Could it heal yours?
I mentioned a while back that I was experimenting with easing off of my thyroid medication. I had high hopes that my carnivore/keto ways of eating had finally made it possible for my thyroid to make its own hormones. I’m at the end of that experiment now, and ready to report my results. I’m going to have to back up a ways to explain my thinking and results, though, so that readers can understand why my results are probably not going to be typical. Someone else may have a better or worse chance of success, depending on their unique circumstances.
In my late teens, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. What I really had was a drug problem, intense sadness, and a Jesus-shaped hole in my heart. But I didn’t turn to Jesus until much later. The worldly way of dealing with my failures was to see a psychiatrist, so that’s what I did. The psychiatrist put me on lithium, never warning me that the drug could affect my thyroid function. I was on myriad other drugs, also, and nothing helped at all. I’m not going to go into the story of the next few years, because, to tell the truth, I have no memory of a great deal of it. It was bad, OK? Suffice it to say that Jesus found me, made me whole, and I’ve been clothed and (mostly) in my right mind for about twenty years now.
But my thyroid did not recover. When I cold-turkey quit all the psych meds, I also threw out the thyroid medicine. In my ignorance, I didn’t realize that it was different than the rest of the meds, and I actually needed that one. For about five years, I didn’t understand that I was running on a damaged thyroid. I had plenty of symptoms that I didn’t know were symptoms, but I had fired all the doctors, so there was nobody to tell me.
This is the part where we sit in silence, in awe and wonder at how God brought me through these still-difficult years and gave me two beautiful, healthy children when I should probably have been infertile.
Then, like many post-partum women, after my second child, I found that my thyroid just flat-out couldn’t do it any more. A doctor finally tested my hormone levels, and put me on levothyroxine. That was more than fifteen years ago, and I have been taking that medication every day since then.
Once I started doing a ketogenic, then carnivore diet, I felt better than I could remember feeling since I was a child. My thyroid antibodies, a marker of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, simply disappeared after I cut out plants. I started hearing stories of women with Hashimoto’s being able to regain some thyroid function. But I didn’t just have Hashimoto’s. I also had decreased function from the psychiatric attack on my thyroid. My chances of success were slim, but I had to try.
As I mentioned here, I did everything I could think of, including quitting coffee and taking thyroid boosting supplements, to optimize my thyroid function, and then I (without my doctor’s supervision, and don’t you EVER think of trying this at home) eased myself off my thyroid medicine over a period of some weeks. For about the amount of time it takes for the last of the thyroid medicine to leave your body, I felt normal.
Then for a few more weeks, I thought I felt normal. Maybe a little slow. And then I started slipping more noticeably. I started to gain some weight, even though I wasn’t eating any differently. I was forgetting things, not getting my housework done, feeling cranky and sluggish all the time. My hair dried out, nails became brittle. Exercise became hard, instead of a joy to me like it usually is.
I kept on trucking for a few more weeks, hoping that my brain and thyroid tissue would finally figure it out.
In the end, I finally had to admit that I was not going to make it. These were my numbers about 3 months from beginning to taper off:
So, no, carnivore and keto did not heal my thyroid. I’m not able to make it without hormone replacement. Back on the same medication I went.
But here’s the interesting part. There were things that got better, even as my thyroid symptoms got worse. My period (avert your eyes, men) had always been ridiculously heavy and with giant clots, and that actually got better with no meds. I didn’t experience any cycle disruption at all. Perhaps I would have if I hadn’t tapped out of the experiment when I did. My sleep tracker started telling me that I was sleeping better, less restlessly.
The biggest change was that my acne disappeared. For a few years, I’d constantly had embarrassing, ugly, deep red cysts on my face. After stopping the meds, I didn’t even need makeup to go out anymore. I confess, I always felt especially delicate about the acne because I knew many people would blame my carnivore diet for it. I want to be an ambassador for this optimal way of eating, and I knew nobody would want to imitate me with my face looking like that. I had questioned whether it was the diet myself, but I’ve never seen a carnivore besides me have this problem, and I felt wonderful otherwise. I knew it had to be something else. I had never considered that it could be the formulation of the medication itself.
When I went back on Levoxyl, that acne came roaring back. The good news in this for me was that coffee was not the reason I had acne. It was obviously the medication, so I at least got to reacquaint myself with that old friend. Temporarily. We can talk more about coffee some other time.
Once I started thinking through what had happened during my sabbatical from medication, I realized that it was probably some inactive ingredient in the thyroid pill I was taking, and not anything wrong with my hormones, that was causing the acne. So, without fully disclosing to my doctor what a crazy thing I had done to figure this out, I asked her to put me on Tirosint, instead of Levoxyl. It’s pricey, but absolutely worth it to get a medication that doesn’t have any unnecessary ingredients.
I have not had any acne since I switched meds. My periods also got even lighter and my cycle is shorter: 28 days now instead of 34. This is marvelous!
Even though I didn’t succeed at resurrecting my thyroid with the carnivore diet, as many Hashimoto’s sufferers have done, I am very glad I tried. It is not a good idea to just accept long-term medication without trying to find other solutions. There was a better approach for me, and it is possible that I never would have realized it if I hadn’t gone this route.
Carnivore and keto might still work for your thyroid, Dear Reader. Several readers have asked for updates, I presume because they’d like to try this themselves. My friendly, not-at-all-medical advice is to get your diet nailed down for at least six months. Do either grain- and dairy-free keto or, ideally, carnivore. See if your antibodies improve. Then, under your doctor’s supervision–please do not do follow my example and go it alone–ease off the drugs and see what happens for you. I had a history of high lithium intake to contend with, so you very easily could have better luck than I did.
I would encourage anybody with Hashimotos to give it a very studied, deliberate, careful attempt. I’d love to hear from any of you about your own situation!