How I Recovered from Hypothyroidism and Became My Own Best Advocate

It?s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. This week’s featured success story was penned by Elle Russ, host of the Primal Blueprint Podcast and author of the upcoming Primal Blueprint Publishing title, The Paleo Thyroid Solution.

If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark?s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I?ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

realifestories in lineThe first indication that something was wrong with me was in 2003, at the age of thirty, when I started my period two weeks early. Since I had experienced normal gynecological health all my life until this point, I didn?t consider it alarming, and I figured it was a fluke. I finally went to the doctor when I started bleeding again just two weeks later, and I was having worse than usual menstrual cramps. I went to my doctor and his immediate response to my symptoms was to put me on the birth control pill in order to control the bleeding (which is a classic solution, in my experience, from uninformed doctors).

My entire journey of suffering from hypothyroidism could have been avoided at this point, had my doctor asked the question, ?What is causing this healthy, fit thirty-year-old with perfect gynecological history to start bleeding abnormally?? Unfortunately, my doctor did not ask this question (and neither did I). Instead, he continued to prescribe a variety of birth control pills, each one stronger than the last, because they all kept failing to control the abnormal, excessive bleeding. But I trusted my doctor?s advice?a mistake. Throughout the many months I tried the various birth control pills he prescribed, I rapidly gained weight and constantly felt as though I was in a bloated, menstrual state. This made no sense because I exercised regularly, and I had what most people would consider a fit physique. I am 5?2?, I was 110?115 lbs, 16% to 17% body fat, and before hypothyroidism hit me, I exemplified the image of health and fitness.

Someone suggested to me that I might have a thyroid problem, so I went back to my doctor to have him test my thyroid?another big mistake. Here was a doctor who didn?t even think to inquire about the root cause of my bleeding, and here I was trusting him to take appropriate blood tests. Yikes! In retrospect, that should have been a major red flag. My doctor tested my thyroid incorrectly by only testing my TSH. He said the TSH was within range, I did not have a thyroid problem, and I just needed to exercise more and eat less, which I thought was impossible because I had been working out two hours a day and eating 1,200 calories or less; yet, I was continuing to gain weight. He looked me in the eye and told me, ?Well, it?s not your thyroid.? Had this doctor been knowledgeable enough to test my Free T3 and Free T4 levels at the time, he would have concluded that it was in fact my thyroid?I was seriously hypothyroid?and I might have been spared the horrendous experience of full-blown hypothyroidism.

It took me two years from this point to get diagnosed properly.

My symptoms progressively worsened. I was freezing all the time, even in hot weather; my temperature was 96°F versus the normal 98.6°F. I was exhausted and very depressed. I started to get acne, even though I had flawless skin my entire life. I was unknowingly very anemic with restless legs; I was bloated, heavy, and miserable in every way with constant menstrual bleeding and cramping. Life was horrific, and I barely left my apartment. I cried multiple times a day; I could hardly stand being in my own skin. I had zero control over my body and symptoms. I kept going to doctors who continued to tell me that there was nothing wrong with my thyroid.

One of the worst moments during this time was on a hike with a friend, I started to experience such severe abdominal cramps that I thought I had to take an emergency bowel movement. I walked into the woods, took down my pants, assumed the squat position, and huge blood clots fell out of my vagina onto the ground. I write this with tears in my eyes, recalling how frightened and horrified I was about my future. It was one of the scariest days of my life.

After the incident, I saw a gynecologist who misdiagnosed me with PCOS. Did I have PCOS? No and sort of. My state of hypothyroidism threw off all of my sex hormones so drastically that my pelvic ultrasound looked like the classic profile of someone with PCOS (there were sixteen or so cysts in a ring around one of my ovaries). This scenario is a perfect example of why anybody with a gynecological problem or low levels of sex hormones needs to get their thyroid tested accurately. Because the thyroid is the master gland affecting every system in our body, including our hormone levels, a state of hypothyroidism can lead to something else that will become a disease the person wouldn?t have gotten otherwise. My hypothyroid state eventually led to the formation of a polyp on the lining of my uterus and also a uterine fibroid. Because the polyp was on the lining of my uterus, it kept poking the lining and making it impossible to stay intact, which caused more bleeding and constant vaginal leakage (not cool!)?ultimately leading to severe anemia. And my depression only got worse.

