In this inspiring interview, Suzi Swope from Gurl Gone Green shares her healthiest tips for how to treat Hashimoto's Disease naturally. Learn the best diet for thyroid disease, what supplements to take and get advice on lifestyle changes that can help reverse Hashimoto's symptoms.
Today, I'm thrilled to share with you an interview with my good friend, Suzi Swope, from the incredible clean living and natural wellness site Gurl Gone Green!
Suzi is a successful blogger, mom, cosmetologist, and podcaster (psst… you can listen to my interview on her podcast, The Golden Hour, here all about how to reverse PCOS holistically!).
Suzi also has Hashimoto's disease, a condition where your immune system attacks your thyroid. In this interview, Suzi lets us in to her world about what it's like to have Hasimoto's and shares a plethora of helpful tips on how to manage Hashimoto's symptoms holistically!
What is Hashimoto's Disease?
Essentially, Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder where antibodies are directed against the thyroid gland, leading to chronic inflammation. It's not known why some people make antibodies, although this condition tends to run in families.
The higher the thyroid antibodies, the higher your likelihood of developing overt hypothyroidism and possibly additional autoimmune conditions. In fact, estimates are that between 90-97% of those with hypothyroidism in the United States also have Hashimoto’s, but most have never been tested and are unaware that they have Hashimoto's. (source)
Q: When did you learn that you had Hashimoto's Disease? What symptoms did you have? Tell us a bit about your health journey.
I found out I had Hashimoto’s after the birth of my second daughter. I knew I had low thyroid with my first daughter and had low antibodies but didn’t get a full diagnosis until after my second pregnancy.
I didn’t feel a lot of the symptoms were unusual. I was tired and felt low on energy but I also was caring for a newborn and lacking sleep, so it was hard to tell the difference. I did sometimes get cold feet and hands but other than that and the low energy I didn’t have any blaring symptoms. I know everyone’s health journey looks different. Some people have alarming symptoms but I never did.
Q: What do you think caused your Hashimoto’s?
I think there are a number of things that added up over time that contributed to my Hashimoto’s diagnosis. One of them was definitely not taking care of myself like I should have. Not going to bed at a decent hour, stress, low thyroid to begin with. I also think underlying inflammation whether from foods I was sensitive to, or possible amalgam fillings which contain toxic mercury. For everyone there can be different triggers in their life. It doesn’t happen overnight either, but it’s little things that add up over time. Even nutrient deficiencies over a prolonged period of time can contribute.
Q: Do you take medication for your thyroid?
I do! I take Natur-Throid. It’s a combination of hormones that your body would normally make through the thyroid gland to help regulate the bodies energy and metabolism.
Q: Did you ever try other medications for your thyroid? Why did you decide specifically on Natur-Throid?
I did not. I've always seen a Naturopathic Doctor and he recommended Natur-Throid. The option of going with a synthetic man-made hormone didn't appeal to me either the more I read about it. They use just T4. Whereas, Natur-Throid uses both T4 and T3 and also contain thyroid hormone T1 and T2. Natur-Throid for example is made from the thyroid glands of pigs which are bio-identical to human thyroid glands. It's been a good fit for me knowing I'm not putting something synthetic in my body.
Q: What labs do you have done to check your thyroid?
I always ask for a full thyroid panel when getting my labs done. This includes TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) T4 (free thyroxine), Reverse T3 (free Tri-iodothyronine), Reverse T3, ATA (Thyroglobulin antibody), and TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase antibody).
Q: If you don't really have symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease, why do you think it's important to keep it in check? What would happen if you didn't?
That's the thing about Hashimoto's I think a lot of people might not have blaring symptoms at first but then they let things go and they end up with horrible symptoms later on. It varies so much for people too. My antibodies levels weren't crazy but I'm sure if I didn't stop and take inventory of where my body was at, they would eventually get worst. I think it's something you always have to manage because life, in general, affects Hashimoto's. From the food we eat, our stress levels, exercise. It all plays a role.
Q: Do you eat a special diet to manage your Hashimoto's? Any foods that you avoid?
I did an AIP diet (autoimmune paleo) initially to help calm inflammation. Then once I got my antibodies down and took a food sensitivity test I figured out what foods I needed to keep out and what were ok to add back in. Now I avoid dairy, gluten, almonds and eggs. I can tell a huge difference in my energy when I stick with this diet. Hopefully eventually I’ll be able to add almonds and eggs back in but for now they were high on my food sensitivity test.
Q: What are Hashimoto’s flare ups like for you? What does having Hashimoto's feel like?
I haven’t experienced severe flare ups, fortunately. I’ve read many stories about how people suffer from them and my heart goes out to them. For me it’s mainly just feeling low on energy and some anxiety might creep back in. When I’m eating good, getting rest, I really feel my best.
Q: Can Hashimoto's Disease be cured? What is your treatment plan?
Yes, I think so! I think everyone has different goals in their health journey but for me it’s been to lower my antibodies and have them be nonexistent if possible. My treatment plan is really sticking with a clean diet as I mentioned, taking some good quality supplements that will support healthy thyroid function, getting a good sweat on through exercise and managing my stress levels. And of course getting good sleep!
Q: Can you tell us more about what supplements you take?
