This article was originally published on The Invisible Hypothyroidism as a guest post:
January is Thyroid Disease Awareness Month and I would be remiss to let the month go by without telling my story. I want to give hope to everyone struggling with Hashimoto’s Disease.
After reading about my journey, be sure to see my latest Hashimoto’s post: 5 Positive Ways Autoimmune Disease Changed My Life
The Beginning of my Hashimoto’s Symptoms
To understand how Hashimoto’s stole my life and my identity, I need to tell you who I was pre-autoimmune. I was the woman who rolled out of bed at 5:30 each morning ready to kick-butt and take names. I was VP of Marketing at a high profile non-profit and I could juggle more balls than a professional circus clown. I was Baseball Mom chauffeuring two boys to multiple practices and games each week. I volunteered at my local church. My nickname was Wonder Woman. I loved life, had many friends, and traveled the world.
But that all came to a screeching halt three and half years ago. At the ripe old age of 41, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. The pregnancy was fairly stable but after her birth I experienced debilitating fatigue like I had never felt before. Then, at three months postpartum, I became irritable, sad, angry and my anxiety was through the roof.
- Insignificant incidents would set me off. My normally even-keeled temperament had completely vanished.
- Leaving the house to pick up children or to run errands could put me into a full-blown panic attack.
- My hair was falling out in clumps. My face was puffy and my eyes were constantly swollen.
- I was breastfeeding and sticking to a lower calorie diet but I could not lose weight. Instead, I began gaining rapidly. I became heavier postpartum than I was pregnant.
- I couldn’t remember anything. Recalling common words used every day became almost impossible. The term is brain fog but it felt like I had early onset of dementia.
My First Diagnosis
At that point I became scared and went to see the doctor. The diagnosis was postpartum depression and the remedy was an antidepressant and anxiety medication.
I struggled with the diagnosis. I knew my body and I knew something else was wrong. But, like a good patient, I started the medication. I continued to gain weight rapidly, and by this time I had stopped breastfeeding and was on a very low calorie diet. The exhaustion continued. Most days, I would lie on the couch and tending to the minutest things felt like I had just ran a marathon. I still had brain fog. I still had anxiety. I was still in a bad mood all day, every day.
So, back to the doctor I went and I insisted he run a thyroid test. He tested my TSH level 1 which came back at 6.7 but that was normal according to the lab. That number is high, but at the time I was clueless about TSH. Nor was I educated enough to ask for a full thyroid panel including testing for antibodies. I was told the fatigue is probably my new normal after having a child later in life. And the brain fog, along with everything else, was a symptom of my depression.
Fighting for my Sanity and Health
This is when I became my own advocate. I refused to believe I was going to feel this horrible for the rest of my life. My mood, fatigue and anxiety were wreaking havoc in all of my relationships. I was irritable and impatient with my children. I would turn down lunch invitations from friends because I simply did not have the energy to drive anywhere, much less be social. I would not return phone calls to family or friends because either I was too tired or the thought of carrying on a conversation was too overwhelming. My marriage was on the brink of divorce and we were in counseling as a Hail Mary.
I had to find an answer and find a way off the roller coaster I was on. I scoured the Internet listing all of my symptoms from the big ones (fatigue, rapid weight gain, hair loss) to the minor symptoms (intolerance to cold, puffy face). Finally, Hashimoto’s Disease appeared on my screen and it was my Eureka moment.
I fired my doctor and found one who had experience with Hashimoto’s. She ran a full thyroid panel and tested me for the Hashimoto’s antibodies. My levels came back shockingly high. I finally had an accurate diagnosis. She put me on natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), which is T4/T3 combination medication that contains the two main thyroid hormones a body produces. That day, I regained hope that I could find my way out of my living hell.
My Journey to Healing
Taking thyroid hormone was the start of my healing but it was not the end of it. I was determined to learn all I could about Hashimoto’s. I researched Internet articles and read book after book. Two books I highly recommend are Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back by Dr. Izabella Wentz and The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight — and How to Get Your Life Back by Amy Myers M.D. From both, I learned that there is most likely a root cause to autoimmune disease and the protocols to heal.
I cut all gluten and sugar from my diet. I eliminated dairy temporarily, but after determining I was not dairy sensitive, I added it back to my diet. I now follow Keto. I started taking selenium, zinc, probiotics, Vitamin D and Methylated B Complex Vitamins. I started to feel better and the weight was slowly coming off, BUT I knew I wanted to feel EVEN better.
I had my hormone levels tested. My testosterone level came back ZERO. Like zero, zilch, nothing. Women may not need as much testosterone as men but we still need some. Experts attribute hypothyroidism or low thyroid function with lower testosterone levels 2, so it was no surprise I did not have any. That’s when I started bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. I began to feel even better but I continued to feel some fatigue and brain fog. Learn more about about my testosterone therapy here.
During my research, I had read about utilizing Low Dose Naltrexone Therapy for autoimmune disease. The consensus is that it may be a miracle drug for some but does nothing for others. I decided to give it a try and started LDN three months ago. I can gratefully say that I am one of the lucky ones. It was not immediate, but each day I started to feel better than the previous. Now, on most days, I feel like the old me. At my last checkup, my antibodies were almost non-existent and the doctor has had to lower my thyroid hormone dosage.
Step 4 (updated May 2019)
Since writing this blog post, I have added another essential element to my protocol—CBD oil—and here’s why. I am always on the lookout for new supplements to prevent or combat flare-up symptoms. During my research, I came across the benefits of CBD oil and read about its amazing healing and protective powers. I decided to try it out and I am so glad I did! It helps with my anxiety and other symptoms and it also helps me fall asleep, and stay asleep.
You can read all about how CBD oil has helped me and its science-backed benefits here: 5 Science-Based CBD Oil Benefits And Why I Use It Every Day
And I found a brand, Bluhm, that I highly recommend because their products are organic and gluten-free. Plus, they grow their hemp in the USA and lab test all of their products. I can rest assured that I am using top-quality products from a reputable company with extraordinary standards.
My Hashimoto’s journey has traversed over three years. There were days when I felt like there was no hope. However, I refused give up, and by creating my own healing journey, I am in remission. My weight is finally where it was pre-pregnancy. My mind feels sharp as a tack and my even-keeled temperament has returned. My debilitating fatigue is gone. Unfortunately, I do not have the energy levels I had before my autoimmune disease and I will always be on medication, but I am OK with both. I know that I will live with this disease and flare ups for my entire life BUT I can do my part to keep my symptoms in check.
The best advice I can give anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s is to NEVER stop fighting for your health. Become your own advocate. If your doctor won’t listen, find another one. If one thing does not work, try something else. The thing about autoimmune disease, including Hashimoto’s, is that what works for one person may not work for the next. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Educate yourself. Try to determine your root cause and follow the protocols. Keep trying until all the pieces fall into place. For me, there was no magic bullet but a culmination of steps that led to remission.
My Hashimoto’s Healing Protocol
- Take NDT hormone that has both T4 and T3 daily
- Eliminate gluten and sugar
- Follow the Keto Diet but keep low carb vegetable intake high
- Take high quality supplements including selenium, zinc, probiotics, vitamin D and methylated B vitamins
- Optimize hormones
- Take 4.5 mg of LDN daily
- Take CBD Oil 1-2x daily
Best way to explain what you’re going through to friends and family