I went to so many doctors and spent thousands of dollars on specialized MDs who didn?t take insurance?some were famous authors and hormone doctors to Hollywood celebrities. At some point along the way, you would think a doctor would have questioned my iron levels based on the amount of bleeding I was experiencing from my gynecological issues, but no one did. Finally, there was one doctor who tested my Free T3 and Free T4. It cost me $600 for that office visit (not including labs) to have a doctor finally test my thyroid correctly. I was relieved to know, at last, that a thyroid problem was causing all of my health and weight issues.

Below are the thyroid labs that took me two years, thousands of dollars, and an insane number of doctor?s visits to have a physician finally declare, ?You are very hypothyroid.?

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.48.34 PM
As the above values show, if an endocrinologist had tested just my Free T4 and TSH (which many endocrinologists do), they might have concluded, ?Your thyroid looks fine.? These labs show how critical Free T3 testing is. This horrifically low level of Free T3 directly corresponded with every symptom I was suffering from. I retested six weeks later, to see if things were still the same, before starting thyroid hormone replacement.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.48.43 PM

After this two-year journey, I was not only broke but also disheartened by so many doctors hurting, not helping me. So I began to search the internet 24/7 to find answers. Life had ground to a halt, and my days were filled with physical misery, existing in a state of disease that I could not control. The only advantage I had in my quest was that I worked from home and was able to rest when I needed to. I had gained more than 40 lbs, and that was with exercising daily. (In retrospect, exercise was something I should not have been doing.) Thankfully, my internet searching led me to learn about ferritin and how essential it is. I got tested and my ferritin was 10 in a range of 10?150, which meant I was severely anemic and had restless legs. I learned that if I didn?t improve my iron levels, no amount of NDT (natural desiccated thyroid) was going to help me, and I would face difficulties raising my NDT dosages, which would halt my progress.

At this point in my journey, I could not afford any more doctor?s visits, but based on my experience with doctors leading me in the wrong direction, testing me incorrectly, and misdiagnosing me, I also did not trust them to solve my hypothyroidism. So, I took my health into my own hands and started down the path of treating my own hypothyroidism with NDT?without the help or the assistance of doctors. I relied solely upon my own research and intuition, combined with the advice and wisdom of fellow patients from patient-to-patient online chat groups.

In January 2006, just six weeks after seeing my low levels of T3 and ferritin, I started taking iron. I simultaneously started taking NDT. I started to feel improvements a couple of weeks later: my restless legs started to subside, my heart palpitations began to dissipate, I had more energy, and my brain function started to kick back in. After a couple of months on NDT and iron, I was feeling better and better as every day passed. After a full year on NDT, my hypothyroid symptoms vanished and life returned to normal. I also had surgery to remove the polyp from my uterus lining, and soon after the surgery all of my gynecological issues were completely resolved. I was feeling normal again! I spent the next six to seven years on NDT feeling wonderful (although I still felt obsessed with food and found it a struggle to maintain my weight loss, because I had not yet discovered paleo/primal living). During those years on NDT, whenever I cried, it was out of gratitude for finally feeling like a normal human being again! Yeah for NDT!

Until 2011

In 2011 I began to feel the onset of hypothyroid symptoms: Inability to keep off weight, rapidly gaining fat around my stomach area and waist, dry cracked skin, inability to focus, brain fog, and depression. You might assume that because I previously experienced the perils of hypothyroidism that I would recognize hypothyroid symptoms right away, but I didn?t even consider it. I had been living well on NDT for many years until this point, so it seemed impossible that my symptoms could be related to thyroid.

