This article was featured on Rappler on February 19, 2016 🙂
I’ve been in an on-and-off relationship with my weight since high school and little did I know all the ups and downs were due to struggles my thyroid had to deal with. Both my grandmas had it at one point in their lives, with my grandma on my mother’s side still struggling with it up to this day. So, it’s no surprise that I’d also be susceptible to having it.
At one time I’ll be 98 pounds, then two weeks later I’ll be 110. Up, down, then down, up. Then in 2012, I got into my all-time high at 120 pounds. At 5’2″, that is heavy. But more than the physicalities, I felt weird. Bloated. Lethargic. Zapped of energy.
I’ve tried all sorts of things to feel better, most didn’t work but thankfully a few did. Thanks to my very supportive family and friends, and all the information freely available on the Internet, I now feel totally free and put simply– awesome!
Please note, I am not a licensed health practitioner and what I will be sharing is based on my own experiences.
Some Tips on Naturally Healing Your Thyroid:
FOOD AND LIFESTYLE
- Avoid gluten at all costs.
Researches keep on backing this. Gluten, meaning “glue” in Latin, loves our thyroid glands so much and stick to them, making it difficult for the thyroid to breathe and move properly. With our thyroid unable to function optimally, we get the effects of hypothyroidism even if our glands are structurally up and healthy. I didn’t really believe in this not until I had my gluten sensitivity test. As expected, it turned out I was 95% sensitive to gluten (100% sensitivity makes me a celiac which thankfully I’m not).
I placed ‘was’ because even though I haven’t been tested again, I know I’ve gained my health and I’m not as sensitive anymore. When I try sprinkling small amounts of heated (not cooked) wheat flours on my cereals I’m totally okay. However, when I try eating bread, I crazily bloat overnight. Let’s say, 10 pounds in 2 days. And it doesn’t go away that fast: it takes at least two weeks for the water weight to go away. So I stopped pushing my limit altogether.
Say no to gluten!
The sad thing is, most people don’t take it seriously when you say you maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. Most comments I receive, “It’s all in the mind,” “Diet for rich people,” “You just don’t want to gain weight,” and “It’s your excuse to avoid fattening foods.” First off, not all gluten-free foods are for weight loss. Think of rice and potato, two of my favorite carbohydrate sources. Would people want to avoid these when they are serious about losing weight? My advice: Don’t bother! Just hold your head up high and know you are doing the right thing 🙂
These are foods that interfere with thyroid function, mainly because of the energy they get from thyroid glands for their digestion. You want to preserve that energy to maintain your health, not just for digestion. Goitrogens include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, millet, spinach, strawberries, peaches, watercress, peanuts, radishes, and soybeans. However, cooking lowers down the goitrogenic components so they turn out safer to eat.
- Take care of your sugar levels.
We want our thyroid glands to be stable enough so they gain their strength back, so we want to avoid all the highs and lows we might encounter. With proper diet, we can control our blood sugar before it gets to a level where it goes berserk– and sadly with diabetes, there is no turning back.
To maintain stable sugar levels, make the following a daily habit: eat first thing in the morning and have a high-quality protein breakfast; always eat carbohydrates or sweets with protein, fiber or fat (e.g. cereals with milk); do not eat sweets before bed; never skip meals.
Rule of thumb: “If you feel sleepy or crave sugar after you eat, you have eaten too many carbohydrates” (Dr. Kharrazian). So, find your carbohydrate tolerance and stick to it.
Our adrenals enable our “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations. However, due to many stressors in the environment, in the global world and in our own community, our adrenals have been put into far more stressful situations than they can handle. A healthy thyroid is so dependent on healthy adrenal function, so it is important to take care of our adrenals as well.
To support the adrenals, make the following a daily habit: avoid adrenal stimulators (e.g. concentrated sugars, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, allergenic foods, partially hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, overtraining, inadequate sleep); exercise lightly and within your aerobic range only; practice relaxation techniques; sleep early (be in bed at 10PM the latest).
This is what makes living in the Philippines so much of an advantage. Apart from exposure to the sun which is one of the best ways to get Vitamin D, we can also get it from food sources such as cod liver oil, oily fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, dairy products, pork, eggs, and my favorite malunggay (moringa).
Enjoy the sun!
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and it makes the absorption of Vitamin D even more effective. While this comes in many forms (pill, syrup and IV), it is more effective to take via food sources (e.g. asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peaches, avocado, spinach, garlic, squash, grapefruit and eggs). Remember to cook these as most are goitrogens.
…AND SOME MORE
I’ve been two years on with naturally healing my thyroid but the bloated feeling and water weight just won’t go away. This one thing that helped me with getting to the finish line is ayurvedic medicine, particularly Kerala-sourced Hamsapathyaadi Kashayam in liquid form. It’s what has been used for thousands of years in India in treating low thyroid function and obesity, but the practice has been disrupted by Western medicine in the form of synthetic hormones. I seriously swear by this medicine and I feel way, way better ever since! I took it for two years every day, 15 ML upon waking up.
Sourcing this product is quite difficult as you can only buy it in Kerala, India from the family-owned Mooss company. I ordered mine through Arogya Ayurvedic Center from Makati; however, Arogya stopped importing since last year which brings us to…
- Chew on raw ampalaya first thing in the morning.
Hamsapathyaadi Kashayam is intensely bitter and when I went out of stocks, I figured ampalaya (bitter gourd) could be a good replacement. I was surprised to find I also had that same burning sensation in my neck that I look for when I drink Hamsa. Chewing on raw ampalaya with skins on, although not as appealing as it sounds, has definitely worked for me. The more bitter the ampalaya, the better.
Healing your thyroid glands naturally and holistically will take a bit of time, but the positive effects will proactively be there to stay for the long run. Mine took three years to fully heal, and all the lifestyle changes that I’ve practiced throughout those three years will forever stay with me. To think of all the ill effects of hypothyroidism makes me continue to improve on all these lifestyle changes. There is definitely no going back.
I suggest that you read on Dr. Kharrazian’s “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism”; subscribe to Chris Kresser’s lifestyle blog; subscribe to Dr. Lam’s blog and newsletters; and contact Dr. Mark Flannery of Healthwise Clinical Nutrition. These tools definitely helped me with addressing my thyroid issues functionally, holistically and naturally. Just be patient, put on a lot of hard work and dedication, read up, trust in the workings of the world, and know that you will get the best of health in time.
Every person is different and so what works for me might not work for you, and vice-versa. However, there is nothing wrong with questioning the system. Why do medical doctors treat hypothyroidism the way they do? And why are you asked to resort to synthetics that only offer band aid solutions to your health woes?
Photo credits: nutritionbyerin.com, distractionmagazine.com