Autoimmune Stories: How Sarah Reversed Her Thyroid Symptoms and Antibodies By 90%
I've been wanting to add another Autoimmune Story for a while now, but on the back of some exciting news, I thought you may like to hear a bit more about my journey.
My previous post on Ashley has been extremely popular, the most read in fact, so I want to get more and more stories up like this. Ashely experienced some amazing results but I'd like to discuss an evidenced-based approach that has worked for me.
1. What health issues are you dealing with and when did they begin?
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis in 2016 and suspect I have at least been hypothyroid if not autoimmune for most of my life. I remember seeing a distinct change in my childhood photos between the age of seven and eight. I went from rosey cheeked and full of life to pale and subdued. My body began to whisper and symptoms started to emerge. I had a sensitivity to the cold, constipation and joint pain by age 15. I never really had the energy to play sport but didn't think much of it. By the time I was partying at university, I needed naps to get through the day. But again I just pushed on without another thought and put it down to having a busy schedule. When I went into the world of work at 23 I was experiencing bloating and my eyebrows were beginning to disappear. By the time I hit 28 and my stress was at an all-time high more symptoms crept in such as; daily muscle aches and pains, anxiety, low libido and PMS. When I was finally diagnosed in 2016, I was experiencing brain fog, puffiness, hair loss, more digestive issues and I was back to two-hour daily naps. As you can see, it took a long time for the body to give way and for a picture of ill-health to build. These symptoms were the result of nutrient deficiencies, H.pylori infection, low stomach acid / digestive enzymes and SIBO. Chronic stress and poor sleep played a huge part as well as food intolerances, a poor diet and a lack of exercise. Further down the line infections, gut dysbiosis, heavy metals, parabens and even environmental chemicals also come into the picture.
2. Tell us about your diagnosis story, how long did it take to get a diagnosis?
For a long time I just thought my symptoms were common and something that I had to put up with. There wasn't much mainstream awareness around diet and lifestyle until my late twenties. From the age of 23-30 I became increasingly frustrated, so I started to seek medical advice. My GP was unable to help me but I did get offered CBT for my mental health instead of anti-depressants.
My lucky break came when I started studying nutrition in 2015 and was offered the opportunity to try out a student clinic. They went through all of my symptoms and pieced them together like it was a puzzle. Not only did I feel heard and understood (which was amazing) but they actually had some ideas of what was going on. They sent me back to the GP with a list of tests to get and for the first time I felt as though I was getting somewhere. Sadly even with a TSH of 16 my doctor still insisted that nothing was wrong with me. My tutor told me to go back to the doctor by which time my TSH had leaped to 79. And then finally, after about three years, I had my diagnosis.
3. Which symptoms were making your life difficult?
I used to be able to push aside my symptoms of fatigue, joint and muscle pain, constipation, low mood and PMS. But symptoms started to show much more on the surface. I was noticeably anxious, forgetful, puffy, had thin hair, struggled with the cold and was falling asleep in public. I looked pregnant and my anxiety was affecting my social life. I felt like an old woman and I was very much struggling with life.
4. Tell us about some of the emotions you experienced.
My diagnosis was both a shock and not a surprise, a relief in fact and finally things were starting to make sense. But I also felt a huge sense of determination that this diagnosis was not going to claim me and become my identity. Wellness with diet and lifestyle was going mainstream and public figures were inspiring and reassuring me that something could be done. I felt as though I had a new purpose in life and that was to be well again.
5. What made you decide to go beyond medication and primary care?
For me it became a challenge. I was studying Nutritional Therapy and I wanted to start putting my knowledge into practice. I've always been scientifically minded so becoming my own hypothesis and case study was some geeky fun for me. As I've been unwell for some time, I also came to terms with the fact that I may be on thyroid medication for the rest of my life, even if I did go into clinical remission.
6. Tell us about your journey to recovery.
At first, it was clear what foods were causing me most grief: gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. So I started eliminating these and exploring other food intolerances. But it was quite a journey to go 100% gluten free and this took some time, both mentally and into practice. I then went Paleo for two and a half years. Alongside this I tried Homeopathy and acupuncture and together this reduced my antibodies by around 50%. I eliminated H.pylori, supported my digestion and improved my sleep. By 2018 I left me job (reduced stress) took up yoga 2-3 x week and slept as much as I wanted. My antibodies came tumbling down again to a total of 80%. However, after having a baby in 2019 my antibodies in 2020 had crept back up again and I was half way back to where I had begun. Sleep deprivation, stress and bad habits came with the postpartum territory. But I knew to reduce my antibodies even further I needed to understand my body more. I discovered and dealt with SIBO and along with eliminating oats this brought my antibodies right back down again. My TG antibodies were in clinical remission and my TPO antibodies were down 90% and almost in remission at 44.
7. What one thing did you learn that you’d like to pass on to others?
Nutritional therapy isn't just about what's on your plate. There are multiple causes to autoimmune disease such as infections, toxins, nutrient deficiencies, gluten intolerance and lifestyle etc. It's important to keep digging, get to know your body and become aware of your environment. Truly ask what you want from life. Often symptoms have multiple causes so it can turn into a complex puzzle. Having said that, I'd like people to know that it is possible to heal and while nutrition can get incredibly complex sometimes the big wins are often very simple and accessible.
8. Is there anything you still want to work on?
I only have two niggling symptoms left and one of them is poor circulation. I have made a lot of progress with my sensitivity to the cold but it's still not quite where I would like it to be. I do think optimal health is a lifelong project. It really does take years especially from a place of chronic illness. So I would advise others take this approach. I think it's really important to be kind to yourself. Your journey to health should be a journey of self-love, not a punishment for getting yourself in a tough spot.
If you'd like to discuss your symptoms, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.