Paleo Helps Suzanne Get Off Thyroid Medication

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People always ask me “why do you eat Paleo?” – I see why, “Your diet isn’t based on the strong foundation of 7-10 daily servings of grain!?”. No, quite the opposite. But my reasoning behind going the way of the caveman was a long time coming; as it turns out, Paleo is tailor made for yours truly.

Throughout college, anytime I had blood work done, there was a note that my thyroid was on the lower end, but not underactive. I brushed that off. How could a 20-something have thyroid issues? That’s what my mom deals with, not me.

Back in 2009, I noticed I was feeling much more sluggish than before – I blamed allergies. I’ve battled severe environmental allergies for years – you name the pollen/dust/mold and I’m likely allergic to it in some degree. So, to get my allergies under control, my  allergist ordered skin testing for all types of allergens – both environmental and food. Just as I thought, I was allergic to all types of things in the air.

Now, sometime in my youth I decided that I couldn’t eat animals. I didn’t want to harm them in any way. Yes, I was a card-carrying member of PETA.  I ate every type of fake meat out there, lived on bread and yogurts – oh, and my staple: graham crackers with peanut butter.

The food test results for shocking for my meat-free ears.

I tested sensitive to [drum roll please] wheat, corn, yeast and most highly to SOY. I thought: “Soy? How could that be? That is my life force!”  I was distraught. How could one continue to be a vegetarian and NOT eat soy, corn, wheat or yeast?

Well, I tried my best – I ate the crap out of greek yogurt, beans, nuts – trying to get protein. I just felt super weak. I never had any energy and the lethargic feeling I was already battling became more intense.

With growing concern about my lack of energy,  I saw my GP and got blood work done as she suspected a problem with my thyroid. My T3/T4 was low, below the lowest end of the spectrum. I was put on a small dose of Synthroid to get it back in working order.  Taking a pill first thing every morning? Who doesn’t love that…

It was about six months after my allergy testing and getting on Synthroid that I began seriously considering eating meat again. As hard as I tried, my body couldn’t survive on the minimal protein and fat I was giving it.

I was cutting out gluten, soy and reading labels like crazy. Nearly everything I had been eating contained some derivative of soy, corn or wheat – or a combination of the three.

Eating meat was the hard part…extremely hard; I had chosen not to eat animals, but my body couldn’t survive without proper nutrition. I’m part Cherokee, and feel that connection with my world around me. Upon my first meal of meat, I thanked the animal for giving me its life so I could live – I continue to do this little prayer before each meal. strive to eat humanely raised, grass-fed/pastured animal rather their than the factory farmed mass. This may sound out loopy but when I think of eating an animal, I feel I take on part of its soul, its history. I think our grocery store culture doesn’t think about where our food comes from and what the animal goes through to get to our plate.

It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend, Sean Coonce (author of the blog, The FreeRange Human) that I learned about the Paleo diet. Not only did he facilitate my first bacon in years (gasp!), but he gave me Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution as a present in our early courtship – what a gentleman! :D  It made sense to me, plus, I’m already food-sensitive to half of the stuff you can’t eat! And I like how it makes me more “food aware”; aware of where my food comes from and proper, humane practices.  I was most intrigued by the notions that one could reverse diseases and eliminate medications.

I’ve been wanting to get off the Synthroid for the past few months and finally asked my doctor to test my levels to see if I could attempt ditching it. In February of this year, he drew the blood for testing and my T3/T4 was in the normal range – no shock, I was on synthetic hormones! Since it was all good, he said it was fine to try going off of it.

Now, I have been eating Paleo for over a year, and I can tell that I am healthier than ever. A former vegetarian, now eating offal, every meat and meat fat source imaginable. (In my veggie years, I was also extremely afraid of fat, but that’s another story).

This past week, I went back to my doctor for a follow-up and got blood work done for the thyroid. As it turns out, my T3/T4 levels are HIGHER off of the Synthroid than on it!

