I have a confession to make. I lost my roots but, ironically, subacute thyroiditis helped me find my way again. I launched The Plant-Based Diet website in 2010 while I was studying and earning my certificate in plant-based nutrition.
I learned so much and wanted to share everything I learned with those I loved and even those I’d never met because I knew that if more people ate plant-based, not necessarily “plant-exclusive,” their lives would be improved and health-care costs would go down.
My confession is that as I worked on the website, filling it with recipes and knowledge, I also worked on my other jobs as a brand journalist, consultant, speaker, and podcaster for The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast, a show that helps brands and entrepreneurs learn marketing, branding, social media and public relations tools and strategies.
My days, weeks, months soon became very busy, and travel also caused my lifestyle and diet to slip.
I was eating extremely poorly. Don’t get me wrong. The food was rich and tasty but all wrong for my body and very weak in plant-based portions.
I kept thinking I would turn things around when my life slowed down. It’s kind of like the way couples say, “We’ll do date night when there’s more free time in our lives.” It never seems to happen.
What Went Wrong
The busier and more active I was, the less time I had to devote to eating right and following a healthy plant-based diet. I also was covering a lot of stories on travel, restaurants, and wineries. My workouts suffered, and I suffered. I was catching frequent colds and I was constantly tired. No, exhausted.
I was a far cry from the person who founded ThePlantBasedDiet.com. I wasn’t eating mostly plant-based and often I wasn’t even eating. Many mornings I’d grab my coffee with heavy cream, and that’s all I’d have until lunch. Or, worse, I’d have the coffee with another simple carb like toast. I was “too busy” to realize that my body was becoming malnourished. I was depressed, stressed, and fatigued, but I couldn’t seem to reel my old lifestyle back in. I didn’t feel much like posting here on The Plant-Based Diet because, quite frankly, I was ashamed. I felt that I should be a perfect model and practice what I preach–eat mostly plant-based. I wanted to, but I was
My acid reflux problem was coming back from drinking too much coffee and wine and eating heavy foods. Working late. Going out. Sleeping little. What happened? I wondered. How did things get so out of control? I had lost my way. My work was stressful and, as I was growing my brand journalism consulting business, I forgot my roots.
I forgot that my health is a gift that must be cherished and cared for–it’s not a given. If you ruin your health, it can take a long, difficult while to get it back.
How Subacute Thyroiditis Got Me Back On Track
Then it happened. It was too late. In April of 2017, I was under a lot of stress. I was traveling to speak at a conference in Chicago and then for a client’s wedding in Mexico. My daughter was graduating from college and life was busy and rapidly changing for both of us.
There were many good things happening but, nonetheless, stressful times. I became very ill in early April, and I thought, well, this is the flu: fever, chills, teeth hurt, insomnia, and more.
I was completely sick and forced into bed. This went on for days before I realized this wasn’t the flu. It was something worse that landed me in ER for half a day while they tried to get to the bottom of this mysterious condition. Was it meningitis? I did have a very bad headache and neck pain.
No, that wasn’t it.
It was something else that’s rather rare. A condition called subacute thyroiditis.
What Is Subacute Thyroiditis?
I knew very little about my thyroid. I only knew that a couple of years ago I had my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) checked and the numbers seemed a bit low, but I was assured they were “normal”. I’ve since learned that reading was truly subpar despite the fact that the numbers fell in the “standard” range.
It’s kind of like when I had a reading of 31 ng/mL for my Vitamin D lab test, and the “below-normal” level was 29 ng/mL. So, technically I wasn’t considered that Vitamin D deficient.
Are you kidding me?
That’s not optimal. That means a few weeks of poor eating and no sun, and I could be Vitamin D deficient, but nope, my doctor told me nothing except that my Vitamin D level was good. Anyway, subacute thyroiditis is a nasty acute inflammatory disease of the thyroid that can last for several months–even up to 18 months—before the thyroid starts to function normally. The disease goes through several phases. First, hyperthyroidism, which often includes tachycardia (racing heart), fever, chills, pain in teeth that frequently radiates up to your ears, and overall malaise. Even my eyes seemed to be unfocused at times.
I basically could hardly get out of bed for nearly three weeks. When I climbed a flight of stairs, my heart rate shot up to 130, and my average resting heart rate was 93, when it’s normally 70 or below.
I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my skin. Its wild beating even kept me awake at night. I didn’t want to take beta blockers to stop the tachycardia if it wasn’t absolutely necessary because I was afraid of the side effects. Unfortunately, I had to give in to taking a course of 20mg of Prednisone for 10 days after a week of 24/7 pain, fever, chills, and tachycardia that wouldn’t let up.
Sometimes You Need A Little Medication
The Prednisone seemed to help the inflammation. The steroid is commonly used to reduce inflammation, and for that, it appears to have helped. But it caused severe insomnia and left me even more fatigued after the first, typical, burst of energy I got from taking the drug. Since my doctor didn’t taper me off of it, I had two days of HELL after abruptly stopping Prednisone. I felt dizzy, my racing heart escalated even more, and shortness of breath set in. Gradually, these went away, and I grew stronger, but the first phase of subacute thyroiditis lasted about six weeks with the first four being extremely debilitating. Doctors believe a virus causes it and then your own body can start to make antibodies that mistakenly attack your thyroid much like the way your body can behave if it has an autoimmune response to a food allergy. This was the jolt I needed.
