I’m sharing something that has been on my heart for a long time. Everything mentioned below is what I’ve learned about myself and what works specifically for me and my system. This is NOT a blanket “Do this if you have a thyroid disease” post because I can only speak for what does and does not work for me. Each body is different.
After years of being cold, losing hair, poor concentration, anxiety, memory issues, weight gain, bouts with infertility, and low energy, I discovered in my late 20s that I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the thyroid. I would have stages in my younger days where I would go hypothyroid and slam on 15 pounds over the summer. Then I’d go hyperthyroid and lose a ton of weight. In college, when I took on the typical college-life drinking and junk food eating scene, I sent my body into a level 4 systemic yeast overgrowth and it shut down my menstrual cycles.
But in time my body normalized and I’m ahead of this disease.
Now at age 42, my thyroid is dead and I’m on full replacement of synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life.
It is what it is.
I currently take Synthroid 137 and 150 mcg interchangeably in a week’s time under the guidance of Endocrinologist Dr. Dawn Ayers of Noblesville. I’ve been with her since my diagnosis in 2002 and she helped me through each of my five pregnancies.
After the birth of my fourth child (so if you do the math, I had one miscarriage), I weighed in at 225 pounds on my 5’7″ frame. Sure, pregnancy puts some weight on a body, but I had some pretty sloppy habits when I was pregnant and if I saw it, I ate it. I never did any physical activity, fast food was on the menu on a regular basis, and there were no boundaries on portion size. After having my son I could either keep that lifestyle up OR I could own my actions and make changes. I could not keep those choices up and just blame the missing thyroid.
I chose to make changes.
I was sick and tired of being tired, cranky, emotional, and sugar craved. Long story short, but over the last 68 months since October 2009, I have spent that time learning MY body. Life without a thyroid was not going to stop me from living, from being the person God called me to be. I knew there are many side effects to an absent thyroid, but I also knew I could not live and eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) and lifestyle and still function like I truly desired.
Something had to go. I was willing to make changes and sacrifice for the trade-off.
So here is what works for my body. People may not want to hear it or may feel judged or criticized against what they do, but don’t. My best advice is just learn your system and know what you can and cannot do and then rock it out. Period!
I AM ABLE TO:
Eat lots of vegetables; However, I do not eat cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, or cauliflower and I avoid soy and raw spinach as much as possible. These are estrogenic and have a negative effect on my system. Research proves it and my system concurs! (Broccoli can get stuck in my digestive track and it’s an awful discomfort!)
Eat lean meats and protein like tilapia, salmon, red meat, bacon, and turkey. I discovered in 2013 that chicken and eggs are inflammatory to me, so I keep them to a minimum. I feel I react that way due to the fact that a lot of chicken is full of wheat fillers to plump them up.
Eat healthy fats daily like avocado,nut butters, butter and coconut oil, canned coconut milk, grass-fed butter, walnuts, and almonds
Eat Ezekiel breads and oats/oat bran as my grains; **January 2017 update: I have since gone OFF all grains as of 10/1/16 and it’s been the best decision ever! I walked away from oats, wheat, rice, corn, and potatoes. I no longer have some every once in awhile, I vowed to quit eating them for good, for life. This is something I learned about with the impact of gluten and grains on a thyroid-compromised body and it’s been very helpful for me to live and function grain free.
Eat minimal dairy like string cheese or a small amount of ice cream, but we as a family don’t drink milk and keep yogurt to a minimum. In general, dairy bloats me if I have too much in my system at one time. But my favorite cheeses are blue cheese, feta and gorgonzola! **January 2017 update: I now mainly choose Goat Cheese in lieu of Cow’s dairy
Enjoy a good piece of chocolate. I’m a chocolate gal for sure, but a few bites go a long way! **January 2017 update: I no longer do wheat, but I do enjoy chocolate. Coconut flour is a great alternative. Here are some great options we use: Mindy Irish Fitness Coconut Flour Recipes
Drink a gallon + of water a day; My body needs at least 128 ounces a day and when I’m in contest prep for Figure, I like to hit upwards of 160 ounces of water daily.
Drink regular and decaf coffee, but rarely past 3PM (caffeine is only my friend before 3PM!) I enjoy my own homemade iced coffee to start my day each AM and a Starbucks Iced Venti Americano is my drink of choice!
Be active consistently lifting weights in the gym and doing a variety of outdoor activities, but not too much cardio!
Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night; I’d LOVE to get 9, but that rarely happens, but I feel that’s what my body truly needs.
