Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Note on Health and Hypothyroidism

**I claim no understanding of what I describe below. I have no expertise in the area of health or medicine, but I share this in case it somehow helps you.

This post has nothing to do with writing. It's a shout out to any of you out there dancing with thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism seems to run in my family. For years I’ve had the symptoms, and the past six months have felt like a slow descent into the grave--a constant exhaustion that no amount of sleep can put a dent in, the lack of desire to do anything in general, and whole bunch of other joyous symptoms.

For years I’ve asked around for solutions and treatments for hypothyroidism. People always had things they were trying, but still always said that they were dealing with symptoms. And since what people were telling me to try didn't seem to be working for them, I ultimately did nothing. Nor did I go to the doctor. I didn’t want to get on a medication to mask the symptom of whatever problem I had, and I didn’t want to go the route of cutting the thyroid out, either. I wanted to find out what was wrong and fix it. The way I see it, unless I fix it, I just pass the problem on to another generation that will either become dependent on medication to function themselves, cut it out like I hypothetically did, or be left to fix the problem that I didn’t fix.

Somewhere, deep down, I just felt like this was something I needed to fix, not treat, and that somehow I would trip over the answer.

Then, four weeks ago, my brother sent me this unsolicited email:

I know I told you most of this, but I thought I would put it in writing.

Thyroid stuff: bacteria balance in your gut, the milk intolerance is a big hint combined with a greater tolerance for yogurt. Broken down lactose is the difference between those two things, of course with other things.

Check the leptin and/or thyroid packs, or whatever gets your attention.

Harmons sells roasted garlic, I just learned this today and bought some. I had got their olives before. Olives contribute to a healthy gut. Garlic does too, and is a good source of selenium, which among other things takes the inactive form of Thyroid hormone and allows it to become active at a cellular level.

Avoid white flour for sure, probably go low or no gluten, low to no sugar, pay attention to your reaction to fruits if you can.

Iosol, which you have already but I got from the above link.

Most of all, happy new year.

At the time my brother sent this, I literally didn’t have the attention span to read the whole email (yes, that’s how bad things had gotten). Pressing on the link just seemed to be too much effort and some of the sentences just seemed too long to finish. But one thing caught my attention as I read through the email: don’t eat white flour, and for some reason I decided right then and right there that white flour was out and decided to cut it from my diet.

And if you want to know my reasoning for this, I can't give you any. It was an impulsive, "girl" decision that jived with other things I'd heard people say about flour being an aggravator.

The next day I realized that my impulsive decision basically meant all flour was out, based on how food is made in American, but still, I pressed on… and an amazing thing happened:

I had energy!!

The next day was even better, and after a measly 72 hours, I was starting to have glimpses of the me I used to be. Simply by not eating grain!

On day four I made some rice and absolutely crashed. After eating it I could barely make it through the rest of the night, so I woke up the next morning and cut rice as well.

It has now been four weeks since I started this experiment and I’ve only had flour once in that time. Some friends begged me to try some amazing rolls, so I did. I knew it wouldn’t be worth it, and it wasn’t, but that’s okay. I don’t think it set me back too much.

So this post is for any of you who may be where I was a month ago and dealing with similar health issues. The following are the changes I have experienced from dropping grains from my diet:

  • A dramatic increase in energy—as in up at least 40% and climbing. It’s a happy, happy thing.
  • A shifting palate. Things that used to taste good don’t anymore. I don’t pretend to understand this, nor have I heard anyone else talk about it, but it is weird to make something you’ve always thought you liked only to find it disgusting. For example, eggs taste like sulfur to me now. Don’t know what that’s about…
  • Increased sensitivity to rich foods. Before I just ate rich food, no problem. Now a simple Skor bar will give me a stomach ache. (Is it weird that I find that exciting?)
  • I feel caffeine now. This is an area where not many can relate to me, but my whole life caffeine and sugar have put me to sleep—immediately. No sugar or caffeine highs, just a crash. Give me a Mountain Dew and I’ll be on the couch asleep within five minutes. I’ve never understood this, and had many-a-health-nut test me on this reaction to caffeine. But for the first time, about five days ago, I felt what it feels like to be wired on caffeine. I drank something with a mild amount of caffeine in it before bed, only to spend the next couple of hours staring at the wall and fighting the urge to go for a run. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I tried some caffeine at work the next day, and voila! I was wired, my legs almost cramping from sitting all day.
  • In the first two weeks, I dropped 7 pounds. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Those are the five major changes within the four weeks of cutting white flour in particular, and grains in general out of my diet.

