Background: In April of 2019 I was diagnosed with having mild hypothyroidism after seeing a functional medicine doctor. I had low T4/ no T3, low hormones, low HCL, and had not received a period for years. Since then I have been on and off thyroid medication, added in many supplements to my diet, changed my exercise routine, and successfully had a period every month (although cycle time is still not ideal), normalized my thyroid & hormone levels, and been clear to stop my medication. This is the story of what I did to heal my hormones and thyroid. *** There are TLDR bullet points at the bottom of this point!
- Why Do I think this happened?
- Honestly I think I developed mild hypothyroidsm due to the high stress and damage I did to my body back when I had an eating disorder. I was under-eating while severely over exercising. I was already in a state of distress after being in an unhealthy relationship that led me to becoming depressed. Although I was on birth control and had been getting a cycle, I didn’t realize that that cycle was not a “true” cycle or representation of my hormones. For all I know, I probably didn’t have a period from 2008 (under 90 lbs) – December of 2018 when I finally got it back.
- What made me initially want to get checked?
- I had no idea I had any thyroid problems. The reason I saw a holistic / functional medicine doctor in the first place is because after getting off the birth control pill, I went 2.5 years with NO period and NO PMS symptoms. Finally being sick and tired of my regular OBGYN & GP telling me my bloodwork and hormones appeared “normal,” I sought other answers and went the holistic route.
- What unfavorable symptoms did I have before going?
- I was tired, but I never thought it was that tired. I slept a lot and had some groggy mornings, but I thought this was normal for everyone. I didn’t think I was extremely fatigued or anything since I managed to work out most days (mostly in the form of HIIT workouts), go to work, and manage day to day tasks just fine.
- No period (The thyroid governs metabolism in your body and in your ovaries, if communication is disrupted between the two, you don’t ovulate which can lead to irregular or no cycle.)
- Steady increase of weight gain (1 lb per month) without any drastic changes to my diet and exercise regimen ( I had started intermittent fasting though) from Dec 2017 – Dec 2018.
- The Menstrual / Physical / Diet Timeline:
- Menstrual Cycle:
- July 2017: Didn’t have a period for almost 2 years while on the pill, that I decided to get off it to see what my hormones were doing and how my body would function normally.
- Post BC: NO PERIOD FROM JULY 2017- DECEMBER 2018
- November 2017: Gyno told me I could take a pill to help jumpstart my period. She assured me it was normal for my body to take time to regulate itself. Being stubborn about getting it back naturally, I decided against taking this pill.
- November 2018: A year later at my annual appointment, my gyno mentions taking the pill again, I finally agree to the prescription, but don’t fill it just yet.
- December 2018: Filled prescription, took a 10 day pill. and got my period on Christmas Night. I had the WORST cramps, debilitating anxiety, boobs hurt like CRAZY, and I bled a ton. Not fun, but I was glad it came although I wasn’t sure if it was a “real” period or not. I also set up a prescription of My Binto vitamins ( my friend from college started this company and my quiz results said I needed 2 women’s wellness vitamins (not sure what’s in that), DHEA, and probiotic.)
- January 2019: A little over 30 days I got my period again but it lasted 3 days.
- Feb: A month or so later, got my period for a day.
- March: Got my period at the end of the month! I visited my functional medicine doctor for the firsst time and several vials of blood were taken (for hormone & thyroid panels). Waited a month for my results.
- April: No period.
- May: got my period in the first week.
- June – Present: From mid June on out, my cycle duration time was anywhere from 30-50 days (irregularly regular if that makes sense lol).
- Energy levels ( in regards to workouts):
- October 2015 – March 2017: Did Orangetheory 4-5 times a week. Great at first, but then I hit a plateau. Didn’t really realize it took a toll on my body.
- March 2017: HYLO opened, tried it, loved it and switched immediately. I don’t remember exactly what I did but I still worked out most days of the week and did a mixture of HY’s and LO’s but for the most part only HYs.
- Rest of 2017 – Dec 2018: Pre wedding I would do some workouts with Reggie (@fastworldclass), some spin classes at Ride Rev, did the occasional outside run, but for the most part I did HYLO For a long ass time.
- January 2019: I decided to try more strength training exercises and cut back on cardio to see if it helped get my period back. I still went to HYLO for the most part but during the cardio sets I wouldn’t push it and listened to my body. Also had a 6 day vacation in Tulum with girlfriends and didn’t work out.
- Feb 2019: Really cut back on HYLO and focused on strength training using @fitwithasd workouts. I missed HYLO & running A LOT.
