a one way street. Once you have it, that’s it. You go on the medication and you don’t go off. (Great, that is appealing.)
- Nothing you can eat will change your thyroid function. (To that, I say bah-loney. You are what you eat. Or rather, “Your thyroid function is a direct result of what you eat.”)
I left the doctor frustrated with the system. I was there for over an hour, she saw me for about five minutes, and we talked about the “givens.” I politely declined the medication, asked for a re-test after Thanksgiving, and went about researching what I was really going to do.
I truly believe that gut health is connected to most illnesses in our society. Ask a more progressive “Wellness Doctor,” and you will likely hear the same thing. While I liked to think I ate a healthy diet, the fact is, our remodel and lack of kitchen left me eating more like a Standard American than is ideal. I may have not been over-indulging, eating meat, or consuming lots of sugar, but, I was eating out twice a day. Not good. So, I set about to rehabilitate my gut to rehabilitate my thyroid. Here are the steps I took:
1. I did the Be Well cleanse to hit the reset button.
Just like you sometimes need to do a hard reset on your computer to solve problems, the same applies to your body. Cleanses are an opportunity to get a “do-over,” and can really have an impact. I have done a few cleanses in my time, but this one was really structured, lasted two weeks, and was completely worth the investment. I felt really awful for the first few days, and then I felt really great after that. So much so that I kept the eating habits I’d developed on the cleanse.
2. This sort of coincided with the cleanse, but I totally gave up coffee.
I was off it for many months last year, but it sort of crept back into my life with stress. This time, it was important, so I have ditched it for good. (I do have decaf on occasion, when I am at “coffee dates.”)
3. I got on a good probiotic.
After the cleanse I wanted to ensure the healthy bacteria in my gut stayed that way. I chose Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra, and think it is a high-quality product. Have one you like? Let me know so I can try it out!
As a side note, in the middle of this grand experiment, I started having pain in a tooth that had previously had a root canal. It made no sense and my dentist couldn’t figure it out, so he just blindly prescribed penicillin to see if that resolved it. You will not be surprised to hear that I didn’t take the penicillin! Antibiotics completely destroy all the bacteria in your gut, which is not exactly what I was going for here. I later realized the tooth was a little loose, was very careful not to chew on that side for a while, and it quickly felt better.
4. I went gluten-free.
If you ask me, this is probably the biggest reason for the dramatic improvement in my TSH levels in such a short period of time. For a way more in-depth look at wheat than you ever could want, read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. It will change the way you look at your morning bagel, lunch sandwich, and evening pizza. The long and short of it is that gliadin, a component of modern wheat, mimics thyroid hormone in the body and leads your immune system to attack its own thyroid tissue. That’s a little counterproductive, huh?
The funny thing is, I read several books on how to “cope” with hypothyroidism, and none of them mentioned gliadin or it’s effect on the body. They all pretty much said “take your medication and avoid broccoli, kale, and spinach.” I learned about this connection from several general health books and sort of put the pieces together for myself. Then, I heard Ben Greenfield say to go gluten free if you have hypothyroidism. Luckily, all of these realizations happened during the Be Well cleanse, which forbids gluten. For what it’s worth, I do not avoid broccoli, kale, or spinach.
Here is a more detailed look at this step, but the bottom line is I got rid of extra toxicity as much as I could. The idea was to eliminate anything that can mimic estrogen in the body (which is a lot of chemicals and they’re in almost everything) and find natural, healthy alternatives for toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and cleaners. Out went the Crest, Zest, and Aussie Mega. In came natural toothpaste, aluminum-free deodorant, natural soap, and chemical-free dryer sheets. These were all easier changes than you might think, and I really like our new stuff. Even 2Chili got on board with this and is using what I put in front of him.