My symptoms got worse, really fast. My hair was falling out and felt rubbery to the touch. I started to get very constipated and bloated. I was exhausted no matter what I did or how much I slept. I was overwhelmed by small tasks, and became extremely sensitive to light, sound, and smells. My face was puffy every morning. My legs were heavy and bloated. I can?t even recall how many times I sobbed in the shower; I was washing a bloated, fat body that was foreign to me. I would even cry on the toilet?I had gained so much weight that I struggled to reach back to wipe myself (a horrible experience to say the least). The weight gain and bloat seemed even worse than the first bout of hypothyroidism. Depression came back with a vengeance.

I went to a doctor, who I had found after getting myself optimized on NDT. Even though I had successfully treated myself for years without the aid of doctors, during my six to seven years on NDT, I kept searching for a doctor to legitimize what I had been doing without one. About three years in to taking NDT, I found what I was looking for. Not only was this doctor impressed with my story of self-treatment, but also I was able to educate her about the importance of ferritin (which she was unaware of), and she began implementing ferritin tests with her other thyroid patients. I thought I had scored the coolest doctor on planet Earth! A doctor who listened, wanted to help me, wanted to learn, and was confirming my own strategies? Jackpot! I finally felt ?legit? about my thyroid treatment and health. As you might imagine, I referred a lot of people to this doctor. I trusted her, because when I first met her, she was open and willing to admit that she didn?t know everything about thyroid health. She also seemed to understand NDT dosing and was not worried about my suppressed TSH.

Well, after experiencing the second onslaught of severe hypothyroid symptoms, I went to see that doctor.

I was a bloated, fat mess sitting across from her as she scanned her clipboard, ?Your blood tests, your thyroid tests…they all look great. I don?t know what to tell you about the weight gain and brain fog.? And then she proceeded to give me exercise and nutritional advice that fell on deaf ears (I was already exercising and restricting calories). I evaluated my blood results too. From what I could see, my labs looked normal, but I noticed that the T4 was higher than usual. At the time, I didn?t know this was a red flag. I left her office confused about what was causing my symptoms. A myriad of hypothyroid symptoms came crashing down on me after that; it was so severe that I didn?t feel as if I was on thyroid hormones at all! I felt just as terrible as I did before I was diagnosed many years prior. Except this time, I experienced no abnormal menstrual bleeding. Like my doctor, I too eliminated the possibility of my symptoms being related to thyroid, but I was determined to find out what was wrong with me. The fear of possibly getting another gynecological problem drove me to research my situation 24/7 again, and I eventually suspected that I might have a Reverse T3 problem.

I went back to my doctor and asked her to test Reverse T3 along with Free T3, TSH, and Free T4. She didn?t understand Reverse T3 but she ordered the tests for me anyway. The blood results proved my suspicion, I was experiencing a major Reverse T3 problem. I went back to see my doctor with a folder packed with research on the subject and plans for how to fix it. I explained to her how I had reached the diagnosis and told her that I wanted to take T3-only to fix my Reverse T3 problem. She looked at me, very annoyed, shook her head and said, ?Oh Elle, this is just too complicated.?

I felt so betrayed and angry in that moment. I started sobbing. I stood up and said, ?Let me show you something.? I stripped down to my underwear and stood in front of her. I had gained so much weight that my bra barely covered my nipples?it resembled a very skimpy bikini top that a Playboy bunny would wear to a pool party.

?Look at me. I?m huge! I keep gaining weight, I can?t think, I?m depressed, I?m exhausted, and I have all the other classic signs of hypothyroidism, dry cracked skin, skin thickening. I am seriously hypothyroid right now! This is too complicated? But medical school wasn?t complicated? Organic chemistry problems on the MCAT were not too complicated, but this is too complicated!? Please help me! I need help!? She looked at me as if I were crazy. ?I?m sorry I can?t help you with this, but I will try to find someone who can, and I?ll have my office call you with a referral.? (I never got a referral even after calling the office three more times.)

Below is my blood work from when I was on NDT but had developed an RT3 problem and had become severely hypothyroid a second time, because the T4 in my NDT was being converted into the biologically inactive Reverse T3. As you can see, my Free T3 is high and could potentially look normal for someone on NDT (except that I had hypothyroid symptoms). My high Free T4 was a red-flag indicator that I might be experiencing a major Reverse T3 problem. The ratio between my Free T3 and Reverse T3 confirmed that I did indeed have an RT3 problem.


