My Paleo / Primal Journey – Trying to holistically heal Hashimotos

So, at the end of last year I was suffering endlessly from tonsillitis, sore throats and other unknown viruses. I would recover from one bout of sickness only to be ill again 3 days later. I felt like I was about to become best friends with my doctor I was in there so much. Thankfully, my doctor is not a big one on prescribing antibiotics so time again I was just told, “you are a mother of small children, you are run down, you’ve had an incredibly hard, emotional year with major bereavement”. In the end though, you really do know intuitively when something is not quite right, and you’ve moved beyond just being ‘run down’. With the last virus giving me the world’s worst sore throat, so sore I actually thought I must have throat cancer (and pretty much convinced myself I had it – I am a little overdramatic at times :P) the doctor decided some blood tests were needed. Thankfully, I did not have throat cancer…. but Hashimoto’s was the cause. Well, at least I’m not crazy I thought to myself.

My beautiful mother bought be a book “Your Thyroid Problems Solved” as a Christmas present. With Hashimoto’s, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid cells, leaving the thyroid unable to manufacture sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. Oh what a joy to read at Christmas that Hashimoto’s among other things, can lead to:

. weight gain (yup)
. lethargy and fatigue (double yup, but hey I am a SAHM – toughest job in the world!)
. poor concentration and memory (yup, yup)
. aches and pains
. depression
. dry skin and hair (yup)
. hair loss
. deep, hoarse voice
. premature ageing – great, just what I need!

Bloody depressing Christmas reading, that’s for sure!

However, the book is good at identifying positive steps an individual can take to treat Hashimoto’s. It takes pains to explain that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease and the common medication given to sufferers, thyroxine, only replaces the hormone the thyroid can no longer make, it does not halt the production of thyroid antibodies. Thankfully, my blood results were not high enough to warrant placing me on medication – thanks doc – however I am being monitored on a six monthly basis to see how the disease progresses.

The authors of the book, Dr Cabot and Dr Jaskinska, whilst do not directly mention following a paleo/primal approach make some interesting observations that closely align with this lifestyle. Their first assertion is that to treat an auto-immune disease you must first heal your ‘leaky gut’ as the ‘leaky gut syndrome’ is thought to be a major contributing factor in the development of autoimmune disease. The basic premise of a leaky gut is that overtime the mucous lining of the gut becomes more porous than it should allowing undigested food molecules, bacteria, fungi and other toxic substances to enter the bloodstream and irritate the immune system causing the production of antibodies which then attack the own body (crikey, complicated business, these bodies of ours).

The cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Well, there are many, including our cruddy Western diet high in carbs, sugars and processed foods, too much alcohol, too many anti-biotics and pain killers, too much stress, too much gluten! Apparently those who have been identified as having an auto-immune condition are very likely to also have coeliac disease. Of course, I have no way of finding this out as I am currently not eating gluten in my diet and therefore cannot have the blood test done. I can have a DNA test to determine predisposition to the disease but I am pretty sure that costs $500 so I think I’ll just pretend I’m gluten intolerant for now and forgo the test. I would actually like to get it done however to find out I’m NOT coeliac – after all, we all like to have a treat sometime, treats that aren’t deadly!

How to cure Leaky Gut?

Well, the authors describe in detail a bowel and liver detox. Unfortunately for me, this includes not only giving up gluten but also dairy – and I just haven’t been able to do this so far. I love my cheese and it really adds that ‘comfort factor’ to a dish when you’ve left out all the good gluteny bits! I am going to wait until my next blood test in June and if I haven’t seen any improvement then it will be time to get serious and go ‘strict paleo’.

I must say that I was quite pleased to read that there are some steps you can take to holistically and nutritionally improve your health. After my initial diagnosis of Hashimotos I was referred to an endocrinologist who confirmed the diagnosis but did not, whatsoever, offer any other treatments or methods of healing the body apart from the rather depressing observation that eventually my thyroid would get so bad that i will need to be medicated and monitored for the rest of my life.

I will be really interested to see if my blood tests improve having followed a stricter gluten-free diet. In the meantime, I am going to continue to follow a Primal Gluten-free lifestyle as closely as I can. You know, they say all things happen for a reason. And whilst I was definitely not happy to be diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, perhaps it was what I needed to keep myself on track with healthy, whole eating for life. Let’s face it, in this modern, convenient world it is all too easy to get lazy and eat the prepared crap that is sold in our supermarkets and not take care of oneself. Now I truly have a real reason to “stay the course”!