I don’t get all that many questions, but this time I did! Here’s my response.
I had been reading a bunch of blogs and such last night which I know are not necessarily reliable, but I was wondering if you knew or had heard anything about the natural t3/t4 drug Armour? It says a lot of doctors will not prescribe it, but many of the people on the posts have said they liked it so much better than levothyroxine. Also, I just started the gluten free diet and I was wondering how long/ if its noticeable that symptoms reduce?
-K in Virginia
Great to hear from you — but sorry that it has to be for thyroid stuff. The good news is that blogs and the internet in general is packed full of useful information, so I am confident you’ll be able to figure out an approach that keeps you feeling good!
I will be able to write more later, but I wanted to let you know I received your email and give you a few quick answers. Here’s the rundown!
First, Armour dramatically improved my symptoms and life in general. However, it’s very easy to “do it wrong” when you transition and actually feel worse! I bought the Stop the Thyroid Madness book online and worked with my doctor to transition to Armour (the book author is a little crazy, but with careful reading you can find good advice). There are doctors in VA that prescribe it (I found mine on this site).
As for symptoms, I found Armour to be a night-and-day improvement when it came to depression (seasonal and otherwise), fuzzy-headedness, and the health/look of my skin. I also almost immediately had more energy and sense of confidence. However, I did it too fast and got palpitations and panic attacks. I am please to report that those went away once I figured out my dosage! You’ll also want to check out Sarah Wilson’s autoimmune archive… I found that to help me out and not feel so alone in all this.
Secondly, gluten-free really, really sucks, haha! But from what I have read and heard from doctors and chiropractors, that’s the only dietary non-negotiable that’s really important. Going gluten-free was more of an “avoiding symptoms” solution for me, rather than a healing thing. Which is to say I feel normal when I don’t eat it, and inflamed when I do. Depending on where you are in your “journey,” gluten may be very damaging.
Thirdly, get started on liquid vitamin D supplement immediately! My chiropractor recommended this and within a week I felt better. It’s hard to put a finger on “better,” but it is very noticeable when I have not been consistent with my vitamin D supplement. And Chris Kresser agrees.
I would say you should see/feel some results within 3-4 weeks of going gluten-free. And moreover, it’s more that you’ll notice when you do eat gluten because your reaction will be more pronounced after you avoid it for so long. I moved on to the Paleo diet (Paleo AIP, to be specific) and have seen an incredible improvement in my symptoms, but it’s really important to take small steps so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed. It is very, very stressful to start restricting what food you can eat when you’re already stressed about thyroid stuff, so “go slow” is my main advice here.
Finally, the best advice I have received is as follows: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (I believe that’s what you have, right?) patients need to focus LESS on the thyroid problem and MORE on the autoimmune problem. Thyroiditis means your immune system is going crazy and chose your thyroid as its first victim. The solution is to address the immune problem first and foremost. That means taking care of your stress levels and dietary changes (eventually saying goodbye to grains, sugar, caffeine, etc).
Hence the first step of gluten-free: gluten wreaks havoc on the immune system in everyone, and particularly wreaks havoc in those with autoimmune problems.
Also: avoid strenuous exercise (which is really frustrating advice, I know). The immune system prefers to chill out with walking, yoga, and stretching, rather than getting all ramped up and tearing muscles in a real, honest to goodness, “workout”.
That’s all for now… please forgive the TMI if that’s a little too much for a stranger. I’m just very passionate about helping people with thyroid challenges not feel like crap! Keep the questions coming!