Free T3/Reverse T3 Ratio: 20 or higher is considered healthy.

I walked out of the doctor?s office and sat in my car, sobbing. Here I was again, in the same position as I had been seven years prior, when no one in the medical community would help me. I felt so alone in that moment, because I had a gut feeling that I was going to be on my own again for the second time with hypothyroidism. My gut feeling was confirmed when, after pleading with thyroid specialists and doctors in Los Angeles to help me, not one of them would. The vast majority of the medical community was, and still is, clueless about diagnosing and treating Reverse T3, especially with T3-only.

The doctors I spoke with were very afraid of T3 for no apparent valid reasons. Not one MD I spoke with prescribed T3 without T4 to their patients, and most of them warned me that T3 was very dangerous and that I could give myself a heart attack. I didn?t believe them. I started doing a ton of research on T3 and Reverse T3 and discovered an online group dedicated to the subject, which I joined. I received amazing emotional support and invaluable advice. After learning about the myths surrounding fears that doctors have of using T3-only, I became confident that T3 was not going to kill me. In fact, I became quite confident that T3 would accomplish the opposite?T3 would save my life.

It did. And it still does.

Because I had the luxury of working from home, I was able to closely monitor my blood pressure, pulse, temperatures, and symptoms without worrying about onlookers. I took detailed notes on everything I did and everything I felt. It took about ten weeks to start feeling normal again, but I still struggled to lose the excess weight I had gained.

How a Paleo/Primal Lifestyle Was the Final Key to Healing

After sixteen months on T3-only, I finally adopted a paleo/primal lifestyle. I knew I had discovered something unique when not only the weight started falling off me, but I was able to reduce my T3 dose significantly. Most importantly, food addictions, food obsessions, and unhealthy cravings disappeared! I couldn?t believe that. From teenage years on, I always felt a struggle with food and diet. Even though I had once achieved a body I was thrilled with before hypothyroidism entered my life, I achieved it through conventional low-fat ?eat three to five meals a day? diet wisdom, and I always felt as though I had to sacrifice, suffer. And frankly, I thought it was the only way to achieve ideal body composition because every diet book I read said the same thing. When I had been on NDT, I had managed to lose most of the hypothyroid weight, but it always felt like a struggle to keep it off. I was always thinking about what I was going to have for my next meal, I was hungry every two to four hours, and I always felt I had to use extreme willpower with portion control and everything else regarding eating. I honestly felt as if I was cursed because I saw other friends and how they ate; it didn?t seem as though they had the same issues with feeling obsessed with food. I could not understand why I did.

After going paleo/primal and getting fat adapted, my former food addictions and obsessions all made perfect sense, and most importantly, they disappeared! When I strictly adhere to a paleo/primal lifestyle, I have zero issues with food obsessions and sugar cravings. Although if I veer off course, they come back. In fact, I rarely think about food until I am hungry, whereas I used to think about food all the time! It was a relief to know that there wasn?t something inherently wrong with me after all those years of struggle. I was simply eating against my genetic programming, against my DNA map. The evidence is overwhelming in favor of a paleo/primal lifestyle for keeping adrenal glands in check, managing blood glucose, and eradicating food addictions/obsessions. And adopting the lifestyle is what has kept me healthy, vibrant, and fit even after years of battling hypothyroidism!

My Journey in Pictures

Before I got hypothyroidism (2000?2003) I was very fit, lean, feeling great in my body and averaging between 110 and 115 lbs. I was a size 2?4.


The onset of hypothyroid symptoms began in the fall of 2003. The symptomatic weight gain is especially apparent in my face in these photos from a wedding I attended in the fall of 2004. I was miserable behind that smile. I had gained more than 40 lbs, even though I was exercising one to two hours a day.


