My Hashimoto’s Disease Treatment: 24 Interventions I’ve Tried So Far
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This is Part 3 of my Healing Hashimoto’s series which outlines my personal experience with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease. The other posts in this series include:
Part 1 – 26 Symptoms That Led to My Diagnosis
Part 2 – Why I Became My Own Advocate for My Hashimoto’s Disease Treatment
Part 4 – 10 Steps I Would Take If I Was Diagnosed Today
Part 5 – How I Reduced My Thyroid Antibodies from Over 2000 to (Almost) Zero
Part 6 – How I Keep My Thyroid Antibodies Low: My Current Management Plan
Part 7 – How I Reversed Chronic Pain & Put My Hashimoto’s in Remission
Part 8 – How (& Why) I Weaned Off Thyroid Medication
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This site is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice.
After my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease in 2010, I received quite a few blank stares.
“Is that foreign?”
At that time, I could barely count 5 people who had the disease or even knew what it was.
Fast forward to now and I can rattle off the names of at least 15 people (that I know) who have it and could easily list more if I really thought about it.
Thankfully, the amount of resources available to navigate Hashimoto’s Disease has grown tremendously since I was diagnosed in 2010.
Likewise, the number of doctors treating their patients using various lifestyle changes, instead of just thyroid hormone replacement drugs, has also grown.
Whenever I meet someone with Hashimoto’s Disease who is eager to learn how to reverse it naturally, the first thing I do is hand over my greatest resources, practitioner recommendations, blogs, and books. (If you are in need of some great Hashimoto’s resources, click here to view our favorites.)
But I find it interesting, that despite a wealth of knowledge now at their fingertips, they still ask the same question:
“Anna, what worked for YOU?”
I get it.
Books, doctors, studies – they can all be helpful. But personal experiences? They can really be powerful motivation.
Instead of a doctor saying “We could try [insert supplement/intervention here]” you have someone saying “I DID try, and here were my results.”
So, I thought of every single intervention, diet change, and supplement I tried in my initial phase of healing with hopes that sharing my experience will help YOU to:
- Feel inspired and motivated to overcome your own autoimmune disease battle.
- Realize that having a large number of interventions, while overwhelming at first, is a GOOD thing. There is nothing worse than hearing a doctor say “I’m sorry, there is nothing more we can do for you.” If you have Hashimoto’s Disease, the list of possible interventions seems endless. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.
- Realize this is NOT an overnight process and takes time, but you are definitely not alone.
- Remember that everyone’s healing is completely unique. What worked for me, may not work for you. But knowing what works for your body will help you to narrow your focus, build your confidence, and get you one step closer to achieving optimal health.
I know this is a very long blog post, and so therefore, I did not included a ton of information about each intervention. If there is a specific intervention you are interested in learning more about, I encourage you to use Google, Facebook groups, and other resources to help you learn more.
Before We Begin: A Quick Recap + Where I am at Now
In Part 1, I listed the 26 symptoms that led to my diagnosis and I am happy to report that now:
- I am almost completely free of thyroid-related symptoms. The times I do experience symptoms are usually a result of high stress or consistently poor diet choices (lots of sugar…)
- As of my last blood test, my thyroid antibodies are negative or in normal range.
- I am no longer on any thyroid medication.
- My body rebounds from accidental exposure to my triggers much more efficiently and quickly than it used to before. If I accidentally ingest gluten or any other food I’m intolerant to, I am not struggling for weeks at a time while I recover.
What has helped me get to this point?
Listed below are 24 interventions I tried in my initial phase of healing from 2010-2016, which got me very far. After trying these, I experienced a major reduction in symptoms and thyroid antibodies. This list includes: prescription drugs, diet changes, vitamins/supplements, and lifestyle changes.
*5/16/2020 Update – This is NOT a complete list of all interventions I’ve tried. At one point, it was… but since writing this post a few years ago, I’ve put my Hashimoto’s in complete remission. f you want the full picture of everything I’ve tried throughout the years, then the rest of the posts in this series will provide more information. So keep on reading!
Please remember, I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. If you are thinking you’d like to try one of the interventions listed, speak with your doctor about it first.
If treated by a conventional doctor, Synthroid is usually the go-to for Hashimoto’s disease. To keep things simple, it consists of a synthetically derived thyroid hormone naturally produced by our thyroid gland called T4.
T4 is then converted into T3 which is the active form that supports the many processes within the body that the thyroid influences/supports.
I started on the generic form, levothyroxine, and was quickly switched to the Synthroid brand when I wasn’t seeing results. I tried it out for close to a year.
Synthroid did NOT work for me. It made me worse. I felt absolutely terrible and can honestly say that not one symptom improved. Instead, I experienced:
- A major increase in anxiety
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Nystagmus (uncontrollable, repetitive movements of the eyes)
- Intensified brain fog
I was pretty miserable. But there was one major, HUGE benefit: the lack of efficacy pushed me to take charge of my health, learn more about Hashimoto’s disease, and ultimately change my life. I am so happy that it didn’t work.
