Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hashimoto's - Resolved.

About 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease.  Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition in which the body makes antibodies that attack the thyroid gland in response to its production of thyroid hormone, which the antibodies mistake for invaders.  An antibody is a blood protein created by specific white blood cells.  It is the job of antibodies to fight disease in the body by attaching themselves to invading substances and marking them for destruction.  Why would my body think my own thyroid gland was an invader?

Chris Kresser explains it thoroughly here.  Excerpt:

"In the first article in this series, I showed that hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases. In this article we’re going to discuss the connection between autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and gluten intolerance.

Several studies show a strong link between AITD (both Hashimoto’s and Graves’) and gluten intolerance. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with AITD be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa.

What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

Even worse, the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it. This explains why it is critical to eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you have AITD. There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid."

During the year and a half that I've been eating a modified paleo diet, which is wheat- and grain-free, I've had several blood tests to monitor my thyroid levels.  My thyroid gland seemed to be coming back to life; my medication was reduced by 2/3 in the diet's first year.  Blood tests showed that my thyroid antibodies have been steadily decreasing. 

On July 11, 2012, my doctor wrote "No thyroid antibodies. Hashimoto's - resolved" on my blood test.  I asked him if that meant I no longer had an autoimmune disease.  He replied, "You no longer have an autoimmune disease."  When I asked what he considered the reason for the antibodies' disappearance, he said, "Probably the wheat."

I have never had ANY other symptoms of gluten intolerance; if I had, it probably would have been picked up much earlier in my life.  In the last year I have learned enough about wheat to realize that it is something I never want to eat again.

Perhaps this post will help you understand why people you know are serious about avoiding wheat.  Perhaps this post will help someone with thyroid issues, or other autoimmune diseases; wheat is a culprit in many of them, as well.

Remembering that we are all to some extent metabolically unique, we can begin to understand that food can be a major player in many health issues.  Cure Hashimoto's with food choices?  Apparently so.

I won't lie and say it's easy, but there's something supremely motivating about reclaiming health territory once lost.  My deepest thanks to my stepson for his patient, non-preachy sharing of information, books and links about diet and the gluten-thyroid connection.  Be well.


  1. Congratulations! That is really so so so great. Fantastic. Thanks for posting on my blog so I'd know to come over here to read this.

  2. I just came across this as I am researching Paleo/grain-free diets. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's 7 years ago, and while it is in check with medication I still feel foggy and sluggish much of the time. I've read more and more about the wheat/autoimmune connection, and I am definitely going to get tested for gluten intolerance. I'm amazed at your results - Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I was amazed, too. "Foggy and sluggish" used to be normal for me, too. But no more. Remember that I gave up lots of food besides wheat. But wheat seems to be the biggie. It was jaw dropping to watch those antibodies drop to nothing on the blood tests.

  3. That's amazing !! I have Hashimotos and I take a HUGE dose of medication to function. I knew about the gluten link but I've been (frankly) lazy about it.

    I must ask - do you still need to take any medication at all ? I'd settle for 2/3 less - its a total pain and VERY expensive.

    Many Thanks !

    1. Yes, most people simply cannot believe that something so ubiquitous as wheat in our diet could be doing so much harm. But when you think about it, it probably IS something ubiquitous, you know? That we eat MULTIPLE TIMES a day, all our lives! I used to grind flour and make bread with organic wheat. Being a good mom, right?
      Just Google wheat and autoimmune disease and you will be lazy about wheat no more.

      My original Armour dose was 1.5 grains, and I got down to 0.5 grain as the antibodies went down. My doctor put forth a good case for Synthroid, so I switched to that, in a dose roughly equal to the Armour. I seriously wonder sometimes if my thyroid is continuing to heal ... neck swelling/sensations very rare now, and energy levels good. Remember, I don't eat corn, oats, legumes, seed/legume oils, etc. EITHER, so a 30-day paleo or Whole 30 might be enlightening for you.

  4. PS: I got here from a link in your comment on Clothes Make The Girl :)

  5. I just wanted to let you know how very much hope this post gave me! I was diagnosed with Hashi's 5 years ago and started living a Primal/Paleo lifestyle a little over a year ago. My weight is down from my highest of 243 to 168, my anibodies are going down, and I'm feeling better than I have in years! My hope is to one day be able to say that I'm free of Hashimoto's too! Congratulations!