In January 2006, I started NDT, and it took about a year for me to feel good in my body again and simultaneously correct low iron and adrenal fatigue. These photos were taken between 2007 and 2010, when I was on 3?3.5 grains of NDT, which I multi-dosed twice a day. I was convinced that I had solved my hypothyroidism forever.

elle 3

I didn?t know my body was brewing an RT3 problem at the time, but this (photo on the right) was two months before the onset of full-blown Reverse T3 hypothyroidism. I was starting to get bigger and more bloated and was having trouble keeping weight off.

elles journey

However, the photo on the left, taken July 26, 2012, is after four months on T3-only. It took me three of those four months to fix my Reverse T3 problem and feel better. In this photo, although I felt considerably better in every way, my weight had still not budged much (only 10 lbs down). I was doing hot yoga classes five to six days a week (which I later realized was chronic cardio and part of the problem).

elle 6The picture below (taken in June 2015), is after three years on T3-only and one and a half years after going paleo. As you can see, it was the combination of correctly treating the reverse T3 problem AND adopting a paleo/primal lifestyle that was the real solution to sustaining optimal health.

Although I wish I hadn?t gone through any of this, I am glad I did. I not only have a profound appreciation for feeling normal, but it is my hope that all of my mistakes and misdiagnoses along the way will help other people who are worried they might never be well again.

So if you or anyone you know is suffering (or suspects they are suffering) from thyroid-related dysfunction, purchase a copy of my book, The Paleo Thyroid Solution, for a comprehensive guide on how to take charge of your health and heal from the inside out.


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72 thoughts on “How I Recovered from Hypothyroidism and Became My Own Best Advocate”

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  1. Amazing story/transformation!!! I can’t wait to read the book. 🙂

  2. Wow, Elle, you are an inspiration!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. So many women suffer from hormonal issues and I know your story will be helpful!

  3. Amazing!!! So glad you conquered the hypothyroidism and now have the opportunity to share your experience with others.

  4. Wow! What a hard journey, but in the end, the results speak for themselves!!!

  5. Elle,

    Your story details your personal strength, superior intelligence and profound wisdom. Really inspirational!

    I don’t know what you do for a living, but if it is not in the field of medicine or health and wellness, I think you should consider changing your career.

    So glad you found your way back to good health.

    Best Regards!


    1. Thank you for sharing your terrible yet terribly inspiring journey!
      You are very beautiful and I look forward to your book for use as a great resouce. Thanks again!

  6. Fantastic story Elle. I wonder if any of the doctors you saw early on were Functional Medicine doctors? They typically don’t miss this sort of thing. I’ve been seeing one and one of the first tests he ordered was a full thyroid panel (including RT3). Your experience is all to common. When I started running into the same sorts of problems with various traditional MDs, I ended up ordering some of my own blood tests via one or more of the online services (e.g. Unfortunately, I live in Massachusetts where this is not legal. Fortunately, I live close to the New Hampshire line where it is 😉 Of course, you have to pay for these tests out of pocket, but it was worth it for me to get some peace of mind before I finally found a Functional Medicine practitioner.

    1. Hi Brian,
      I’m from MA, but now living in NH. Would you mind me asking who your Functional Medicine doctor is? I have a friend seeing one in the Portsmouth area, but I’m always on the lookout for more…

      1. Hi Maureen,

        I’m seeing Dr Todd LePine at the UltraWellness Center in Lennox

  7. Oh Elle. I’m crying here in sympathy and understanding! Me too, me too. I am still 300 pounds. Had to give up my pretty good thyroid doctor (he thought rT3 had something to do with emergency room visits!?!) and go back to self-doctoring.

    I found this doc through the Stop the Thyroid Madness website/forum/ book/groups, and went in with my blood tests results (no insurance, so I use to get cheap blood tests!) and essentially TOLD him what I wanted: “I want to go on physiological doses of hydrocortisone (bad adrenal fatigue); this is the dosing and ramping up schedule I intend. Do you see anything here you disagree with?” “No.” and he wrote the scrip. “Then, I want to go on Armour Thyroid. This is dosing and ramping up schedule I intend. Do you see anything here you disagree with?” “Uh, no.” and he wrote the scrip. (When the makers of Armour changed their MFG and “ruined” it, I asked for a scrip for Erfa Thyroid from Canada, and he wrote it for me!

