At the age of 13, I suddenly started not being able to make it through the day without taking 2 naps, 3 warm baths, and wearing a sweatshirt and wool socks to keep warm. After being looked at for everything from Mono to depression, I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I was basically told: “You’ll have to take one pill a day for the rest of your life and you’ll be fine!” , and was sent on my way.
But like most people with hypothyroidism,
my symptoms never went away!
Even though I was taking the synthetic thyroid med Synthroid and my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was in the “normal” range, I was constantly freezing, shedding like a husky pup on a hot summers day, my skin was horribly dry and itchy, I was majorly constipated and kept gaining weight. I also had pretty severe IBS which I was told was unrelated.
Over time, things just continued to get worse. And eventually, I was living with daily all-over hives, severe chemical allergies to anything scented, major food intolerances, digestive issues, neurological symptoms (feelings of fire on my skin and numbness) and a whole laundry list of other things. I later learned that I wasn’t alone! That there are thousands of hypothyroidism sufferers seriously struggling daily with swarms of seemingly random symptoms that just won’t go away.
But I want you to know this doesn’t have to be your story!
My hope is by reading this information, you’ll be able to avoid it ever getting that far.
This information was game-changing for me and key to ditching my symptoms. Sadly though, this information isn’t mainstream, so your not likely to hear about it from your doctor.
The crazy thing is, there are studies out there on all of this! The only issue, it takes an average of 17 years before findings make their way to your doctor’s office.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 17 years to waste!
So here it is!
1. You likely actually have an Autoimmune Disease.
Over 90%of people with hypothyroidism in Canada, the US, and Europe actually have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease, according to Dr. Izabella Wentz, author of the Hashimoto’s Protocol. It’s when your body begins to attack/destroy your thyroid gland. Unknown to many physicians and patients, you can actually test positive for Hashimoto’s years before your TSH test ever become abnormal. Even before you develop symptoms. Like all chronic health issues, thyroid disease occurs on a spectrum. You don’t wake up one morning with thyroid disease. It’s something that generally gets worse over time. You progress from having no symptoms, to having mild symptoms, to feeling like absolute crap. Often, you feel symptoms long before your TSH appears in the abnormal range. By the time you experience symptoms, you’ve been on the spectrum for quite some time and you likely already have thyroid damage. The damage to your thyroid is the reason your TSH hormone production is affected which in turn, results in an abnormal TSH test.
2. Having Symptoms is NOT normal.
Once I began Synthroid medications, my TSH levels would continually come back normal, despite the fact that I continued to have 90% of my symptoms. At that point, I was told “Constipation is your normal” and “the fact that you’re cold all the time has nothing to do with your thyroid because your levels are normal”. And lots of other crap like that. If this is you, you need to know that that’s just not true. Having symptoms is NEVER normal. Symptoms are your bodies way of talking to you and letting you know something’s not right. Pay attention! This is key to healing. If you’re on meds, your levels are “normal” and you’re still experiencing symptoms, your body is still struggling and needs you to listen. After 20 years of living with hypothyroidism, I can finally say I no longer suffer from hypothyroid symptoms and you don’t have to either. More on that in a minute.
3. Get more than just your TSH tested.
Managing hypothyroid symptoms by TSH alone is an outdated practice and can leave you suffering needlessly. Your thyroid produces a variety of hormones all of which play an important role in thyroid function. Most doctors test TSH alone and treat with T4 meds (i.e Levoxythorine) alone. Many doctors assume that patients will naturally convert T4 to T3 hormones but that’s not always true. For many, supplementing with T3 hormones is crucial. To get an accurate picture of what’s actually happening with your thyroid you want your physician to look at your TSH, Free T3, Free T4, reverse T3, TPO, and TG antibodies when assessing your thyroid.
