Nutritional Therapy is sometimes a Long Haul

Spoiler alert - this isn’t going to be an account of a sudden overnight miracle cure obtained by giving up wheat, dairy and booze. On the contrary wheat, dairy and booze did then, and still do now, make up a relevant part of my diet.

Who are you calling fat?

Back in 2014 I was looking at holiday photos and (as women generally are) being hyper-critical of myself. However even I don’t usually think that my neck looks fat. Deciding that the throat is a weird place to put on weight I checked in with the GP and found out that I’d actually home-grown a couple of non-cancerous goitres on both sides of my thyroid.

At the subsequent meeting with the endocrine surgeon I resisted pressure to have the whole thyroid removed and instead had a partial thyroidectomy to remove the larger of the two goitres. Leaving half my thyroid and the smaller goitre behind.

Following the operation my hormones were tested and the hormone most usually tested for primary hypothyroidism, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), was measured at 13.1 mIU/L. The widest accepted reference range for this hormone is 0.35-5.5 mIU/L, and alternative therapists prefer an even narrower range. My T4 (the actual hormone produced by the thyroid) levels were correspondingly low and below the clinical range. Not surprisingly with these results the endocrinologist was keen for me to go on artificial thyroid replacement. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to serious symptoms including heart issues, aching muscles and elevated cholesterol.

“Herbal Remedies”

However, having seen hypothyroid clients in my practise I’m aware of the necessary upwards titration of synthetic hormone replacement. As more thyroid hormone is provided externally, the less work the thyroid has to do, as it is needed less it begins to atrophy meaning you then need more thyroid hormone. A catch-22 that carries on until the thyroid is all but useless.

In addition I always felt that the dosage and timing of the medication was a bit like using a hammer to do slight and delicate marble sculpting. When not on thyroxine the pituitary gland continuously monitors serum levels of T4 to keep it at a relevant homeostatic level. If too low then it sends a message to the thyroid to produce more T4 via TSH. This happens continuously all day, yet taking thyroxine just seems like swamping the system with one massive dose all in one go.

I’m obviously not an endocrinologist and I’m sure the mechanisms of the medication is more subtle than this but at the time this was my thinking, correct or not. For the few clients I had seen who were marvellous on thyroxine there were others who were still overweight, still tired and still cold.

So being a stubborn, arrogant nutritional therapist who obviously knew better than the endocrine specialist I declined the medication and decided that I would attempt to support the thyroid nutritionally.

Eyebrows ain’t bald yet…

Initially although my TSH and T4 levels improved slightly they still didn’t actually come anywhere near the desired reference ranges, so after a couple of years I stopped testing. I was monitoring my symptoms, of where there were none, and decided that as long as I was asymptomatic I would resist thyroxine. As one of the symptoms is thinning eyebrows these I particularly fixated on. Heart health concerns? Nah, not bothered. Start messing with my face though and I’ll be straight to the GP to get thyroxine!

4 years after my operation and still following a specific nutritional protocol (or “herbal remedies” as the endocrinologist patronisingly called it) I had a routine blood test carried out and was immensely pleased with myself to find my TSH down to 1.65 mIU/L. Well within anyone’s reference range! Blooming Hurrah. Still, not quite believing it, I had another test taken which confirmed the results.

So, as much as we all like quick results, sometimes going slowly gets the right results in the end. I’m not complacent, I will keep with my nutritional protocol and continue to monitor my thyroid levels as T4 and T3 could still do with slight improving. I’m even prepared to believe that it may not have been my nutritional protocol that has reversed my high TSH, my thyroid might just have kick-started itself regardless.

However no medication comes without its risks and those risks I just obstinately and belligerently did not want to take.

And 4 years down the line, symptom-free and with a well-functioning partial thyroid I’m glad I didn’t.

By Saffron Rogerson

09 March 2018