Here, 121 Dietitian Founder and Lead Dietitian, Gillian Killiner, shares how she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, which through research, dietary and lifestyle changes, supplements and exercise, she has reversed. Read on to find out how she did it and how she can help you too!
I have been planning to write about this for quite some time, but somehow I haven’t been able to pick the right moment or feel the time was right. This year has seen big changes for me and I have consciously been trying to rebalance my life. The last few weeks have really pushed me into feeling the time is right to write.
In my youth, I thought I was invincible. I tried to be everything to everyone, I empathised and sympathized with others on their poor health or misfortunes and tried to rebuild or improve them, but never in a million years thought that ill health could happen to me. My lack of truly listening to my body over many years caught me out, and with a family history of auto-immune disorders I now regret this stubborn inner me. However, as I live with a chronic auto-immune condition I feel that if anything positive has come out of it, is that it has really allowed me to understand my patients at a level deeper than ever imaginable before.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for those unfamiliar with this condition, is in which the body’s own immune cells attack and destroy the thyroid gland. There can be up to 300 different symptoms and so there can be many of these symptoms that cross over into other illnesses. It can be slow progressing for some and so blood tests may not detect it in the early stages, making lives unpleasant with symptoms and no answers.
Hypothyroidism is the most common outcome for a Hashimoto’s sufferer and medication is used to help treat this condition, end of story. That is what I was taught when learning about the thyroid at uni and during my hospital career. Take a tablet and all will be fine, next….
NOW I KNOW THAT SADLY THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE….
My story is classical: I trace my trigger to having quinsy in my 3rd pregnancy – the infection was so severe I was in hospital for 3 days on an IV drip. They lanced my tonsils at the bedside and let all the bacteria drain into my gut. From this I slowly recovered and after having baby number 3 many things occurred that put additional pressure on our lives. I felt rubbish, but put that down to long hours running my new business, caring for three small kids, getting older and significant involvement weekly in caring for my disabled mother who was a 3 hour drive away. My husband, a fabulous man, was hardly around with his job. I was a “no time for me person” to whom I used to say if I met someone like this: “If you don’t look after your health you will have “plenty of time in the future”, as you won’t be able to work!” A total hypocrite I know now. I just did not see it for myself or maybe I chose to ignore it. I was invincible! One day it all changed when I uncharacteristically booked to get my Vitamin D checked. This I know was mainly due my dietetic curiosity with work spurred on with the media hype at the time.
I remember when my blood panel came back I was shocked and in disbelief but if honest, relieved. I was not surprised that something showed up and that all my symptoms that I tried to ignore or had secretly stressed about were valid. In addition to Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s diagnosis I had a very low Vitamin D level and suboptimal levels of B12. My diagnosis was in Dec 2012 and I thought that was it, all fixed. I was commenced on Levothyroxine and I slowly built up the dose as guided by my GP and I sat back and waited to get better.
Did I feel better? Psychologically maybe a little as I started to take more interest in myself and others around me had to also consider my health. However this feeling did not last long; 4 weeks later and I was worse and so the GP increased the tablets and so the story went on until my bloods were in NORMAL range but I was feeling worse than ever.
My GP made an urgent appointment for me with an Endocrinologist who assessed me and said “go take a holiday”. OMG I didn’t see that coming. I was hoping to be taken seriously but clearly I was not ill on the small panel of thyroid blood tests taken and so it had to be in my head….any of you who have been there will know the score.
From that moment onwards, as best I could, I did my research. I was so unwell I did not see how I could make it to my next birthday: I was 1 month away.
Some of my major symptoms included: severe headache like a vice, walking in concrete, mixing up words, brain fog, exhaustion, not able to get out of the car to lift my kids or shop, back pain, chest pain, lots of sighing, yawning, un-refreshed sleep, brittle nails and hair, skin on chin irritated, sensitive teeth and gums, low moods, insomnia, tearful, constipation, freezing cold, heart palpitations….my adrenal glands were struggling too.
I bought a medical thyroid book book which was a great starting point and I commenced the recommendations. I know you would think that as a Dietitian I would be an expert in nutrition, which I am! But the subject of auto-immune and supplements was lacking in my knowledge and so all news was new and I ate it all up. (With these new skills I now successfully treat patients today).
Anyway; I took a summer holiday with my family but sadly as a shadow of my former self in vitality, stamina and energy. Sitting at 40c I was cold and wrapped up, but the headaches were gone and that was one step in the right direction.
I came home from my holiday and began to fix myself further. I joined the Health Unlocked forum, which again has been instrumental in my recovery. I requested further blood tests and from this I commenced a medication which had a combination of T4 and active T3. This along with the daily regimen of supplements made a noticeable difference and some of the significant symptoms began to settle.
At the same time I made a difficult but important decision that I will tell you more about in the next blog : part 2.
Well, sorry for the very long pause. Things always happen when you least expect them. My mother who is disabled with MS was in a car accident and badly broke her leg in June, which meant all my extra time outside of work and family was directed at her care and attention and to keep her mentally strong. It is an ongoing slow process but she is getting there.
For me I could not imagine how I would be coping if I had not been able to recover my health after my Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
To get to the level I am at now did take a big decision as I was, pre 2010, not an ‘elimination of foods’ Dietitian! My motto was to increase food choice and enhance variety in all my patients’ diets (obviously not those with allergies and specific ill health but the people who required help with healthy eating).
My big leap was that I removed gluten from my diet, and I can only say I am happy I did. My symptoms like constipation and skin irritation did not change greatly but I knew it was scientifically worth the change – even if removal was to prove it was the wrong path, I could save my patients from possibly making the decision.
It is 2 years since I made the change and I am continuing with this. I feel the scientific evidence is there and unfolding at present there is not enough research written up and so I will continue this route while I await further results to materialise.
Another six months on and I am delighted to let you all know that I have reversed my Hashimoto’s. I am more than delighted! My antibodies are 12 IU/mL well below the 35 IU/mL, and it has been due to diet, supplements, exercise and lifestyle.
My current lifestyle is still busy but I now try my best to keep on top of my workload and general daily pressure.
I continued with my gluten-free diet, avoiding processed gluten-free products 99% of the time also.
From an individual who naively followed the principles of a low fat diet in her twenties and scorned anyone who took supplements, always believing that your food gave you all the nutrients if you ate healthy, I have come a long way – unfortunately the hard way. And if you read my previous blogs you will know the changes I have made have been many. I now eat increased healthy fat choices and upped my vegetable intake further than I thought possible and I’m loving the changes.
I see patients at my clinic daily who have chronic inflammation, PCOS, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and IBS, who all benefit from my new and ever expanding nutritional and medical research and knowledge.
My message to you all is not to suffer in silence. You may have been through many tests that show nothing is wrong but don’t give up. You need a full MOT to be able to get to the root cause. Therefore I urge you to seek advice.