I honestly don’t know how many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours I have spent researching how to manage life with Hashimoto’s Disease (you can read about some of my earlier difficulties here). One thing that popped up repeatedly was the infamous gluten.
I won’t go into the numerous details about why gluten is supposedly bad for people with thyroid conditions, but the evidence did overwhelm me. I checked various sources, and decided to start a completely gluten-free diet.
Note: I had actually gone gluten-free upon first being diagnosed with the disorder in January. And, after just three weeks of being on Euthyrox and not eating gluten, my Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH – helps the thyroid produce two other hormones that control the metabolism) dropped from 15 to five (the maximum should be 4), and my antibody counts dropped significantly as well. Putting this all down to the hormone replacement – you know, since I have a medical degree and everything and am the Queen of self-diagnosing – I decided to go back to gluten. I mean, why would bread and pasta be affecting my health? Especially since I eat them in moderation, just like everyone says!
My next set of blood tests were done in South Korea…and I was devastated with the results. TSH had shot up to 13 and my antibody levels were through the roof once more. Around this time, Kate and I decided to go forward with our blog, and I felt like I had to write about this experience, this draining, depressing experience.
And I kept researching. Gluten’s detrimental effects kept appearing on thyroid health sites, and it dawned on me. Was I really going to sacrifice my health for a few slices of pizza? Was I honestly that ridiculous? Taking charge of my well-being was my responsibility, no one else’s. With this epiphany came the resolve to stick to a gluten-free lifestyle, and do it without resentment this time.
I have been gluten-free for just over two months now. I had one epic cheat day at a friend’s bachelorette party (there was lasagne and chocolate cake), and I was terribly ill for a few days afterward. Since then, I have been rigid about it. I may come off as fussy and kind of annoying, scrupulously studying the ingredients of things at the supermarket, but I honestly don’t care anymore, especially after my last set of blood results.
The blood test
I was so nervous about this! All I could think was, I hope the restrictions I’ve placed on myself have been worth it! I entered the doctor’s office with a pounding heart and tingly palms.
I was sitting at the desk, thighs sweating a ridiculous amount, when the doctor said, “TSH is now 0.53”.
My mouth dropped open. “Sorry?!” I said, thinking I’d heard wrong.
“TSH has dropped a lot. It’s 0.53 now.”
At that point, I wanted to jump over the desk and give him a hug. “And the others?” I’d had a myriad of tests done, from Vitamin D3 to Cortisol (stress hormone), and was eager to hear how the rest of my insides were faring. Overall, I am really pleased with my results. From my first test to now, my antibodies have dropped from the 600s to the 300s. That’s still pretty far above normal, but it is definitely an improvement.
The only two results that disappointed me were Ferritin (Iron) and Cortisol.
Ferritin, from what I understand, is the amount of iron stored in the body. I’ve been on Iron supplements (I take it in the form of ferrous fumarate) for months now, and my Ferritin levels have DROPPED. That really baffled me. And I think that is possibly why my hair continues to fall out. The doctor has put me on another supplement, so hopefully when I see him again I will have better results.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It is a vital adrenal hormone, and balances the body’s response to stress. Back in January, my levels were high, but still within the normal range. The endocrinologist suggested I try to decrease those levels, because when they are high – surprise, surprise! – hair-loss is one of the consequences. That being said, low levels of Cortisol are also bad. The key here is balance. Ah, balance. My least favourite B-word.
This time round, the doctor told me that, not only had my Cortisol increased, it was now higher than the normal range. Great. I really need to chill.
I feel like me again
These blood test results have shown me that being gluten-free – while being a massive pain in the arse – has helped. A lot. It can’t be anything else, because that is the only lifestyle change I have made recently. I am optimistic now, and I think knowing that I am healing myself will cut down those cravings for toasted cheese. I have felt great these last few months.
In my post about Hashimoto’s, I was struggling with emotional instability, memory-loss, fatigue and hair loss.
Aside from my hair still adamantly falling out, I have felt a huge change in those other areas. My moods have regulated. I still fly off the handle sometimes and get sad about silly things, but I can now tell myself to calm down. And it works! Hello, control! How I have missed you!
I still set an insane amount of reminders, but I remember SO MUCH MORE. A few weeks ago, I became ecstatically thrilled when I could recall a conversation Adam and I had had a few days previously.
Lastly, the fatigue. I have less energy than I used to pre-Hashimoto’s, but I can now make it through the day with fewer thoughts of napping at noon. I am able to concentrate again, too. I am a bookworm; I always have been. However, I was finding focusing on a book impossible. By the end of July, I had not read a single one other than Harry Potter, and that made me really anxious. Was I losing my greatest passion?! For someone who has always wolfed down books at a rapid rate, this was terrifying. Recently, though, I have been able to sit down and read for an hour or two at a time. I am finally back on track with books!
Going gluten-free has been a big change for me. Never before have I watched what I eat, and certainly not with this kind of fervour. My body has shown me that the lifelong commitment I have made is a wise one, and I can only benefit from it.
Click here to check out my typical weekly meals 🙂
For any thyroid patients in the Chungnam area and surrounding, 단국대학교병원 (Dankook University Hospital) is a really good hospital. I see a lovely doctor who speaks great English. He is so helpful, and listens to all my concerns and numerous questions.