Although I didn’t expect a miracle, I did hope that doing the Whole30/strict Paleo diet in July would have a positive influence on my thyroid. Clean eating = healthy body = happy thyroid…right?
When I had my blood tested in June, my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) level was outside the upper limit of the “normal” range, so I figured a month of Paleo eating was just what I needed. Whole foods! No alcohol! My body would love it! My doctor scheduled me for another blood test in August and I was looking forward to seeing what the results would be.
The normal range for TSH values are 0.3 to 3.0. If you’re below 0.3, you have hyperthyroidism. If you’re above 3, you have hypothyroidism. For reference: When I first started taking thyroid meds in 2009, my TSH was 5.2. For the past few years when I’ve had check-ups, my TSH usually hovers around 2.5. Definitely not at the low end of the range where I’d prefer to be, but still “normal.” In April of 2012 my TSH was at 3.8, and in June it had risen to 5.4.
I had my blood tested again last week. My TSH is now 6.3 — higher than it was in June, higher than it was in 2009 when I originally started taking thyroid meds, higher than I’ve ever tested before. Needless to say, I was surprised and disappointed.
I didn’t expect to see super-great results, but I also didn’t expect for it to be worse than it was in June. However, it did explain why I’ve felt more tired lately, to the point where I’ve been taking long naps on the days I’m not at work (and I often wish I could take naps during the workday as well!).
In years past if I took a nap on a weekend (which happened rarely), I didn’t need to set an alarm because I’d wake up naturally within 20-30 minutes. How has that changed? Well, I left work early last Friday afternoon and when I got home, I laid down for a quick nap — and ended up sleeping for 1.5 hours. On Saturday afternoon I slept for 2 hours (which is the longest nap I believe I’ve ever taken, at least on a day where I had a normal night’s rest the day before and wasn’t sick). I think the only reason I didn’t take another nap on Sunday was because Paul and I were out late on Saturday and I slept-in until after 10am.
Since my TSH level continues to rise, my doctor decided to increase the dosage I take. (I’ve been on the same prescription strength of Levothyroxine since 2009; this is the first time my dose has changed.)
If I sit here and think about all the stuff I’ve done since early 2012 to improve my thyroid function, the list seems pretty significant. I’ve said before that I’ll do whatever it takes to feel better, and I think I’ve proved that:
- Spent extensive time reading about what I can do to control/improve my hypothyroidism (both online and books)
- Drastically reduced my consumption of gluten and refined sugar. (While I’m not at 100% elimination, my indulgences are rare.) That step was also the impetus for starting this blog in March 2012.
- Stopped eating goitrogens in raw form. No more snacking on raw broccoli and cauliflower.
- Increased my consumption of thyroid-friendly foods like coconut oil, avocados, fish, etc.
- Went on the Whole30 and eliminated grains, legumes, and dairy for a month. I’ve added a bit of dairy back (in the form of cheese and a little bit of Greek yogurt), but for the most part I continue to keep these things out of my diet.
- I quit coffee at the beginning of June. Since then, I’ve had one full cup (a few weeks ago) and a few sips of Paul’s coffee (last Sunday), but that’s a far cry from the daily cup I used to consume.
I admit, doing all that stuff but seeing my TSH get worse — it’s definitely frustrating. However, it doesn’t make me want to go back to eating like I was before. I do believe that the changes I’ve made are positive, even if they haven’t necessarily helped the one area I was most concerned with improving.
I knew before I enacted all these changes that you can’t heal an underactive thyroid with diet alone — usually when someone goes on thyroid meds, they’re on them for life. In my case, I think genetics plays a part, too. My dad has hypothyroidism and has been on meds for about 12 years (at a higher dose than what I take) and his sister, my aunt, is on them as well (but a lower dose than what I’m on).
What you can do with your diet is make positive changes that leave you feeling better and more energetic. I’ve tried that (and will continue to do so), but maybe a higher dose of thyroid hormones is something I needed as well. I’ll see how things look when I get my blood tested again in another 6-8 weeks.