    But, after three years (with a yearly attempt to wean off the hydro; symptoms always came back till the third year so I stayed on…) all my adrenal symptoms had gone and I went off it — but no weight loss (and I was pretty low carb all along). I went up to 6 grains (!) across the day — and no change. Finally did the rT3 testing (on my own again, of course {sigh}); and (giving up on the doc), started buying my T-3-only pills out of Mexico (made by a German firm, however). Alas, that’s not that either, apparently.

    I’ve received your book yesterday, and will begin reading this weekend. I’m hoping to find some info and help I don’t have. I did have a PA at my chiropractor suggest an MRI for a brain tumor, because she had a patient once who turned out to have a benign tumor (on her parathyroid? pituitary? I don’t remember) and once the tumor was out, she lost all the weight. Ever willing to consider ANYything I researched that (can’t afford an MRI right now). But the symptoms of that tumor are hyPERthyroid;’ which I never had even hints of on 6 grains…. {sigh}

    Happy to read your ‘life story’ — hope I, too, can find the path out of hell.

  8. What a timely article! Elle what you have gone through sounds horrible, but I’m so happy that through your diligence and hard work you were able to figure it out.

    This article is soooo timely for me because I’m going to get my thyroid checked Monday too – I’m so sick of being sick! My symptoms have been going on for *years* and they are exactly the same as yours – starting with heavy, irregular periods, extreme fatigue, leading to anemia. Last year I was so anemic I had 2 iron infusions to correct it – now my ferritin is back down to a 10 (it was 4 last year) – the doctors don’t think it’s really a problem…so I’m taking “pur-absorb” iron to get it back up. I thought after the infusions I’d have my energy back but nope! I’m still bloated, puffy-faced every morning, acne ridden, and just exhausted.

    My temperature has been so low that when I went for check-ups the nurse thought the thermometer was broken! Lol! I kid you not! She went and used it on herself to test it, then found it was working and said “let me get another one” – took my reading again and it was super low. I just joked saying “I’m a vampire.” But it’s not funny. I’m so frustrated. My periods are like yours, where I have enormous blood clots…or bleeding for a month! No doctor seems to think this is “abnormal” – I guess they feel as long as you’re alive you’re “ok.” I’ve had cysts, a fibroid so large I lost one of my ovaries along with it, and more cysts. This has been going on since I was 18 – about 20 years ago. I know something is *wrong* but I could never find out what. My brother has hashimoto’s too.

    Anyway, enough of my yacking – thank you so much for recording your journey and for this information – this has been so helpful. And I’m so happy to read you’re doing better – you look beautiful and healthy! 🙂

  9. Elle:

    wife not looking:
    will you marry me?

    wife is back

    I also had thyroid issues (partial thiroid removal at approx 16 years old, many decades ago). Your story is a gold mine.

    1. Laffing at this comment – and Elle, you are SO beautiful! xoxoxo and best to you!

  10. Thank you! I have been dealing with thyroid issues for 20 years and have always believed that doctors do not test for all the issues they should – and you just confirmed this!! THANK YOU!
    Thyroid is such a tricky subject as it effects so many subtle issues. I have come across many women (as they talk more than men) that have classic signs of thyroid and it ends up being years before the issue shows up on their TSH test. Since discussing this with my own family as it is ‘hereditary’ my brothers have come to recognize their own thyroid issues as well.
    I have recently fought for a T3 and T4 test and will now battle the RT3! Who knew!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. Thank you Elle for sharing your experience with all of us. I am amazed at how strong of a self-advocate you are and that your persistence ultimately paid off.

    You are a source of inspiration for those with thyroid issues and those of us without.

    Grok on!

  12. A couple ideas for you to consider: flourine and bromine. I spent 13 years in anemic low thyroid hell very similar to your story, hair falling out, HEAVY blood loss and long periods, etc. Flouride is not only in our water but in the pesticides sprayed on produce, especially grapes. Bromine is used to bleach most flours and labeled as a dough conditioner. Both Br and F ferociously compete against Iodine and can wreak havoc on the thyroid, brain, and ovaries. Prunes contain high levels of boron and have been shown to remove fluoride from the body.

