Thriving Through Thyroid Disease

Thriving Through Thyroid Disease

I was honored to be voted Runner-Up for Change The World: The Search For The Next Global Thought Leader sponsored by Ghost Tweeting last June. One of my fellow Global Thought Leaders was Michelle Madrid-Branch, founder of LetHerBeGreater.com. From the first time I connected with Michelle I knew she was an inspiring woman. Michelle has a positive spirit that glows. Turns out she is a fellow thyroid thriver. Michelle’s story of Hashimoto’s, Lupus, gluten allergy, and the metaphysical is so thought-provoking, I invited her to share her story at Hypothyroid Mom.

A Letter from Michelle Madrid-Branch, LetHerBeGreater.com

Dear Hypothyroid Friends,

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (also known as Hypothyroidism) while in my early twenties. I believe I had this chronic illness much earlier, though. I recall in third grade that I was stricken with a sickness that no doctor could diagnose. For three weeks, it was virtually impossible for me to get out of my bed. My body felt weighed down, my throat swelled, and it frightened me.

“It’s all in her head,” our family pediatrician told my mother. He said the words right in front of me as if I wasn’t even there. His words were cold, said almost with a mocking tone that made me feel humiliated. This doctor’s words also made me feel ugly. I was in third grade and I felt ashamed.

After this meeting with our doctor, I vividly remember thinking to myself, If this is imaginary, why do people stare at my throat? Though I didn’t ask this question out loud because I knew that my mother would not have encouraged this kind of defiance, the thought was persistent, something was definitely wrong with my body.

At the time, there was never any discussion of the thyroid, nor was there a diagnosis as to what had caused this strange three-week long health ordeal. There was only the professional medical determination that I, somehow, had created the symptoms in my mind.

Roughly one-month after the war within my body began, the symptoms calmed down and the swelling in my throat, although not completely gone, seemed better. Life went back to a normal pace and I returned to third grade.

Flash forward to my early twenties. I was a busy student who was feeling, once again, a strange exhaustion that crippled my ability to live an active lifestyle.

Getting out of bed was a challenge. I mean that!

I wanted to get up, go out, and live an energetic twenty-something kind of life – but my body was not able to meet that desire. I turned to a family physician for help. He just happened to be my eldest brother.

“We should check your thyroid,” he said.

I’d never heard of the thyroid before, but soon learned that it is an endocrine gland found at the base of the neck. It’s shaped like a butterfly and wraps around either side of the windpipe. Its purpose is to make, store, and release thyroid hormones into the blood. If you have too little of the thyroid hormone, your body slows down. This is a chronic illness known as hypothyroidism. Lab work confirmed that I was, indeed, “hypothyroid”.

I began taking a medication called Synthroid that balanced my thyroid levels over the course of many years. Then, I had my first child. After pregnancy and delivery, my thyroid hormone levels shifted and I began a roller coaster ride that – ultimately – landed me on a new path to treatment.

I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and waking in the middle of the night with excruciating pain. My fingers and toes would stiffen at the joints and a burning sensation would travel through my arms, originating at my elbows.

My endocrinologist suggested that I see a rheumatologist, and referred me to a Houston-based doctor. I went. I took the tests. I listened. This is how the rheumatologist explained my lab results:

“Well, you’ve got what I term as the worst of the worst. Lupus. [A chronic, inflammatory causing disease] Your life, from here on out, will be about keeping the wild horses in the corral. That’s all you can do. I suggest you begin taking a medication called Plaquenil. It’s used to treat malaria and has proven effective in the treatment of Lupus. There is a potential side effect of damage to eyesight, but you really have no other choice but to take it. Come back in six months for follow-up testing. By the way, I like your boots.”

With that, I was given a prescription for Plaquenil. I walked out of the rheumatologist’s office, pressed my back against the wall and began to cry.

I don’t want to take this medicine, but I have two little boys at home and they need their mommy to be better.

I sobbed a bit longer. Then, I pulled myself together, found the nearest pharmacy, and filled the prescription. I took my first dose before the plane left the ground.

For six months, I swallowed the medication. For six months, I still woke up in pain. Frustrated, I phoned a local doctor of oriental medicine (DOM). It was my first experience with eastern medical philosophy, and my first step toward healing.

Please note that this was – and – is my journey. I can only share with you what has worked for me, with the prayer that some shimmer of hope can be passed along.

I learned that Lupus is sometimes called the “great imitator”. And, because of its wide range of symptoms, can sometimes be confused with other health problems.