  6. Woo hoo, Lori! Your blog reflects your excitement at having found some answers! We are SO encultured to eat a certain way that when we step out of it we can begin to doubt ourselves. It's important to remain watchful and use good sense. Weight loss, disappearance of joint pain, declining/disappearing Hashimoto's antibodies, increased energy with which to live life ... well, that's the stuff of blog-starting to share the way to those results for everyone willing to do it. When you get your "Hashimoto's resolved" from your doctor, let me know!

  7. Wow, this is really encouraging! Congrats on your clean bill of health! I have been chronically fatigued for the past year and just had a lot of tests done this week by an integrative doctor, including tests for heavy metals. I haven't met with the doc yet or gotten the results, but I want food allergy testing for gluten, among others. Have started thinking it may be corn for me. Sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're mildly allergic to several things and you eat them all at once. In my case, am thinking it's hormonal. Aargh!

  8. Lentil, Dear, SAVE YOUR MEDICAL MONEY AND SPEND IT ON GOOD FOOD!!!! I am starting to suggest that folks consider doing a Whole 30, which is strictly paleo for 30 days. No grains, legumes, seed oils, sugar or flour. No juices. Coffee okay!

    A 30-day paleo trial CAN'T HURT and is one of the safest, cheapest ways to see if you start to get results. You are in one of the best food supply areas of the country in terms of grassfed meats and other great, fresh, local foods.

    I discovered corn is a problem for me when I tried to have some after so long without. Bingo! You can REALLY tell when you add one thing back in exactly what it does. Remember that wheat, corn and soy are the most genetically modified "foods" on the planet. Read "Pandora's Seed." We unleashed a host of destructive diseases when we started growing grains, eating them in large quantities, and then modifying them.

    Of course, if you go paleo permanently, you'll have to change your name to Avocado Breakdown! (kidding!!!)

  9. Why is coffee ok? Just wondering. Seems like that is bad for your adrenals (and I abuse them by drinking caffeine since I'm always tired—a catch 22).

  10. I suppose I should clarifiy that coffee is okay IF coffee doesn't bother you and IF you don't abuse it. It is certainly possible to mess up your adrenals with it.

    I stick to one cup of coffee a day because I like the taste. More than that wires me. But I have thought about giving it up entirely. If you Google thyroid and coffee, you'll see why.

    If you try a Whole 30, you might find your blood sugar stabilizes and you won't need infusions of caffeine. I have long suspected that carbs and perhaps soy (a goitrogen) are your culprits ... and insulin resistance.

  11. Reading this sure does give me hope. Because I have continued to feel so sick and exhausted and don't seem to be getting anywhere I started to seek out answers to help myself. I learned about gluten and wheats affect on hashimoto's so 3 weeks I started eating gluten, grains, corn, sugar, dairy, alcohol and caffine free except for 1 cup of coffee still in the am. Before I started this way of eating I wasn't experiencing any stomach issues. I have been eating a whole foods diet for a few years but it included raw dairy, wheat I ground myself and then soaked before preparing, sugar only in the form of raw honey and pure maple syrup. In spite of trying to eat low carb, low calorie and heavy exercise I have not been able to lose the 40 lbs I gained in the first 6 weeks of getting sick. Since starting medication my weight basically stabalized other than 3-5 lb flucuations here and there. So anyways, I started this new way of eating with hopes of feeling better as far as my hashimoto's and hypothyroidism go and with a hope of losing this weight. It's been 3 weeks and I've gained 5 lbs and I don't feel better. Does it take longer and I'm just being impatient? I am so frustrated. I refuse to give up though and reading things like this post are encouraging.

    1. Lori, I can tell only my own story, and cannot give precise or personalized advice. Staying in contact with your doctor and getter regular blood testing is important, of course.

      I can say that with TOTALLY giving up grains, sugars (including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.), legumes and seed oils, my weight started to drop immediately. I found it most important to eat plenty of fat, especially avocadoes and coconut oil (to stay satiated) and to NOT eat more than 1/4 cup of nuts a day. For thyroid health, I have discovered that some carbs of the "safe starch" varietiy (yams, bananas, plantains) seems to help me. Moderate protein. As well, I stopped snacking entirely and ate only balanced "paleo" meals.

