It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Looking back, I have always had thyroid issues though I had no idea what that meant in my teens and twenties. It apparently runs in my family, though with rural Alaska medical care in the 70s, you were lucky to have a doctor available, let alone a dentist. Even as I grew older and moved to the city and then to college in Arizona and life in many other places, I was always just not well. Though I managed to live and work and play fairly normally, I would occasionally have days that I could not get out bed, so I attributed it to depression or other more readily identifiable causes like depression.
I eventually married and went through two pregnancies in my early 30s,
fairly normal and with healthy babies. After my second child, my mental and physical health really started going downhill, though it wasn’t really visible other than weight gain and some fairly severe post-partum depression. With the benefit of hindsight and research, what was probably mild Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in my youth turned into full-blown Hashimoto’s after the stress of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and raising two small children.
I was officially diagnosed in 2006 with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis after a therapist I was seeing for depression thought to order some tests. My levels weren’t that high, and I don’t even remember what the endocrinologist said to do about it, just that I had it and it had to do with my thyroid, and that someday my thyroid would fail and I’d be put on medication. He advised eating better and exercising, but with no specific plan. Ok. I just went about my life in the usual way, raising two small kids and easing my way back into the working world while doing all of the usual life things of home maintenance, the kids’ sports and school schedules, marriage, work and other family obligations. The Internet wasn’t that prevalent then, and I just accepted my diagnosis and prognosis and went about my life the best I could.
The years went by and I gained more and more weight. I would “diet” occasionally, have a little bit of success, then fall right off the wagon. I’d tried all of the fad diets, Weight Watchers, etc., and even went sugar-free and even gluten-free a few times in the past with great results, but again, fell off the diet wagon every time. I had been active most of my life with running, college intramural sports, tennis, hiking, long-distance biking, canoeing, camping—nothing ever really stopped me from being active, even being overweight or tired through most of it. I even put myself through almost three P-90X workouts in a row (shoutout to Mark Sisson for his episode – little did I know he’d be so instrumental to my life later….). My weight didn’t budge, though I got some nice muscle under my chub. I thought I was eating fairly well at that time, too, low fat, whole grains—the usual “good diet.” At the beginning of the third cycle of hard-core exercise, plus moving some furniture, I herniated a disc in my back and that put an end to P90X and extreme exercise.
In the meantime, I was getting sicker and I didn’t understand why. I was 50 pounds heavier than my normal pre-pregnancy weight. I was depressed, moody, lethargic, overweight, exhausted, and I always felt like I should just try harder to find the right medication to take care of it, or cut out the fats, or just exercise more. It seemed like each day was a monumental effort to get through, and I know I missed out on a lot of activities with my kids when they were little.
By 2013 my diagnoses were:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is an auto-immune disorder where your
immune system attacks the thyroid, which untreated can lead to multiple issues and eventual thyroid gland failure.
- Bipolar disorder and depression/anxiety. The manic-depression was
actually the hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism that characterizes
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but I didn’t know that at the time so I went
on multiple and many medications over the years, thinking that nothing
was working for me and this is how it was and would be for me forever.
- Migraines and headaches. This entailed emergency room visits and even a brain MRI. I went to a neurologist and was put on a migraine medication that ultimately gave me kidney stones, two of which had to be surgically removed. The medication didn’t help at all so I eventually gave up on it and since then, no more kidney stones! An expensive experiment. Now, if I have a gluten exposure—instant migraine and the root cause of them.
- GERD, bile disorder and esophagitis. I was put on a medication and at my first out-of-pocket charge of $400 for the med, I decided I’d go with the heartburn instead. I’d had bloating and discomfort for years, and did the usual OTC meds for that. An EGD thankfully showed no celiac disease but did show chronic inflammation.
- Asthma and chronic bronchitis requiring an inhaler
- Chronic fatigue
- Restless leg syndrome
- Osteoarthritis, joint pain and stiffness
- Chronic tendinitis in wrists
- Adult acne
- Early menopause at age 40
- Brain fog
Around this time I had also lost half of my hair—thankfully I have thick hair so it still looked ok even though it was falling out in clumps.
For seven long years I went to the endocrinologist, got my thyroid (TSH) level tested and was always told it was “normal.”
