It’s no secret that both autoimmune and thyroid conditions are on the rise, leaving millions of people with chronic and debilitating illnesses. However, receiving a diagnosis does not have to mean a lifetime of suffering or harsh treatment options. It IS possible to reverse these conditions naturally.
When Tyler came to see me, he was struggling with a growing list of unexplained and downright dangerous symptoms. His search for solutions had led him down a rabbit hole of online research, failed “at home” programs, and a red herring diagnosis. Today, he is thriving, symptom-free, and off all medications.
Seeing the transformation in patients who have overcome debilitating chronic illnesses and built a foundation for lifelong optimal health is truly the most rewarding part of what we do at GrassRoots Functional Medicine.
That’s why we love Tyler’s story, and if you’re struggling with symptoms that are taking over your life, are overwhelmed by the maze that is our medical system, and are looking for real solutions, we hope it inspires you to begin your own journey back to health!
Tyler’s Before: Extreme Weakness and Fatigue, Weight Loss, and Chest Pain
At just 29 years old, Tyler was suddenly facing a list of truly frightening symptoms. He’d lost a lot of weight in a very short timeframe, and no matter how much or how often he ate he just couldn’t put any weight back on. His heart was constantly racing and he was terrified by the chest pain that was now a part of his daily life. Perhaps worst of all, he was so weak and tired that he could only hold his infant son for a few minutes at a time.
Desperate to put a stop to these symptoms, he did what so many people do, he dug into the online research for answers. He’d recently gotten sick while traveling abroad and thought, “Aha, I must have a parasite!” After all it would explain so many of his symptoms.
So he made an appointment at our GrassRoots Functional Medicine clinic. Little did he know, he was getting more than he bargained for.
Why the Right Type of Testing was Key
Like I said, Tyler was pretty confident that a parasite picked up abroad was the problem. He was reluctant to spend more time and money on comprehensive lab work, when he’d already spent a few thousand dollars on supplements and cleanses that his online research said would solve the problem yet got him nowhere.
However, in our experience of working with thousands of complex patients from around the world, we’ve seen that symptoms can masquerade as many different conditions and underlying root causes can go undetected for years if you go down the wrong path.
That’s why we run a comprehensive set of labs on all new patients, because a wider lens helps us spot patterns, see the bigger picture, and catch things that might be missed if we put blinders on too soon.
In Tyler’s case, his thyroid levels were off the chart and several autoimmune markers were also abnormally high. I suspected Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune thyroid condition. When you develop Graves’ disease it means your immune system has gone rogue and is attacking your own thyroid, causing all of your metabolic processes to ramp up and leading to weight loss, elevated heart rate, fatigue, weakness, and other dangerous symptoms.
What Conventional Medicine Offered
I recommended that Tyler see an endocrinologist for confirmation, and he did in fact have Graves’ disease. His endocrinologist recommended an anti-thyroid medication (to slow his thyroid hormone production and conversion) and a beta-blocker to protect his heart.
He was told that eventually he would either need a radioactive iodine treatment that would destroy his thyroid, or to have it surgically removed. Either option would mean he would need to take a supplemental thyroid medication for the rest of his life, since you do in fact need thyroid hormones to live.
He wasn’t happy with any of these solutions and felt sure that there must be a better approach.
GrassRoots Functional Medicine Approach
We agreed wholeheartedly with Tyler…except for one key area. He was resistant to taking any medication whatsoever, after all he was 29 and in the prime of his life. However, his story is a great example of when you DO need an acute intervention.
When Medications Have Their Place
His body was essentially running a marathon every day, and he was at risk for heart damage. So in the immediacy he started medication to put out the immediate fire and protect his heart, while we put a plan in place to promote healing long-term.
Identifying and Treating the Root Cause
He partnered with the GrassRoots team to identify and address the root causes behind his immune system’s attack on his thyroid.
When your immune system is stressed and attacking your own body, the first key is to address chronic inflammation. And one of the biggest sources of inflammation today is our diets. We recommended that he cut out all of the top inflammatory triggers for a period of time to give his immune system a break. These include gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and sugar. At the same time, we used functional nutritional testing to identify key nutrients he was lacking and focused on getting the nutrition his body needed to heal.
And as with so many autoimmune patients, stress was also a major factor. In fact, retrospective studies have found that up to 80% of people with an autoimmune condition experienced a period of high stress before developing their disease. In Tyler’s case, there was a major transition in his workplace right before he got sick, he’d traveled abroad recently, and he was adjusting to life with a newborn, all of which increased his stress levels. So he worked with our lifestyle coach to implement strategies for stress management and proper exercise to give his body the support it needed to heal.
The Importance of Mindset
One of the things that struck me most about working with Tyler is that he was optimistic and steadfast in the belief that he would succeed. From my experience, this is the single biggest factor that determines if patients recover from chronic illness or not.
After all, it’s not an overnight fix or a “just take a pill” solution. This was a two-year journey and it took true dedication and commitment from Tyler and his wife. He admitted that it wasn’t very fun cutting out his favorite foods, but he reminded himself that the changes were worth it if he wanted to keep his thyroid and avoid conventional medicine’s drastic and risky treatment alternatives.
Tyler’s After: Symptom-Free, Optimal Health
And in the end, he was absolutely right. Tyler has now returned to a healthy weight, his strength is back, and best of all, he has the energy to play with his son! And no less importantly, his labs are completely normal and he is off all medications!
He even gets to enjoy pizza every once in a while 🙂
Tyler’s story is so powerful because it proves that there is another way, a better way, to approach chronic illness. But while it is inspiring, his story is not unique.
I have worked with thousands of complex patients and seen time and time again that committing to overcoming the root cause of disease and supporting your body’s natural ability to heal leads to amazing outcomes with long-term results.
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.