Dr. Izabella Wentz (L) & Jen Wittman (R)
This interview was originally posted in February of 2015, based on personal experience provided by Jen Wittman, health coach and chef. I have since developed new articles and resources for Hashimoto’s that might be helpful for you. For the latest information on the topics we discussed, please visit the following:
- Strategies to Overcome Hair Loss with Hashimoto’s
- Brain Fog and Hashimoto’s
- 11 Strategies to Overcome Hashimoto’s Fatigue
- Strategies to Overcome Anxiety with Hashimoto’s
- Pregnancy Announcement
- Thyroid Antibodies Part 1: An Early Warning for Thyroid Disease
- Where Do I Start with Hashimoto’s?
- The Best Diet for Hashimoto’s
- Are Your Adrenals Sabotaging Your Health?
- Top 10 Thyroid Tests and How to Interpret Them
Over the last few years, I’ve attended numerous health conferences and events to get the word out about lifestyle interventions for Hashimoto’s.
I’ve met some really great and knowledgeable people along the way, many of them who have also had their own health journeys!
I had the pleasure of connecting with fellow Hashimoto’s thriver and all around sweetheart, Jen Wittman, this past summer at a health and wellness conference.
Jen is a health coach and chef who has been able to get her Hashimoto’s into remission, and she agreed to share her story with my readers!
I love sharing Hashimoto’s success stories because I believe that sharing success stories inspires and creates more success stories!
I hope Jen’s Hashimoto’s remission story inspires you to find your root cause and make small changes to get your health back!
Jen’s Hashimoto’s remission story
Dr. Izabella Wentz: When and how did you first find out you had Hashimoto’s?
Jen Wittman: I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2011. Until that point, I had gone from doctor to doctor describing my symptoms and seriously being told that I was “fine,” my blood work was “normal,” and that it was all in my head. After years of suffering, 12 different doctors and 2 trips to the ER, I was finally diagnosed by an integrative doctor at one of my son’s well-child appointments.
IW: What types of symptoms were you having?
My symptoms were all over the place. First, it started with really dry, brittle nails with ridges and pinholes in them and the loss of hair on my eyebrows and my head. At the time, I was pregnant, and all of my friends who had been pregnant before me had told me my nails would grow stronger and my hair thicker during pregnancy. This was my first clue that something was off. Then, I noticed that my face was red all the time which was completely new. After the baby was born, I was hit with fatigue that felt like a lead anchor was wrapped around my body. I had serious brain fog and panic attacks which I had never before had in my life. I just wasn’t feeling or looking like the normal “new mom, ” and there seemed to be a new symptom every day.
IW: What was your TSH and level of TPO antibodies?
JW: I can’t remember my TSH level at the time of diagnosis, ut it was just outside the optimal range but well within the normal range…maybe 1.4 or something like that. My TPO antibodies were 585. I remember that number because when the doctor said they should be < 35, I totally freaked out.
What did the doctors tell you to do?
JW: I was very fortunate in that the doctor who diagnosed me encouraged me NOT to go on thyroid medication. (IW: Jen’s TSH was still in the “normal” range when she was diagnosed).
My doctor basically told me I could lick this disease with diet and lifestyle changes and also by addressing trauma and stress of which I had in spades. Leading up to the onset of the disease, I had been hit by a semi-truck, lost my career as a chef due to the accident and was involved in an awful lawsuit with the truck company just to have my medical bills covered. And, about 6 weeks prior to receiving the diagnosis, I lost my beloved grandmother, a close friend to terminal cancer, a friend to suicide and a family friend to a fluke train accident. I WAS stressed and traumatized by all of this and my doctor taught me about the spiritual side of this disease. From the Ayurvedic perspective, thyroid disease is due to a blockage in your 5th chakra (your communication center.) And, I was certainly suppressing all my feelings around these terrible incidents. I had a child to raise after all, so I just kept plugging away.
All of this was great information but the doctor didn’t actually lay out a plan for me as to how to address the issue with diet, lifestyle, and emotional support. This doc, who I will forever be grateful to for diagnosing me and for encouraging me to start on a natural healing path, sort of had a system he put all patients through regardless of illness involving expensive supplements, IV drips, chelation and detox. Unfortunately, his method was too aggressive and way too pricey for me and my symptoms and antibodies got worse on his protocol. This is when I stopped everything and took my health back into my own hands.