There’s no doubt in my mind that Paleo has played a huge role in my success, and I cannot wait to see what else my Paleo future holds.

Thank You!

-Suzanne

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  1. Orla
    June 4, 2012 at 3:50 am

    This is a little confusing, with an underactive thyroid the TSH is higher. The TSH is made by another gland and it will produce more of it if your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones T3/T4

    Chris Kresser has lots of info on Hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid

  2. David
    June 4, 2012 at 5:52 am

    I assume you mean that your TSH is now lower, not higher? When thyroid production is too low, the pituitary produces more TSH to stimulate the thryroid. So if your t4 level has normalized, your TSH should have decreased.

  3. Benzyl
    June 4, 2012 at 6:12 am

    Orla is right.
    When your thyroid is weak (or too little Synthroid) the TSH goes UP, and T3/T4 go down.
    When your thyroid is overactive (or too much Synthroid) the TSH goes DOWN, and T3/T4 go up.
    So when you stop Synthroid, then the TSH goes UP and T3/T4 go down.
    Though a low carb paleo diet, with strict avoidance of grains beans potatoes might reverse early Hashimoto’s disease. Be careful- what can be done cannot always be undone.
    ALSO in pregnancy, thyroid hormone T3 T4 is the main growth factor for the fetal brain. Accounting for over 15 points IQ. It is critical that thyroid is optimal during pregnancy. Find an endocrinologist who is interested in this field. It is safe to run a bit “hot” (a little extra Synthroid) but not cold (not enough Synthroid). Consider monthly testing during pregnancy.

  4. Elizabeth
    June 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Yes, you WANT lower TSH levels if you are trying to get off Synthroid.

  5. nuttmegs17
    June 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Yes, confused as well..if your TSH is getting higher that is an indication that your thyroid is not functioning as well as it should be.

    I think its great if people are able to discontinue thyroid meds due to the paleo diet, however, I hope those that aren’t able to aren’t discouraged. Remember: thyroid hormones are necessary if your gland is destroyed (mine is from Hashi’s). I will probably never be off the meds, but I hope this lifestyle will prevent future damage. I used to get down on myself thinking being on meds equaled failure, but I can definitely say thyroid attacks have been dramatically reduced since going paleo.

    I think her story is great and am glad she is feeling better! However, I hope this is cleared up…

  6. Kit Kellison
    June 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Came here to say the same thing about TSH after reading it on Primal Feed. I’m fearful for Suzanne on several levels.

    One: Being out of range is bad, but being in range isn’t necessarily good because the old lab range used my most labs is too wide. Ideal TSH, for most people, is between 1 and 2 and best closer to 1 than 2. So if her TSH is out of the lab range, (which might be as high as 5.0), that means her thyroid is way too low.

    Two: TSH is produced by the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid to get off it’s ass and work harder. It’s okay as a screening tool (but far from ideal), but she should be getting her Free T3 and her Free T4 tested as well (NOT total T3 and total T4, those are outdated tests that count hormone bound with proteins that make it inaccessible to the body).

    Three: The great majority of the time, hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune disease, and, as such, will fluctuate for sometimes unknown/unseen reasons. You can’t always attribute a change in your labs to eating clean; change is a part of the description of almost all autoimmune disease.

    Low thyroid is more than a slow metabolism that makes one feel sluggish. It can (everyone’s manifestation varies from the next patient’s) permanently impact the brain causing memory and neurological issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia…it can affect the heart, it will make your blood cholesterol rise, it damages you at a cellular level, slowing down cell production causing your to have dry skin, brittle hair, loss of hair…I could go on. Please visit Mary Shomon’s site to get as full an understanding of this condition as possible. It’s very dangerous. I know, I have it too. I believe paleo has helped my general health including diminishing the inflammation that contributes to my autoimmune disease. It has certainly eliminated my migraines which were devastating. Knowledge is power.