I realize this post isn’t for everyone, but if you’re like I was, walking around exhausted beyond words, are constantly gaining weight, no matter what you eat, get cold easy, get sore easy, have dry, pale skin and weakening fingernails, in addition to other symptoms of hypothyroidism, this post is for you.

Of course you need to do whatever you think is best for you when it comes to your health. I’m not here to tell you what to do if you’re happily on a medication that is working for you or you prefer to take counsel from someone with a PhD, but I can tell you this: my life has turned around and taken a change for the better in a HUGE way be doing the following:

  1. Dropping all grains
  2. Supplementing with iodine (I do use the Iosol my brother recommends)
  3. Eating iron-rich foods
  4. Supplement with trace minerals

I still don’t have a menu down for what to eat in a world where grains are off the menu (suggestions welcome). Right now my diet is pretty vegetable heavy, which is working well. If you have any ideas for me, feel free to leave them in the comment field, along with any other comments. I know that many of you prefer to email me rather than leave comments, but in this case, please leave your comment for everyone. That way your input can help someone else as well.

Here's looking forward to an energetic year! :)


  1. Hey there,

    I'm off grains too - that's how I'm finally losing my weight. I've had thyroid problems since I was ten, so I hear ya.

    My doctor and I are co-authoring a cookbook - not that this is a sales pitch (you are under no obligation to buy it :) but just more so you know. :)

    I'm so glad you're feeling better - thyroid problems are the worst.

  2. Isn't it great to feel human again? 10 years of undiagnosed celiac disease really did a number on my body. Going gluten free was amazing :) Because of the damage to my intestines I also avoid eggs, dairy, corn, sorghum, tapioca, soy, citrus fruits, and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers). I do eat some rice and quinoa, but not a lot- mostly meat and veggies.

    If you're looking for grain free recipes, I'd look for paleo or primal recipes (also referred to as the cave man diet). They're grain free, but not egg free. has a lot of good recipes.

    Good luck finding new recipes and I hope you continue to feel better!

  3. Hey, I love that you are so boldly pursuing this. I've been on thyroid medication for about 20 years. I know it makes a difference, but I'd like to do things naturally. My doctor wasn't enthusiastic about my trying to go a more natural route, saying we'd have to do regular testing to make sure my under active thyroid is working well enough.
    I do have to tell you that when I was on a raw diet for two weeks and pretty much omitted grains and caffeine, I felt very energetic. I'm not sure if it was necessarily going raw or the omission of grains and dairy.

    Coincidentally, this weekend I've started a gluten free diet for two weeks or so to see if I have gluten issues.....I tend to have a lot of gas and loose bowels in the morning, something a gluten intolerant friend of mine experiences when he has gluten. I'm curious about the grain thing with you....even rice????! Hmmm, I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you find. I hate relying on thyroid medicine.

  4. Wow! Go Sheralyn! I'm so proud of you for being willing to treat your health the "hard way."

    I've eaten low to no gluten for a couple of years now. I was having IBS symptoms and feel so much better without gluten. I don't know what you mean by "no grains", but I eat a lot of quinoa, which is technically a seed, and it's a great substitute for flour in quick breads. I use a lot of recipes from the book "Quinoa 365" by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. The recipes use a lot of quinoa flour which satisfies for my cravings for pancakes, bread and desserts. It's also a good substitute for rice in savory dishes, if that bothers you, too. Were you eating brown rice when you noticed that bad reaction?

    I experimented with making yeast breads with all sorts of fancy flours, but decided the effort wasn't worth it and didn't taste very good. Now I just eat salads instead of sandwiches. For pizza and lasagna I use thinly sliced zucchini and carrots that I saute in a small amount of olive oil for the "crust" and the "noodles." I love it!

    Good luck! I'm so glad you've found something that helps you!

  5. Tristi, I currently own 3 cookbooks, but for you I will make it 4 :) Congratulations on your weight loss. I hope I move the same direction!