My DOM did her own testing. I was astonished when the results came back! Lupus was not my diagnosis. Tests showed that I was, and am, highly allergic to gluten.

I soon learned that gluten is a protein found in most grains, cereals, and breads.

Could this allergy to gluten be, in some way, the cause of my current health condition, and even of my thyroid disease?

It seems that there is a strong link between the two. The very structure of the gluten protein, gliadin, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaks through the gut’s barrier and enters the bloodstream, the immune system goes out to destroy it. Thyroid tissue is attacked.

I had eaten, all of my life, gluten containing foods and my system was attacking my thyroid. Indeed, my thyroid was being killed by friendly fire.

“You can begin to weed gluten slowly out of your diet, or you can go cold turkey, beginning today,” my DOM explained. Cold turkey was my decision. I went directly to Whole Foods and began my journey into the world of gluten-free living.

Within ninety days of a strict gluten-free lifestyle, my Lupus-like symptoms disappeared. They simply vanished! Within six months, my blood work returned to normal and my thyroid levels were beginning to balance with no more than a gluten-free diet, and natural supplements prescribed by my DOM. I had energy. And I felt better than I had in years!

I consider myself an intuitive person. At the time, however, I wasn’t living intuitively, even if this part of me was beginning to awaken. I sensed that a gluten-free diet was not my only course of treatment. Healing my thyroid and my body would also require “metaphysical” investigation.

I sensed that there was pain within me that was cutting off my ability to voice my own desires. Could my thyroid be acting like that of a catcher’s mitt? Holding everything I wanted to say there in my throat because the ability to voice my true feelings had been cut off?

Author Louise Hay has suggested that the metaphysical root of thyroid disease begins with humiliation, and a feeling that I never get to do what I want to do. When is it going to be my turn?

I knew that for a very long while, I had been feeling overburdened about things for which I could do nothing about: 1. As an internationally adopted child growing up in the United States, trying to figure out why my first parents had abandoned me. 2. Trying to make sense of the senseless. 3. Trying to be the “perfect” adopted child so that no one else would ever abandon me again.

I existed in my head. I wasn’t serving my higher good. Perhaps, my childhood pediatrician was – in some skewed way that totally lacked compassion, by the way – on the right path. I wasn’t making symptoms up in my head, but my mind was cutting off my ability to live authentically. That is, until I began to let go of the past, began to clear the way for a spiritual healing that would facilitate a physical one.

There is no doubt that I was born with a predisposition to thyroid disease. I had also been conditioned, through my own personal story, to avoid acknowledging my voice. There was pain trapped within me and it needed to come out.

I went to see a Mauri healer, from New Zealand, who was visiting Santa Fe. I write about this encounter on my blog site, LetHerBeGreater.com, under the posting The Choice of Letting Go.

Ultimately, what this healer said to me on that day was this:

“Let your anger out and then let it go. If you do not, it will destroy you.”

Anger, hurt, and pain trapped within was already destroying my thyroid. Would I allow it to go further? The answer was no. I was going to thrive, not just survive, through thyroid disease.

I have learned that thriving is the result of following both a practical and spiritual recipe:

Practical Application

  • An integrative approach, with practitioners who will work together in both an Eastern and Western medicine philosophy.
  • A gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle, primarily focusing on a “Paleo Diet” of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Use of only certified gluten-free skin care, hair products, and cosmetics. Remember, you are not only what you eat – you are also what you put on your skin, which is the largest “organ” of the body.

Spiritual Application

  • Daily meditation
  • Forgiveness
  • Love and nurture yourself
  • Let go of the past
  • Trust your body. Listen to your body!

I highly recommend doing your own research and creating a program that works for you. However, I have gained great diet insight from a book called, The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf. In addition, I have grown passionately green about the products I slather on my skin and lather in my hair. After much research, I have converted to using only gluten-free skin and hair care, along with cosmetics. Currently, I use the following brands:

  • ACURE Skin Care (Whole Foods) Love, Love, LOVE their Radical Resurfacing Cream!
  • Afterglow Cosmetics
  • Number 4 Hair Care
  • Additional gluten-free hair care and skin care lines are also available at Whole Foods and other natural health stores.

Please take a few minutes and view The Story of Cosmetics.

YouTube Preview Image

I believe a person can thrive through thyroid disease! I know that I am. How, you may ask, have I come to experience a heightened level of health after all the years of illness? In part it is because I refuse to allow hypothyroidism to diminish my quality of life. I honor the fact that my condition is a daily walk and that there will be up hill climbs from time to time. I no longer fight it! I listen to my body. Sometimes small changes, little edits, are all I need. Mostly, I trust my intuition.

