After implementing carefully researched lifestyle changes, I was able to see a tremendous improvement in my health. I decided to summarize my research and improvements in my book Hashimoto’s The Root Cause in 2013. When I initially published the book, I was hopeful that one day a group of researchers would take the information I collected and carry out a large-scale clinical trial to test the interventions. Unfortunately, these types of clinical trials can be very expensive, and there isn’t a financial incentive for most companies to do this kind of research if they can’t collect a return on their investment.
Then I realized, that we, the thyroid community have the power to create our research!!
During the month of May, I developed a survey to assess the impact of various interventions on Hashimoto’s – 2232 people with Hashimoto’s provided feedback to this survey as to the factors that seemed to make their conditions better and the factors that made their conditions worse.
I’m going to turn this survey into a research paper that will be published in a free-access medical journal so that other patients and health care professionals can benefit from this information as well. I will need a statistician to help me sort through the data so that the data can be properly analyzed for statistical significance, but until then, I wanted to share some preliminary highlights with you (if you know a statistician that can help, please let me know)!
1. Stress is a huge contributing factor!
69% of you reported that you had a lot of stress in your life before you started feeling unwell. Getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, being in nature, walking, massage, reading, sitting on a beach and being warm were some of the activities that made most people with Hashimoto’s feel better, while lack of sleep, being stressed out, being around negative people, fighting with loved ones and a lack of sunshine and cold weather made most people with Hashimoto’s feel worse. Please don’t under-estimate the importance of stress reduction in your healing journey. I want you to remember that stress is not just caused by external factors, but can also be self-induced due to our thought patterns like negative self-talk or perfectionism. I recommend taking a nice vacation or “staycation” where you take a few days to focus on relaxing and self-care.
2. Nutrient deficiencies are real!
68%, 33% and 28% of you were found to have low levels of Vitamin D, low levels of B12 and low levels of ferritin, respectively. Low levels of these nutrients can be a huge contributor to thyroid fatigue. Low ferritin levels are an indicator of anemia and can contribute to hair loss as well.
If you have not had these important tests, please talk to your doctor about testing for them. I’ve written about each of these nutrient deficiencies on my blog: –> Links to articles –> [Thyroid and Vitamin D] [Thyroid and B12] [Thyroid and Ferritin], and cover them in my chapter on Nutrient Deficiencies [Download the Nutrient Deficiencies chapter for free HERE].
Taking supplements can help restore your nutrient levels and help overcome fatigue. When asked about the benefits of various interventions, 67%, 88%, 82%, reported that vitamin D3 supplement, B12 supplement, and iron/ferritin supplement improved their fatigue, respectively.
3. Gluten sensitivity with Hashimoto’s is a big deal.
76% of you reported that you thought you were gluten sensitive (16% of you were not sure, the rest did not believe that you were).
Most people that reacted to gluten felt the reaction in their gut (symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, nausea, gas, acid reflux, burning or burping) and in the brain related symptoms like headaches, dizziness, brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Overall, 88% of people who attempted to go gluten-free felt better!!
86% of people who went gluten-free reported an improvement in digestive symptoms. One reader wrote “Gluten elimination was the first thing I did. Lost 8 pounds in 2 weeks without dieting. Added supplements, exercise, and cutting out sugar. Still losing weight and cannot believe how good I feel!”
Notably, only 3.5% of you were diagnosed with celiac disease. Thus this confirms what we’ve been saying all along, you do not have to have celiac disease to benefit from a gluten-free diet!
If you are still on the fence about going gluten free, I encourage you to try it!
4. Food matters!
In addition to the gluten-free diet, the other most helpful dietary interventions were going on a sugar free diet and the Paleo diet (81% of those who tried these diets felt better), grain-free diet (81% felt better), dairy free diet (79% felt better), autoimmune Paleo diet (75% felt better) and the low glycemic index diet (76% felt better). Incorporating healing foods also made people feel better. Homemade broth helped 70% of those that tried it; Green smoothies helped 69%, and fermented foods helped 57%.
5. Supplements can help.
The most helpful nutritional interventions were taking a B12 supplement (76%), D3 supplement (74%), digestive enzymes (73%), ferritin/iron supplement (63%), Omega-3 Fatty acid supplement (65%), selenium 200 mcg supplement (63%), Betaine with Pepsin supplement (59%), curcumin supplement (56%), zinc 30 mg supplement(52%) and L-glutamine supplement (51%). (The numbers in the parentheses represent the % of people who reported “feeling better” after trying these supplements).
