My Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Diet – how I've used the Whole30, the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP Diet), and the Paleo diet to feel fantastic and live free of my symptoms
The last decade of my life has definitely been a journey full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows when it comes to my health, but I finally think I'm in a stable place where I know how to stay feeling fantastic. Want to know how I did it?
Let me first give you the backstory, as it will help give context to what I do now.
“Um, we don't know why they're all showing up as allergies – my suggestion is to just keep him off of nuts until he's 3 and come back and see us then”
This was the expert allergist's opinion of my oldest son Nathan's sudden and worrying rashes he experienced when eating walnuts and cinnamon. Things he'd had hundreds of times up to that point with no problem.
He was almost 2 at the time (this was 2011) and it freaked us out, but no one could give us an explanation.
So I changed our diet.
October 2011- The GAPS Diet
I'd been reading about grain-free diets for food sensitivities and decided we'd try the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha McBride) to see if it would help him.
I also secretly hoped it might help with some of the nagging symptoms I'd been experiencing from my hypothyroidism that never went away – but I doubted it since my doctor told me the ONLY thing that would help was the medication he had me on (Levothyroxine).
A few weeks later we both had amazing stories of feeling better – him not reacting to anything anymore and talking clearly in full sentences for the first time ever and me finding my brain fog gone, my energy evening out, and my vision much clearer.
August 2012 – Paleo (the 1st time)
A few weeks after that I got pregnant again and ate white bread, fried chicken, fries, and root beer for 9 months straight (all I could stomach).
After that I knew I needed to do better – all of those weird thyroid symptoms had come back. So we switched to Paleo because it had a LOT more recipes and community than GAPS did, but was very similar.
Things went great for a few months, but I decided to start following the “80/20” version of Paleo because I didn't quite understand how food affected me. I was eating Paleo 80% of the time and eating gluten-laden foods like pizza, beer, pastries, muffins, etc the rest of the time.
Little did I know, those 20% gluten-binges were slowly killing me.
May 2014 – Hashimoto's and Celiac Diagnosis
In the spring of 2014, I was a wreck. I could barely make it off the couch, my husband had to cook most of our meals, and I watched my kids play from the sidelines, constantly telling them “no” when they asked me to join them. I seriously wondered if I was dying.
Some of my symptoms:
- Extreme exhaustion
- My hair was falling out
- I was COLD all the freakin time
- I had to read directions to do my job at least 3 or 4 times to understand them
- I constantly felt like I was a space cadet with a cold from the brain fog
- I picked up EVERY cold and flu virus that came within a 10-mile radius of me
- Heart palpitations ALL THE TIME – racing, skipping beats, all of it
- I was gaining weight
- Anxiety and panic attacks were normal for me
- I had very heavy and irregular periods
- the list goes on and on – and on
My unhelpful family practitioner told me my symptoms were either in my head or just something I had to deal with since I was on the correct dosage of Levothyroxine.
See also: Hashimoto's Symptoms
So I switched to a Functional Medicine Practitioner – they look for the root cause of your issues – and he did the lab testing that showed me I had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Celiac Disease.
What I learned from him was that my thyroid was STILL being attacked by my body no matter what medication I was on. The Levothyroxine was just merely producing the hormones my thyroid no longer could, but the underlying disease was still going on.
It was like filling a bucket with water without patching up the holes first.
June 2014 – AIP Diet (the 1st time)
So on the advice of my new doc I went on the AIP Diet to help heal, stop the underlying diseases from happening, and to feel better.
Within a few weeks I was feeling AMAZING. Most of my symptoms were gone!
I stayed on the strict elimination portion of the AIP diet for 90 days, then slowly started reintroducing foods over the next 9 months.
June 2015 – Paleo (again)
I transitioned off of the AIP diet in 2015 onto full strict Paleo and did GREAT for several years. I started this blog, shouted from the rooftops, generally annoyed all of my family and friends with my constant health talk, and went on with life.
November 2017- Gluten-free
In the end of 2017 I just had had it with Paleo. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to eat what normal people ate, not worrying about food. I was DONE.
So I ate pretty much whatever the heck I wanted – as long as it was gluten-free.
See, I'd gotten “glutened” a few times over the previous few years and those were some of the most PAINFUL experiences ever, so I avoid that stuff like the plague.
But everything else? It was fair game.
Bring on the baked goods! The pastas! The junk food!
That didn't end well.
March 2018 – Whole30
I knew I needed to make a pretty big change. ALL of my symptoms were coming back. My teeth even hurt!?!
I didn't think Paleo would be enough for me as I felt I'd also let the sugar dragon get a hold of me, eating several desserts each day, etc. Whole30 is a stricter version of Paleo without sugars, so I knew it would help tame that quickly.
I filmed and blogged my journey through that Whole30 starting with the post “How I'm using Diet For my Hashimoto's Flare“.
One thing I learned from that experience though is that Whole30 wasn't enough for me at that time. I had thought it was JUST the sugar causing my issues but I needed more healing.