Armour is a natural desiccated thyroid medication made from dried porcine (pig) thyroid glands. Unlike Synthroid, it contains both T4 and T3 hormones, which can be incredibly beneficial for those who may have issues converting T4 into T3 (like me).
Armour gave me my life back. Well, at least it felt like that at the time. I still had a long way to go, but even just a 50% increase in energy made me feel like a million bucks!
There were some things Armour corrected within a couple months of taking it:
- Chronic fatigue went from debilitating to bearable. I could at least function well throughout the day, but still needed a nap by the afternoon.
- Hair stopped falling out.
- Menstrual cycles normalized and shortened in length. I no longer skipped a cycle, but they were still heavy and painful.
- Skin was no longer dry and flaky.
- Brain fog became a bit more bearable (but was far from completely resolved).
- Heart rate normalized.
- Insomnia went away.
- Nystagmus ceased.
Yes, I was far from cured, but Armour completely restored hope for my health and future. I was able to go back to school, do well in my classes, hold a couple jobs, and ultimately move on from the stagnant state I was in before.
Westhroid Pure (WP Thyroid®)
Westhroid Pure, like Armour, is also a desiccated porcine thyroid hormone replacement drug. The difference is that it contains only 2 inactive ingredients:
- Inulin (from chicory root)
- Medium Chain Triglycerides (from coconut)
This is great for people with known sensitivities to many of the fillers found in Armour or other comparable drugs.
My current doctor switched me to Westhroid Pure after we found that I had a few food allergies and sensitivities. This is what I used until I no longer needed thyroid medication and it worked great. I am very excited to see this option offered, especially for those with major sensitivities.
I switched to Westhroid Pure in 2015 and by that time, many of my symptoms had cleared up due to other interventions, so I couldn’t say for certain if it made a huge difference in how I was feeling. That was until Westhroid Pure ran into some production issues and I had to switch to their other (less clean) brand, Naturethroid®.
I honestly did not expect to notice any difference, but (and maybe this is due to how it’s manufactured), I needed almost DOUBLE the dose of Naturethroid in comparison to what I used for Westhroid Pure. Both made me feel well once I found the right dosage, but I do find it interesting that I needed more Naturethroid to reach optimal thyroid function.
Low Dose Naltrexone
This is a prescription drug usually used in conjunction with thyroid hormone replacement drugs. Dr. Izabella Wentz, a well-known thyroid pharmacist, states:
“Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication used for opioid withdrawal at a dose of 50 mg per day. However, low doses of this medication have been found to tweak the immune system and have shown promise in improving cases of autoimmune disease including Crohn’s, MS, and Hashimoto’s, as well as other immune system-related conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Doses of 1.5 – 4.5 mg per day are usually recommended and have been reported to enhance immune function through increasing our endogenous endorphin production, reducing inflammation, promoting DNA synthesis, and slowing down motility in the GI tract to facilitate healing.”
You can read the full article here.
About 4 years after I was diagnosed, my thyroid antibodies skyrocketed and I experienced a major decline in my health. My doctor at the time was very concerned, stating that these were the highest levels that she had ever seen in a patient. She immediately suggested Low Dose Naltrexone.
I started at 1.5mg, taken right before bed and increased to 4.5mg about a month later. Here were my results:
- First – a very random benefit… I had amazing hair growth (on my head). I was not expecting this at all and neither was my doctor, but I was so surprised at how much more hair I had after just a few months.
- My thyroid antibodies dramatically decreased over the course of 7-8 months:
- In September of 2013:
- TgAb Antibodies – 2257 (reference range <20)
- TPO Antibodies – 128 (reference range <35)
- April 2014:
- TgAb Antibodies – 380 (reference range <20)
- TPO Antibodies – 40 (reference range <35)
- In September of 2013:
I cannot say that I experienced any other obvious benefits, but I was pretty happy knowing that my antibodies levels were kept at bay (and that I had amazing hair).
I weaned off of Low Dose Naltrexone in 2016 after having my daughter (I did take it throughout my pregnancy). I was anxious to see how it would affect my antibody levels. To my surprise, my antibodies increased only marginally. They remained very stable and eventually decreased to normal ranges after trying more dietary and lifestyle interventions.
Healing Hashimoto’s Diets:
Gluten-free has become a very popular diet for those with an autoimmune disease, even if they do NOT have Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disease that leads to damage in the small intestine after consuming gluten).
Many people have a sensitivity to gluten which can lead to continuous inflammation within the body, digestive issues, and various other problems that they may never attribute to gluten! In fact, I have known people who have completely reversed their Hashimoto’s Disease just by removing gluten from their diet.
I wish that my root cause was as simple as removing gluten from my diet, but unfortunately it wasn’t.
For the record, I can’t say that I actually took this diet seriously for the first year I was on it. I simply replaced all gluten-filled items with their gluten-free counterparts, cheated every once in a while, and didn’t quite do my research as to what products actually contained gluten.