      All that said, if something isn't working for you, and you are concerned about any health issues, see the doc, and remember that different approaches work for different people!

  12. First, let me say I found you through a comment on The Clothes Make The Girl, which I stumbled upon via another blogger's Facebook page.. double win! You mentioned that your Hashimoto's was resolved, which I've heard is impossible, so I was curious and came here to read more. Ugh.. so frustrating to have all this conflicting information around. Anyway, I was diagnosed with Hashi's in 2007 with the only symptom being the inability to lose weight. I had many nodules on my thyroid, one which was large enough to need a biopsy. The biopsy came back fine, but the hospital was able to diagnose me specifically with AITD(just stole that from your Kresser excerpt ;)). Fast-forward 3 years, after various dosage changes of Synthroid (generic) and my Endocrinologist claiming my levels were perfect while ignoring the myriad of symptoms that sprung up for me along the way and the continued inability to lose a single pound while working out 6 days a week... I gave up on him and found a doctor's office that practiced functional medicine and were miraculously covered by my insurance as well.

    At my new doctor's office, I was tested for gluten intolerance and the tests came back negative, but since there was a tiny blip in the results for wheat and my CRP (inflammation) was really high I was asked to eliminate wheat for 30 days. I had been reading about the Primal Blueprint/Paleo Diet at this point and figured it was a great time to give it a shot. My inflammation went down a TON! Then my doctor asked me to re-introduce wheat to see if it affected me.. and I never really got back on the diet/lifestyle.

    My meds were switched to Armour about 6 months ago and a retest of my inflammation showed it was higher than my first "dangerous" results had shown. So on 9/10/12 I smacked some sense back into myself and resumed the Primal Blueprint. I'm 8 weeks in now, and along with a 6 day a week workout program have lost 15 lbs. It's slow progress, but after 5 years with NO progress, I'll take it! Anyway, sorry for the long rant here, but at my latest appt my ARNP mentioned that I didn't have any antibodies.. when I asked her if that meant that I no longer had Hashi's, she told me that I still had it, that I always would. I've heard that from many other sources on the Internet/in books as well, so I was just curious if the possibility of resolving Hashi's was factual. You're still taking thyrod meds, so does that mean you're still hypo, just not autoimmune?

    Thanks in advance for reading this.. didn't intend for it to be SO long :)

  13. Hi, Jen! I'm glad you got back on the paleo diet again ... I really do think it is the beginning of finding answers for many problems.

    So your Hashi's didn't make you tired? Tiredness and the antibodies were my only symptoms ... I could always control my weight by disciplining myself but until going paleo wasn't very disciplined at it.

    As for difficulty with weight loss, another commenter (above) talked about that and my response to you would be the same as to her.

    Hashimotos' cured? I trust my doctor, and to me it makes perfect sense that an autoimmune disease caused by a food trigger (wheat is a very common food trigger for autoimmune conditions) could indeed be cured by eliminating the trigger food. It's hard to argue with antibodies being gone, don't you think? I haven't looked into the veracity of my doctor's statement, but as I know I won't be eating wheat again, it's probably moot. I also think it correlates that my thyroid medication dose went down (ultimately by two thirds) as the antibodies decreased ... yes, I am still hypothyroid but to a lesser degree than before adjusting my diet. Hypothyroid is indeed a different condition than Hashi's, and is not an autoimmune disease.

    I suppose that if I had another blood test down the line that showed antibodies, I'd consider that the Hashi's was back, but not necessarily that it hadn't at one time gone away.

    Your inflammation story is a key element ... we know that chronic inflammation (which also can be caused by foods) set us up for a lot of diseases and conditions, including heart disease. That's why CRP is such an important test now.

    It sounds like you are on the right track. I just thought it would be interesting to share my story because so many people find it almost impossible to give up wheat, grains and sugar, not to mention all the other things (as you know!) that one gives up on the paleo diet. But feeling well is a huge driver for me, and keeping the Hashimoto's away ... so much so that now, after almost two years paleo, I see the "tempting" foods as toxins that will pull me back into ill health.

    1. I quit glutin and my goiter is gone, my heavy periods are now normal, and no more sinus or ear infections. My dumb doctors have never seen anyone get better, except me.

  14. good read ...thanks... I am new to all this