In August 2013, after my last visit to the endocrinologist who had “managed” my Hashimoto’s for seven years, I finally hit the wall with my frustration over not being able to control my own body. I had had my first full-blown panic attack around this time as well. My medical record states the doctor actually thought it “was unlikely patient has significant thyroid disorder.” My TPOAb (Hashimoto’s marker) was 629.5 IU/ml (normal is to just eat right and exercise more and wait until my thyroid failed and then be put on medication. I even begged to be put on Armour NDT or something to just try it, even though my TSH was normal. He refused. I fired him and, at the end of my rope, finally got on the internet where I found the book I felt saved my life, “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the The Root Cause” by Dr. Izabella Wentz, which had just been published. Finally, someone who had suffered like me!
I jumped right in to the Hashimoto’s protocol—which is basically Primal, and though it was a super hard transition off the SAD and meds, I lost 20 pounds in the first 21 days and over the next three months, lost 25 more, and never looked back. I gave up gluten, grains, started eating way more fat and vegetables, minimal fruits, got off all of my medications and resolved almost all of my health problems, in particular the depression—it’s amazing to live without it! Without reading The Primal Blueprint (until a bit later), my diet and lifestyle had evolved to fit the model of ancestral health naturally.
During the initial transition, I had gathered all of my medical records, made a summary of them chronologically, made a spreadsheet of my labs and discovered by myself that while I have always had “normal” TSH levels, I don’t convert T4 into the more usable T3, and my symptoms fit that profile. I found a holistic leaning CNP that agreed with my diagnosis and was willing to prescribe the proper NDT medication to address this and literally 20 minutes after taking the first dose, my anxiety, which had reached panic attack levels, disappeared. I now know that when my anxiety creeps up, it’s time for a thyroid medication adjustment.
I eventually read Elle Russ’ Paleo Thyroid Solution, which is a great resource for thyroid sufferers and explained a lot of what I was going through. I do still have the occasional Hashimoto’s flare days, when I simply cannot get out of bed, but it’s down to 1-2 times a year—and usually after I’ve let non-Primal foods into my diet. A far cry from being how I lived my life on a daily basis. It took ten years from diagnosis and many endocrinologists, naturopaths, nurses and internists later, but I finally have found an integrative medical doctor who helps me with the right medical care for Hashimoto’s. I was gratified at our first intake appointment that she did not change one thing about my diet which was already Primal! She commented on my robust health and I was never more proud of myself for getting myself from my sickest days to the point of actual robust health!
Today, after my all time high of 213 lbs, I keep my body at a comfortable 165 lbs (I’m 5’5” and age 49). My Hashimoto’s is stable and after initially cutting my levels in half by eating primally, I go a bit up and down and now rely on my physical and mental states to determine how well I’m controlling it through my food plan. I don’t have a CrossFit-type body, but I do have a body that takes me through my days without pain or suffering, as long as I stick to the Primal way. I no longer have depression, anxiety, GERD, acne, my hair grew back, I sleep like a champ and my brain fog is better but not all gone—hey, I’ll be 50 this year, what can I say! My weight, despite four back surgeries for disc herniations, a labral tear repair in my hip, a broken ankle and a shoulder surgery (the osteoarthritis still rears its ugly head), has remained stable at 165 lbs since 2013. Even when I am unable to exercise, I maintain my weight, mood and general good health simply by eating and living Primally. Today, I enjoy riding my bike, walking my dogs, working out at my property mowing grass, hauling logs and brush and doing simple Primal workouts in my basement. I have a goal of someday being super muscle-y but since I feel so much better than I did before, I’m ok with my body now. My clothes always fit and I can live and do what I want to physically, and that’s more than enough for me.
My children are now 19 and 16, growing up and moving on with their lives, and with extra time on my hands I started looking into being a health coach. I’d followed many “diets” related to primally eating—mostly the Hashimoto’s Protocol, the Bulletproof Diet, the Whole30 plan, the Auto Immune Protocol plan and Paleo among others—but truly, the lifestyle I developed and live dovetails totally with the Primal Blueprint—I was living it before I really even knew about it! My heritage is Inuit/Alaskan Eskimo so it makes complete sense now that I live best on fats, meats and vegetables and berries! I know this lifestyle works for me and am excited to share it with others like me, who have suffered needlessly with auto-immune disorders that aren’t treated properly. I know you can take your health into your own hands and live the way nature intended – PRIMALLY! I recently became certified as Primal Health Coach and am living proof that good health can be had with minimal effort and suffering and I’m excited to begin my journey of helping others to robust health!