- March – April 2019: Same thing for the most part, if I did go to HYLO I did not push myself on the cardio, added more yoga in too (well, tried lol)
- May 2019: Traveled a bunch so I wasn’t at HYLO almost all of May, did Fit with ASD when I traveled or spin classes here and there and started running outside 1x a week. Mid May I tried Kayla BBG workouts since they were short.
- June 2019 : Still used BBG sometimes but started HYLO again and felt good after a break. BBG wasn’t for me to be honest, it got too repetitive.
- July 2019 – December 2019: stopped BBG, swapped for Alexia Clarks strength training workouts and incorporated HYLO 1-3 times a week (either HY or LO classes). Run & spin every now and then as well!
- 2020: starting to feel so much better in my HYLO workouts, especially in the strength dept. I do Alexia Clark workouts at least twice a week. (Usually the leg and arm days) Throw in a spin class or running when my body feels up to it.
- October 2017: I got married and was in the petite frame that I had been for a while. I probably lost a few pounds leading up due to being cleaner in my diet and also just from wedding planning stress! Post wedding I ate and drank a lot since we had our honeymoon and the following holidays and somehow lost 3 more pounds! (I have a small frame so this was noticeable)
- Jan 2018: Lowest weight in a long time — didn’t think it would last and I wasn’t trying, that just was the case.
- Jan 2019: (one year later) I gained 12 pounds and my body fat had increased. It was super frustrating when I would put on clothes from the year prior and they wouldn’t zip up. I felt the most confused because I hadn’t changed that much in my nutrition and fitness habits and even if my workouts changed I wasn’t sure if it was also related to me aging ( I had turned 30).
- Hindsight: given that after that weight gain and upped body fat I finally got my period, I believe that the weight I”m at now (which I’ve maintained for over a year), is probably my “set point” and where I should be to have a healthy functioning female body.
- As you all know I have pretty much been a healthy eater for a long time.
- August 2017: I decided to eat significantly more plant based and cut back on meat and ate mostly seafood, only a few times a week. Additionally, I started intermittent fasting most days (which you can read here).
- While IF has its proven benefits, I truly believe that the combination of me waking up for a 6 or 7 AM HIIT class, then “fasting” until 11 or 12 to hit a 16 hour window from dinner, AND cutting back on protein put my body into fight or flight mode which led me to hold onto weight and also contributed to hormone dysregulation. If your mind or body sense that it’s under stress, your body won’t care about fasting etc., cortisol will go up and you will instantly stop burning fat… hence why I think that contributed to some of my problems lol.
- Per my conversations with my functional med doctor, (and I still go back and forth on my opinion with this), I was under eating protein (30-40g most days ) for someone that is very active. While I do think I should have upped my protein I still struggle eating tons of meat just because I don’t really want it unless it’s seafood and it would constipate me. I told her this and based on my labs that was obvious because my HCL was low (FYI Celery juice has me going every day at least once, even if I eat meat!!)
- Menstrual Cycle:
Where I went, what was recommended, and what worked:
I went to a holistic doctor at Rhett’s women’s center. They performed a full lab test assessing my hormone & thyroid panels, in addition to any routine blood work. My lab results showed the following (shortened version):
- Normal TSH: your TSH is NOT a good indicator of how your thyroid is actually working. It doesn’t show the whole picture or indicate whether or not your T4 is converting to active T3. T3 is actually your active working thyroid hormone.
- T4 – LOW, T3, was virtually zero, indicating conversion wasn’t happening.
- Low hormones across the board.
- Low HCL.
- Low sodium (despite adding salt to EVERYTHING).
- Low Iron.
My results showed I wasn’t absorbing most essential nutrients from the foods I was eating — Low HCL made sense why when I ate meat, I’d get constipated.
Overall low levels indicated I was on the hypothyroid Spectrum.
Initial Medication & Supplement Regimen (from April 2019- August)
- Thyroid NP medication (very low dosage) but switched to compounded T4/T3 Levo thyroxine. You have to take this every morning on a completely empty stomach and can’t eat or drink anything for 45 minutes after except water.
- Breakfast: DHEA, daily thyroid support, vitamin D, Vitamin C( if I remember lol)
- Lunch: daily thyroid support, vitamin D, 2 probiotics from my doctor.
- Dinner: DHEA from my Binto, 2 women’s wellness, 2 probiotics from my doctor.
- Before Bed: Magnesium Citrate — I took 2 capsules, i think 400 mg each but not sure, and its’ helped tremendously with sleep .
- Intestinal Repair Formula: I had been taking 2 teaspoons 2x a day as well until I finished the package. I didn’t notice too much of a difference, but I think once I additionally incorporated celery juice that helped.