I just really didn’t think gluten was that big of a deal. That was until my antibodies skyrocketed and my doctor mentioned to me casually (many times) that autoimmune diseases often come in threes… meaning I had a greater chance of developing two more autoimmune diseases on top of Hashimoto’s (and guess what? She was right… I eventually developed another unspecified autoimmune disease in 2018).
I figured it was time to take such a simple change more seriously.
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Diet
Gluten and dairy usually go hand in hand, especially when treating Hashimoto’s disease and other autoimmune conditions. Many people with an allergy/sensitivity to one will have an allergy/sensitivity to the other.
This is because casein, a food protein found in dairy, has a very similar structure in comparison to gluten. Due to the similarity, the body may be confused and trigger an immune reaction to the casein, as if gluten had just been consumed.
After experiencing my major increase in antibodies, I decided it was time to get real. I knew that I had a sensitivity to dairy. It was very obvious.
Any time I ate it, I had an intense mucus build-up in the back of my throat and nasal cavity, my eyes watered, and I just felt off. But I ignored it… why? Because of ice cream.
I found out years later that I actually have a legitimate allergy to casein. Eliminating both dairy and gluten at the same time (and taking it seriously) gave me awesome results:
- No more heartburn! I had heartburn daily for years, even as young as 5-6 years old.
- Almost complete elimination of seasonal allergies. I went from nasal sprays, Claritin, and eye drops to needing absolutely nothing.
- No more belly fat. Despite being active my entire life, I always accumulated a small amount of fat near my lower abs. After cutting out dairy, this went away completely.
- Cystic acne – gone.
- No more mucus build-up in my throat and nasal cavity, as this was a direct allergic response to dairy.
After this diet change, the wheels really started to turn. I was so encouraged with my progress that I continued to search for more ways I could tweak my diet to help me eliminate symptoms.
Soy is a controversial subject when it comes to thyroid health, with some stating that it’s detrimental and others saying that it’s fine.
It is known as a goitrogen, meaning that it can interfere with thyroid function and synthesis of thyroid hormones. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be avoided.
There is a long list of goitrogenic foods (broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, etc.) that most people with Hashimoto’s Disease can eat and feel well.
Soy, however, is one of the top 8 allergenic foods, and is also a food that many people with autoimmune disease are highly sensitive to.
When in doubt, I always go by personal experience. Regardless of what studies or doctors suggest, if soy does not agree with ME, then I am not going to eat it.
While I can’t tell you that removing soy from my diet has specifically eliminated any particular symptom, I can say that overall I feel better and less fatigued when I do not consume it. This could be because I was consuming highly processed, genetically modified soy within gluten-free packaged foods – a form of soy we were never intended to eat.
Now, I stay away from it completely, with the exception of soy lecithin (maybe a couple of times a year), which can be found in chocolate and various other products.
The Paleo diet is an ancestral diet; meaning it follows the foods that we as early humans presumably ate. This includes meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds. Some also choose to consume raw dairy products.
It excludes all grains, beans and other legumes, processed foods (including highly processed cooking oils), and processed/added sugar. These foods can be a cause of inflammation. Many people with autoimmune conditions have tried the Paleo diet with life-changing results.
I turned to the Paleo diet as a possibility after experiencing a major increase of brain fog and hand tremors.
I listened to an interview with Dr. Datis Kharrazian, author of “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?”, and he mentioned that many grains can cross-react with gluten due to similarities in protein structure, causing the same inflammation that gluten can cause.
I was so tired of my brain fog, that I decided this was the next step.
Completely unprepared and without a plan, I tried it out for about a week. And I failed. Badly.
Within days of cutting out grains, my energy was wiped out. I figured there was no way this could work for me. I ate some rice and felt an immediate surge of energy (while still experiencing brain fog and hand tremors).
I wasn’t too knowledgeable about the diet at that point. I realize now that I should have waited at least a month while my body adjusted before making an assessment as to whether or not Paleo would work, but I was too impatient.
Related: How to Start and Actually Stick to a Healing Diet
Despite my failure, I did pick up on a few things from the Paleo diet. I stopped eating peanuts and corn, specifically. From this, I noticed that peanuts were the last piece I needed to eliminate seasonal allergies for good, and corn caused my skin to break out in eczema type rashes every time I ate it.
Autoimmune Protocol [AIP] Diet
The AIP diet, known as the Autoimmune Protocol or the Autoimmune Paleo diet, is a further modification of the Paleo diet. On top of what is already eliminated, it also removes chocolate, caffeine, nuts, seeds, alcohol, eggs, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc.).
Obviously, this diet is geared toward autoimmunity specifically. Many of the foods eliminated are known to be high-inflammatory foods. Since the body is already in a state of constant inflammation due to the nature of autoimmunity, it is helpful to do everything possible to decrease inflammation from other sources.
You can learn more about the AIP Diet here.