I take selenium, B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Probiotic, Multi-vitamin, Iron, Vitamin D–these all can help support your body and create an overall healthy thyroid function. For instance, after I started taking an iron supplement my antibodies dropped. I was borderline anemic and when that happens it can really affect your thyroid.
Q: You mentioned sweating a lot, and I've seen your sauna posts on Instagram. Tell us about why sweat is important?
Sweating is so good at removing toxins and really helping to cleanse your body. Especially for people with Hashimoto's. Sweating is one of the best ways to remove heavy metal toxins in the body.
Saunas also help to raise core body temperatures so our thyroid doesn't have to work as hard to keep us warm and regulate metabolism. It's also very relaxing and helps to lower stress. This is one of the biggest triggers for a lot of people dealing with Hashimoto's. When you're able to keep your adrenals in check and manage stress thyroid function is so much better. I find it helps me to just read a book and stop my head from spinning for 45 minutes.
Infrared is especially great because it heats our bodies from the inside out. Most toxins are stored deep in our tissues and the infrared sauna really helps to push the toxins out. Once your body eliminates the toxins you can feel a lightness, something I've experienced.
Plus, when our bodies aren't burdened with toxins we are able to soak up all the nutrients we are eating and getting from supplements. It opens our bodies to receive the good stuff! A lot of people who suffer from Hashimoto's also suffer from joint pain and poor circulation. Infrared saunas help with both of these. There have even been studies showing the benefits for the collagen and elastin production for the skin–something I'm all about!
Q: Did having Hashimoto's affect your fertility?
I didn’t notice it affect my fertility. I know I had a few antibodies after my first daughter but at the time I didn’t really understand what it meant and brushed it aside. It wasn’t until after my second did I really pay attention since they were higher.
Q: How does Hashimoto's affect your weight?
It definitely felt harder to lose the baby weight the second time around initially but once I did the AIP diet it came off very easy. I’ve read several places that when your body is inflamed it’s harder to lose weight. I think doing the AIP diet really helped to calm the inflammation down.
Q: What can other women who have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's expect?
I think it can vary depending on each person so don’t be hard on yourself. Some women experience intense headaches, achy joints, weight gain, hair loss, depression, mental fatigue, constipation and general fatigue. However, don’t think just because you don’t suffer from one of these you don’t have it. I’ve met so many women who didn’t have alarming symptoms but still had Hashimoto’s. Give yourself space to get better and take the time you need for yourself. It’s a journey and the more time I’ve spent understanding that, the better I’ve felt.
Q: Are there any products you use that help you manage your thyroid?
I would recommend the book Hashimoto's Protocol and Root Cause, both by Izabella Wentz. They helped me really identify what was going on, possible triggers and where to start. I still refer to them now.
Also, the book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. It's really helped me to get a good night's sleep. I would also just say sticking to a clean lifestyle. There's not one particular product but many that have helped me. For me it's just eating clean, avoiding toxins in my products and managing my stress.
Q: Any other tips for women who are also struggling with maintaining a healthy thyroid?
I would just encourage them to seek the help and guidance of a holistic practitioner. They are really going to help you get to the root cause of why you have Hashimoto’s in the first place and not just put a band-aid on the issue.
Also, really consider your lifestyle. Are you constantly running late, feeling stressed and have too much on your plate? I find a lot of women I’ve talked to about Hashimoto’s all seem to have had a lot going on in their lives or had a major life event that triggered the Hashimoto’s. Really considering how you can slow down I think is key.
The last thing I would mention is to really make sure you’re eating foods that are going to nourish your body. Avoid processed foods as much as you can and stick with whole foods. Since we know disease starts in the gut, it’s important that we take care of the gut by giving it life-giving nutrition.
Q: What are some of your favorite practices for self-care and slowing down?
This is a great question! Everyone is different, so don't take a bath if you don't like baths. I think sometimes we think we have to practice things that seem like normal self-care practices when they aren't really relaxing to us. For me, I love putting on a face mask and reading a good book or magazine. I also love just putting on a movie and sitting with my husband on the couch. There's just something about being totally engrossed in a story that helps take my mind off of my life–which I need.
I also love time to myself. This might sound funny, but sometimes I just need a good drive to the grocery store listening to a podcast by myself and I feel energized and recharged. For me having a consistent bed time has really helped too. Not going to bed here and there but sticking to a time. Sleep is huge for keeping my Hashimoto's in check.
Q: What are your favorite recipes for Hashimoto's eating?
I really love the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott. That really helped me in my AIP journey. She also has a blog with a lot of recipes too. I really just kept it simple. I would roast a lot of veggies, cook a whole chicken and have shredded meat for the week. Then it was easy to throw a bowl together in no time. I would add an avocado to it for some healthy fat.
I also love plantain chips from Terra that are made with coconut oil. Those were amazing with some guacamole when I needed something quick to hold me over. I also loved spaghetti squash, sweet potato and butternut squash for breakfast foods. I would add cinnamon, maple syrup, and coconut butter to them after I roasted them.
Stir frys were another staple. I would add some ground turkey meat, and array of veggies and cauliflower rice and I would have a quick delicious meal. I also made different protein balls using banana flour, coconut flakes, cinnamon, dates, and carob powder.