A lot of people remember how they felt and who they were before they got sick. Sickness, for them, is a line in the sand, a demarcation, a definitive “there” and “here” signifying what life was pre- illness and what life has become since. I never had that clear distinction, only because I never had a “before”. I had always felt sick, my whole little life, and even as a child. Healing Hashimoto’s gave me a life back that I didn’t know I was missing.
Although I had never known what healthy and good were like, I knew I had never experienced them; there always seemed to be something that felt wrong with my body. And maybe in a way, that’s good because I had nothing to mourn or say how beautiful something once was; wrongness was simply all I knew.
I was the kid who missed every field trip — every single one — because I had another ear infection, or because I was on my second bout of Strep throat for the school year. I was the child who went home from school the most, either because I was dizzy or because I had a fever or because my stomach hurt again. Which, of course, all warranted antibiotics; over and over again, so many I could never keep track.
In high school, I adopted a low-fat diet, for which I was praised and honored for my diligence and “healthiness”. I stopped eating protein because it no longer tasted good to me, and ate all the foods that called to me: pasta, bread, grains, dairy, sweet tea, and diet coke. Eventually I got “smart” and moved away from all that sugar (syrupy sweet iced tea was my favorite) and started using artificial sweeteners instead. The closest I got to buying organic was organic macaroni and cheese box mixes from the specialty goods store, not because they were healthy but because they were trendy and made a statement.
It wasn’t until my last month of university right before graduation — between the 60-pound weight gain, heart palpitations, depression, joint and muscle pain/cramps, frequent thirst and urination, daily sore throats, intolerance to heat, hives, racing pulse, fatigue so bad that my afternoon nap began right after breakfast and practically ended before dinner — that I was awarded an official diagnosis, a recognition that someone else (a campus doctor) thought there was something wrong with me too: Hypothyroidism. “Take the medication I’m giving you and in two months, you’ll be back to normal” he said.
Two months later, a change of scenery — a move from Orlando to Brooklyn — and a world full of opportunity later, a walk-in clinic nurse informed me I actually had something called Hashimoto’s; “Did [I] know that?” she said. In short, hell no. But the metaphor — my body attacking my body — was just too spot-on poignant.
Fast forward eight months and I hadn’t gotten any better, even on the medication my doctor had given me and with many adjustments in dosage and many adjustments in practitioners.
I was living on coffee and diet coke just to stay awake (it helped to stave off the “I just had a lobotomy” sensation) and OTC sleeping pills to actually fall asleep. I craved sugar and carbs like there was no tomorrow, and ice cream comas were becoming a regular occurrence. It was January in New York at the time, and I sat slumped over on my couch, the falling snow a reminder of winter just beyond the window. I was deep in the throes of depression, my cell phone in hand, utterly hopeless, knowing there was a way to get better, yet no doctor could give me any direction. I used my cellphone to Google a few of my symptoms that were troubling me the most and landed on something called Candida — a funny word which meant my entire system had been hijacked by a fungus. Not pleasant, but it certainly made sense: my immune system was reacting to the pathogen and pulling down my thyroid along with it. I ran to a bookstore and picked up The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health (available on Amazon), a bible of sorts, and read the entire book in a matter of hours. I knew this is what was wrong with me. It’s not pretty but I had one big, fat (systemic) yeast infection.
I started an anti-Candida diet that winter and four months later, my thyroid numbers were surprisingly better, so much so that my medication dose got reduced. This trend continued for the next few months until I hit a plateau and realized I was missing a few things. I so valued the work that Dr. William Crook had done for me in writing The Yeast Connection And Women’s Health, but, with time, started to see that I needed to eliminate food allergens; that they were causing this fungal infection and all of my symptoms. There’s much more to this food story, of course: I did a bunch of research and trial and error and finally figured out what my body needed and what I had to avoid. It turned out to be a long and transient list and a whole new world of information. Mostly, I realized that the food I had been eating wasn’t food at all, it was industrial product; I learned what real food looked like and that fats were actually good and necessary for life. I learned that bacteria were my friend and I had to stop sanitizing my body, my emotions, my food. In short, I learned that everything I had ever known about eating was wrong; it was simply too modern for my own good.
Because I had success healing my Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, I started sharing my experience with other people in similar situations via health writing. Quickly, I realized I needed to put my expertise and insatiable curiosity to good use, and enrolled in formal nutrition school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I now work as a Holistic Health Counselor, guiding people to heal their symptoms and causes of thyroid disease, autoimmunity, Candida overgrowth, and food allergies. I empower my clients to live their best lives, overcome fear and limitations, and live out their unique purpose in this world.
In working with my clients, I find that they also inherently understand that they can heal their diseases: they are always fighting and working hard and researching; they know that they shouldn’t feel this way and that there has to be an answer to their dilemma. Even those who are not interested in natural health understand that this isn’t the way things should be for them and that there simply has to be a solution. My job is provide these people with all of the information, guidance, support, and care they need to overcome their illness in the form of listening and action plans. My work is very important to me because this is a calling, not a job. Guiding people to medical independence, true health, and ultimately, fulfillment and happiness isn’t something that can be done in a doctor’s office.
And I would know.
Liz Schau is a Holistic Health Counselor and Health Writer who helps those with thyroid disease, autoimmunity, Candida, and food allergies overcome their health problems and embrace radical wellness. She’s always looking for motivated and intelligent clients. You can find her at lizschau.com.