    • Kit Kellison
      June 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Ooops…meant to recommend that Suzanne get copies of her labs EACH time she gets testing. Make sure you don’t have the kind of doc who leaves you “in range” without figuring out what your optimal level is. There has been no good study done to see what the normal TSH range actually is…if you knew how they came about that range you’d be outraged. But why bother with expensive studies? Synthroid is long out of patent and nobody is going to get as rich on that as they will the muscle relaxers, sleep aids, heart medications and anti-depressants they can prescribe to thyroid patients who are under-treated.

  7. Kathleen @ Simplified Paleo
    June 4, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Great for you! I was also a vegetarian for a decade or so before coming over to this side of things, and I strive to say thanks for whichever animal I’m eating at each meal.

  8. Gail
    June 4, 2012 at 10:09 am

    If her TSH levels are higher, than her actual thyroid function is lower. Your TSH number is a reflection of your pituary gland signalling your thyroid to produce more hormones. The higher the TSH, the lower the other thyroid hormones. Also, I wonder if they tested her antibodies? It is normal to have fluctuating thyroid hormones if you have Hashimoto’s. About 80 to 90% of all incidences of hypothyroidism are caused by Hashimoto’s. Eating Paleo can reduce the inflammation caused by the autoimme part, and that might be way she has seen improvement.

  9. Greg @ The Daily Hunt and Gather
    June 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Anybody trying to manage their thyroid and who is not happy with their endo might want to consider coming out California and seeing Dr. Theodore Friedman, author of Everything Guide to Thyroid disease. He’s not a paleo doc but if you are trying to optimize your hormones he can help. However on his site he notes “Dr. Friedman strongly believes that each patient needs individualized exercise and diet regimens to optimize their hormonal and neurotransmitter makeup.”

    http://www.goodhormonehealth.com/

    He’s a researcher at UCLA and runs a clinic on Tuesday nights in Beverly Hills (not as fancy of an office as you might think) He does not accept insurance.

    I lost both adrenal glands to cancer. Since I live in LA I recently went to him to help me optimize my corticosteroid levels since my endo didn’t seem to interested in doing so. Most practicing endocrinologists are more experienced with diabetes than they are with pituitary and adrenal issues. Dr. Friedman did helped my optimize my levels. I was quite happy with the experience.

  10. Suzanne
    June 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Sorry, guys, I wrote TSH when I meant to write T3/T4! Sorry for the confusion! I was just very very excited!

    • Gaby D.
      May 31, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Hi Suzzane,

      Did you just come off of synthroid at once or leveled off slowly?

      Thanks,

      Gaby

  11. Tammy Elrod
    June 5, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Although I do agree that eating like our ancestors is the best way to go, I felt compelled to comment and let you, and others, know that high TSH means LOW thyroid and therefore you would need a thyroid supplement. Such as synthyroid or Armour. You were assuming a high TSH meant higher thyroid function, and that is incorrect.

  12. Suzanne
    June 5, 2012 at 9:21 am

    It’s been corrected…silly typos! My TSH was lower after going off synthroid. Woo!

  13. Stephanie
    June 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Congrats Suzanne on your newfound health. Another vegetarian switches to paleo! I find it such a great switch. We former veggies are interested in health, appreciate the focus on grass-fed, humane farming and are also interested in the possible environmental benefits. If you haven’t yet, you should totally read the vegetarian myth by Lierre Keith.

    I totally agree with you on grocery store culture. I find it bizarre that so many people don’t really want to know about where their meat comes from…even the fact that it is from an animal is disturbing to some. My grandma used to kill a chicken every morning before school for her siblings to eat at school. Most of us just think meat is the stuff that comes in the package at the store.

    I need to get into the habit of saying a thank you before I eat. That is a great idea. But I do savor the meat I eat which I think is one way of saying thanks. I feel like I’m making up for the 15 years of not really eating meat by enjoying every bite!