4. Normal is not always Optimal.
Normal is so overrated! I don’t know about you, but I’m going for optimal health. Did you know the “normal” TSH range is based on the average TSH levels of a sample of our “healthy” population? Well, our general population is sick and getting sicker, with so many people living with symptoms, on the spectrum of disease, just not yet sufficiently damaged or depleted enough to be diagnosed. Also, there have been numerous studies conducted that have concluded the normal range to be large at 0.4 and 4.9 milliunits per liter (mU/L), and recommend it be decreased to 0.45 to 4.12 mU/L. In all of this, the most important thing to note is how you feel. While for some being on either extreme of “normal” can feel fine, for others it can leave them feeling like crap. I personally find myself to be less symptomatic on the lower end of the TSH spectrum. Very close to what one might consider being on the “hyperthyroid” spectrum. This is why it’s so important to find a doctor that will work with you to find treatment levels that make you feel your best! According to a survey conducted on thousands of her clients, Dr.Izabella Wentz reported that most people report feeling optimal at a TSH level that is less than 2 mU/L. See below for optimal range values for thyroid hormone values.
Here’s the Optimal Reference Range for Thyroid Tests
- TSH: 0.5-2 ulU/mL (up to 2.5 ulU/mL for the elderly)
- FREE T3: 5-7 pmol/mL
- FREE T4: 15-23 pmol/mL
- Reverse T3: 11-18 ng/dL
- TPO antibodies: <2 IU/mL
- TG antibodies: <2 IU/mL
5. How you feel is what matters most.
No one knows better than you do when something is off. If you’re not feeling well, never settle for an all is “normal” diagnosis. If you’re optimal and still not feeling right, it may not be your thyroid. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, there are other bodily functions that also don’t work as they should. Vitamin and nutrient absorption being one of them. A year ago, I began having major brain fog, body pain, itchy skin and my was hair falling out in chunks. My first thought was that my TSH must be off!. But then realized I wasn’t constipated or cold which are my dead-giveaway symptoms. Then I remembered that since the New Year, I’d cut way down on animal products, especially meat. I was trying to boost my health by eating mostly plant food. Well, it turns out that for me, and many others with thyroid issues, iron deficiency can be a major issue. I started taking iron supplements and eating more iron-rich foods and in just a few days, I saw huge improvements. If you have thyroid issues, it’s highly recommended to get your Vitamin D, Ferritin (iron store levels), B12 and B1 tested regularly as this may cause issues.
6. Pills will likely not make ALL your Hypothyroid symptoms go away.
So it turns out Levothyroxine is not the magic pill my Doctor said it would be all those years ago. If you’re still struggling with symptoms despite all your levels being “normal and optimal” you’re not alone. It was my experience too, and that of thousands suffering from hypothyroidism. I continued to struggle from body temperature control issues, hair loss, dry skin, constipation, seasonal affective disorder, IBS,….for 14 years! The symptoms stay because there’s more happening than just a thyroid that’s not producing enough T4. There’s an autoimmune process taking place that if not addressed, just gets worse over time. It wasn’t until I started working on my immune system that my symptoms finally went away.
7. Having hives is common for people with Hypothyroidism.
I was suffering from hives and was told “You have idiopathic chronic urticaria.” which is a fancy way of saying “You have hives and we have no clue why!”. You can imagine how frustrating it is to hear this! And when I suggested to the Immunologist/Allergist that it might be food related, I was told flat out that it was not, no further investigations required. This turned out to be 100% wrong, in case your wondering. But more on that later. What I later discovered is that there’s a high correlation between people who have hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s and hives. It was nice to learn I wasn’t alone. Like Hashimoto’s, hives are the result of an underlying autoimmune process. Did you also know that once you have an autoimmune disease you are at a much higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases? Anything from Chron’s to MS and everything in between. That’s because behind autoimmune disease is an inflammatory process fueling disease.
8) Your Gut & Environment are Key to Healing.
