When I was 24 years old, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  At that time, I was utterly uninterested in health, nutrition, and natural living.  I was living in Europe, so I walked everywhere I went, but my diet was full of processed convenience foods and sugar.  Lots and lots of sugar.

I started taking Synthroid, which is the typical drug that is prescribed to most women who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  After moving back home to Texas about ten months later, I was still struggling with the same hypothyroid symptoms that had led me to the doctor in the first place. One oh-so-well-meaning doctor told me that I must be depressed and offered to prescribe some anti-depressants.  After being abroad for two years,  I was smack in the middle of reverse culture shock, but I knew I wasn’t depressed.

That experience led me down a road that has totally changed my life and continues to impact me even now.  I began reading, researching, talking to people, seeking out second and third opinions.  I began to see that there was a big wide world of non-traditional medical approaches to treating thyroid disease – as well as a slew of non-medical options.

I eventually found a doctor who listened to and treated me holistically, as a whole person, with interconnected parts (imagine!). We started new medicine, new supplements, and – ding! ding! ding! – a new diet.  “Diet” – as in, the way I eat as a part of my lifestyle on a regular basis – not a temporary way of eating.  The latter doesn’t work.  The former can change your life forever.

Photo by Andrey

Diagnosing Hypothyroidism

It’s estimated that there may be as many as 13 million undiagnosed cases of hypothyroidism in the U.S. alone.  Just a few of the most common symptoms include: weight gain, hair loss, feeling cold, and sluggishness.  See a complete list of symptoms here.

If you suspect you might have low thyroid, find a doctor right away – but choose your doctor carefully.  Call first and ask how hypothyroidism is diagnosed in that office.  There are a few things to look for:

• Find out which labs they will run.  If they are


going to check your TSH levels, move on. TSH levels alone are often insufficient for diagnosing hypothyroidism, yet many doctors will not go beyond this one test.

• Make sure they are checking levels such as free T-4 and free T-3, thyroid antibodies, and possibly reverse T-3.  You might not know what these things mean, but they do – or they should. You can start learning all about it here and here.

• Finally, find a doctor that will listen to you: ask you how you feel, how your diet is, how you’re sleeping, how your energy levels are.  I am eternally grateful to that first doctor who sat me down and spent an hour or two with me, doing a full work-up in order to get a complete picture of everything that was going on.  In addition to changing my medicine, he recommended a major overhaul of  – yes, you guessed it – my diet.

Photo by Rolands Lakis

Treating Disease with Healthy Whole Foods

As you may have figured out, the theme this month at Simple Organic is the natural treatment of women’s health issues.  It turns out that there is a theme within a lot of the solutions to these health issues, too, and that theme is nutrition.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but for many people, there actually is a disconnect between the foods that we put into our bodies and the state of our health. Until a problem comes up, many of us don’t see that the two are intimately connected; at least, I know that’s how I used to think.

When I talk to someone who is struggling with any kind of health issue, the first thing that I ask is whether he or she is eating whole, healthy, unprocessed foods. I can usually recommend a couple of good books, and perhaps make a few suggestions for dietary changes, but one of the most exciting resources that I’ve discovered lately is the online Fundamentals eCourse from GNOWFGLINS.

Wardeh Harmon has put together a fabulous course, complete with cooking and food prep videos, audio recordings, PDF info sheets for downloading, and an online member forum for support and advice.  The course is “pay-what-you-can“, so it is within everyone’s financial reach. And truly, everyone could benefit from the concepts in this ecourse; we all have some room for improvement in our diets and health.

Photo by viZZZual.com

Honestly, I so wish this course had been around back when I was first trying to figure out how to cook real, whole, healthy foods.  As it was, I read many books and slowly began changing the way I cooked and ate.  Eliminating refined sugars and grains (including white flour, white rice, and white potatoes) was a huge step for a girl that once started every day off with store-bought chocolate donuts and ate pasta almost every night for dinner. (True confession!)  Adding in plenty of protein, veggies, and healthy fats was key to feeling full, and with these changes I saw miraculous improvements.

My fatigue disappeared, my energy soared, I slept better, and 55 pounds slowly but surely fell off my frame with very little effort.  My thyroid levels came into normal range for the first time in years, although I do still take thyroid hormone everyday.  But I never saw this success on thyroid hormone alone; I had to make a dietary change before I could experience a life change.

Now I’m at a place where I hoped I would never be again; since the birth of my daughter three years ago, I’ve had a hard time sticking with my diet.  I haven’t been able to lose much of the baby weight, I’m tired, my energy lags, and I definitely don’t get enough sleep.  (What mama does?!?) I need a kick in the pants, basically. But luckily for me, it will be pleasant! The next few months, I will be slowly working my way through the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse in order to get back on track with whole, healthy eating.  I know I will learn so much.

Who wants to join me?

Do you or someone you know struggle with thyroid disease?  Have you ever experienced healing through nutrition?

This post is sponsored  by the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals  eCourse, an online resource that teaches traditional cooking  methods using whole, healthy, nutrient-dense foods.   As I mentioned, the course is “pay-what-you-can“, so there’s no reason not to check it out!  Watch a sneak peek video here.