This is how I healed my symptoms from Hashimoto's Autoimmune Thyroid.It's been over 20 years since I first experienced thyroid symptoms and I'm happy to say I've learned so much in this health journey about nutrition, health and thyroid disease and I made great progress in my own personal growth. However, the journey was not linear; there were a ton of ups and downs and moments of frustration. I share the successes I experienced, but also the lessons learned that occurred along the way to healing.
So This Is Thyroid Disease
At 17 my life came to a halt with symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I fluctuated often between hyper and hypothyroid symptoms with periods of insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and weight loss to months later sleeping 15 hours a day, gaining weight, losing hair and feeling extremely tired all the time.
As a young adult this disease had a negative impact on my self esteem, education, career and friendships. I eventually had to drop out of college and took easy jobs that I just barely managed to get to each day. I experienced severe stomach pains, bloating, fatigue and struggled with anxiety and depression. I became addicted to sugar and unhealthy carbs for “energy” to get through the day. This lasted for 6 years, going to doctors without getting any answers for my symptoms.
After 7 trips to my doctor for worsening symptoms (didn't have a bowel movement for 2 weeks), I finally received an antibody test that showed Hashimoto’s. I was relieved at this point to have an answer and thought medication would improve my symptoms. However, while trying to optimize medication dosages, I still experienced hyper and hypothyroid symptoms. There was some mild improvement, but I slowly began to feel worse over the next 5 years.
I Can Figure This OutBeing a type 'A' perfectionist personality, I decided I needed to figure this out for myself. I was getting no help from conventional medicine doctors and my list of over 40 symptoms was only growing.
I worked with 8 different Endocrinologists over the years, looking for one that would listen to me and treat my symptoms, not just the lab results. During this process I became my own health advocate. I tracked my symptoms, mood, food and thyroid levels/dosages and began to uncover what worked for my body through this data. I gained knowledge in reading & interpreting lab results and connecting my thyroid levels, symptoms and mood with the food I was eating.
With several years of data, certain patterns emerged that showed me nutrition and consistent action towards a healthier lifestyle were key to my improved health – something doctors had never mentioned during all my years of thyroid treatment!
Learning To Cook
I began a holistic approach to healing with functional medicine by doing an elimination diet that removed gluten and dairy. Prior to this I had no cooking experience. It was a huge barrier for me, but I learned to make simple, easy meals that were gluten and dairy free. This was very different from the usual fast food or frozen meals.
Most of the cookbooks I found were complicated or used a lot of ingredients and I was still really fatigued, so I learned to cook in a simple, practical way that would be easy enough for me to manage. Within a few months, my stomach pains went away, inflammation was reduced, I had more energy and less brain fog. I was able to exercise again and lost 25 pounds on a whole foods, gluten free diet. I experienced the power of nutrition and functional healing. I’ve maintained that weight loss and now cook the majority of my meals at home.
Along Came SIBO
For several years I tracked my food intolerances and experimented with diet plans including Paleo, AIP, Low FODMAP and SIBO diet. I learned to be consistent with my exercise, practiced mindfulness activities, reduced stress with yoga and worked on building my self-esteem through mind/body exercises & cognitive behavioral therapy.
I requested further testing from a Naturopathic Doctor for gut issues and bloating, which revealed a severe case of SIBO (bad bacteria overgrowth covering all parts of my small intestine) and Candida overgrowth. Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can occur due to low stomach acid or slowed digestion caused by Hashimoto's.
I made all of my food at home on a specific diet plan as I couldn't tolerate many foods at this point and committed to an intense herbal regimen that helped successfully eradicate the bacteria and yeast overgrowth after a year. However, the restricted diet and herbal supplements depleted my good gut bacteria and nutrient levels as shown on further tests I did with the Naturopath. I took on a high toxin load from the toxins released from the bad bacteria and experienced a year of anxiety, chronic panic attacks, body pains and basically felt like the worst hangover every day for a year.
This left me with adrenal depletion, multiple chemical sensitivities and panic disorder. Eliminating the SIBO and candida overgrowth was no easy task, but I did see improvement in my thyroid antibody levels and my Free T3 and Free T4 levels were vastly improved. So much so, that the thyroid medication I was on made me hyperthyroid, which intensified anxiety and panic attacks and it took several months to decrease my thyroid medication and return those levels to normal.
Unexpected Side Effects
I had to deal with the trauma caused by chronic long term panic attacks and began working with a clinical psychologist for panic disorder and PTSD. I had to relearn how to drive again without panic attacks and fear, exercise without my body freaking out from a rapid heart rate and adding foods back into my diet without fear of SIBO and extreme bloating coming back.
These were really unexpected and difficult side effects that occurred in my situation due to adrenal fatigue, good gut bacteria depletion, nutrient deficiencies and toxin overload that occurred from the SIBO treatments. This is where I really began practicing mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy and neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to adapt and grow through new neural pathways.
Learning To Thrive
While none of this journey has been easy, there have been major successes:
- Eliminated medications for acid reflux (GERD), mild asthma (steroid and inhaler)
- Eliminated T3 thyroid medication (was on it for 12 years)
- Reduced T4 thyroid medication
- Reduced thyroid antibodies from over 1000 at starting to 63 (normal is less than 35)
- Eliminated SIBO and candida overgrowth and can tolerate many more foods now without bloating or daily stomach pains
- Lost 25 pounds and maintain normal weight
- Learned how to cook healthy meals and continue to cook majority of my meals at home
- Eliminated brain fog, depression, fatigue and body pains/inflammation
- Improved dry skin, receding gums, constipation and hair loss
I continue to eat a healthy homemade gluten/dairy free diet and am rebuilding my gut bacteria and nutrient deficiencies with a nutrient dense diet and supplements. I have no doubt that the few remaining symptoms I took on during SIBO treatments will be resolved once my gut bacteria has been restored. Healing takes time and this journey is as much about nutrition, exercise and lifestyle as it is mindset.
I've grown a healing mindset that fosters positivity, gratitude, resiliency and courage. I'm braver, kinder, and more compassionate to myself than I was at the beginning of all of my symptoms as a young adult. I've learned that reuniting the mind and body are key to completely healing as they need to work together rather than fight against each other.
I don't believe our bodies are betraying us, they are speaking through symptoms and waiting for us to listen and take actionable steps forward with courage and grace.
Share a success from your own healing journey in the comments!
Kristina Cegla, INHC
Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach