Alanna Kaivalya, Contributor Thyroid Nation
Twenty Years With Hashi’s And Severe Symptoms Led To Thyroidectomy
After a 20-year struggle with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and worsening symptoms, doctors suggested that I have my thyroid removed completely. It was ten times its normal size, growing into my chest and my thyroid antibody levels were in the thousands. Initially, I rejected this option. As a holistic health practitioner, the idea of parting with my thyroid gland not only felt extreme, it also felt like failure. However, being an academic, I also embarked on research to see if it would be a viable treatment option for me, as I’d suffered so long with the disease.
In A Study, Patients’ Antibody Levels Normalized After Thyroidectomy
I ran across a study by Dr. Ivar Guldvog. He treated nearly 100 Hashimoto’s patients with thyroidectomy and then followed up with them for up to 7 years. After the procedure, patients’ antibody levels normalized (the autoimmunity went into remission) and symptoms improved in more than 75% of the patients within three years after their surgery. Seeing this study made me seriously consider total thyroidectomy. In all the years I’ve been working with the disease, I’ve tried everything…the paleo diet, the GAPS diet, the AIP diet, various supplements, the Wahls Protocol, acupuncture, yoga, stress reduction, different medications (including LDN)…you name it. Trust me, if there’s a book, a technique, a method or a treatment out there, I’ve given it a shot. But, after so long with the disease, with my symptoms worsening, and the prognosis looking worse and worse, this study gave me pause. Before coming to my final decision to have a total thyroidectomy, I corresponded with Dr. Guldvog directly. He happily sent me excellent information–the most important of which was to ensure I had an excellent surgeon and that the thyroid be completely removed. In some thyroidectomies, the thyroid is not completely removed, and Dr. Guldvog explained that if there is any tissue leftover, the immune system continues to react to it and antibodies do not drop. It is the remission of the antibodies that results in patients finally feeling an amelioration of symptoms of the disease. It was directly because of his study that I decided to finally have my thyroid removed at my doctor’s insistence.
The Decision Was Not Made Lightly
You must understand that this decision did not come lightly. I resisted thyroidectomy for 15 years, and did everything under the sun to alleviate or reverse my Hashimoto’s and hypothyroid symptoms. Over the years, I was able to get off my medication for a period of time…but I also think I was in great denial about how bad my disease was. I tried everything to heal myself. In fact, my thyroid diagnosis at age 20 is what propelled me into a lifelong career as a yoga practitioner and teacher. When I was in college, I was dieting and working out like crazy, and still gained 65 pounds. Doctors and trainers (and my boyfriend) accused me of having a secret eating disorder. And, finally, after I saw the lab tests (because my doctor missed it), I knew I had Hashimoto’s. That started my quest for self healing. Yoga helped a lot of my symptoms. Going gluten free was a huge help, and it was the first time I lost any weight with my thyroid issue (about 7 years ago). Eventually I went Paleo, and even Bulletproof. I’ve done the AIP diet for long periods of time, and have eliminated as many environmental toxins as possible. I even make my own body products. I take all the commonly recommended supplements, and cook all my own food to ensure quality. This disease does not run in my family. No one knows where or why I got Hashimoto’s. Even though I was able to get off my medication for about 4 years, my thyroid was always large. You could always see it in pictures, and it made my neck look fat. This year, I got engaged. I was so excited that I wanted to look great for my wedding, and so I started working out four times a week (with a trainer, and swimming), and dialed in my Bulletproof/AIP diet to a T. After four months, I didn’t notice any changes, but I did notice I was more lethargic. I finally buckled and went to an endocrinologist. My antibody levels were so high they were incalculable — in the thousands. And, I was severely hypothyroid. My doctor put me on levothyroxine right away and did an ultrasound. My thyroid was 10 times the normal size, and starting to grow down into my neck. He recommended removal immediately. I said, ‘No!’ This is something I’d resisted for years. I’ve done all my homework, followed all the protocols, gone to all the doctors, removed all the offending inflammatory foods… I knew that I could heal myself! I tried targeting my diet even more, and even did LDN (read more about Low Dose Naltrexone here) for several months. I began to feel even worse. My antibody levels didn’t budge.
