As a teenager, I often felt lucky because I was able to eat anything I wanted to and would never gain weight, even though I rarely, if ever, exercised. I was rail thin and could put away almost half of a chocolate cake in one sitting. I had a major sweet tooth, so I considered the whole thing to be just about the best deal I could have gotten. I ate a lot of sweets, mostly sodas, cakes, and chocolate bars, and enjoyed what I had always assumed was a high metabolism.
Several years later, after I had turned 21, I was working in a bar with a full restaurant which happened to serve amazing five star desserts. I was in heaven. By this point, I was eating sweets for every meal. Real food almost never made it into my diet. I had donuts or muffins for breakfast, cookies and milk for lunch and chocolate cake for dinner. It had gotten to the point where if I hadn’t had sugar in a while, I would begin shaking and would become painfully hungry. I craved sweet things and since I never gained an ounce, I naturally followed my cravings every time I was hungry.
When confronted about it by a coworker one night, I began to realize things might not be right. She asked how I could eat so much junk and still be so skinny. I told her about my metabolism. When she heard about the shaking, she asked if I was hypoglycemic. “What’s that?” I had never heard of it. She explained it to me and that was the first time I began to wonder if something was wrong.
A few months later, I had some health issues which led me to take myself to the doctor’s office to have a pregnancy test done. I was certain I was pregnant. The symptoms were all there. The urine test was negative, but they took blood just to make sure. I waited for a couple of days for the phone call to come in.
When the nurse had me on the line, my only question was whether or not I was pregnant. “You are not pregnant, but the blood tests showed that you have a very severe case of hyperthyroidism. You need to come in to the office immediately for medication and we need to discuss surgery.”
Surgery? The word horrified me. I had no idea anything was wrong with me the day before and now I was being confronted with surgery and told that I was speeding towards diabetes and would require lifelong thyroid medication. My world seemed to stop as I considered the implications. How could I be sick? How could I become diabetic? I was thin and active and had a great metabolism, right?
I thought for a long time about what the nurse had told me. I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life and I sure didn’t want surgery. I wanted a healthy thyroid. I wanted to live a healthy life with all of my body parts intact. I didn’t want to have to eat pills to survive. Trying to decide what to do took a lot out of me.
I did all of the research that I could online, but there was no information about curing hyperthyroidism. Apparently, there wasn’t anything anyone knew how to do to treat it except to remove all or part of the thyroid and supplement with lifelong medication. But the one thing in common with everything I read was that no one knew what caused it, either. As it happened, I was sure I knew what caused mine. It was sugar.
I decided that before I gave in to modern medicine, which I felt would only treat the symptom, not the actual problem, I decided that I would try to reverse my hyperthyroidism and see if I could get my body back to normal. If I could get to that point, I could surely reverse it the same way. But because no one had ever done it, I didn’t know where to start. I decided I would just try what made sense to me.
I began researching sugar and was horrified to find that it’s in nearly everything we eat. If a food is processed, it is almost always very high in sugar. Things like pizza, pastas, fast food, even fish sticks, were all loaded with huge amounts of sugar, not to mention pretty much everything I was drinking.
I formulated a plan that I felt might work without sending my body into complete shock, tipping me over the slippery edge of diabetes. First, I counted the average number of sweet things I was eating per day. It didn’t matter how much of the thing I was eating so much as how many times. How many times was I needing the sugar? How many times was I getting cravings for the rush? The answer was about nine.
So, for the first week, I cut out one sugary thing per day. I was allowed to eat eight things per day, no more. The next week, I cut it down to seven. Each week, I allowed myself one fewer sweet things per day. If I got a terrible craving that I just could not ignore after having eaten my allotted number of desserts for the day, I would allow myself to have fruit. Red grapes were the biggest help at curbing the cravings. If I couldn’t get those, strawberries and pineapple were next on the list.
By the time I had reached the point of only being allowed one treat per day, I wasn’t having cravings anymore. I was able to cut out sugar almost entirely and usually only had one or two sweets per week. I had done it and I was excited that I had done it. At my next doctor’s appointment, my doctor looked at my charts and was stunned. I had no more thyroid issues. He sat down with me and grilled me on how I had done it. I told him about how I had slowly cut sugar out of my diet. He listened intently and took notes, hoping he could look into the issue of sugar a bit more.
Today, I am still mostly off of sugar. It has been almost a decade. I enjoy eating sweets a lot less and prefer healthy foods, especially natural, unprocessed foods. I switched to organic in an effort to improve my health even more. I have never had thyroid issues arise again, even during my two pregnancies.
While sugar may not be the cause of everyone’s hyperthyroidism, I highly encourage those with the condition to talk to your healthcare provider about treating what might be the root cause of hyperthyroidism rather than going straight to surgery and medications. Most of the time, there are good reasons why we have health issues and treating the root of the disease rather than the symptom can benefit you in the long term. Surgery and medicine cannot help you if you continue living an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m excellent proof of that.