Subacute thyroiditis may have been my blessing in disguise—a warning to eat better, keep my stress level under control, and watch the results of tests as well as question my doctor about them.
“In 90% or more of patients with classic painful subacute thyroiditis, there is a complete and spontaneous recovery and a return to normal thyroid function,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology. After learning that, I was determined to be in that 90 percent and not become part of the 10 percent group whose thyroid becomes compromised or wrecked and therefore needs thyroid replacement drugs throughout life because they now have a hypothyroid condition.
Immediately after being diagnosed, I began extensive research. But there was little I could find on how to eat for subacute thyroiditis because it’s sort of transient. You go from one phase to the next–from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid–and the beneficial diet for the two conditions is quite different.
How Gluten And Dairy Impacted My Subacute Thyroiditis
I decided, since my most critical condition was hyperthyroid, I’d eat to support and tame that beast first. Some things I did were right for both conditions and, ultimately, were how I should’ve been living all along. In fact, it was how I did live for a good number of years until I fell off the wagon and didn’t realize the harm I was causing my body. Among those things was to go 100 percent gluten-free and casein-free. You probably know that gluten is the protein found in foods like wheat, barley, and rye. But casein, the protein in dairy products, you may not be as familiar with.
Both proteins are highly addictive. Gliadin is the specific name of the protein in gluten that many people are allergic to and unable to tolerate. Due to its molecular structure being similar to the thyroid’s, it can cause the body to attack the gliadin when it enters the bloodstream. However, the antibodies for gliadin attack the thyroid tissue too. Source.
It’s been nearly five months (at the time of this writing) since I got subacute thyroiditis and changed my diet back to a lifestyle that’s mostly plant-based. I’m working out again, but not quite at full throttle. I had to take a break from hot yoga and weight lifting when I got sick. My heart rate was just too high to take the heat in hot yoga, and I needed all my strength to heal, so I stopped lifting weights and going to yoga. But, YAY! I’m feeling stronger and better than I have felt in years.
Going Back To A Mostly Plant-Based Lifestyle
I started my walking regimen about one month after getting subacute thyroiditis. Very short and slow walks at first, though now I’m up to where I was before getting sick. I can do my 10+ mile hikes. YAY! A side benefit from all of this is that I shed about 10 unwanted pounds!
However, my blood work still shows my thyroid is not performing as it should. This is common in subacute thyroiditis. Patients typically go into a hypothyroidism state before full recovery of the thyroid. So, I have to be careful not to push too hard and give myself a break. Also, my ferritin (iron stores in the body) level is very low and my red blood cells are low. So, I’m borderline anemic.
To sum up, what I’ve learned from all of this is that sometimes I have to go back to my roots. I have to find my way and reconnect with the lifestyle that I know keeps me healthy and feeling my best.
Update on Subacute Thyroiditis
COVID-19 has caused many challenges for people: stress, unemployment, increased drinking, and the overeating of comfort foods. The uncertain times, not being able to be with loved ones, and the highly volatile year that 2020 has been doesn’t help a person with a compromised, or once compromised thyroid.
Here’s What I’m Doing To Stay Healthy
In the early days of my subacute thyroiditis diagnosis, I steered clear of taking any thyroid supplements because I knew that I was bouncing between “hyper and hypo” thyroid issues. What you need to take for hyperthyroid is different from hypothyroid. However, since the recovery of my thyroid, I’ve been monitoring and ensuring that my thyroid remains stable and healthy.
What I’ve done to combat the stress and help protect my thyroid is to add supplements to my diet and add whole foods that are beneficial such as onions and brazil nuts which add selenium to your diet and are good for the thyroid. I do take a selenium supplement but now that I’m eating brazil nuts and taking a multi vitamin, I won’t continue with a separate selenium supplement. In just one tasty brazil nut there is 68 to 91 micrograms (mcg) of selenium which is enough to reach the daily recommended allowance of 55 mcg.
I was already taking extra Vitamin D3 (5000 IU) along with K2 (to better balance calcium in the body) based on a doctor recommendation. I recently added a plant-based, organic multi-vitamin which has another 1,200 IU along with other vital vitamins and minerals. And, I’ve started taking a vegan thyroid supplement from Gaia.
I’m also reading a lot about Turmeric and the possible benefits it has on the thyroid.
So far, it seems to be helping. But, still, I’ve, like many of you, feel fatigued from this year.
That’s when you know it’s time to be kind to yourself. Take a break from the day-to-day news. This is coming from a former newscaster who lived and breathed breaking news for nearly 20 years. But our health is dependent not just one what we feed our bodies and the supplements we take but also on what we feed our minds.
Stay strong. This year shall pass and we will unite and thrive.
Be well, friends.
I highly recommend The Thyroid Connection book by Dr. Amy Meyers. I read it when I got Subacute Thyroiditis. The booked helped me understand what healthy a healthy TSH level should look like. It also helped me understand things my doctors never told me about the thyroid. You can use my Amazon link below and it will help support the content I share on this website. Thank you.