I Wanted To Feel Better
I was hopeless until I found Dr. Guldvog’s study regarding thyroidectomy as a treatment option for Hashimoto’s Disease. No, I didn’t want to lose my thyroid. But, yes, I did want to feel better. If I’ve removed all the inflammatory triggers, if I’ve done everything I could…what else was there to do? This has been a 20-year struggle of feeling horrible at worst, and marginal at best.
So, I found the best surgeon in New York City, Dr. Larry Shemen, and went for it. Dr. Guldvog explained that 100% of the thyroid must be removed for the antibodies to abate, and I made sure my surgeon knew that. Three and a half hours later, I woke up from surgery. It felt like a big piece of me was gone…and it was. This was a part of my body that I had focused on and obsessed over for SO long, and now it was just gone. I had “phantom” sensations in my neck for weeks. I cried a lot and wondered if I’d done the right thing. Two weeks after surgery, I had my blood tested. Honestly, I can tell you, I knew my antibody levels hadn’t dropped because it still felt like my body was under siege. Test results confirmed that my antibody levels were off the charts. The antibodies, of course, cause many of the symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s…it’s not just about getting the hormone levels right. When the immune system is whacked out, you still feel lousy, and boy, I sure did. I kept on with it though and started seeing a functional medicine practitioner in the city, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. Lower the antibodies, ameliorate symptoms, and I have higher chances for a happy, healthy life. Click To TweetFinally, I had my blood tested three months after surgery…my antibodies were down to 329. Within just a few months, my antibodies have fallen from sky-high to a much lower number. I no longer feel under siege, I feel more relaxed, I have more energy…but, most of all, I have hope. For the first time in my life, I may be able to put Hashimoto’s behind me and focus on something else. Was it a drastic decision? Absolutely…but it was not without tremendous consideration. Would I recommend it to everyone? Not necessarily, but I would certainly recommend it to those who have exhausted all options.
I Feel Like I Am Finally Getting Somewhere After Thyroidectomy
Sometimes curating every single aspect of your life still doesn’t fix the problem…sometimes you’ve just got to remove the problem. And, while you can’t remove your immune system, you can remove what it’s reacting to. I’d removed the gluten, eggs, dairy, stress, lack of sleep and still wasn’t getting anywhere. Now that I’ve removed the thyroid, I am getting somewhere. My immune system has relaxed, and so have I. Now, I know that autoimmune disorders often come in groups, and I’m not careless. I will continue my healthy habits in order to prevent another autoimmune disorder. But, raging antibodies certainly make for a higher probability the immune system will continue to be faulty. Lower the antibodies, ameliorate the symptoms, and I have higher chances for a happy, healthy, life. So, I write this all to provide a testimonial of someone who has had her thyroid removed specifically for Hashimoto’s. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was my last ditch effort. I believe it was a good decision, and I think Dr. Guldvog’s research gives tremendous hope for those of us who have truly tried everything. This is not, as one thyroid advocate says, “like performing a lobotomy for mental health issues.” This is not an archaic solution…in fact, it’s very forward thinking, and I’m grateful to Dr. Guldvog for researching a method that does work for some patients. His research shows that patients do exceedingly well post-thyroidectomy, and he’s followed his patients for as much as 96 months. For so many of us who want to feel better, for so many of us who want to be on the other side of the disease, and for those who are willing to try everything and go the extra mile, I think this research study gives fantastic food for thought and presents us with one more choice.
About the Author
Alanna Kaivalya, Ph.D. believes yoga is for everyone and each student can develop the self-empowerment needed to transform. On this principle, she founded The Kaivalya Yoga Method, a fresh take on yoga emphasizing the individual path while honoring tradition. Teaching students since 2001, teachers since 2003, Alanna has written and developed teacher trainings worldwide for top studios and independently. In January she debuted a comprehensive 200 hr online teacher training with YogaDownload. Alanna has authored numerous articles and three books: Myths of the Asanas, an accessible practitioner’s guide to stories behind beloved poses; Sacred Sound, a yoga “hymnal,” illustrating the role of chant and mantra in modern practice; and Yoga Beyond the Mat: How to Make Yoga Your Spiritual Practice. Be sure to check out her website, alannak.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.