By the time my daughter was six weeks old, she was covered in eczema and had a terrible recurring diaper rash that never seemed to go away.
After Frank was able to successfully heal his eczema after cutting corn from his diet, I knew that it is very much related to diet and gut health. Since my daughter was exclusively breastfed, I decided that it was time to eliminate foods from my diet to help her.
Not knowing where to begin, I chose the AIP diet, especially since I figured it would help me with any flare-ups I might experience as my body adjusted post-partum. Double bonus.
Easily the best I’ve felt in a long, long time. I felt AWESOME. I was prepared this time for a dip in energy for those first weeks, and I made it through it. And the best part? My daughter’s eczema completely cleared up.
After about a month, I reintroduced foods, one by one and for about a week at a time, while evaluating both my symptoms as well as my daughter’s. I found out that:
- I have a major, major sensitivity to oats (even if they are gluten-free). They make me feel awful and bring back brain fog with vengeance.
- Grains in general tend to give me heartburn. I really need to limit them.
- Coffee is also a major contributor to my brain fog (this makes me very sad).
In addition, I was able to pinpoint every single food that gave my daughter a reaction, whether it was hives, eczema, or diaper rash. I will likely revisit this diet with every child that I have to help pinpoint their sensitivities.
Coffee and Alcohol-Free Diet
Sometimes logic and what we want don’t line up.
It’s obvious, that if coffee is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant, then perhaps if I have a thyroid disease that causes my body to struggle with energy production, I should eliminate these foods right away… right?
This was and still is a very difficult diet change. The alcohol isn’t too big of a deal, but the coffee – I just love coffee.
Cutting out coffee and alcohol has been a major game-changer for my health. Coffee, even just a sip, sends my brain into a fog almost instantly. My heart races but I am exhausted. I cannot sleep the next night or two.
Giving up gluten-free beer wasn’t too difficult, but wine was my weak point.
If I had more than ½ a glass, I would feel sluggish for about a week after. I used to wake up the next morning with major muscle aches in my legs, but since experimenting with clean, organic wine (and no added sulfites), I have been able to tolerate it much better. This made sense once I learned just how “dirty” most wines are these days, even if they are expensive. Chris Kresser goes into more detail in this post.
Still, it is saved for very special occasions. Waking up feeling refreshed the next day is much more important to me than those few sips.
Vitamins and Supplements for Hashimoto’s Disease:
Iodine is likely the most controversial supplement for thyroid disease. The reason why it is such a focus for thyroid health is because iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones.
There are many doctors and patients who swear by it as a solution to thyroid disease, and many who think that it can actually cause thyroid disease.
You can read more about both sides of the controversy here (for) and here (against).
I was initially started on high-dose iodine back in 2011. I do not believe my doctor at the time was very knowledgeable on how to use it as a supplement. It seemed to give me energy initially, but I eventually stopped it after I heard that it could actually be causing my thyroid more damage.
Fast forward 5 years later and I switched to a new doctor who is very knowledgeable on how to properly use and support iodine supplementation.
I started it back up and did not have any test results that showed a significant increase of antibodies or other concerning markers. But I also really didn’t feel much different.
After starting the AIP diet, I removed almost all of my supplements for about a month. After reintroducing iodine, which I purposely did separately from any other supplement, I noticed that I felt off – more tired, more foggy. It wasn’t extreme by any means. I likely would not have caught it as a culprit if I had not eliminated it and reintroduced it.
I obviously don’t take it anymore, but I also don’t make an effort to avoid iodine-rich foods within my diet since my reaction is very mild.
The second time I tried iodine, selenium was added to the mix. Selenium is known to protect the thyroid from damage caused by high iodine supplementation, but also has other major benefits for thyroid health. This study states the following:
- The thyroid is the organ with the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue.
- Selenium is required for the antioxidant function and metabolism of hormones within the thyroid
- Literature suggests that selenium supplementation of patients with autoimmune thyroiditis is associated with a reduction in TPO antibody levels.
I started myself on selenium before finding my current doctor in hopes of seeing results and continued with it as I supplemented with iodine for the second time.
While the studies seemed promising, I did not experience anything revolutionary while on it, except for sky high selenium levels in my blood work.
I stopped taking it shortly after (along with the iodine), and my levels have dropped but remained well within normal limits, indicating that I am likely consuming enough through diet.
The National Institutes of Health states:
“Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.”
It then goes on to say that dietary intakes within the United States are below recommended amounts, suggesting that many Americans are deficient in this obviously crucial nutrient.
Given the number of processes magnesium is used for within the body, there is no doubt that a deficiency would cause some issues for thyroid function. This is a common supplement recommended not just for Hashimoto’s, but many other autoimmune, thyroid, and chronic health conditions.
Magnesium was one of those life-changing interventions for me. After supplementing (this is the kind I use), I noticed a few major improvements almost right away, including:
- MUCH better sleep. I never woke up feeling rested until I started supplementing with Magnesium.
