Divania Timmal, Thyroid Thrivers
Hair Loss While Traveling
After a long day of cleaning and babysitting, I was so ready for a long, hot shower. I was rinsing the shampoo out of my hair when I noticed that my body was covered in long, black strands – way more than usual. I’ve always had loads of really thick hair that shed constantly, so I wasn’t too concerned.
I was travelling South America at the time and put my hair loss down to the hardness of the water. I got there in August 2014. By October, my ponytail had shrunk to about half its original size, and I was starting to get worried. The stress, I’m sure, didn’t help the situation and I continued to lose more and more hair, with no clue what the hell was going on.
Around this time, I also noticed that I was tired all the time. Not the kind of tiredness that one experiences after a full day of touring; it was bone-deep exhaustion from the moment I woke up to the moment my head hit the pillow at night. This, too, I explained away to myself: new environment, stress, babysitting little brats (they were really awful)…all these things would make me feel more tired than usual, right?
Thyroid Tests — What?!
I got back to South Africa a couple of months later, ponytail still getting steadily smaller, and decided to see a doctor. I was genuinely surprised when he suggested my symptoms were indicative of a thyroid problem. I can honestly say I had never given any thought to that tiny gland. He sent me in for blood tests.
Turns out, everything wasn’t peachy with the little butterfly: my TSH levels were high and my antibody levels were through the roof. The doctor suggested I do nothing for a month, to see if the levels would get lower by themselves. I’ve never been able to take no action. Ever. If something is wrong, I am compelled to fix it. I got in touch with my family doctor in my hometown, who was appalled that I’d been told to do nothing.
Since I wasn’t going back to my hometown for another few weeks, I decided to see an endocrinologist for a specialist’s opinion. He diagnosed with me with Hashi’s and hypothyroidism, put me on Euthyrox, told me to supplement with Zinc and Selenium, and suggested that going off gluten might be helpful. I took the meds and supplements and, after just a month, completely ignored the advice about gluten.
The next few months were really shitty, to put it mildly. I was more exhausted than ever, fighting the urge to nod off whenever I sat down, and I was so mean. To everyone. I would go from being happy to angry to sad in minutes, and though some part of my mind was telling me that my reactions made no sense, I couldn’t control them. I felt like I was going insane.
Going Gluten-Free And A New Diet
Eventually, when my next set of blood tests showed very little improvement, I decided to give the gluten-free thing a try. I researched exactly what going gluten-free would entail, said sad goodbyes to pizza, sandwiches and pasta, and took the plunge.
I know there is no “right answer”, and that going gluten-free won’t work for everyone, but damn, it saved me. I went from not being able to remember anything, from fighting daily battles with my emotions, from wanting to crawl into a hole and just sleep forever, to actually feeling sort of normal. My hair has started to (slowly) thicken again, and it no longer falls out in handfuls. On top of iron supplements, I also massage my head with Amla and other essential oils to stimulate growth. I still have emotional ups and downs, and I have forgotten what being super energetic feels like. But, I no longer want to sleep every minute of every day and that’s a plus!
I’ve been gluten-free for eleven months now, and have been taking probiotics to try and heal my gut. To that end, I have incorporated a lot of coconut oil into my diet, as well as some grass-fed ghee. I also try to have homemade bone broth as often as possible.
I try to eat as healthily as I can: brown rice and quinoa pasta, homemade treats and minimal refined sugar. In that regard, living in South Korea has been helpful, because there isn’t really a gluten-free trend here, so I am compelled to take matters into my own hands if I want a tasty snack. I started following numerous health food bloggers, and my favourites by far are Deliciously Ella and LoveHealthOK. I highly recommend them if you are looking for gluten-free goodies that are also healthy.
My thyroid journey hasn’t been a very long one, but I would love to work towards getting off medication someday.