I suggest that you remove from your body and mind what does not serve. Keep up on the latest thyroid research and maintain open communication with your medical team. Educate those around you. It’s hard, I know, but your children and your significant other need to understand this disease. Extended family and friends need to be aware of what you are going through. You’re not lazy – you’re hypothyroid! You’re not perfect – you’re human!

Finally, don’t walk alone. An estimated twenty million people in the US suffer from thyroid disease. We should strengthen this community, reach out to one another (thank you Hypothyroid Mom) and demand growing attention to the matter.

With love and a thriving spirit,

Michelle Madrid-Branch

LetHerBeGreater.com

Michelle Madrid-Branch is an award-winning author, fellow thyroid thriver, and founder of Let Her Be Greater to awaken women worldwide to their authentic beauty and inner treasure. The first thirty-three pages of Michelle’s life story are not chronicled in a baby book created by proud and doting parents. Rather, these pages reveal the details of what it was to be a child of Spanish descent who was a ward of the United Kingdom Department of Social Services. Given over for adoption in her native land of England and adopted by an American family, at birth Michelle was saddled with tags of illegitimate, bastard, and difficult to place.

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About Dana Trentini

Who knew that little butterfly-shaped thyroid gland at the base of my neck could affect my life so completely? I founded Hypothyroid Mom in memory of the unborn baby I lost to hypothyroidism. Winner of two 2014 WEGO Health Activist Awards: Health Activist Hero & Best In Show Twitter. *Hypothyroid Mom includes Affiliate links. Connect with me on Google+

Comments

  1. Thank you Michelle, for following the wise woman inside and sharing your wisdom. Thank you for having the courage to walk your journey and search for your healing and joy. May you find healing and joy. Hugs to you!

    • Dana Trentini says:

      Hi Teresa, Thank you for commenting. I am inspired by Michelle. I am proud to call her friend. She is a positive and genuine person and you can feel it in her story.

    • Hello. I am so glad to be part of this site. I am seeing a alternative medicine nurse this week and looking forward to it. I am allergic to synthetic meds. I have been gluten and diary free for many years which has not helped. FYI- I spent a long time working in an AIDS hospital in the 80’s and Louise Hayes said the AIDS was caused by guilt. This destroyed the last days of many sick people. Please don’t be so accepting of a guru. It may work for you and harm others. My best, Lois

      • I agree. Louis Hay statements are the most guilt based statements I have ever read. I have the book. It infuriates me. I have Hep C. A virus. But her statements about liver being all about anger really put me in touch with a new source of anger, i.e petty fools deigning to claim things they know very little about. A little bit of education is a dangerous thing. I really liked what Michelle said, until she quoted Louis Hay. What a shaming woman she is. And that just breaks my heart. It’s too bad her books don’t reference virus and genetic disorders. (almost her whole book is about people being ‘wrong’? QUACK)

  2. paul bell says:

