For many years I suspected that I had some form of thyroid problem based on my own research and symptoms like dry skin, occasional fatigue, trouble losing weight after having a baby, and hair thinning, but I was never able to get answers from conventional tests which showed that my T3 and T4 thyroid hormones were in the normal range.
Thankfully, I found an amazing doctor who specializes in hormones and endocrine problems and with additional blood testing and a thyroid ultrasound, he was able to finally figure out what I was struggling with: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition where the body creates antibodies to the thyroid).
What are Autoimmune Problems?
It turns out that many different disorders and diseases are autoimmune in nature but they manifest in different ways. As :
Autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system losing the ability to differentiate proteins belonging to your own body with proteins belonging to a foreign invader (like a bacteria, virus or parasite). What causes symptoms is the build up of damage to cells, tissues and/or organs in the body–damage caused by your own immune system attacking those cells. Which proteins/cells are attacked is what separates once disease from another. In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the thyroid gland is attacked. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the tissues of your joints are attacked. In psoriasis, proteins within the layers of cells that make up your skin are attacked. However, the root cause is the same.
Genetic predisposition to autoimmunity makes up about one third of your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. The other two thirds of your risk come from environmental factors, which include: diet, lifestyle, infections (both prior and persistent) exposure to toxins, hormones, weight, etc. While you cannot control your genetics or whether or not you had mono as a kid, you do have an immense amount of control over your diet and lifestyle (and the extent that these affect hormones and weight and even toxin exposure). By removing the foods that contribute to a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis (the wrong numbers, relative quantities, or types of microorganisms typically growing in the wrong locations in your gut), hormone imbalance, and that stimulate inflammation and the immune system, you can create the opportunity for your body to heal. By addressing important lifestyle factors and changing your focus to eating nutrient-dense foods that support optimal gut health (and optimal health of your gut microorganisms), that restore levels of important nutrients and provide all of the building blocks that your body needs to heal and properly regulate the immune system, that help resolve inflammation and support organ function, you create an environment in your body conducive to healing.
Why Other Diets May Not Work
From my understanding, once the body has an autoimmune reaction, it can sometimes be necessary to remove a wide variety of potentially inflammatory foods for a short time and then reintroduce to test the response. The idea is similar to the theory behind the GAPS protocol but geared toward addressing autoimmune issues instead.
Since the body is in a state of heightened immune response, removing these foods can help it get back into a state of balance and reduce the autoimmune reaction.
Technically, an autoimmune disease cannot be “cured”, but in many cases, it is possible to put the condition into remission with careful diet and lifestyle changes.
I switched to an autoimmune protocol diet after being diagnosed with Hashimotos in hopes of giving my immune system a little time to recover. I was hopeful that it would be beneficial, but I was AMAZED at how quickly it helped. Within the first week, I saw my bloating go away, my thyroid nodule felt noticeably smaller, I had more energy (after the first couple of days), and my skin improved.
Over the course of the almost two months I did the strict protocol, I lost some of my stubborn weight and felt incredibly better. It also helped me identify foods that I was not responding well to, but that I didn’t realize were problematic (like eggs, which was confirmed by blood test later).
I was able to reintroduce many of the foods after that time without a problem and I felt continually better (until I created a flare by not sleeping and stressing about finishing my book). Sleep and stress are both huge factors in overall health and are especially important for those with any kind of health condition.