I’ve written about all of these supplements in my book, Hashimoto’s: The Root Cause, and the majority are covered in my nutrient depletions chapter [download the nutrient depletions chapter for free].
One person commented: “Zinc supplements immediately eliminated a long-standing thrush infection that was not successfully treated by four doctors in 2 years.”
6. Banishing the blues and pain with lifestyle is possible.
Feeling tired, blue and in pain? Have a spa day! Sauna therapy helped an overall 57% of those who tried it to feel better; the biggest benefits were seen in mood, energy, skin and reducing pain levels. Massage helped improve mood for 80% of people, reduced pain for 62% and improved energy levels in 45% of people!
Going to the spa may get very expensive, but you can look for ways to make it more affordable. For example, some gyms may have saunas in them that you may be able to use with a membership or a daily pass, and massage companies often have discounts on their websites. My husband and I once found a local massage school that offered deeply discounted massages. When all else fails, you can do a hot Epson salt bath at home, and get your partner to give you a massage.
7. Sweet spot for TSH levels.
69% of respondents feel optimal with a TSH under 1 mIU/mL, and 57% felt good with the TSH between 1 and 2 mIU/mL !! While a TSH as high as 4 mIU/mL may be considered to be “within normal limits” I felt like a sloth and was losing a ton of hair when my TSH was at that level. You can read my article about TSH in this ARTICLE for more information.
8. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) can make a big difference for some
While only 38% of those that tried it reported feeling better, the ones that saw benefit had some spectacular results. 48% were able to reduce thyroid antibodies, 61% saw an improvement in mood, 66% were able to have more energy, and 40% saw a reduction in pain.
One reader wrote: “Low Dose Naltrexone changed my life for the better. If I had not added that to my regimen, I would still be suffering from nerve pain and uncontrollable allergy symptoms, in addition to the problems I have from the Hashimoto’s.”
9. Probiotics can help normalize weight
36% of people felt that probiotics helped them normalize their weight. I’ve written about weight, Hashimoto’s and probiotics.
Here’s a message from someone who has implemented many of the interventions discussed above and seen a tremendous improvement:
“I was diagnosed with underactive thyroid and had radiation in 1969 as a child, Synthroid treatment for years, rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed in 2012 along with Sjogren’s syndrome, leaky gut, and chronic sinus infections. I was a weak, sick, nearly bedridden woman on a ton of medicine. I was getting sicker and being prescribed more dangerous and expensive medications with no real end in sight for pain or healing.
Even with all this chaos in my body I constantly searched for answers and did my best to take care of myself, I had no idea that I was making myself sick with food and chemicals and tap water and a million other things. I have removed as many chemicals from my life as I can, eat organic, take vitamins, minerals and probiotics, eat fermented foods drink kefir, have reduced all stress, sleep a lot, rest a lot, go on walks, meditate, drink clean water and think peaceful thoughts. I don’t take on too much, and I play as much as I can. In the past year, I have been able to remove all meds for rheumatoid arthritis and reduced the thyroid meds also. I am active, 40 pounds lighter and glad to be alive again. I have a way to go yet but am better now than I have been in years. Thank you for the work you have done and for compiling this valuable information.”
I know that Hashimoto’s can make us feel very much alone, especially when no one else we know personally has the condition. Even when others we know have Hashimoto’s, the condition can manifest with different levels of severity in different individuals, making us wonder why we feel so much worse than others. I’ve been there.
I want you to know that you’re not alone and that you can get better. I’m here for you, and together, we can overcome Hashimoto’s… it may take some work on both of our ends.
I’ve been working on some exciting stuff behind the scenes to support you guys over the last six months and will be trickling out information to a subset of you over the coming weeks and months so watch your inbox for announcements from me.
I can’t wait to share these resources with you when they’re fully ready… here are some clues:
- A way to simplify and optimize your diet
- A guide to optimizing thyroid medications
- Three original research works to be published in late 2015/2016 to raise awareness of innovative interventions worldwide
- Hashimoto’s training for doctors…
…and some innovative and exciting surprises !!
I hope this survey of interventions encourages you to take charge of your health and to find a deeper level of healing. I recommend dedicating 1 hour each day to self-care. You should focus on things that relax you and make you feel better, preparing nourishing foods, and staying on top of your supplements and labs. After all, what gets measured gets managed! Give yourself the same care as you would to a loved one, child or pet who needed you.
I hope that you found this information helpful in your healing journey!