6. I started supplementing (moderately) with iodine via dulse powder.
In addition to supporting a healthy thyroid, iodine is a heavy metal detoxifier, meaning it can draw heavy metals out of your body. From what I’ve read, most people are iodine deficient (which is ironic since we eat so much salt!). To see if I was, I started tracking my iodine consumption, and it was meager at best. So, I just add about 1/4 teaspoon of Bernard Jensen’s Dulse Powder to my smoothie or salad dressing mix for the day, and it’s done. There really is no perceptible taste, and it’s easy to incorporate. I also recently bought some Nascent Iodine to try in lieu of the dulse, but I haven’t started using it yet, so I’ll report back later on that.
This may seem very odd, but, it’s true. Healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, nuts, etc.), help your body perform its daily functions, especially your brain. We live in a fat-phobic world, but when used properly, healthy fats have a deserved place in the healthy diet. I have been eating about 40-45% fat each day for over a month.
The funny thing is I eat fewer calories now because I’m fuller longer, and, though I wasn’t looking to lose weight, I have lost 5 pounds since the middle of November (not quite a month), along 1.5” off my waist. At 27.5”, my waist hasn’t been this small since high school (when I avoided fat like the plague! It was the early ‘90s and we really thought that was best.). I don’t say this lightly, as I have had a 29” waist for about two solid years now. It hasn’t budged, and then, without even trying, it reduced by 1.5”. That is somewhat unbelievable, but, it happened. Dr. Davis would say it’s due to dropping the wheat. I think it is a combination of dropping the wheat and upping the fat.
My morning now starts almost exclusively with a smoothie, and that smoothie always has some fat in it (almond butter, avocado, or coconut oil). Check out this blueberry super smoothie or beet berry smoothie for ideas.
8. I de-stressed.
Our lives are admittedly hectic. We both work a lot (seriously, a lot), and, we are doing a full gut remodel. It can get a person down, and it can get a person seriously in a tizzy over the smallest little thing. I just decided “enough,” and started to let go of the tension. I brought back a daily yoga session – if only just five minutes before bed – to calm the mind and relax the body. You’d be amazed and what some simple stretching and breathing exercises can do for your mental well being.
9. I seriously upped my fruit and veggie intake, usually to 10+ servings per day.
Since we have no kitchen, I have almost been on a raw food diet, but, I don’t intend to keep it that way, it’s more of just how it is right now. My meals have mostly been big’ol salads with all kinds of stuff in them, which is really a wonderful way to go about it. I’m not talking about iceberg and ranch, here. These salads are nutrient dense and have ample calories (usually 600-700 calories per salad).
While I don’t intend to keep the raw aspect, I do intend to keep this increased veggie intake. Don’t think you could do it? Try a green drink a day as a way to get started!
10. Finally, I reduced my exercise to 30-45 minutes per day of aerobic-level intensity (monitored by a heart rate monitor to keep me honest).
This one may seem really counter-intuitive. While good for us, exercise can also be a stressor. I am a serious “all-or-nothing” type A personality, and, in my heyday, felt that one hour of intense exercise per day was a minimum.
That was stupid.
It’s funny how the pieces can all come together for you at the right time, when you look for the info. When I needed it the most, I learned to back off on the exercise, and just enjoy it. Taking the dog for a hike, doing a yoga DVD, a little burst training, or, just doing an easy jog can be just what your body needs to get the stress out and not get stressed in the process. Wax on, wax off, so to speak.
I won’t keep this shortened exercise cycle forever – I have events I want to train for next year – but I am keeping the principles I’ve implemented and will have the majority of the work be lower intensity.
My instinct told me to end this commentary with, “and, that’s it!” I then realized, wow, that was honestly a lot of stuff. I didn’t implement it overnight, and I didn’t insist on perfection right away. But, over the course of about the last six weeks, I have changed a lot of factors that resulted in a very happy lab result. 2Chili has requested I back off a little bit on all this “feel good” stuff because his wife who used to be asleep by 9:00 (8, sometimes!) is consistently up at least until 11:00. It is putting a damper on his “science/history/sports show” TV time.
I wanted to share this with you to give hope, support, and encouragement to any of you who may want to explore other ways of improving your thyroid function. If you read this far, I appreciate it, and, I hope these items can help you as well!