- Lower anxiety, especially at night. One of the reasons I struggled with sleep in the first place was because my mind couldn’t stop racing. Magnesium helped my mind to relax.
- Less muscle aches and cramping, especially during pregnancy. Anyone who has experienced calf cramping in the middle of the night knows how significant this is.
- Improved bowel movements. I’ll just leave it at that.
Even though I eat a diet high in magnesium-rich foods, I still can’t seem to get enough, especially while pregnant and nursing. This will likely be a life-long supplement for me.
These days, fish oil comes highly recommended by practitioners of all sorts due to its high Omega-3 fatty acid content.
The typical American diet consists of foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which increases inflammation. But, if these Omega-6 fatty acids are balanced with the right ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids, inflammation is reduced.
It makes sense that autoimmune diseases could benefit from Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid balancing to reduce overall inflammation.
Fish oil (this is the kind I use), along with Vitamin D which I will talk about next, was the solution to my achy legs. I’ve experienced pains in my shins and feet for as long as I can remember, even as a young 5-year-old. The best way to describe it is a deep, diffusing, burning ache that is even more painful when any type of pressure is applied.
Often times, a massage was the only way to bring relief, but that was AFTER experiencing the pain from the massage itself.
No doctor ever really acknowledged this symptom, but for me, it was a major disruption in my everyday life. If I did not have the opportunity to walk consistently throughout the day, the pain would get even worse and eventually my shins and calves would swell to almost double their size.
Within a week of taking the fish oil/vitamin D combo, my aches were gone. If I forgot to take my fish oil or Vitamin D, they would come back almost immediately.
I’m happy to say that while I am so happy that I was able to find a solution to a major symptom, I am no longer dependent on fish oil. I think due to my diet changes over the years, my Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratios are a little more balanced.
I almost never experience leg aches, and if I do, it’s usually hormone related, especially around the time I ovulate.
Vitamin D is a common nutrient deficiency among those with Hashimoto’s disease, as well as the majority of Americans. Since sun is a major contributor of Vitamin D, it’s easy to see why many of us would be deficient.
Most of us spend 8-10 hours a day indoors due to our work environment with little to no sun exposure. The winter months also don’t help with cold weather and shorter days.
There have been studies that suggest Vitamin D can help inhibit autoimmunity, as well as aid in cancer prevention. But just due to the fact that I spent so much time indoors, it made sense that this was something my body potentially needed.
As I stated, Vitamin D combined with fish oil was the solution to my achy legs (this is the kind I use).
Even though I am not as dependent on fish oil as I once was, I still need Vitamin D daily. If I skip a dose and do not get adequate sun exposure, I will feel it the next day. This is likely another life-long supplement for me, unless we move to Florida someday… ?
If you haven’t already, you will hear the term “leaky gut,” especially while researching any autoimmune condition.
Leaky gut is exactly what it sounds like… leaky.
It means that the lining of your small intestine is damaged and therefore “leaks” food particles, potential toxins, etc. into your bloodstream instead of staying in the small intestine where they belong. These substances are recognized as foreign by the body and are attacked, causing inflammation and allergic responses.
The solution? Diet changes, supplements, and various other interventions to help seal the lining in the gut. Probiotics (“good” bacteria) are often used to help replenish healthy bacteria and restore good digestive health.
I jumped on the probiotic supplement bandwagon right away. They are heavily recommended for Hashimoto’s Disease, which almost always have some component of leaky gut associated with its root cause(s).
There has not been any major breakthrough that I can point specifically to probiotics.
I do believe that they can be very helpful for specific situations, such as taking antibiotics (which kill all bacteria, good and bad). Given that I have a history with antibiotics, they were probably a great addition as I changed my diet throughout the years.
Now, I have backed off the supplements (with the exception of using them to make homemade yogurt) and focus on probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc. to maintain gut health since I no longer experience digestive issues.
Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, a well-known spice that gives curry its yellow color. Research shows that it is a very powerful medicinal compound and has major anti-inflammatory effects, among many other benefits.
I think this supplement was one that my doctor (at the time) just kind of threw at me when she felt we were running out of options.
I took it for about a year with no noticeable results. Now that I know more about it, I probably could have benefited from pairing it with another chemical compound called piperidine (found in black pepper), and using a higher dose.
(Even though I didn’t notice this to be helpful for my Hashimoto’s Disease, I trialed it for my newly developed unspecified autoimmune disease that gives me chronic pain. And I have to say – it’s been amazing for relieving pain. This is the kind I use.)
Alternative Medicine for Hashimoto’s Disease:
Chiropractic care is a form of health care that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, especially within the spine. Spinal or chiropractic “adjustments” are one of the main forms of treatment which involve the manipulation of joints and tissues that have become restricted in movement or are out of place.
But chiropractic likely isn’t the first thing someone turns to when treating thyroid disease, specifically because the thyroid is not a bone, or a joint, or part of the musculoskeletal system.