May 2018 – AIP Diet (again)
So I went back on the AIP diet again for a few months – strictly on the elimination portion for 6 weeks until I felt that every symptom I was worried about was gone, and then through an abbreviated reintroduction period.
Once again I filmed and blogged about that experience, so if you want to know more, you can see it starting with AIP Batch Cooking and Prep
My Current Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Diet
Once I transitioned off of AIP I went back to Paleo and have pretty much stayed there this time.
I HAVE tried reintroducing some grains, beans, dairy, etc and while some of them have gone ok and don't seem to cause me any issues, others haven't gone so well.
What I Eat
Most of the time I stick to a Paleo-style diet.
As long as I eat within the Paleo diet I feel fine. I seem to have no problems tolerating any foods that are considered Paleo.
I've learned to eat as nutritionally-dense as I can, making sure to get in a LOT of veggies, a variety of meats and seafoods, some fruits, nuts, seeds, fats, and occasionally something sweet. It's not all just about what you take out – a lot of it is about what you get IN. Our immune systems need a ton of nutrients, so keeping it stocked with them is a big job!
I've also experimented pretty heavily with seeing what other foods I can tolerate, as I hate the idea of restriction for restriction's sake. Rather, I want to have my own customized diet that allows me to feel my best and to not feel like I have more restrictions than grains of sand on a beach.
Like I've learned I can have white rice all I want – the only issue I've found is I gain weight when I eat it too much.
I can eat oats on an occasional basis, as well as most of the other gluten-free grains, but I don't eat them frequently as I start to get symptoms and I don't want to go back down THAT rabbit hole again.
I've also found I can eat garbanzo beans/chickpeas 1-2 times a month without much of an issue, but if I eat more I start noticing some symptoms.
What I Try Not to Eat
I do not seem to be able to eat corn, except for a few handfuls of popcorn, without having terrible sciatic back pain the next day. It doesn't mean I don't try – I mean corn is in every-freakin-thing and I love corn dishes, but I find myself increasingly making the decision to skip the corn because of this back pain.
I also try not to eat dairy as it gives me bad bloating and gas. Though I'm a weak weak person around cheese, so I sometimes eat it in restaurants.
Most of the beans seem to give me bloating and gas, whether they've been soaked or not, so I just stay away for the most part.
What I Do NOT Eat
Quinoa – the very word makes me shudder. It's always given me intense, painful stomach cramps. Therefore I haven't even tried to reintroduce this one.
Gluten – the whole Celiac Disease thing should make this self-explanatory but the terrible pain I go through if I get exposed to gluten makes this permanently off my list of edible foods. It's essentially poison for me.
Lifestyle Definitely Counts Too
I've learned through this process that lifestyle counts almost as much – if not AS much – as what we eat. It's almost one of those things we ignore these days as it all sounds nice, but do we really have to do them?
I totally notice if I don't do these – my symptoms come back with a vengeance.
So to keep me healthy I:
- meditate or listen to a hypnosis audio at LEAST once a day (sometimes two). This helps give my brain a break
- walk every day for 30-45 minutes
- get at least 8 hours of sleep a night – this is a PRIORITY
- take time for me – reading fun romance novels is my favorite
- don't overdo it on other exercises – I do yoga and pilates a few times a week if I can and then Barre once a week
- learned to say “no” to overcommitting myself
I do still take a thyroid replacement hormone medication every day.
I take Armour Thyroid as I apparently was not converting the T4 to T3 hormones like I needed to. Levothyroxine is just T4 but Armour has both T3 and T4 so it works better for me personally.
Everyone is different though, so it's important to work with your doc on this aspect.
What's nice though is that before I changed my diet, my Levo dosage fluctuated every month, but I've been stable for 5 years on this Armour dosage.
Supplements I Take
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I really rely on my diet to get most of my nutrition, but I do take dessicated liver capsules from Perfect Supplements (<- use code THRIVING10 to get 10% off) 3-4 times a week because I just can't do organ meats. I've tried, and it just does NOT work for me (gag).
I also take an Omega-3/DHA pill from Nordic Naturals as I really don't eat as much seafood as I should.
And finally, I also take a probiotic, though the type and brand changes every so often as I don't like to stay on one particular one for too long to get variety.
I feel like I've really matured in the last year or so – realizing really how much food can make or break us.
Instead of acting like a sulky teenager that is being told she can't have foods, I'm now approaching my diet thankful that I know how to make myself feel better and that there is an abundance of foods out there that can help me.
I've also learned there really is no “normal”. I had felt like everyone else was eating all these foods from my childhood and feeling great, but turns out most people don't feel great on them anyway.
After learning what fantastic feels like (then terrible again, then fantastic again) I really don't want to go back to “normal” if normal is not this. So while I'm sure I'll have my moments where I'll be jealous of someone eating a pizza, and I'll have my good and bad days health-wise, I think I've found my long term template to control my Hashimoto's.
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