IW: What made you decide to keep searching for an answer?
JW: I had to get my life back for me, my husband and my son. The disease had taken over my life and I wasn’t able to be the wife, mother, or friend I wanted to be. I also wasn’t able to work and not only couldn’t we afford that, I was going absolutely crazy sitting idly in my misery.
What did you do?
JW: Oh lord! What didn’t I do should be the question?
At first, I started out just following all the bread crumbs and becoming my own health detective. It started with research on the disease itself, autoimmunity in general and learning about the body’s innate healing powers.
I cleaned up my diet BIG TIME. As a native Midwesterner, I was eating loads of processed foods, fast foods, gluten, dairy, energy juices, coffee, the works! There was lots of bread on bread, cheese on cheese, bread on cheese action in my life. While my groceries were all organic, I wasn’t necessarily eating whole foods. So, I started eliminating foods that I thought might be contributing to my symptoms – figuring out what worked with my body and what didn’t.
I also changed my lifestyle and worked on self-care and stress reduction. And, I took the time to face, acknowledge and work through the traumas I had experienced in the previous 6 years.
In terms of tests, I’ve now had them all…the comprehensive blood panels + antibodies + other immune markers, temperature tests, stool analysis, saliva tests, allergy tests, etc. I’ve also tried almost every healing modality under the sun – Reiki, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, energy medicines, witchcraft (just kidding!), and hypnotherapy.
IW: I can relate to being a human guinea pig for sure! I tried so many things before I was able to address my root causes! How do you feel now?
JW: Pretty amazing! I have successfully reversed the disease and eliminated almost ALL of my symptoms except for constipation which I have had since I was a young child. I have found an amazing integrative doctor in my new home base in the Bay Area who is successfully treating constipation so things continue to look up! I am not on thyroid medications. My TSH is now in the normal & optimal ranges.
My antibodies which were in remission have decided to peek out a bit due to stress and enjoying way (I mean WAY) too much wine as I just moved to the wine country.
Having recently gone through this major relocation, I had to recreate my life and my business in a new area where I know no one. In addition, my son’s new school schedule is shorter by 10 hours a week than when he was in preschool. So, over the last several months, I have been really cramming in work in a very hurried pace and have not only gotten off balance with my self-care, I haven’t had access to the beloved support network I had in Los Angeles. It was just a major shift that really threw me off.
What’s funny is that my own clients kept sending me little love notes thanking me for what I’d done for them and then REMINDING me to remember to take care of myself as well. Once I saw that my antibodies returned and felt the symptoms of this level of stress, I got back on the horse and started following the original healing plan I created that reversed my Hashimoto’s.
I feel great now and suspect that my antibodies have gone bye-bye as well. I’ll test my antibodies again in a few months but feel very confident and have seen that when I follow my own advice (hey, health coaches are human too!), the antibodies will have disappeared.
IW: How long did your journey take from initial symptoms to diagnosis, implementing lifestyle changes to remission?
JW: 18 months because it took quite a while to figure out which lifestyle changes were “must-dos” and which I didn’t need to make. As a former chef and total foodie, I really fought the dietary changes at first and that definitely slowed my progress down. Once I committed to a nourishing, thyroid/autoimmune friendly, whole foods diet, my remission came pretty quickly. For many of my clients, who have had the benefit of my research and all my personal trial and error, they are able to see improvement in as little as 4 weeks and remissions within 6 months to a year.
What is your advice for other Hashimoto’s patients?
JW: Make the commitment to making the changes you know need to be made. Don’t delay on it. I know it seems overwhelming and unappealing to overhaul your life but the sooner you make the changes, the sooner you’ll feel better – REALLY! I fought it too and I just delayed my healing process. When I got serious and disciplined about it, and when I told my family I needed to do x, y and z to get better and got them on board, the healing came quickly. I wish I had done it sooner. Now I have my life back. I feel normal again.
I am honored she asked me to share my solutions about finding and treating the Root Cause of Hashimoto’s through simple lifestyle changes that can make healing a reality.
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by signing up for my weekly newsletter. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.