The Patient Patient

Here I will share a few details about my journey to create health.

Between 13 and 15 years ago (sometime in high school), I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Syndrome, which is an extreme form of hypothyroidism and classified as an autoimmune disorder. I was informed that eventually my body would destroy my thyroid gland, and that I should expect to be on medication for the rest of my life. There was one wonderful endocrinologist who set me up with a stable dose of Armour Thyroid, and that’s what kept me feeling well and functional for the 13+ years between then and August, 2011.

In August 2011, two things happened. First, I started talking to my mother (whom I adore) about the possibility of trying the Atkins diet. My weight had been slowly but steadily creeping up over the years, and though I didn’t look horribly overweight, the number on the scale suggested that there was a problem I should address. My mother and I decided to try Atkins together, for moral support. This meant cutting out sugar, bread, and all other major sources of carbs.

I went through sugar withdrawal (the use of “withdrawal” here is not an exaggeration – try cutting ALL sources of sugar, HFCS, honey, syrup, etc. out of your diet for 2-3 days and you’ll see what I mean). I declared that I could never imagine giving up bread. I despaired when I realized that eggs – a major Atkins diet staple – gave me a bad reaction if I ate them for more than three days in a row. But the sugar withdrawal cleared, and I reassured myself that I could survive without bread for a while, and I found other things to eat for breakfast. And then the second thing happened – my husband and I had the good fortune to begin working with a wonderful and gifted chiropractor / nutritionist. She told me that she’d worked with other thyroid patients, and that if I could strictly adhere to a handful of dietary guidelines, that my thyroid gland could heal in about two years.

Heal. As in, completely. As in, cured. It was the promise of total wellness, something I’d stopped thinking about because the idea that I would never know it was too painful. And she was putting it in my grasp.

I agreed to the guidelines, which are as follows:

  1. No sugar. This includes ordinary sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave, evaporated cane juice… just about every ingredient that tries to fill sugar’s shoes. Even baking with unsweetened applesauce has proven problematic. I also put Splenda (sucralose), aspartame, and all other artificial sweeteners on my NO list. I am deeply skeptical of artificial sweeteners because let’s face it: they are not food.
  2. No grains. This includes wheat, rice, and corn (which is not a vegetable, no matter what the food pyramid would have us believe).

I’ve added a few restrictions of my own to the list, based on personal experimentation, but those are the two most significant. Courtesy of the no-Splenda clause and a few other things, I would classify my diet these days as more Paleo than Atkins. By the time I had followed these guidelines for three months, I’d lost almost thirty pounds. And on top of that, a personal miracle occurred: my decade-plus stable dose of thyroid medication dropped by a third. Food is the medicine that heals. I eat vegetables, meat, nuts, some fruit (not too much), and potatoes (my go-to filler food for preventing further weight loss).

And just this week, a year later, it happened again. My dose is now a third of what it once was. I don’t miss bread or sugar anymore, and I’ll tell you why. Now that I’ve stopped eating junk that hurts me, I can hear what my body tells me. And my body says “I want to be well. That’ll make me sick. I don’t want it.”

In about a year’s time, I expect that I’ll be able to report that my thyroid gland has healed and I’m medication-free. I’m looking forward to it.

6 thoughts on “The Patient Patient

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle
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  2. We tried the paleo thing for seventeen days. It sort of wrecked us. I think that the issue was that we’re very active people, and all of a sudden that became a lot harder. I agree that sugar withdrawal is a good plan, but cutting out all carbs I don’t think will work for all people. Exercise is also a good part of a healthy lifestyle, and carbs should be consumed in proportion to the amount of exercise you do.

    • Very, very true. The no- or low-carbs thing does not work for everyone. I’m also a lot less strict these days. It was a great diet when I urgently needed to heal in a specific way; now I’m healthier, and my tolerances are higher across the board.

      Also, I had to maintain a certain edge of fanaticism about the process while I was in it so that I didn’t start crying every time I saw ice cream.

  3. Someone (read: you) said something about “hardcore vilification of sugar”, to which I respond:

    Jane gasped. It couldn’t be! Yet no matter how many times she blinked, the image wouldn’t go away. The demented twins, Fructose and Sucrose, continued to hold Sid and The Tweeze over the vat of molten honey. “I’ve brought you the money, you monsters. Now give me back my kitties!”
    “You probably thought that it would be that easy,” said a voice from behind a chair, as the tiny Glucose bounced around in glee. “Didn’t you know that we are everywhere, and control everything?”
    “Show yourself, or the deal’s off!” Jane shouted, knowing that the creep’s identity alone would be worth the money. Slowly, the chair spun around to reveal a cybernetic figure leering at her. “High fructose corn syrup,” she sneered at it. “I should have known all along.”

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