According to Dr.Alesio Fesano, Chair of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of Gluten Freedom, there are 3 prerequisites to developing autoimmune disease: 1) Genetic Predisposition 2) Environmental triggers and, 3) Mucus lining permeability, better known as Leaky Gut. Though we can’t change our genes, we can eliminate/avoid environmental triggers and repair the gut, by essentially removing crucial Autoimmunity factors. Sadly, modern medicine has been under-appreciating the importance of a healthy gut environment and the impact that this has had has been devastating! When you’re born, at least naturally, you inherit your gut bacteria (microbiome) from your mother when passing through the birth canal, then also through breastfeeding and your environment. Your body is colonized with these little bacteria (up to 5 lbs of them), which play a key role in keeping you healthy. Those millions of bacteria in the gut work with your body to help you digest foods, absorb nutrients and control your immune system among other things. For many reasons, a decline in natural births & breastfeeding, antibiotics in medicines and in meats, pesticides, stress, poor diet, etc, it is very common for people to have imbalanced gut bacteria today. This alone, overtime can wreak havoc on your health, leading to poor digestion, nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, immune issues, inflammation, and disease. This is why taking care of your gut is crucial to ditching your symptoms.
As for environmental triggers, they are things in your environment that trigger the inflammatory process and disease. They are things that can be identified/addressed that have the potential to completely turn your health around and are key to eliminating hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s’ symptoms.
Common Environment Triggers:
- Hidden allergens (i.e. food intolerances/allergies)
- Viral or Bacterial Infections (i.e EBV, H.pylori, Candida,…)
- Environmental toxins (i.e. chemicals, molds, heavy metals…)
- Stress (all of the varieties)
- Inflammatory diet (i.e. today’s modern diet)
9) Food & Lifestyle Changes Everything
Food, lifestyle and your environment are factors you have control over. Luckily they are what primarily determine your health and are actually capable of turning genes on and off. 90% of your health is determined by this, while only 10% is determined by genes. It’s with food, lifestyle and environmental changes that you can heal your leaky gut, eliminate/avoid triggers, create a healing environment and start getting your health back. It’s what I did in 2012 to get rid of my symptoms, and it’s what I continue to do to this day. Because the root of all disease begins in the gut, we want to start there! We can do that by getting good probiotics and prebiotics in our diet, identifying any food sensitivities and eliminating those foods, eating an anti-inflammatory diet and taking the right supplements to address any deficiencies. Another key to healing is eliminating needless chemicals from your diet, home, and life. The EWG.org is a great reference to help you get started! Identifying any underlying viruses or bacteria that you may have is also important. Many people suffering from autoimmune disease have multiple underlying infections that once treated, help to eliminate symptoms. And lastly, working on stress management and mindset is key! Stress is stress! Your chemical/physiological reaction to stress is no different whether you’re in an actual life-threatening situation (i.e being chased by a bear) or if you’re rushing like mad to get yourself and kids out the door. Adopting relaxation practices and making changes in my life to minimize stress has been key in my healing journey.
10. Hypothyroid Symptoms today does not NEED to mean Symptoms for Life
My hope is that this information gives you hope and inspires you to take action. That you know that you CAN feel good again and get back to living your life. And that only you can do this for you! By taking the steps discussed above, thyroid disease can be stopped in its tracks, symptoms can disappear, you can go into complete remission and in some cases, especially when caught early, hypothyroidism can be reversed. I know this likely goes against what your conventional doctor has told you but there’s a huge movement of practitioner’s, researchers and patients that are proving this theory to be outdated. Dr.Izabella Wentz, Dr. Alesio Fesano, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, and Dr.Sarah Ballantyne to name just a few. And then there’s me and my story. I can now proudly say that I finally poop daily and no longer live under a blanket. Life is good!
If this post has helped you in any way, my hope is that you share it with others, so the message gets out there. I don’t want anyone with hypothyroidism to struggle alone, feeling hopeless about their symptoms and their health. Getting this information out there is truly the first step!
And if you liked this post, you’ll love my freebie “How to Ditch your Thyroid Symptoms” cheat sheet that I created to help you on your path to healing! Grab your copy HERE.
Happy Healing 🙂