So what role would a chiropractor play in thyroid disease management? The first thing that comes to mind is pain, but there are many other benefits. I thought this interview outlined the potential benefits quite well.
The same year I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, I had incredible pain on the right side of my body.
It started in my neck and went down my shoulder and back, into my arm, hand, and pinky finger. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t type on my computer unless I was wearing a very stiff brace on my wrist, but even then, it was hard to do.
I figured it was a result of a dislocated shoulder injury I had in high school, and also from carrying a heavy backpack all day for school.
Desperate for relief, I sought out a chiropractor based on recommendations from others. My results? I’ll just say that I am still a very loyal, frequent patient and my pain level is at a zero.
But that’s not really what I wanted to focus on… because something else very unexpected happened.
Shortly after receiving consistent adjustments, I had to stop my thyroid medication completely for about 3 months.
The adjustments clearly had an impact on my endocrine system. There was nothing else I was doing at the time that could have contributed to the shift of thyroid function. It was very bizarre, and like I said, completely unexpected.
I did eventually resume medication once my body adjusted, but at a lower dose. After that experience, I learned that regular chiropractic care could play a much larger role than I initially thought and it is now a major component of my Hashimoto’s management.
I have only experienced steady improvement since my first visit many years ago and don’t have any desire to see what would happen if I stopped.
Acupuncture is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body to promote energy flow and is thought to work with the nervous system.
If you would have told me years ago that someday I would be letting someone stick some needles in me, I’d say you were crazy.
But desperation makes us do crazy things.
I actually didn’t seek out acupuncture for my Hashimoto’s disease specifically.
Shortly after Frank and I got married, we faced multiple miscarriages while trying for our first child. I decided to give acupuncture a try after reading a book that made a pretty convincing case of its effectiveness in helping our situation.
It definitely made a difference in relieving stress and if that was the only benefit I could take from it, I was okay with that.
But then I started to experience vertigo so intensely after having our daughter that I could barely stand up straight. I cannot be sure if this was related to my Hashimoto’s or not, but it was around the time I weaned off of Low Dose Naltrexone. I am sure my post-partum hormone shifts also didn’t help.
After 6 months of daily vertigo, I set up an appointment to see my acupuncturist. Within 24 hours of seeing her, my vertigo stopped and never returned.
6 MONTHS of debilitating vertigo! Gone within a day of treatment!
Sure, it’s anecdotal. But after that day, I need no more convincing that acupuncture can be incredibly beneficial for managing chronic illness.
Other Therapies for Hashimoto’s Disease:
Treating MTHFR Mutation
If you spend some time in the alternative medicine world, you will likely hear about MTHFR. It is all the rage these days.
The MTHFR gene is responsible for methylation.
To keep things simple, I’ll use an example. If you consume folic acid, the MTHFR gene is responsible for “methylating” the folic acid into its active, usable form of methyl-folate. If the gene is impaired, then the folic acid is not converted into its active form and can actually cause symptoms as a result. These symptoms can vary from person to person.
It is estimated that a large proportion of the population has some form of MTHFR mutation and researchers have linked it to many health conditions, including Hashimoto’s Disease.
I learned about the MTHFR mutation as a possible contributor to Hashimoto’s Disease and recurring miscarriages, so I decided to get tested.
Sure enough, I had it, and after switching to a prenatal vitamin that had methyl-folate instead of folic acid, I noticed a major improvement in my anxiety specifically.
While taking that prenatal with folic acid, I experienced a huge increase in anxiety. I really didn’t feel like myself.
To help illustrate, I found it very difficult to drive, because I always thought a deer was going to run out in front of me. I always drove under the speed limit, scanning the roads constantly, sometimes causing full blown panic attacks.
Imagine my relief when this anxiety melted away after switching my vitamins. It was such a simple fix.
Cleaner Living and Products
Whenever I folded laundry with heavily scented clothes, I developed a sore throat followed by a headache.
Scented candles made me feel sick to my stomach.
I had to go for a walk after using cleaning products to get some fresh air.
Shampoo, conditioner, conditioning cream, styling mousse – my typical hair routine All that effort and my hair would be in a ponytail by lunch time because I couldn’t handle the smell.
Did I ever make the connection that these things could be potentially toxic? That perhaps the reason I experienced these symptoms was because my body was trying to tell me something?
Of course not. These symptoms were diluted by all the rest. But, after cleaning up my diet, addressing nutritional deficiencies, and watching symptoms disappear one by one, it became easier to identify the sources of the symptoms that hung around.
I started replacing products with either homemade or “greener” store-bought products, paying particular attention to avoiding those with synthetic fragrance which seemed to be a big issue for me.
This transitioned into replacing cookware, makeup, dishwasher detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. with cleaner options and I have felt a MAJOR difference. I can now use these products as freely as I’d like without battling the instant symptoms I received from their “dirtier” counterparts.
