How I successfully self diagnosed Hashimoto’s? And the aftermath.

by Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor

I wanted to have a different title: When doctors fail us. In my case, I would selfishly consider it to be true.

Reminding myself to be realistic: when assessing the information, all of us, including the medical professionals, are as good as the information we hold and can process at that given moment.
Dealing with too much diversity in a day, and not having an excellent way to note, chart, measure and quickly learn from it, directly incapacitates us from being evenly good, attentive and successful in our everyday work.

Whenever I had a good and productive visit at the doctors, I imagined the chance is that one of the next patients did not.

How did my path to diagnosis start? For years I had all the light symptoms: fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, sensitivity to cold. The only outlier was my digestive trouble. At least that is what I was made to believe. The doctor I had at the time, a decent person, but would not recommend to anyone with anything more severe than a common cold, was apologising and telling me nothing can be done. After one year of diarrhoea bout. I literally asked: “Am I supposed to shit myself to death?”. Not my proudest moment, but I was quite upset and scared.

As nothing else was left, forced to take things in own hands and deal with my health as good as I know, I did just that. The only solid piece of evidence I had was that my mom has an underactive thyroid. It turned out to be a good start.

My first values for α-TPO and α-TG, antibodies present in autoimmune thyroid disease, were about 200x over the “normal” limit. I remember the moment I saw the results: I was relieved, and at the same time wary of what it actually brings. Taking daily dose of medication seemed doable, but I sensed there will have to be some lifestyle adjustments done.

Dairy is the mother of all the evil (in my intestine)

I loved consuming dairy, it was considered the best thing one could eat during my childhood. Minus the war years, we always had at least two types of cheese, diverse fermented milk, butter, and a lot of regular milk on our table every day.

Even when I was around 15 I realised Ferrero Raffaello was not doing good to me, as much as I loved it’s taste. Now I am aware it contained at least two ingredients that cause my digestive problems: dairy and almonds. This was the first step into the knowledge I have now.

Adverse reaction to odd bits and pieces of food have followed: beloved “French Salad” (containing potatoes, eggs, peas, mayo, cornichons and carrots) that I ate a lot started making me sick. Beer was not as lovely to drink as I remembered from my youth.

When I passed the age of 30 it became more frequent, more unbearable and more transforming (in a bad, bad way).

Dairy is flaring up my Hashimoto’s

When I first drew blood to test for α-TPO and α-TG antibody titer I was on lactose free milk (I thought I had lactose intolerance), and since then I have tested myself 10 or so times, to see how would the thyroid condition correlate with dairy consumption and the digestive trouble it causes. I have observed a very strong correlation, and on two occasions I was fully dairy free for at least a month my autoimmune values were close to a normal and healthy range.

In general, if I would be dairy free, I would feel healthier, walk more, and engage in life. It seemed I was able to break out of the vicious cycle. Or, at least I knew how to do it.

No, not all of that too?

Cutting dairy helped a lot, but it did not make things go away entirely. So, I did food allergy analyses, and realised that in addition to dairy i have a couple of more food nemesis:

Peas
Egg whites
Almonds (ok, I kind of knew)
Beer
Wheat

That short list represents a basis for many other food products: bread and cakes to name a few.

At that time I was truly put in front of a hard decision: how to change my diet, can I avoid it all? Is this a doable goal? I decided it is not. I divided things into
Must Avoid=dairy and almonds
Really good to Avoid=egg whites and beer
Eat as less as you can=wheat

I dislike meat, I guess the life would be easier if I ate it. This leaves me not much of a classic choice, but a chance to invent new ways to make a meal and not feel like I swallowed razor blades afterwards.

If I cook, I aim to cook with things that 100% do not cause problems for me, but if I visit friends, I give them 2 or 3 things as a no-go (dairy and almonds are always on the list). My friends are wonderful and accommodating and I feel very much indebted to them.

Inheriting genetic mess from my ancestors

My diagnosis left me angry at the mess contained in my genetic pool, without ever asking for it. Could I not inherit some knowledge on how to deal with it. Could that not have been a family tradition that is passed down the generations: secret family recipe for autoimmune disease? No point in wishful thinking, I have to live with it, and in a good way. I have to contain my urges to behave in a way that is toxic for my body. No other alternative.

And now…

At 39, life is good, more precious health-wise and maybe a bit more complicated with eating arrangements. I notice I start having an adverse reaction to whichever food item I consume often and exclusive, so I tend to vary what I eat much as possible.

Vedrana Högqvist Tabor