    Jen, how did you discover any damage that was done inside? I'm still doing corn and quinoa, but peppers are one of the things that taste bad to me now (along with eggs)... I wonder if I should take that as a hint as stop eating them. I'll totally look up the cave man diet. Thanks for the pointer! I'm horrible at seeking things like that out.

    Linda, let me know how things work with your 2-week experiment. I'm totally curious! I don't think my reaction to grain is the same as those who have celiac disease. People I know who have gluten intolerance seem to describe physical pain and things like you mentioned as symptoms. I just feel like the life is being sucked from me. As explained by my brother (and maybe he'll jump on here and say it better than I'm about to), one of the issues with rice is that it strips nutrients from your body as it passes through your system, just like it would take nutrients from the ground if it were planted. Rather than nourishing you, it strips nourishment as it passes through, unless you prepare it in certain ways. (Feel free to correct me, Robert.) This may explain why I can still do Rice Milk, but not rice itself... Normal people who are absorbing nutrients in a healthy manner probably don't experience the extreme drop I do with rice, but it might be worthwhile to see if your energy drops after eating a rice dish in the future.

  6. I'm assuming it was Laura that posted above, so Hi, Laura! I'll have you know I'm going to Amazon RIGHT NOW. Quinoa is totally on the menu, but quinoa flour hadn't occurred to me yet (shows you how much I have left to learn on this subject). I can't wait! I will now be the proud owner of 5 cookbooks :)

    Thanks you, thank you!

    To answer your question, both white and brown rice aren't my friends. The first time I actually noticed was after eating at Cafe Rio a couple of years back, but I just thought it was the food, in general, not the rice in the salad. I've tried both white and brown rice as part of the experiment and both get failing marks. (The real test will be sushi, though. Don't know if I can give that up!) I haven't tried wild rice yet, but I'm assuming my reaction may be similar so I'll just test that when the opportunity lands in my lap.

    Thanks (again) for the cookbook suggestion. Looking forward to checking it out!

  7. During a routine well-woman exam my gyno found a lump..yep tumor on my thyroid gland. At my request the surgeon only took the side affected leaving me 1/2 a gland. The reactions i had to the thyroid meds were hideous when my hair began falling out by the handful I knew I needed help.I started taking a natural supplement by Reliv inc. Within a matter of months I was totally off my meds and my thyroid has been within the normal ranges ever since. So on Reliv that 1/2 a gland was behaving as a normal complete gland! Totally stumped the Dr's! I even met a girl without any gland who takes it and has normal thyroid readings! Pretty amazing.I have been med free for 6 years now. I am intrigued by all you said because I suffer from similar reactions to rice oats and flour...will have to try your experiment. When the student is ready the teacher appears! Thanks girl hope to see you Sat!~~~

  8. Thanks so much for writing about this. I've been dealing with Hypothyroidism for more than 30 years and for 10 of those years my doctors didn't even know what the problem was. It took forever to get a right diagnosis. I've been on Synthroid for 20 years now and while it helps a bit it isn't helping with everything. I also have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis with three huge nodules on the right side of my thyroid which they told me would go away within 5 years of being diagnosed because it would burn itself out...that was over ten years ago and my thyroid is still huge.

    I wrote a few articles about Hypothyroidism and The Thyroidism to help others find out what's wrong when they see certain symptoms. You can find one of the articles here:

    I can only hope that others figure out what they have and ask their doctors for a simple blood test so they don't have to live with these awful symptoms for as long as I did without knowing what was causing them.

  9. Shera,
    You are amazing! I am sitting here trying to figure out how to cut flour. I had my thyroid removed 4 years ago when it started pressing into my throat. I have not lost a pound in 2 years, even when I exercise a lot and eat right. Thanks for the insight!