  14. April
    June 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Congratulations Suzanne! I, too, have had hypothyroidism for 7 years now, beginning in my early 20s! I was a vegetarian until I was 18-19 years old and lived on breads, pasta, yogurt, etc. I didn’t want to eat animals. When I discovered my thyroid condition, I thought I was too young for it as well, as my mom, grandma, and aunt all have it and are older than me. While still eating grains/dairy/gluten over the years along with animal products, my tsh was going up and go was my thyroid med. It wasn’t until 6 mo ago that I discovered paleo. It has been changing my life, and hopefully my thyroid. I go for bloodwork in August and hope that the TSH has decreased some (along with cholesterol, fasting glucose, and hopefully Vit D will go up!) In this journey I have found that having an autoimmune disease such as Hashi’s can be affected/corrected with diet, because gluten (or any food allergy) can exacerbate one’s condition. Long story short, thank you for your story. It has given me more motivation than ever! :-)

  15. Lpjohnson
    June 10, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I just wanted to point out to all the ladies that you cannot get an accurate measure of thyroid function if you are on oral contraceptives. The longer you have been on them the more inaccurate your test results will be.

  16. CMHFFEMT
    June 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

    I glad to hear that you got of the meds. Congrats! I think over time we are just going to keep hearing more and more of these vegetarian to paleo conversions.

  17. Paleo Diet
    July 5, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Terrific! Been searching for this info , thanks for posting.

  18. Lisa
    July 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    After reading this story, I went to check my labs that I just had done. I’ve lost 50 pounds with the paleo lifestyle. The lab work was just part of a work-required physical. Much to my surprise my thyroid meds have been dosed lower AGAIN…2nd time since the weight loss. I’m 51 and still have 30 pounds to go, but at this rate, I’ll be free of this med too.

    Thank you Robb. Big big big fan!!

  19. casas en concepcion
    July 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Me encantó bastante tu post.

  20. lahealthyliving
    September 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    That is amazing! What a success story! I suffer from Hashimoto’s as well, and I take a 75 mg doze which is pretty high, however, it did go down from 88 mg once i started really taking care of myself. However, I’ve been hearing a lot from all kinds of docs that once you start taking the med, you will be on it for life. I am on Paleo diet now, and can’t wait to go back to check my thyroid function.
    Here is my story:
    http://www.lahealthyliving.com/1/post/2012/08/giving-up-grains.html

  21. HChickNZ
    October 5, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    To the people who state that if your free T4/T3 is low your TSH will be high….you are quoting primary Hypothyroidism. It is possible to have a LOW TSH, low T3 and T4. That is secondary Hypothyroidism, usually pituitary sited, and is hard to treat as I am finding out! I take whole thyroid every day in doses that would make a Water buffalo skinny and yet Im losing energy and steadily gaining weight because of the garbage high carb way I started to eat 6 mnths ago, for the sake of convenience whilst working long hours.
    I was eating Paleo up until 6 mnths back, fell off the wagon, gained 13kgs in a few short months and feel awful. Back to paleo I go because that will revive my energy and mean I can look at maybe reducing my thyroid pills again. lesson learned.

  22. Khali
    March 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Is there any book specially dedicated to autoimmune diet, I am finding very hard to know which foods are ok to eat for my condition of Hashimoto’s. I need a compete list, if anyone knows please let me know.

    Thanks

  23. ~Denise Sage
    June 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    ~Yes, you can research Dr. Datis K … he has an excellent book out, lots of Hashimoto’s info & an autoimmune diet. http://www.thyroidbook.com/

  24. Pat
    July 8, 2014 at 5:55 am

    You all are not paying attention. He has only talked about T3/T4 tests not THS. If her T3/T/4 tests are good than obviously TSH is good too. THS test is the least useful test out there, but the only doctors do if you don’t push them to do the others because all they use for treatment is hormone replacement. So to them the other tests don’t matter.

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