    i wouldlike to share my story so far as yet undiagnosed. my symptoms of hypothyroidism are profound. I have an adult life of fatigue and moods, but alway managed to trin in gyms , but always knew something was hlding me back at 23 i hurt my back playing rugby and had to slow down and only did boxing and Muay Thai, but never got up there with the real fittest guys, any how a tried , it was a stop start scenario often held back with severe back pain and undiagnosed ruptured discs. i was a scaffolder and by the time i wa 30 years old i had to do something else as the pain was often so debilitating. around 30 i was experiencing irritable bowel and no real help from doctors i would go for an internal with a camera, and given theok. The ok for what, i never spoke to the specialist and accepted the GPs findings but all my problems continued , fatigue and pain were everyday, it was exhauting, so went from job to job unable to hold them down. at about 40 tears old i decided to work towards a career in care a a counsellor and became a voluntear and recieved free training. this i came to terms with a lot of childhood issues. and flt good about myself i secured paid employmenta s a support worker and the stress of working often under staffed and staff working to different adgendas , egos and power plays aaffected me in an unhealthy way. at 48 i got some bizzare sensations in my chest and , went to hospital where they recognise a altered pattern, i was to go to a specialist hospital on the premise of a potential heart attack, i was put on blood thinners and went to effectively have stents fitted , but they were A1, but i was discharged with a peice of paper with hypotropic cardio miyopathy. i knew nothing about it so i googled it and there was an informative post from the heart hospital explaining the condition , after watching it there was a follow up link where a pro football player fouled somebody and died there on tv for all to see, this impacted on me in an unhealthy way as i was still vulnerable. i gave my job up within six month when my 7 year old was abducted on a park adjacent to my home, stress had got me ( she was ok as i had the posse out looking for her the lad who had her had gotten of only months earlier on a rape charge , he had befriended the 3 girls my daughter and her friends) so i had a lenghty wait for the court case wich every day was like a month. i have still slowly climbing out of a hole that tries to suck me back in. so off i go to the doctors and is magic pills , now i had entered the realms of nightmares. a thouroughly horrendous time for over a period of years , i could not think, or do anything, one day i was on facebook and a fibromiyalgia post was on outlining the problems related to the condition, i had them all and some so why had the Gps not made any links. so i wrote a 7 page essay on the conditions i had been complaining about for years and presented them to my gp whereupon i was in with a neaurologist within weeks, and offered me more drugs, so i walk back into nightmare land as all of them did nothing but turn my head inside out and on top of my problems away went my libido, cracks appeared in my relationship and we are in the process of parting, only weeks ago i saw a post on hypothyroid and immediately recognised myself in there. i went to my gp and asked if my thyroid had been tested and it had nd it was fine,, damn, so i read some more and see that TSH was not a conclusive test, my gp then gets a bit bolshy and says i have to stop self diagnosing, i offered that more tests were needed , he dismissed it as rubbish. i go to a different gp and tell her the treatment i have recieved and demanded t3 t4 , with a fight i got them and they are normal, i go back and read some more Hasimotos , and antibodies , i allready had a problem with wheat that a chiropractor offered a problem with IBS i noticed he offered me a diet from a book eat right 4 your type, so i bought it and got a bit better, but some symptoms come back for some reason. so i told her and i am to see a imunologist, i was wanting to hear endocrinologist , however i will follow up and see, and that is a breif insight into the problems with GPs and diagnosis. i was plagued with crippeling headaces for three days at a time, yet i became a NLP practitionr, studied transactional analysis to 101 level, and cognitive behaviour therapy. VVQ in advice and guidance despite coming out of school with no qualifications whatsoever. i just wonder what i could do if i could concentrate and study without having to read things over and over to understand them, i believe i have hashimotos, i was attemptingto medicate with iodine and only one drop a day despite the recommended 7 drops three times a day sent me into deep moods, wich is why i was careful as i read if i had hashimotos it would be like throwing fuel on the fire, the effect was not positve, i wish i did not have to go through GPs as i have little trust in them, i just remembered i knew my moods were bizzare si i googled bipolar and it said in the first sentance that bipolar is often misdiagnosed hypothyroidism, that is when i started to investigate for myself , I had mentioned to my GP about thinking i may be bipolar, he barely commented and offered me some different pills, i do not believe anybody can begin to understand the frustration of living like this

    • Dana Trentini says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I know there are many readers who find great help in reading the comments from my readers on my site. I know there are many struggling decades without diagnosis knowing something was wrong but not finding a doctor interested in looking more closely at the possibility of thyroid disease. The pain you speak of is a symptom I hear about often from readers. You may be interested in this article I wrote about hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia.

      http://hypothyroidmom.com/thyroid-hormone-the-most-overlooked-treatment-for-fibromyalgia/

      I am so sorry to hear about the abduction of your child. Thank God she was safe. I can only imagine what mental torture that would put a parent under.

      Here is a link to the recommended tests and optimal ranges that appeared on thyroid advocate Mary Shomon’s Facebook page. Mary writes the About.com Thyroid Disease site. It’s important to get a copy of your lab results to see if these tests have been done and if your scores are “optimal” not just “normal” because there is a big difference.

      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151719609086481&set=a.382208591480.164472.377405846480&type=1

      You need to find a good doctor Paul to do all the right tests. We are more than lab numbers and you need to find a doctor who listens to you and your symptoms. I put together resources to help readers locate good doctors. It would be worth it to search here for your area.

      http://hypothyroidmom.com/top-10-resources-to-find-a-great-thyroid-doctor-in-2013/

    • Pauline Rockwood says:

      Hi Paul, I certainly do understand you frustration although our experiences haven’t been identical, the are similar in many ways. You are a brave person who has obviously been through a lot. But you have never given up and that is the sign of a great warrior and a fabulous person. Your story is very inspiring and I, for one, am happy you have shared your story with others like me. :)

  3. This is very inspiring story! Our standard thyroid care doesn’t provide a symptoms relief for many hypothyroid patients, however it doesn’t mean that there is no solution. In my experience people who take a proactive approach to their health and turn to alternative treatment options often get better results than with medication alone.

    • Dana Trentini says:

      Hi Marina, Thank you for commenting. I love reading your articles at Outsmart Disease. We should connect!

