Updated: Jan 10, 2022
I got some exciting news last week after my doctor’s visit, which is that my thyroid hormone is back to “normal”!
I had a feeling my levels were going to improve based on how much better I had been feeling, but I had no idea just how MUCH it would improve.
Doctors are able to tell whether or not you are producing enough thyroid hormone by testing TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone). When you TSH is high, that means your thyroid function is low (hypothyroid). When you’re TSH is low, that means your thyroid function is too high (hyperthyroid).
The normal range is between .30-4.20.
My TSH went down from 4.52 to 3.0 in a matter of only 6 months. A MASSIVE improvement.
Although I was beside myself excited to see these results, one thing to note is that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease. If your thyroid antibodies are supposed to be between 0 and .6, mine were at 700.
Although I am perpetually questioning what is “known” about autoimmune diseases, as far as I currently know once you have an autoimmune disease you will always have an autoimmune disease. But there are ways to manage autoimmune conditions in a way that you might NEVER have to actually go on medication!
Even though my body sees my thyroid as an enemy and is attacking it, the important thing about this is that I am still producing enough thyroid hormone to function. (Your thyroid, by the way, is pretty freakin’ important. It regulates your metabolism, your heartbeat, your temperature, your brain function, your cholesterol, and your CNS function, to name a few!)
I wanted to write this post as a way to share exactly what worked for me. I have no idea if this will work for YOU. Every case is SO different and of course I cannot guarantee a thing. But I cannot express how much better I have been feeling after making these changes, so hopefully this WILL be helpful for SOMEONE out there!
I also want to mention that although Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a pretty unique condition, inflammation makes it much worse, so the majority of what I did was bring down inflammation in the body. This method can be applied to many different autoimmune disease. So even if you don’t have Hashimoto’s disease, some of these tips MIGHT be helpful to you, too.
I stopped being a vegetarian.
This one honestly kind of broke my heart. I was really passionate about being a vegetarian and strongly felt it was the right thing to do. But the more I looked into this, the more I could not ignore the fact that my diet was likely making my condition worse.
There are a few reasons why the vegetarian lifestyle didn’t work out. Part of why is that animal protein is actually not as bioavailable in human bodies as we might hope. You have to convert plant protein to a usable form, and often lose lots of nutrition in the process. If you have a chronic inflammatory disease, especially one like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your metabolism is just not as good at transforming plant food into usable energy.
Plant based diets are also high in carbohydrates and phytic acid, both of which might contribute to the inflammatory process (phytic acid can block the absorption of minerals and excess carbohydrates can increase your blood glucose and put stress on the metabolism).
Another reason I decided to stop being a vegetarian is that many plants contain lectins, a type of protein that can trigger zonulin production in the body. Zonulin can cause gaps in the cell junction so the intestine walls, which allows “bad bacteria” to enter the gut. This can contribute to inflammation as well!
Lastly, it turns out tyrosine, which is the precursor protein your body needs to to build thyroid hormone, is most abundantly found in animal sources. It definitely exists in plants as well, but in smaller amounts.
Don’t get me wrong, my diet is still extremely plant forward overall, especially because my ability to clear bad cholesterol is probably compromised due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and plant based diets are known to reduce bad cholesterol. But I mix in animal sources now about 3-4 times a week total and that has made a huge difference.
2. I stopped eating gluten
This one is controversial amongst healthcare practitioners but I have to say, I found it to be extremely effective, despite my test for celiac coming back negative.
Speaking to autoimmune diseases in general, there is some evidence that gluten may contribute to the progression of autoimmunity, and the restriction of gluten shows promising results in treatment. That being said, the “why” is widely disputed and not fully understood at this time.
One theory doctors have about why cutting out gluten works for Hashimoto’s diseases is that many wheat products tend to be processed with IODINE. Although you need iodine for your thyroid to be able to function properly, iodine binds to your thyroid, so too much of it can block it’s function. (I also made sure to stop using iodinized salt. If you eat seafood a few times a week, chances are you are getting an adequate amount of iodine).
All I know is that I have had chronic pain for as long as I can remember, and after giving up gluten my pain was gone almost immediately.
3. I stopped eating heavily processed foods!
Since chronic inflammation can cause low stomach acid and a compromised metabolism, giving your body all the help it can get is a good thing. This means eating things that are very easy to digest.
Think about it like this: if an item doesn’t get moldy easily, that means it is designed to be unresponsive to organic processes, like the ones that cause mold to happen. Your digestion works in a similar way! If you eat foods that are largely unaffected by organic processes, your body will not be that good at breaking those foods down. This translates to decreased nutrient absorption and potentially increased toxin buildup, both of which can make inflammation worse.
4. I cut wayyyy back on the sugar
Sugar is inflammatory. It also weakens the gut lining. I’m not talking about fruits and veggies here, I’m talking about sugar added to things like yogurt, in granola, in ice cream, in drinks.
5. I loaded up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the top line of defense against inflammation. They cause inflammatory macrophages to commit suicide, they neutralize inflammatory free radicals, and they can even stop the inflammatory process in its tracks. I incorporated more omega-3 fatty acid rich foods like chia seeds, salmon, mackerel, and tuna into my diet!
6. I got 5-7 servings of fruits of veggies a day
Fruits and veggies are high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants! Although I have always loved fruits and veggies, I used to be pretty lax about my intake. When I started looking into the research more, I took it more seriously! Every day I start with a cup of something red, blue or purple (cherries, rasberries, blueberries or blackberries). At lunch, I made myself a big plate of greens along with whatever else I was eating. And for dinner, I made sure to get another big portion of veggies. Throughout the day I’d have more veggies and/or fruits as a snack. I can feel such a huge difference on the days I don’t take this part seriously. I think it has made all the difference!
7. I became obsessed with fiber
Back to what I was saying about autoimmunity, especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, potentially causing a not-so-great metabolism. When it comes to autoimmunity, we can use all the help we can get! This meant getting at least 30-35 grams DAILY. I think this is the part most people really miss.
When it comes to fiber, they think to themselves “oh I’m good, I eat veggies.” NOPE. You’d need about 9 salads a day to get enough fiber from vegetables alone.
One of the best ways to get there is by adding things like chia seeds, flax seeds, lentils, and beans into the picture. Some people with autoimmunity don’t tolerate those well, unfortunately. If that is the case, it might be helpful to take a fiber supplement.
Another piece to this is to help your body eliminate toxins. Toxins can trigger the inflammatory response (which we don’t want) so again, all the help we can get is the way to go.
8. I ate 3 brazil nuts every other day
I definitely was not getting enough selenium in my diet. I pretended my brazil nuts were pills and took them consistently for results! Selenium is essential for thyroid function.
9. I got bloodwork done
This is a critical piece! You never know what vitamin deficiencies are lurking and getting insight on this is key. It turns out I was low in vitamin D and B12, both critical nutrients for fighting inflammation.
That’s seriously all it took! Again, I cannot promise this will work for anyone else. But for me, these simple implementations were life changing. I felt like a completely different person, and the lab results backed up what I already knew I was feeling!