Relieving my body from the burden of constantly detoxing and being inflamed caused by the toxins it was exposed to has had a significant impact not only on my Hashimoto’s disease, but my overall health.
Blood Sugar Balancing
This, surprisingly, isn’t something I was really able to pinpoint until very recently. I read about it countless time but just couldn’t grasp that my blood sugar may actually be a problem. A doctor even told me I was right on the verge of developing diabetes, but that didn’t seem to faze me.
So, what did eventually made me look at my blood sugar?
Brain fog… again.
Brain fog, especially paired with chronic exhaustion, was easily the worst and hardest symptom to overcome. Despite making great strides over the years in identifying foods that triggered it, I still struggled quite frequently.
Related: Living with Brain Fog – 10 Tips to Help You Cope
I began to notice a pattern. On the days I had a carbohydrate-loaded breakfast (think pancakes with syrup and fruit on top), I quickly crashed with exhaustion and brain fog shortly after and could not recover for the rest of the day.
If I had a protein loaded breakfast (eggs and bacon), I felt great, but if I skipped my morning snack, I became irritable, shaky, and foggy with little hope of recovery until the next day. I realized just how sensitive my body had become to blood sugar imbalances.
After consuming more fats and protein on the AIP diet, I didn’t experience these issues until I started reintroducing grains which sent me right back into the blood sugar battle. Surprise, surprise – the brain fog returned.
I finally cracked the code! As long as I avoid my trigger foods, keep my stress levels at bay, and balance my blood sugar, I do not experience brain fog. This is a major, MAJOR victory!
You can learn more about blood sugar balancing here.
Exercise is so important but for those with chronic conditions, the wrong kind could make matters worse. This was the case for me.
For years, I was told to push my body past its limits while training for sports throughout my childhood and into my college years. I was taught not to listen to my body when it screamed stop.
After my diagnosis, I continued with this mindset. I thought heavy weight lifting and high cardio workouts were the best for building a healthy body and possibly one of the major keys to managing my thyroid disease. So, I trained for a half marathon, expecting stellar results.
To my surprise, the exact opposite happened. My energy plummeted, I was constantly sore and achy, and my thyroid antibodies skyrocketed. After I realized the connection between my exercise routine and downturn in health, I started to back off.
I didn’t realize that exercise, while still very important, is a form of stress. If my body is already taxed, completely wiped out from its constant fight of inflammation and poor thyroid function, it’s not going to fare well with intense exercise routines.
I have since resorted to walking, stretching, and light weight lifting (usually using my own body weight or 1, 3, and 5 lb weights). Occasionally, I like to go for a short jog and I also enjoy using our rowing machine and recumbent bike. Instead of feeling wiped out after, I am energized and tend to sleep well that night.
I let go of that working-out-to-have-a-great-body-and-strong-muscles mindset. Instead, I have learned to see exercise as nourishment for the body and maintaining the right balance is key for Hashimoto’s management.
This is an antibiotic and was not an intervention intended for the treatment of my Hashimoto’s disease. So why do I bring it up?
I had one very strange symptom pop up when my Hashimoto’s began – tinea versicolor. In simple terms, it is caused when yeast on our skin grows out of control. It is incredibly itchy and uncomfortable. I had it on my entire body.
This was strange because it is common in tropical and subtropical climates, where I do not live. It could be caused by oily skin, which I did not have. It is usually prevalent in hot, humid weather, but can go away in the drier, cooler months… but mine started in the winter.
My dermatologist prescribed me every shampoo, pill, cream, gel, etc. that could help fight the yeast, but it only got worse.
About a month or two later, I started a round of doxycycline antibiotics to help my cystic acne.
And guess what happened? My tinea versicolor started to go away. That’s right, antibiotics… which are usually contributors to yeast overgrowth since they kill the bacteria that fights yeast, solved my problem. After a second round, I was completely healed and it has never returned since.
After further research, I noticed that there was another possible cause of tinea versicolor, which is a weakened immune system. Interestingly, a root cause of Hashimoto’s disease can be an underlying infection, some of which are successfully treated with doxycycline.
To this day, my current doctor and I are completely stumped on what actually happened. I developed tinea versicolor shortly before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Perhaps there was an infection (perhaps even Lyme Disease) that weakened my immune system, caused tinea versicolor (and potentially was a trigger for my Hashimoto’s), then was eliminated with doxycycline, thus giving me full resolution of the skin disease.
I don’t think I have ever met anyone else with tinea versicolor before… but I wanted to include this very odd form of resolution just in case anyone reading this is experiencing the same situation.
So… was that all?
Despite my progress with all of these, I still had more searching to do. Eventually, I succeeded in reversing my Hashimoto’s completely, but it did take a few more years, To learn what I did, continue reading!
Part 4 of this series covers 10 Steps I’d Take If I Was Diagnosed Today and Part 5 explains how I began Reducing My Thyroid Antibodies From Over 2000 Down to (Almost) Nothing.
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits, so you can find the healing you deserve.