- Digestive Enzymes: I was taking these with every meal but I stopped since celery juicing every AM since that has seemed to help and I had no more room to carry those around lol.
How I Felt: (this was sent in an email in June 2019)
“Honestly I haven’t really felt any changes from taking thyroid medication. I am staying on my Levo even though I thought about getting off because I’m hoping after some time it’ll help make my T4 / 43 conversion normal. My Doctor wanted to switch my meds again but I told her I felt like it was pointless since we were going to be in Greece for 2 weeks the first 2 weeks of July, so anything I did between now and then wouldn’t really be reflected in my labs.
Even though I had been getting a period, my hormone panels on my blood work are still insanely low and show me as estrogen dominant. I don’t know if it’s the timing of my bloodwork and where I am in my cycle, but i’m like if I’m getting a period shouldn’t that mean they are somewhat normal? I do get pretty bad PMS though — the sore boobs and feeling puffy as hell.”
“I felt insanely frustrated and like I couldn’t get answers as to what’s going on. She had me do a thyroid ultrasound and it came back normal. To do all these tests, purchase supplements, and medication costs a shit ton of money. I tried to be patient and think positive. I definitely think that half of these problems are due to when I was super skinny / over exercising (this was 11 years ago lol) and I had no idea my hormones were screwed bc I was on BC and everything seemed normal as I put weight back on.”
After My Greece Trip I had so many other trips going on, I canceled all my future appointments with my doctor and just incorporated what I thought would help. I also switched to purchase my supplements from equilibrium nutrition and added celery juice into my daily regimen. I traveled MOST weeks / weekends or had visitors since returning from Greece through October. I figured it would be harder to incorporate any changes so took a step back and relaxed.
October: Since I knew the issue was rooted in my thyroid, I decided to book an appointment at Charleston Thyroid Center and see a specialist (Dr. Brittany Henderson) for thyroid treatment rather than the functional medicine doctor I had been seeing. I heard great things about Dr. Henderson.
- First Appt: bloodwork looked almost identical to all my past bloodwork. She kept me on my medication and we decided in January we could work on weaning me off of it. She emphasized the importance of taking my supplements so I decided from November on I would be more diligent about taking them, but it wasn’t until January that I truly made an effort to take all of them everyday ( since the end of the year still had 2 out of town weddings, holidays, etc.)
Regimen from November – Jan 1 2020.
- Medication: compounded Levo that I had been taking (As of Jan 1, 2020 , I started to take this every other day) .
- Supplements: you can find them here if you wish to purchase.
- AM: Celery Juice
- Breakfast: Daily Thyroid Support (x2)
- Lunch: Adrenal Soothe & probiotic
- Dinner: Daily Thyroid Support (x2) Adrenal Soothe, My BINTO supplements (see description here)
- Before Bed: Magnesium (x2)
- Other: Additionally I would try and take Turmeric capsules (x2) a day, I remembered most days but wasn’t AS religious about it.
- Had a follow up appointment and my lab work looked PERFECT. I was shocked, especially since my cycle still has a longer than normal time between periods. I was pumped though and did get my cycle a week after my appointment (10 days later than my app indicated but its a work in progress!)
- I stopped taking the medication, and just focus on supplements! I feel pretty great, have been incorporating more HY classes back into my routine, but still ensure I get enough rest, and ensure to not overdo it.
Sparknotes for those who want a shortened summary of what worked:
- Being Religious about Supplements
- Temporarily taking a step back in intensity of my workouts while my lab results were not optimal and I wasn’t getting my cycle (this is HARD to do for someone who uses workouts as an outlet, not going to sugarcoat it)
- NOT intermittent fasting. This does not mean I ate as soon as I wake up, just means when I get that spark of hunger, I would eat my first meal rather than wait for a certain hour window.
- SLEEPING in: NOT doing that early morning workout, adding in more relaxation in the morning and booking workouts for the evening. If, I was up naturally and felt like I could tackle a workout, I went for it.
- Celery Juice: don’t dismiss it until you try it. It greatly improved my digestion, thus absorption of nutrients and supplements. It also makes me feel amazing.
- Adding more protein back into my diet. I was an active person, if you’re active, you need protein. I fell prey to thinking you really don’t’ need that much and was really eating too little protein for someone who exercises regularly and is wanting to get back your period. I’ve found I crave red meat a week leading up to my period… don’t ignore that. Let yourself eat a good quality meat and take it as an indicator your body isn’t taking what it needs. It’s possible to get all nutrients etc on a vegetarian or vegan diet but you HAVE to be attentive to what you’re eating and making sure you’re getting what your body needs.