My Autoimmune Story

First Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism

I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism (slow thyroid function) back in 2008. I was about to turn 30 years old and I was getting ready for a big group vacation with friends. Naturally, I was one month out from a trip trying to drop some lbs., working out like crazy–something that typically worked for me throughout my 20s.

I remember it was the month of August. I was pulling “two-a-days” at the gym, cardio in the mornings, weights in the evenings. I was probably cutting calories and “bread” but looking back I had no idea what I was doing.

I noticed that this time was different, the weight wasn’t coming off. A few weeks into this schedule I hadn’t shed a single pound. I remember actually crying on the treadmill thinking what am I doing wrong?

It wasn’t long after that, that I went to see my doctor about getting my thyroid tested. He was a general practitioner who I had been seeing for a few years, and he ran a thyroid panel. He called a few days later to say that my thyroid was slow and he prescribed me Levothyroxine, and I began taking that for the next 5 years or so.

I noticed a small difference in superficial things like weight loss and “puffy face” reduction, but I honestly can’t recall any other life changing results. At the time I was also on birth control, and had been since college. Assuming many of the stubborn college weight was attributed to my being on the pill. In my 20s I kind just figured I’d rather be “pudgy” than pregnant.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

A few years into my 30s I was not feeling great, again spawned by working out and eating (what I thought was) well with little or no results. Exhaustion, thinning hair, paper-thin fingernails, eczema all things I didn’t realize were related. I sought out an endocrinologist who, again, checked my TSH levels and discovered an abnormal thyroid shape. I conducted an ultrasound and was at that time diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. This doctor didn’t seem to be too concerned with this “common diagnosis” and switched me from the generic Levothyroxine I was taking to the brand name Synthroid. This did not go well.

Almost immediately I had a  bad reaction to the new drug. Sweaty, anxious, heart beating fast and I felt “wired” all the time. I tried it for 2 weeks and then switched back to Levothyroxine.

Life happened and I never followed up to find out about my Hashimoto diagnosis, not that the endocrinologists lack of concern motivated me anyway.

Testing for T3 + PCOS + Insulin Resistance

A few years later I was married and preparing to start a family, and I switched to searching for a women’s specialist to assess my overall health and preparations for baby makin’. I discovered a peculiar doctor (peculiar for reasons other than his practice focus–he was a doctor AND a lawyer), who at at the time intrigued me. He was a women’s health specialist, who focused on endocrinology and gynecology. I started seeing him in the summer of 2014 and it was the first time a doctor had suggested to check my T3 levels (vs. the typical TSH and T4 levels most doctors test for).

This was the first time someone mentioned Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Insulin Resistance. Both of which I tested positive for with blood test and ultrasound. The T3 test was most interesting to me, as, by this time, I had seen nearly half a dozen doctors and never once had one mentioned testing for T3.

He suggested a add a T3 supplement (Liothyronine) and he increased my dosage of Levothyroxine. In addition, he recommend I start metformin, a sometimes controversial drug that would essentially help my body convert sugar into energy more efficiently, rather than store it (hence the insulin resistance). He gave me some recommended reading, The Insulin Resistance Diet , and for the first time in nearly 30 years I started learning more about my body and how what I was putting into it was affecting my genetic predisposition.

It was around this time that I completed my first Whole30 and saw tremendous results. Within months of starting the metforim, T3 and new T4 dosage, I lost nearly 30 lbs. I was feeling better than I had in years, and I had more energy that I could remember ever having. It was great.

Pregnancy

Soon after this, we became pregnant, after only a short time of trying. I was thrilled. And relieved. As I was expecting, as a woman in my late 30s with multiple Autoimmune diagnoses, that it surely would have taken longer. (I absolutely believe it was the diagnoses, medicine change, and lifestyle change that made this possible–and so did my doctor.)

I had a perfectly fine pregnancy, which surprised me. I kept expecting to gain a ton of weight, feel terrible, and have any number of medical issues. But it was entirely routine. In fact, I only gained about 15 total lbs. throughout my whole pregnancy, which still to this day is hard for me to believe, due to my life-long struggle to lose and keep off weight. My thyroid functions remained normal throughout my pregnancy and I remained on the same dosage of my medicines throughout.

Postpartum

The first few months after giving birthday, my thyroid functions seems to be stable. However, with hormones, sleeplessness, exhaustion and the stress of a new baby, it’s hard to say that things were normal. Within 3 weeks I had lost all the baby weight I put on, and more. It wasn’t until about 6 months postpartum that I noticed the weight coming back on, and the exhaustion getting worse.

I had (to my surprise) quickly lost all y baby weight within weeks of birth, however a few months after we got into a routine with the baby, and he was sleeping through the night (thank sweet baby Jesus), I noticed that I was gaining weight at a rapid rate and the exhaustion, eczema, thin peeling fingernails had returned.

I remember one morning, after sleeping 10 hours straight (rockstar child!) I drove to work and I was so entirely exhausted that I took a 30 minute nap in my car before even walking into the office.

I knew something was very wrong.

Functional Medicine + MTHFR

By this time, about 9 months PP, I was a hot mess. Work was crazy busy, my husband’s schedule was insane (he was leaving the house by 5am and home after 8pm and working all day Saturdays). I was struggling. Big time. My diet was terrible, my stress levels and anxiety were through the roof, and I was mentally frazzled and exhausted.

Out of desperation I started making every doctors appointment that I has missed over the past year. Dentist for a tooth extraction follow up I had done over a YEAR prior, chiropractor and orthopedic for a herniated disc that has been nothing me for months, and finally I started asking around for a women’s health specialist that could finally help me figure out what was going on.

A few friends recommended a functional medicine practice that specialized in Women’s Health. I made an appointment and within a few weeks was getting tons of labs run, including being tested for a MTHFR gene mutation, which I had been reading lots about. (If you’re in the Houston area, message me for deets on the doc.)

Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

The labs took about 3 weeks to complete and in that time, I had been doing my own research and discovered the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Autoimmune-Paleo.com and the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. (Much more detail on these programs on this site coming soon.)

In those 3 weeks, I kicked a fierce Diet Coke habit, began a new fitness program, and began the 4-week meal plan in the AIP Cookbook.

This was HARD, y’all. It was hard. BUT. When you feel as bad as I was feeling, I promise the alternative of NOT feeling better was harder.

It was revolutionary. Within 2 weeks of this new program, I was feeling good. After 4 weeks, I was feeling great.

By this time I was headed back to the doctor for my lab results. The results confirmed the MTHFR gene mutation, which she explained to me in detail, re-confirmed the presence of antibodies for Hashimoto’s, thyroid numbers looked stable, and a few low vitamin levels. She suggested I remain on the AIP program since I was seeing some great results with that. She added a probiotic, Vitamin D and a twice a day multi-vitamin and told me to continue with the dosage of my levothyroxine and liothyroxine and come back in 3 months to retest.

So here I am. On a mission to take on this beast of a disease. I’m only at the beginning of my journey and I hope to share what I learn with you. Let’s do this. We got this.