Wow, this sounds so much like me! I felt like someone else was writing my life story. Right down to the ice cream comas…low fat or fat free of course 😛 And I’m taking the wonderful thyroid meds that seem to do pretty much nothing. So excited for part #2!! Thanks for sharing this. Maybe it will help me unlock more of the mystery of my years of digestive issues and infertility.
@Mary, So great to connect with you!
I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing the same thing that I went through; I understand just how painful and life-disrupting it is. Unfortunately, many (dare I say most?) people have very little success with their thyroid meds. This is really because the medication doesn’t address why the thyroid is being slow in the first place, or why the immune system is on the attack. The thyroid is really an innocent bystander in all of this.
Hope you enjoy #2 tomorrow and it resonates with you! Would love to speak with you more about this! 🙂
Hi, my name is Margherita I am thirty seven yrs of age. I have three young Childre.
I was just diagnosed with overactive thyroid. I can not do anything about it now, I
Just had foot surgery done.
Once I et back on my feet I would like to know what I can do.
I also want to point out I had a Radical Hysterectomy. I hope you can understand
What I wrote, I can’t get near a computer so I’m writing on my cell in tiny writing.
@Margherita Delach, Hi there! Sorry to hear about all of the physical pain you’re going through right now.
I wouldn’t be able to give you any information just based on what you’ve said here, but as a Health Counselor, I do offer free consultations for us to speak more about your health and see how I can help you. Please see my website for more.
I am looking forward to hearing more!
I too was a low-fat sugar addict who was diagnosed in the last few years with hypothyroidism. I’m continually frustrated because I feel no difference between being on or off my meds. And I feel fine (or at least normal for me), but they continue upping my dosage because I’m ‘getting worse.’ So I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. 🙂
@Brittany, Thanks Brittany! Good to hear from you! Sorry to hear you can also relate!
And yeah, unfortunately, thyroid medications (especially synthetic) help very few people because the underlying problems that are causing the thyroid disease are not being addressed. That’s the key — getting to the root cause of the condition. 🙂
I was diagnosed at 19. I was always sluggish, puffy, and overweight, but the very harsh symptoms didn’t start until after my son was born. For the past 11 years I have battled constant illness. Even though I take a compounded version of the original Armour, my thyroid seems to rebound back to high numbers after a few months on higher doses. The fatigue, swelling, hair loss, weight gain, itchy skin, sweet cravings, coldness, vision problems, heart palpitations, heart racing, sleep problems, severe mood swings, water retention, dry skin, severe menstrual problems, headaches, vulnerability to viruses, and hearing loss were all bad enough but then I developed asthma which reduced my quality of life to the point that it sent me spiraling into a deep depression. I read voraciously and found out that I should get my vitamin D level checked. It turned out to be extremely low. My endo prescribed super high dose D2 and that turned out to be BAD. 50,000 IU was way too much for my kidneys and I felt horrible. I now take 2 1000 IU capsules a day of Vitamin D3. My numbers aren’t perfect but better. It really improved the severe asthma symptoms. I also take olive leaf extract and oil of oregano which help to kill the candida yeast and viruses. Grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid also work for me. I take a multi minus iron. I make sure I get magnesium and either fish oil or flax seed oil. God bless you all and I pray we all find complete healing.
Hi Donielle, I was just wondering if you know how long it takes for a 10 month old to recover from an ear infection? We’ve been treating it with TLC and Mullein Garlic. Trying to prevent the use of an antibiotic. 🙂
Thanks so much.
@shelley, I actually don’t as I’ve never had to deal with it in my littles yet. I do know friends who had to treat for about a week though.
What about MACA for balancing out the Thyroid…I have been on Synthroid for over 20 years and I don’t want to take it anymore …any suggestions. I have Hashimoto’s Disease and I heard that if I don’t treat it properly –I could destroy my Thyroid permanently. Is my Endocrinologist just trying to scare me???
Thanks Liz…great Blog:)
@Paula, I have heard that it can help boost thyroid function, but i don’t know if it would be enough to replace medication. If anything though, it might help reduce the amount of medication you take if it helps support your thyroid.
“All our disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
I believe many people who suffer from hypothyroid / hashimoto’s have a condition known as ‘leaky gut’ which is underlying their thyroid problem. This is caused by the increasingly unhealthy Western diets, which completely lacks beneficial probiotic organisms, while at the same time constantly feeding the bad bacteria like candida. Plus, heavy increases in antibiotic usage has wreaked havoc on people’s intestinal flora balance. The ‘leaky gut’ basically triggers a host of problems, from general internal inflammation, increasing strain on the immune system, which eventually can trigger auto-immune disorders. People need to stop eating excess sugars & processed foods, increase the amount of whole foods they consume, avoid antibiotics whenever possible, & VERY IMPORTANT- start taking a strong probiotic (50-100 billion active cultures, with many different strains). We need the good bacteria in our gut to keep the bad ones in check, this is CRUCIAL. Sure, you can try to starve out the candida by eliminating all sorts of things from your diet, but you also really need to start supplementing the good bacteria, which is where probiotics come in to play. People used to get probiotics from milk products, but guess what, all our milk has been thoroughly pasteurized, completely eliminating the probiotics & most nutrients (not to mention the other sick industrial products which are being pumped into the milk nowadays). You can still get some probiotics from certain yogurts, but most people don’t consume enough of it (or the right kind). Many people would have a richer quality of life by eliminating the junk from their diet & taking a good probiotic supplement. Good luck & good health!