Case Study #4 - Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

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This is the fourth in a series of case study reports that share the experiences my clients have had while working with me. These case studies are designed to give you a little perspective on the types of people I see and what outcomes they experience. Each case study in this series will start with a description of the person’s condition and any relevant details they brought with them to their Health Assessment call. Next is a summary of key items on their Healing Strategy that brought them the most relief – and how long it took to get that relief. Each case study closes with a summary of the outcome and how their lifestyle updates have worked to continue their healthy, energetic life. I’ve changed any personally identifiable information to protect my clients’ privacy and security.

Meet Angela - She was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis after the birth of her second child. She was having typical hypothyroid symptoms - weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and thinning, dry skin, and a sensitivity to cold. She is fortunate in that her thyroid labs showed clearly a low thyroid and the presence of thyroid antibodies. In many cases, lab work is confusing and it is a challenge to get a solid diagnosis.

Angela began taking the thyroid medication that her doctor prescribed, and she said she was feeling a lot better. She was concerned about taking a synthetic hormone for the rest of her life, and came to me looking for some alternatives. I never recommend that any of my clients stop taking a prescribed medication, as that's a conversation they need to have with their physician. I did see that there were some options we could evaluate and see if they made any difference for her.

My first suggestion to Angela was to start a gluten free diet. There's a strong link between gluten antibodies and thyroid issues (both Hashimoto's and Graves) (1, 2, 3, 4). The key to remember is that the gluten protein looks an awful lot like thy1roid tissue. So, if your body is having an autoimmune reaction to your thyroid (the definition of Hashimoto's), then you're stimulating those antibodies every time you eat gluten. Our goal with the gluten free diet is to reduce or stop the autoimmune attack on Angela's thyroid. If the thyroid is no longer under attack, then perhaps Angela could reduce or stop her medication.

We also looked at the foods she was regularly eating that contribute to lower thyroid hormone levels. These foods, called goitrogens, are at least somewhat responsible for the thyroid levels in your body. Not all goitrogens are equal, however. When most people think of goitrogens, they start thinking of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. In Angela's case, her hypothyroidism isn't caused by reduced iodine intake, so these foods are less likely to cause problems for her. Plus, she seldom eats them raw, so they don't really suppress thyroid function. I always encourage my clients to eat the widest variety of foods possible, so eliminating these cruciferous veggies would unnecessarily reduce nutrient intake, which is NOT our goal!

For Angela, we wanted to focus on soy and polyunsaturated oil products. Soy, in addition to the fact that up to 90% of the soy in the US is genetically modified, acts in the body by suppressing the thyroid peroxidase enzyme. In people who are taking synthetic thyroid hormone, this action has been shown to inhibit absorption, and require additional thyroid supplementation.

Most seed and vegetable oils are highly processed, and are commonly rancid before even arriving to your store. These oils undergo an extensive 'deodorization' process that removes the unpleasant odor of rancidity, giving you the false sense of having a long shelf life.  These commercial seed oils are the primary source of omega-6 fats - or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats, like those in canola, corn, soy, and sunflower oil  block thyroid hormone production and utilization in the body. They also promote inflammation, and can be a major cause of leaky gut, arthritis, and degenerative conditions. (5)

By reducing or eliminating these two thyroid suppressants, we help Angela get the most out of the reduced thyroid hormone her body is producing. By eliminating the gluten, we're taking steps toward stopping the autoimmune attack on her thyroid, and helping to keep other autoimmune diseases from developing.

In addition to these dietary changes, I encouraged Angela to add a daily walk at lunchtime - outdoors if possible. If she needed to, she could combine a conference call from work with her walk, so she was able to multitask. But, I encouraged her to spend as many of these walks as she could just noticing the things around her - the birds, plants, clouds, and wind. Just shifting the focus to what's happening in the current moment and acknowledging the beauty of the world around her changes your mind from the worry about the future and anxiety over the past and puts you in a space that encourages creativity, expands your awareness, and produces a sense of calm.

I also suggested that Angela start monitoring her sleep to track how much she was sleeping and how rested she felt on awakening. Getting adequate sleep is essential to maintaining proper immune function, and I suspected she wasn't getting quite enough sleep.

I encouraged Angela to keep a close eye on how she was feeling as she was making these changes, because she may find that her thyroid supplements may start to be too high.  We covered the symptoms of high thyroid hormone so she knew what to watch.

In three weeks, Angela and I had a follow up appointment, and we discussed what effects these changes were having. Angela didn't notice any symptoms of excess thyroid hormone, and was disappointed by that. She was pleasantly surprised with the impact these changes were making. The daily walk was the most welcome change, as it gave her a chance to get out of her office and step away from the busy-ness of her day. This was an unexpected change that she's committed to keeping. The gluten free diet is proving to be problematic for her, but she wants to keep trying.  Angela discovered that she isn't getting enough sleep, and she needs some new ideas on how to get more sleep. Angela felt like she couldn't devote more time to sleep because of her busy schedule.

We worked on addressing her sleep issues. Angela said she felt like she was tossing and turning a lot at night and wasn't getting good quality sleep. Because Angela wasn't ready to dedicate more time to sleep, my suggestions focused on getting better quality sleep. Here's what I suggested to her:

  • Lower the temperature in the bedroom to 65 degrees or lower. Cooler rooms typically result in deeper sleep
  • Take a warm bath or shower about 30-45 minutes before bed. Even if you prefer to shower in the morning, a quick step in warm water will raise your body temperature. As you cool down, it naturally encourages sleepiness
  • Reduce screen time in the 90 minutes before bed. If you read, use a book instead of an e-reader. Blue light from screens can stimulate the brain and suppress sleepiness
  • Consider adding a mattress pad or feather bed to minimize pressure points, which cause tossing and turning. Sometimes, sleeping in a propped up position can minimize the discomfort of pressure points.

In another 3 weeks, we met again. Angela had found sleep success with a shower before bed and a featherbed, and was feeling a lot more rested. She had met with her doctor and taken another thyroid blood test. Her thyroid antibodies were down, her thyroid hormone was up, and the doctor was able to reduce her dosage. Angela was excited about this new plan for her life, and was excited to be in control of her health. We continue to work on dietary changes and getting more calm into her life, but she's far more optimistic than when we first met.

Does this case sound like you? Do you see some similarities to what is happening in your life? I’d love to talk with you and see what we might be able to do to improve your health and find your way back to doing the things that are more important to you. Send me a note and let me know what’s going on for you, and we’ll take it from there.

This case study is intended to demonstrate the types of recommendations I make when working with a client and show the potential results. Every case is different, and results are not guaranteed. While these case studies are helpful and educational, they’re not medical advice and not a substitute for the guidance of a licensed medical professional.