MY BODY TELLS ME IT IS NOT ABLE TO:
Eat much sugar; Lately a kids’-sized ice cream scoop or bowl of oatmeal makes me want to take a nap. I’ve become very insulin sensitive, so if I have too much sugar and spike my insulin, I crash. If I’m having dessert, honestly, a few bites does the trick and that’s all I can handle. This also goes for fruit. I will enjoy an apple every now and then or blueberries, but I generally steer clear of fruit due to the sugar content. Too much sugar and I look like a stay-puff marshmallow!
Eat grains; As mentioned in the January 2017 update above under “Ezekiel, Oats, and Chocolate Cake”, since my original post on this, I have since taken those out. Under the input I learned at the 2016 Thyroid Connection Summit from many reliable, functional medicine sources, I took all wheat, oats, rice, corn, and potatoes out of my diet as of October 1, 2016. My system is healing at the gut level and over time it just keeps getting better!
Eat fake sweeteners; I simply cannot do chemicals. Sucralose and aspartame lead me into depression and make me very sad. So what is my alternative? Liquid Stevia by Sweet Leaf! I will add that to my coffees and unsweet teas and water and it hits the spot as a sugar alternative.
Eat refined oils; Canola, safflower, vegetable oils and any type of processed oil is really hard on my system. I love chips and salsa, but a Mexican meal swimming in oil is so hard on my system. With a lack of a thyroid, my body is challenged to process fake foods. It’s like my body filters are gone and I’m just super sensitive to it all.
Eat corn, rice, OR gluten-free flours; Recently I went wheat free 95% of the time (outside an occasional treat or great plate of pancakes!) and my body was super happy. I tried putting gluten-free flours in its place like mixtures of potato starch, tapioca flour, and other mixes and it was just too much for my digestion. So I’m basically gluten-free and gluten-free free!
Tolerate Alcohol; People around me who tend to drink a lot have even taken offense to this and it saddens me that people can’t understand that some bodies just can’t filter alcohol like others. If I have a drink, it’s about one every two months and it’s a pomegranate martini for sure!
Eat processed, multi-ingredient, fake foods and foods with colors; Sure I can ingest it, but long term this is so hard on my body. Anything with lots of chemicals, preservatives and hard-to-pronounce ingredients is just too hard on my system. If I want to have them from time to time, I do. But I will pay for it. My energy drops, I have brain fog, my digestion slows, and I feel awful. So I pick and choose if and when I eat highly processed foods. I still believe in keeping the “balance”, but that looks different for all of us.
Drink Soda Pop; I had my last soft drink in 2010. It was a Coke. I would drink those a few times a week and loved the taste. But for my system, it was just too much and I’m not sure I could tolerate it now.
Eat Fast Foods; I quit doing fast food for me in 2013 and was still going through the drive-thru to get my kids desserts and drinks, because I rationalized that was ok. Then I realized I didn’t want to support those venues and decided to BUYcott and we quit doing Fast Food as a family a few months later. It was NOT easy, but it is doable and there’s no turning back! My kids went through withdrawal, but I stuck to my plan and we’re doing it! Fast food had little nutritional benefit for my body and I was paying for the preservatives and chemicals that were in that convenience-style food.
So overall, this lifestyle would be a nightmare to most people. To me, it’s been a learning process and I’ve learned to embrace it for what it is. I don’t call it “eating clean” or give it any type of trendy name, but basically consider that I eat whole foods 90-95% of the time, year round.
This was a process that took years to get to. I started out journaling after I would eat. I would then notice patterns of certain foods and then try eliminating them. Over time I noticed what options did help me to be strong, energetic and optimal. I also took out of my routine diet the foods that sent me backwards. It was more than just looking at the scale. It was looking at how my clothes fit, my mental clarity, my strength and my energy.
I had to focus on the big picture.
Additionally, my mindset had to shift. I could no longer look at foods of my past and feel deprived of them. If I wanted to eat them, I would, but I’d pay for it. In time I quit putting value on those foods and then and only then did I no longer desire them. When I took the value off, the feeling of deprivation was gone too and I could make progress towards my whole-foods lifestyle. I now crave what strengthens me!
To me it’s been a blessing in disguise. I wanted to share with others because I know thyroid problems are increasing, but I also wanted to empower people that it’s ok to go against the flow and to eat differently. In my opinion, living with a thyroid disease and without a working thyroid means I just can’t eat and live the way most people do. I have to be proactive for what my body needs and this is my new normal.
Don’t curse your crisis. Isn’t it awesome to be different anyways?!
-To your wellness,
This is my body’s transformation as I came out of my last pregnancy, learned my body, and eventually added 5x weekly weight lifting to my routine.