I decided to share my thyroid story because I know there are so many other people going through what I go through. It is very confusing and the whole process can be really discouraging. I continue to work on myself and seek professional help to better understand and treat my thyroid condition. Here is my journey, so far:
About 7 years ago, I went for a general check up at the doctor expecting to leave the office with my usual “Everything looks great! Keep doing what you’re doing”. Instead, with a puzzled look on her face,the doctor looked at my bloodwork and asked me a bunch of general questions like, “Do you feel like you’re always tired?” and “Do you have trouble losing weight?” I said, “Well, I wake up at 5am to work out, work 11 hour days on my feet without breaks, and have a social life. So yeah, I’m tired! Wouldn’t any human be?” And, “Doesn’t everyone have trouble losing weight?” I never felt sick or like I was operating at a lower speed than I should have been. I was always active and high energy. So as you can imagine, when the doctor said, “You’re blood work is a bit off. You have an autoimmune disease called Hypothyroidism,” I was surprised and extremely upset.
The doctor told me I would have to take a prescription medication first thing every morning and come back for blood work again in 6 weeks. I asked what my other options were and she said, “You just have to take the pill. Your thyroid is dying. Trust me, you will feel much better on the medication.” But I didn’t even feel sick! I wasn’t understanding. How could something in my young 23-year-old body be dying? I didn’t want to be on a prescription medication. I tried again, asking, “How did I get this? How do I get rid of it?”. She said, “We don’t really know how people get it. There are many factors that can contribute. But, don’t worry, over 30% off women have this. It’s very common.” I thought in my head, “WTF lady? Do you really think it makes me feel better that millions of people have my problem too? NO! That makes me feel worse… like I’m part of an epidemic sweeping the nation!” I wasn’t satisfied with her telling me to just take a pill every morning for the rest of my life. I was distraught. I went home crying and told my boyfriend (now husband) that I had a disease and I had to be on medication for the rest of my life. He didn’t understand. He said, “You’re one of the healthiest people I know. I’m sure you’re fine.” We did some research together on “Doctor Google” and only ended up finding more information about how common this problem was, still with no solutions. I spoke to my mom and she said “I have Hypothyroidism… but I didn’t get it until much later in life. I think you’re too young to have this.”
I went to a few other doctors hoping for different answers. When I asked if I could eat differently, take supplements, or if there were any natural options, I got random, sometimes conflicting advice. Most doctors just told me I needed to take my daily pill. Some did tell me that gluten could be inflammatory to people with thyroid conditions so I cut that out immediately because I figured that couldn’t hurt. Others told me not to eat too many cruciforous vegetables while some told me that was a myth. Some told me there was a natural version of my medication that came from a pigs thyroid but others told me the that it was hard to regulate and the synthetic version was better. I felt like I was stuck just taking my pill and trying not to think about it. But it’s hard to ignore something when it’s the very first thing you do when you wake up every morning. I realized that I would have to work out harder… not to lose weight, but just to stay normal. I also started doing more research on how I could eat differently. I had always tried to eat “healthy” but I dug deeper and started slowly moving toward a plant-based diet.
The more people I told about my problem, the more I heard things like, “Oh don’t worry, I have that too,” or “You don’t look like you have Hoshimotos. People with that are usually overweight.” It was starting to get to my head. When people tell you about the symptoms you are supposed to have, you start really feeling them. I told myself I was supposed to be fat and tired and that my hair was going to fall out. I tried to ignore my conscience and just take my medication as directed. But I wasn’t satisfied. I started researching doctors that would look at the big picture and help me figure out a solution. I was already paying so much out of pocket for insurance and couldn’t afford to spend another $500 to meet with a naturepath or functional medicine doctor who would look at what was really going on with my body. I began to get even more frustrated. Why would insurance cover a doctor that does the bare minimum and just prescribes you a pill, but not cover a doctor who spends time getting to know every aspect of your body and actually tries to come up with feasible solutions? It was, and still is, confusing to me. It seems the big pharmaceutical companies are more protected than individual people. They don’t want you to know how to treat yourself without their medication because then they wouldn’t make the big bucks. I could vent about that topic for hours but let’s get back to the thyroid thing…
After much research I found that thyroid issues are most likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors. I’m pretty sure I was prone to hypothyroidism because my mom has it. However, I believe I got it much earlier because of what I grew up putting in and on my body. I thought I was being healthy at the time, but I’m convinced all the processed “diet” foods (I ate a lot of 100 Calorie packs and fat-free crackers), hormones in the meat and dairy I consumed, Diet Coke (because I thought that was healthy too), and chemicals in cosmetics and skincare probably triggered my thyrioid problems to show up earlier than they should have. People are developing thyroid issues younger than ever and I believe figuring out how to prevent this problem is much more beneficial than waiting to get diagnosed then prescribing a medication.
According to my Endocrinologist (thyroid doctor), you can’t actually reverse this conditon. My thyroid will continue to slow down until it dies. She believes my diet and lifestyle are helping to slow down the progression of my disease. However, my dose keeps gradually increasing according to my blood work. I think she is a good doctor and truly cares about her patients. However, she is required to operate inside the parameters of her title and the constraints of the insurance companies. This does not allow her to look at my condition with a wider lens and prescribe natural or holistic solutions. I’ve exhausted my resources within my insurance coverage and I’ve realized I’m going to need to spend some extra time and money to get what I really need. I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive. So, I can’t wait around for the government to get it together and support people over industry. I am starting to get over the fact that it isn’t fair or right that I have to pay double to get what I really need. I’ve reached a place where I’m comfortable dropping some serious cash if it means investing in my health.
Over the next few weeks, I will be interviewing some Functional Medicine doctors to find a professional that can give me some real answers. This next step will begin the second chapter of My Thyroid Story. I will share this process with you all along the way and hopefully I will be able to pass information and recommendations to others with Hashimotos or similar thyroid problems. Wish me luck!