    • but who can afford that? there is only help for the upper class by competent (?) mds. locally it seems the naturopaths have gotten greedier than the mds. who would have thought that would happen.

  4. Dana, I was also prescribed Plaquenil, by a Rheumatologist who said it was “for an RA type illness”. She told my GP that is was “considered fairly safe” and she felt “I needed something”. My inflammation levels are always high!

  5. Justine McGrath says:

    Dear Dana
    I just wanted to say how informative and very useful your blog is. I read the blog about the hereditary factors in Hashimotos Disease. My mum had bi-polar disorder and I always wondered if she also had a low thyroid but they said no. I have Hashi’s and I wonder now, did she? Possible. Anyway I think it is absolutely incredible how you respond to all the comments on your blog. Thank you for serving. You are fantastic.

  6. Pauline Rockwood says:

    I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was about 5 years old and have been on medication since I was 7 years old ( could have been 6 years as I’m not certain of what time of year I actually began taking it). I am now 57 years old. I was a mystery to the many doctors I saw in my young years as this condition usually leads to developmental delays and infertility. I, in opposition to the research findings of the time, excelled in school and went on to have two healthy and uneventful pregnancies resulting in two healthy babies, a boy weighing 6 lbs. 7 oz. and a girl weighing 7 lb. 10 oz. Both are now grown adults, both very intellegent, well adjusted and successful individuals, I’m happy to report. Why I was eo lucky, I can’t say. But I do know that I have had many, many personal health strugglrs resulting from my hypothyroidism over the past 50+ years, and they are still continuing. It is a constant battle and one that I have fought mostky alone as no one else in my family has the condition and didn’t understand what a daily struggle it was for me. And, even though I have spent the past 2 years fighting with my doctor to get my medication reregulated, I have not been referred to an endocronologist since I saw one when I was 7 years old, despite my constant requests. I have learned more about this illness on my own over the past 50 years than any medical personnel has ever told me. I have had to be my own advocate, even when I have had doctors refuse to consider my symptoms and I was too bone tired to argue. I still had to summon up the courage and strength to insist that they listen to my concerns and suggestions. I would really love to be a part of your community to learn what I can from you as well as impart any of my experiences and learnings that I have garnered along this long and tiring journey of life with hypothyroidism.

  7. mike kishbaugh says:

    Two years agomImwas diagnosed with Thyroid disease and have taken my Medicine everyday. Levothyrocin . Unfortunately the days of feeling “not feeling right” continued and really just became part of my day.
    This past March I was living the stressed life that most of us do but felt like I was doing it in overtime. Being a restaurant manager I work an average of 55 hours a week but had been working an average of 75 hours because of the beast when you are short handed. The stress at home was above normal as well. We have our niece living with us and she is battling addiction which has been difficult.
    I ended up in the ER with chest pains and slurred speech. My wife thought maybe I was having a stroke. After a long day and a battery of test I was sent home knowing I didn’t have a stroke but not much more. 4 months later and unable to return to work I have seen 2 neurologist and still feel fl like the most I can hope for is another doctor who wants to prescribe more meds. It seems beyond them to take the time to listen to
    symptoms before signing a script.
    My symptoms include.exhaustion, lack of focus,confusion, slurred speech, dizziness, headaches, weight gain and others.
    I have had conversations with my wife about the frustrations I have been feeling because of the unanswered questions I had.
    Then… I saw your article from the blog.
    Tomorrow I am calling my GP and asking to have all of the test done and find a new endocrinologist since he does not ask for them.
    I don’t expect miracles but am hoping for some better informed diagnosis to help us get past the issues I have felt were going to remain a part of my future.
    Thank You,
    Michael

  8. Thank you, your article brought tears to my eyes. It is so sad how the medical profession is so under-equipped to deal with so many things, or is it just that we tend to trust them too much, I mean after all there are a lot of things they are very good at and I suppose they just can’t know it all. Hypothyroidism and many other thyroid issues are so prevalent though that you’d think your GP would be up on it a bit. Even when they do the tests, the range that they call normal is wider than it should be, so if you are on the edge of the normal range don’t feel to blame if you are still tired – do your research and take control of your own health. The thyroid affects our whole metabolism so is really crucial to get in balance. Menopause can really trigger issues too, as the hormones plunge down to very low levels a while afterwards. The article I wrote on my journey with Hypothyroidism gives a lot of info on dietary and other things to look at, and links to helpful books – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140917111108-72671863-hypothyroidism-my-journey?trk=prof-post

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