  10. From Jerrilynn on Facebook:

    I have battled hypo for 10 yrs... JUST finding out a LOT of new info, last yr I found a growth in my thyroid... after scary words like biopsy and nuclear testing, I had the growth taken out. my amazing surgeon saved half my thyroid, so I take a supplement hormone. you're SPOT ON with the flour and rice, my dr calls them EVIL WHITES: flour, rice, sugar, starches (potatoes, corn, etc) & milk. you already have those covered (as per your blog) ... now, you might hate me just a little... I've recently learned SOY can aggravate the condition. I sought to limit it... just less edamame? bad news?? turns out soy is in EVERYTHING!! I've really had to read labels!! my new rule of thumb: don't eat what I can't pronounce. I've found the healthier foods are made from whole, natural ingredients without all the cheap (soy) fillers!! I have a TON more energy and i'm also losing weight since surgery! my moods are even again and I finally feel like I understand this!!! I've been doing a lot of research.. let me know if you ever want to compare notes!! good luck!

  11. Man, hearing from you ladies, I'm beginning to see how easy I had it in simply dealing with the fatigue!

    Shaz, I'm totally interested in Reliv, and intrigued that you're having a positive response to a soy-based meal supplement when soy allegedly enhances hypothyroidism. Or do you not do the shakes, but some other supplement. I'm totally curious to try it!

    Also, I'm totally looking forward to seeing you on Saturday :)

    Mary, it's because of people like you that people like me have an easier path. I can't imagine having all my symptoms with no resources at my disposal and clueless medical professionals. Thank you for the link to your article. I'm sure it has helped and will help many.

    Sarah, I totally want to know your experience!!! Obviously mine has been very positive, but there are obvious differences between us, so I'm very interested in how a flour-free diet will affect you.

    Jerrilynn, I actually weaned myself off soy foods a few years back when my friend got a depressed thyroid from eating too much. Until then I didn't know that soy and the thyroid weren't very good friends. But man, giving up the Evil Whites is going to be fun since American cuisine pretty much revolves around all of those ingredients. I'll get there, though. Especially if the Quinoa 365 cookbook Laura recommends is half as good as I hope it will be :)

    We should definitely compare notes sometime :)

  12. Huh...Interesting.

    About four years ago, I had a really bad gall-bladder. (No, I didn't get any stones, it just tragically decide to die and move on to the other side of the veil. A test showed 0% functionality.) Alas, the gall bladder is that wondrous organ that breaks down fat (needless to say, I had to go on a fat-free diet for a while... worst thing in my life). After undergoing a wonderful even called cholecystectomy (which is the complete removal of the gallbladder), I was able to eat pizzas and meat again... but that only lasted for a few months.... then I was unable to digest hard fat once again. I have been unable to eat the cheap fatty food that all college students desire.

    Due to lack of funds for a while (alas.... college, that money sucking monster) I did what I could (I didn't eat bad... just not the best... get my drift), but could never feel completely up to full energy that I had been at once point in my life. Maybe now I should try getting rid of grains and try to balance a more healthy diet and see what happens.

    Tragic how American food destroys all of our bodies and we have to adapt and clean up the messes.

  13. I have had a few symptoms, which I had already expected and read. This lets me know that something is changing for the better. I can think clearly, have more inspiration to do the things I know I need to do. Many thanks to bovine supplements thyroid .

  14. Well said, Lar'n :) And yes, it is near impossible to maintain a healthy diet while in college. Tragically it doesn't get much easier in the big kid world, either. Boo.

    Shirley, I've heard a lot of people talk about bovine supplementation, but I haven't taken the actual step of trying them yet. I hear it's really obvious if you're taking too much because you start to shake and the like. Did you just try them cold, or did you do it through a doctor?

  15. I have some concern regarding the use of quinoa as a substitute. It probably can be good, but not straight off the plant. Here is a link for info on anti-nutrients in quinoa and how it affected chickens. The antinutrients are also known to affect man similarly. Be aware and prepare correctly for best results, otherwise it is closer to poison. You may read much for or against antinutrients, especially phytic acid, which may be a powerful antioxidant or a mineral blocker. For now, I am going with mineral blocker. Notice how the birds were affected in the link below, especially by the saponins in quinoa before they were rinsed.

    Brief summary, chickens on raw quinoa ate half the weight of food as the others until they died. Other data was not calculated because mortality was high. Rinse the stuff before cooking, then you get into th realms of food. Others were still better, regardless of how high of a quality protein they have.

  16. I'll have to check out the link. I've been doing quinoa for about a month now and I'm liking it. Every is WAY better than with flour or rice flour so that's all I have to go on at present...

    Thanks for the link!!!