It is Shanghai, October 2008 and the doctor says “there is nothing we can do for your under active thyroid problems.”
“Is there a thyroid diet I can follow?” I ask based on my previous experience of acne and migraines disappearing after dropping gluten and eggs.
“No, diet has nothing to do with Hashimoto’s”, she says.
My TPO antibodies are through-the-roof, I’m severely fatigued, I’m forgetting things that happened the day before, and I’m faced with recurring anxiety attacks. But, my TSH and T4 are “normal,” so she’s got nothing for me. Not even meds, no hope.
“What about Traditional Chinese Medicine?” (After all, I’m living in China.), I ask.
“They don’t treat Hashimoto’s,” she says dismissively as if I was asking about a voodoo treatment.
I reach out to Maria, who is the only friend I know with thyroid problems; she lost the gland to cancer. Her doctor is in Caracas, Venezuela. He seems to “really get it” and offers a treatment plan but is about to retire from his practice.
So here I am: living in the polluted and stressful Shanghai seriously contemplating a 32-hour and $6,000 flight to crime-ridden Caracas just because there is someone out there who could possibly help me.
In the meantime, I hit the internet and order the only book I find on thyroid problems. I get it express-shipped and devour it in one night only to be told to remove soy and bok choy from my diet…
I mean, seriously?
I will openly admit that I have little patience today when I receive venting emails that go on and on about how nobody knows anything about the thyroid, about how doctors are useless, and about how getting off gluten is so tough.
Really? What about the abundance of well-curated thyroid resources (like summits and books) and all the countless gluten free options we have today?
What would I have done to have them back then!
With the current breadth of free and not-so-expensive resources today, most people with thyroid problems can help themselves like never before.
OK, there are some of us with more complicated cases, but for most it doesn’t take that much to start feeling good again.
11 Things I Wish I Knew Back Then About My Thyroid Problems
I looked back today at the things I wish I knew back then, and I wanted to share them so they get you thinking as well.
1). I wish I knew what to test for
Just because I got educated very quickly on the topic, I insisted on getting the TPO antibodies done. They confirmed Hashimoto’s and it was a good thing as my TSH and Free T4 and even T3 were within range – so they nearly missed the diagnosis. Many people suffer from undetected thyroid problems because their doctors do not carry out a full range of thyroid blood tests.
I wish I also knew back then to also check my vitamin D, B12, ferritin levels (all were super low). I wish somebody asked me about my gut health. I wish I was tested for candida.
All the tests and ranges I recommend for thyroid patients are in the Thyroid Diet Starter Kit, grab the print-out page and take it to your doctor.
2). I wish I knew I had more than just one hormonal problem
I was wired and tired at night, exhausted during the day, lightheaded when getting up, jumpy and moody – all probably due to adrenal fatigue. Nobody told me that.
Breast lumps, painful PMS, and bloating – estrogen dominance. Didn’t know that either. Thought it was “normal.”
Nobody told me that being overly estrogenic can lead to breast cancer (I have a family history on my mother’s side), thyroid nodules (had three), and thyroid cancer. I wrote about it here.
3). I wish I knew what the root causes of developing Hashimoto’s thyroid problems were
I wish there was somebody to explain that being a formula baby; eating food that was not good for me; having unaddressed heavy metal toxicity, sluggish liver, chronic candida, stressful job, relentless drive and no sleep were the perfect triggers to develop an autoimmune disease. I honestly had no idea that it was mostly things well within my control that were causing my thyroid problems and poor health more generally.
4). I wish I knew that getting off gluten was not enough to solve my thyroid problems
I had digestive issues for as long as I remember – constipation, acid reflux, bloating and gas. I already knew that gluten was causing the cystic acne, but I still ate dairy, eggs and soy. Didn’t know any better. I wish somebody told me about the Elimination Diet and how to cut out all the suspect foods in one go, then re-introduce them one by one. I explain how to do the Elimination Diet in the free workshop “How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones.”
5). I wish I knew that my job was killing me and I was doing it for the wrong reasons
Self-validation (to confirm how great I was) was my driver. I did it to a point of running myself to the ground. I was on international flights once a week, pitching new accounts (I worked as an advertising strategic planner on world leading brands) and winning them. It felt good that every office wanted me. But, at what price?
6). I wish I knew that intense athleticism would only worsen my adrenal fatigue
In spite of the adrenal burnout and hectic schedule, I trained for the Great Wall of China marathon. To train for it, I would be up at 5am to hit the gym and then work until 9pm to fulfill the demands of some unreasonable clients.
7). I wish I knew what the toxic skincare brands were doing to my body
See, I worked for the largest skincare brands, so I never bought anything clean. Neither did I make the effort to understand the contents because I trusted them. After all, they had doctors signing off on the safety of these products. Little did I know about the amount of endocrine disruptors they contained and that money can buy doctor approval.
8). I wish I knew how important sleep really was
I used to say “I will sleep when I die.” When I gave up my job and left China, I slept 12 to 14 hours a day for a month. By then, I intuitively knew that I needed it, so I surrendered to it. I think it’s called “coming to your senses.”
9). I wish I knew that slowing down my life would accelerate my recovery
What else can I say here? Maybe that I’m living it now and moved from New York City to a small town in California, population 238 residents? Rest is critical. If you don’t buy it, you need to change your mindset and slow down.
10). I wish I knew where to get credible information about thyroid problems
Instead of getting overwhelmed and confused by unsubstantiated, copy-and-paste, over simplistic pseudo advice on blogs that kale and almonds will kill my thyroid (I actually stopped eating them for a while until I knew better.), I wish I knew what were the credible go-to resources for addressing thyroid problems. Read more on that below.
11). I wish there were online communities of like-minded women who can support the journey
To keep up with the latest on thyroid health, follow our online community on Facebook – for daily recipes, inspirations and community support – www.Facebook.com/Hormonesbalance.
I’m grateful all these resources are available today to help those with thyroid problems better help themselves. It was a different story in 2008.
Get informed, slow down, and take action.