This is Part 5 of my Healing Hashimoto’s series which outlines my personal experience with Hashimoto’s Disease. The other posts in this series include:
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. The information in this post cannot be used to treat or diagnose any disease.
In 2010, I started on my personal roller coaster of recovery (from Hashimoto’s Disease). And I mean roller coaster, just check out my thyroid antibody results…
*FYI – I was diagnosed in 2010, but at that time, my antibodies were just barely there. Then, I went a few years without further testing, and picked it back up in 2013. That is where we are going to start.
So, let’s hop off this crazy coaster and look through the details of my thyroid antibodies journey since 2013.
Here’s the table of my antibody progress:
For the sake of simplicity, I am only going to focus on my thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) for this blog post because that is really where I experienced the most dramatic shifts. However, I do want to note that my thyroperoxidase (TPO) antibodies have also made awesome progress. They are now within “normal range.”
As you can see, I’ve had great success in reducing both antibody levels. I’m going to explain what correlated with the ups and downs along the way.
Plus, I’ll tell you what I am doing NOW in terms of diet, lifestyle, etc. to keep them from increasing.
But first, let’s discuss what caused my thyroid antibodies to go up so high in the first place.
Between 2010 and 2013, I never had my antibodies tested. Within that time-frame, I was a pretty lost duck. There was just no consistency in my treatment plan.
I was uneducated. My doctors were uneducated. And there were two things that hurled me into the realm of intense inflammation – poor diet and poor exercise choices.
In 2011, my new functional medicine doctor told me to go gluten-free. So, what did I do?
I went kind-of gluten-free. Duh.
This was the first time I had ever heard of using a gluten-free diet as an autoimmune disease treatment, so I didn’t really take it seriously. I cheated often, usually in the form of cake and cross-contaminated sushi.
Plus, my gluten-free diet was the Standard American Diet version…
Piles of gluten-free pasta, crackers, chips, cookies, and bread, heavy on the poor-quality meat, and complimented with maybe 1-2 servings of veggies per WEEK. And of course, plenty of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
And although my doctor warned me that a poor diet could be a major contributing factor, I continued to play it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal.
I thought that exercise was the answer, not diet. So, I pushed myself to the limits (which weren’t that far, given I could barely go up the stairs without being exhausted).
Training for a Half Marathon
My logic was simple:
Exercise = good for body
Exercise = pushing body to limit
Pushing body to limit = good for body!
With my logic in mind, I chose to run a half marathon.
Training consisted of daily runs for 2 months straight, and oh my goodness, I felt awful. But I “knew” that pushing my body meant “good” health, and I ran that half-marathon!
Then it was over.
Recovery felt like months. Everything hurt. Exhaustion made moving again impossible. It was just better to stay still.
Lesson LEARNED. Never again.
At that point, my doctor decided to test my antibodies. We were absolutely horrified at the results. My thyroglobulin antibodies were well over 2000.
“These are the highest antibody levels I have ever seen,” she told me.
Then she explained that autoimmune diseases come in 3s. If I have one, then my likelihood of developing 2 more increases. My prognosis was grim.
She immediately prescribed Low Dose Naltrexone, a prescription drug she used with great success in many of her autoimmune disease patients (specifically MS).
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
Fortunately, the LDN did its job and decreased my antibodies. It WORKED!
Within 7 months, my antibodies were down to 380.
And I have to say that LDN gave me amazing hair. While a surprise to me, it was a welcomed side-effect. Any of you hypothyroid peeps out there know what it’s like to feel like you’re balding.
Even with the amazing hair, I still didn’t feel well. I had brain fog and exhaustion. The purpose of the LDN was to reduce antibodies and it did, but when I tried to get pregnant, I watched them start to climb back up.
The Stress From Miscarriages
One miscarriage is a pretty normal occurrence, but 4?
The heartache that I felt month after month is indescribable. I became completely paralyzed in all facets of my life.
Had it not been for the LDN holding those antibodies down, I would have had the worst autoimmune flare of my life, possibly resulting in new health conditions.
Surprisingly, the rise in antibodies that I expected wasn’t all that big. They increased from 380 to 584 and then dropped again to 503.
The miscarriages were the kick in the butt I needed to start taking all of this seriously.
Together, Frank and I completely re-made our lifestyle – diet, sleep, nontoxic products, new doctors, new therapies, genetic testing, in-depth blood work and hormone testing… it’s a long list.
I was determined, at this point, to get pregnant by natural means. We had no interest in pursuing fertility treatment. I knew deep down, that lifestyle changes and working with the right doctor were the solution.
Eventually, our hard work paid off – I was pregnant. And guess what? I felt awesome. And the test results agreed.
Through my piles of research regarding pregnancy and autoimmune disease, I understood that it’s possible for some conditions to get worse and others to improve during pregnancy.
For me, two things happened: my brain fog disappeared and my energy levels were high. Despite my nausea and morning sickness, it was quite possibly the best I have ever felt in my entire life (not kidding).
So, when I saw that my antibodies decreased to 36 (WHAT!?), I was elated! No joke, I wish I could have been pregnant forever. Yes, that is how good I felt.
But, as we all know, the baby HAS to come out at some point.
Delivering First Baby / Stopping Low Dose Naltrexone
For various reasons, post-partum was stressful and my diet consisted of daily Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Go-Macro bars (ugh, so good). While still gluten and dairy-free, I was more concerned about filling my belly than what I was actually eating.
It took a couple months, but after loads and loads of sugar, I experienced brain fog, fatigue, and a new symptom: vertigo.
I also stopped taking my Low Dose Naltrexone for a week thanks to another new condition – new mom. Even with my new symptoms and new baby, I decided, after discussing with my doctor, that it was time to stop it for good.
So, in terms of antibodies, there was really no surprise to see them rise again. At 189, I was pleased with the results despite all of the stress and weaning off LDN.
The Rest of My Antibody Journey
I got pregnant again about a year after having our daughter. My antibodies lowered from the pregnancy, as expected… but this time, I got to a new low: 21.
Then, a couple months later, AFTER delivering our second child, AFTER I literally almost died from an emergency situation, AFTER 2 blood transfusions, they still remained at 21!
If after all of that stress and trauma, I was able to keep them from rising, then obviously whatever I am doing seems to be working.
So, let’s do a quick recap.
Here is my roller coaster graph:
The things that correlate with an increase in my thyroid antibodies are:
- Poor diet
- Poor exercise choices
- Birth of my first child/stopping LDN
The things that correlate with a decrease in my thyroid antibodies are:
- Low Dose Naltrexone
- Better lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, etc.)
But there is one last thing that I personally believe made a major impact on reducing them and that is…
Quitting My Job
After 5 years of working in the corporate world, with 1 of those years spent working full-time away from my daughter, I quit.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like my job… there was just NO passion. None. And especially after having our daughter, all I could think about was how I was using my time to do something I didn’t enjoy while someone else watched her.
It was miserable and depressing and I have no doubt that working was the biggest source of stress in my life at that time. The day I walked out those doors for the last time, I felt a huge weight lifted off of me.
After years of pushing my way through brain fog and chronic, debilitating fatigue, I was finally without the restraints of a set schedule, long commute, and hours of sitting at a desk. Finally, I was FREE!
And ever since my last day in August 2017, my antibodies have not increased. Of course, this is in conjunction with all of the other things I have been doing to keep them low.
So, what else am I doing?
Since 2010, my treatment plan has been a major work in progress. Each year brings new knowledge and new understandings of what works for me.
But, in order to keep this post from being 5 miles long, I decided to do a separate blog post. So… click here to learn about the current management plan I use to keep my antibodies from rising again!
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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. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!