Did you miss part 1 last week?
Even after seeing two endocrinologists who said there was nothing they could do for me (because my TSH was "normal") I didn't want to give up, because I was still feeling like crap. During one of my late-night insomnia fueled googling sessions, I found a naturopath who sounded like she had experience with auto-immune disease and through a holistic approach, had helped many people heal their symptoms.
During my first appointment with my naturopath, she spent over an hour doing my intake form and asking me questions (much longer than any other doctor had every spent with me, by far). She suggested that I get a very detailed blood panel run to really look into what was going on. She saw some things in my normal blood work from my general doctor that looked suspect, including my seriously low vitamin-D levels. That was a major red flag to her, and signaled something else going on. Paying out of pocket for testing like this is a major bummer, especially when I thought I had great health insurance, but I learned that most testing beyond the basic blood panel needs to be flagged and approved before it is covered by insurance. And most insurance companies do not see low vitamin-D levels as cause for doing more extensive thyroid testing! So paying out of pocket was a bummer, but, also freeing because I got to literally test every marker under the sun.
So after months of appointments, blood work and no answers, I finally got the results from the extensive blood work, and my naturopath confirmed that I did have thyroid antibodies present, and that I have Hashimoto's disease. It was a relief to finally have an answer, and know that it wasn't all in my head and I wasn't going crazy. My levels were in the high 600's, so there was definitely work to be done to bring them down and hopefully decrease my symptoms. And ultimately, be able to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy.
The first course of action was to undergo a guided elimination diet for 21-days - no gluten, dairy, soy, and limited caffeine and sugar. I also started some specific supplements during this time, again, under the guidance of my naturopath. The first 21-days were tough, and I think I felt worse before I felt better, but over time, I did start to notice differences in my sleep, digestion and my hair. I think all those things are big indicators of what is going on internally for me. But beyond the first 21-days, I do think I started to feel differently, and felt good just knowing I was nourishing my body and not adding fuel to the auto-immune fire with gluten anymore.
I did end up seeing one of the top reproductive endocrinologists in Colorado after this, as I was so paranoid that Hashimoto's was leading to me have difficulty getting pregnant. This experience was totally different since I came armed with all my new blood work results showing my antibody levels. The RE acknowledged the Hashimoto's, and did some more blood work that was more concentrated on the reproductive side of things. Nothing alarming came out of that blood work, thank goodness, so it was suggested that I just be patient and wait things out. Of course at that time, my paranoia was taking over, so it was difficult to be told to be patient.
So after this I kept going back to my naturopath only, and made a total commitment to my new gluten-free diet and supplement routine. I cut out caffeine but gradually re-introduced dairy. I never had any digestive issues (as many people with Hashimoto's do), so that was never a great indicator to me on what I should/shouldn't be eating. I stuck with the more gradual approach to exercise and yoga. I did start to notice my mood and sleep stabilize, having more energy during the day, and everything felt a little more regulated.
And then, about a year after this journey began, in early 2013, I found out I was pregnant! Finding out I was pregnant was such a shock because I was never sure that Hashimoto's wasn't interfering. It was such a testament to my healing and how far I had come in one year. It took a lot of work, appointments, research, reading, commitment and energy to get there. But it happened. It was possible.
This journey taught me that modern medicine is not perfect. Not every doctor has all the answers, especially when it comes to auto-immune disease. You need to be your own advocate and keep digging. Everything I learned (and I am still learning) helped me really see we are missing the mark in this modern, fast-paced, always busy world. Now I fully believe in taking a holistic approach to your health - what you eat matters, how you treat your body matters, your thoughts and attitude matter.
Not to say things are suddenly perfect now...far from it. I am definitely a work in progress. Some weeks are better than others. I do have flare-ups from time to time. I don't always remember to take my supplements. My antibody levels after having Reese were in the 2000's, and I definitely was feeling it. But each time I go through a bad period, I do learn something new and reaffirm my commitment to do the best I can, but also be kind to myself. It truly is a journey.
So to wrap this up, I would say to anyone dealing with Hashimoto's, or any other auto-immune disease - don't give up. Find your support system, and find an integrative doctor that you feel understands your situation and condition. Don't be satisfied with your current doctor if you aren't being heard. Reach out and find support within you family, your friends, significant other, and even online. So many wonderful people emailed me back when I wrote to them with questions in the midst of being so frustrated and figuring out my diagnosis, and I'll never forget that. (If this sounds like you, please reach out and email me!)
I feel incredibly lucky that there are so many wonderful resources out there for dealing with auto-immune disease now. I am working on rounding up my list of books, websites, blogs and recipes that I still refer to on a daily basis. For next week!