Pertaining to the section on Doxycycline….I wonder if it could have been Lyme Disease? Interesting.I went GF 4 years ago because I’ve had Rheumatoid Arthritis since I was 8 (i’m 51) and I have thyroid nodules. As was your experience my blood work doesn’t scream Thyroid disease so no on seems interested in helping me. My Rheumatologist is very progressive with alternate options and I am about to start low dose Naltrexone…wish me luck! I plan to refer my niece to your site…she has Hashimoto’s and does not have it under control.I’m hoping to inspire her to Take Control!! Thanks for the info;)
Hi Tammy, thanks for reading! I have never thought about the Doxycycline possibly being linked to Lyme’s… but you bring up a good point! It is, of course, always possible. If that’s the case, then I got pretty lucky with unknowingly treating it. It took about 2 full rounds to clear up my skin issues… very interesting.
I am so so happy to hear that your Rheumatologist is open to using LDN – it is very hard to find doctors willing to prescribe it! I am praying that you have GREAT results and amazing hair like I experienced. Lol. You’ll have to check back with me after you’re on it for a couple months and let me know how it goes. 🙂 And please, send your niece our way and let her know if she has any questions, she can comment or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a fantastic post! What is the AIP diet? I also wanted to ask you about rheumatoid symptoms, did you develop any? Out if the blue i developed symptoms in my hands. I can’t make a tight fist any longer and I’ve noticed my fingers are becoming deformed. Thank you for this post
Hi Cheryl! The AIP diet stands for the Autoimmune Paleo (or some people call it Protocol) diet. It is a diet that removes inflammatory foods and emphasizes nutrient-dense, healing foods to help heal from autoimmune disease. It is a VERY restrictive diet upon first glance, but there are so many people who find relief in managing autoimmune conditions using this type of diet. You can read more about it here: https://www.thepaleomom.com/start-here/the-autoimmune-protocol/. Also, YES, I have had rheumatoid symptoms in the past… I was also not able to make a tight fist and developed weakness and tremors in my hands. That was a very low point in my health and those symptoms, along with brain fog, pushed me to really dive deep into diet and lifestyle changes. They did go away once I started changing my diet and working with a functional medicine doctor. And although I did not have any issues with deformity in my fingers, it is a symptom I have seen in other people. Keep searching for answers, Cheryl. You are on the right path!
Thank you for all the research and comparison of the meds and diets! I’m currently on Armour Thyroid, and trying to find the right dosage.
I read that you had a child throughout the process. Which particular meds were you on when you were able to conceive? I have been unable to and it has been a year. Just wondering if this is a factor.
When I conceived my first full-term pregnancy (I had four early miscarriages before that, but we believe those were caused by uterine polyps), I was on Low Dose Naltrexone to keep my antibody levels and inflammation down, and also Armour Thyroid, which I had to increase my dosage almost immediately after getting pregnant because my body needed the extra support. My doctor also had me take baby aspirin and progesterone suppositories as a preventative since I had a history of miscarriages, but I am not sure I needed those. For my second full-term pregnancy, I was on Westhroid Pure instead of Armour and did not need the Low Dose Naltrexone, aspirin, or progesterone. I should also mention that this was paired with a strict Paleo diet. I am now pregnant again, and plan on writing a few posts about what I’ve learned regarding thyroid and autoimmune issues, as well as what has worked for me to manage my autoimmune issues during pregnancy.
Hmm, I’ve just been diagnosed with tinea versicolor just a day ago in Las Vegas (a dry climate) in February in the cold with my dry chapped skin! And I have been told before that I have hypothyroid, although my new primary care who did not give me my original diagnosis as hypo, this doctor now tells me repeatedly that “My thyroid is fine.” while my hair falls out and I’m freezing. Ugh. Your story is helping to shed some light on what may be going on with my health and what I should pursue to start healing. Thank you for posting your story.
Hi Natalie! That is so interesting about the tinea versicolor… now I’m happy I included that in the post. I remember debating if I should include it or not because it seemed so random, but, after experiencing all my symptoms over a period of many years, I can’t help but think it was related to my Hashimoto’s.
I, too, experienced the whole “your thyroid is fine” thing from some of my doctors. But I continued searching and eventually found a doctor who listened and treated me appropriately. If you have the symptoms, keep searching for the answers! My hair was falling out and I was always, always cold, so I know how you feel. I thought it was normal to feel that way and I couldn’t believe the difference once I got started on the right thyroid medication, diet, etc. Good luck, Natalie!
Thank you so much for this excellent post! I have eliminated my thyroid antibodies through balancing my hormones but now my husband has been recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. So much time has passed since the beginning of my treatment that reading what you have done is very helpful to me in coaching him.
Hi Carolyn, thank you! I am glad you found it helpful. Sounds like you two are like Frank and I where we both have autoimmune issues. But that is awesome you were able to eliminate yours and now can use that knowledge and firsthand experience to help your husband. He is very lucky to have you. 🙂