    Going paleo probably helped eliminate a major source of bromine but your organs may still be getting attacked by fluorine. Heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to low iron and low iron can lead to heavy bleeding. A vicious circle. You may also want to look into seed cycling for hormonal balance and restoring the magnesium and selenium needed for a healthy body.

    Im glad you took your health into your own hands and best of luck!

  13. you are a true warrior elle, i can not imagine trying to deal with all of that. i have also watched many women in my family struggle with hypothyroidism; it is brutal. but you came out on the other side, healthier than ever. congratulations!

    it is pretty unbelievable how often we have to do the doctor’s job for him, but it seems like sometimes that is the only way. shame.

  14. p.s.- I gotta save and share your story!

    Hi All,

    Another miracle story :).

    Do ‘conventional’ medical ‘tests’ or ‘conventional’ doctors make any sense?

    I have just read about GAPS. It reads like the explanation and answer to addiction. I am a 12 step person. Now I gotta read about thyroid stuff :).

    Thank for sharing and thanks to Mark for printing your miracle!


  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’d swear a good portion of it could have been my own. Thanks for the ideas on RT3 and I look forward to reading the book!

  16. Wow, so many of the same symptoms. I had a uterine ablation I was bleeding so much and had NO stainable iron on a bone marrow biopsy; iron levels were in the crapper – almost zero.

    I also was exhausted and spent far too many days “napping” to get energy and felt depressed.

    I didn’t realize how many things in my life dropped to the wayside.

    I still have to get corrected; I am looking into your book – THANK YOU

  17. That is an amazing story Elle. I can only praise you for how you were able to suffer through all that and come out fit and healthy on the other side. I probably would have killed myself.

  18. This also explains why I was still exhausted after a blood transfusion – people told me it’s “overwhelm” or some other mental shortcoming to be so tired all the time…

    I’m so glad there are other avenues to explore

    I will plan on being another Primal Success Story soon.

  19. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I wish you many years of good health and great joy.

  20. Congratulations! I am sure you are an inspiration to many women.
    My mom has been on Nature Throid for many years. It has stabilized her condition. I had her come live with me about 5 years ago. By default she has been eating a 95% Paleo diet. She also takes supplements but limited exercise. Her weight has gone from 162 to 113.
    Recently, she started having some renewed symptoms. I added therapeutic doses of Lugol’s iodine, selenium, zinc, Celtic sea salt, & vitamin C. She feels so much better & all her thyroid panel results have dramatically improved.
    I was so impressed that even though I don’t have thyroid issues, I have started taking maintenance doses of all the above. Also, recommended to many of the women I know.

  21. Your story confirms my belief that most MD’s follow robotically the protocols they learn in medical school. Most do very little further thinking.

    You are brilliant, courageous, and beautiful! Kudos!!

  22. Whew, intense! Talk about perseverance, wow, what a fighter and an inspiration.

    I’m wondering why the November 2005 and January 2006 ranges are different, I’m probably missing something but they appear to be for the same tests?

  23. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been struggling with some similar issues and it feels like thyroid even though my thyroid tests keep coming back normal. I see a naturopathic doctor and she’s very good, but I’m going to ask if she’s testing my reverse T3 because I feel horrible and this may well be the explanation.

  24. I have a mental picture of the the look of horror on your doctor’s face when you stood in front of her and yelled at her! If patients put their doctors on a pedestal then the doctors won’t be forced to be open to researching new issues they haven’t seen before. Good on you for challenging her, calling her out on her crappy excuse “too complicated”. Good grief!

    One size fits all is not a way of medicine, diet, nutrition, etc etc. and it frustrates me so much when doctors think they already have the answer you need without research, just because they have the qualifications, it’s lazy medicine in my book………….good on you for sticking with it and not settling for a life that was not serving you well.

  25. What an amazing story. I have a friend with thyroid symptoms. I’ll pass on the info about your book to her.

    I suspect that I flirt with thyroid problems, also. Although I’m post menopausal, sometimes I’m so puffy. It seems to happen more after starch intake. I’m doing some experimenting with that hypothesis. All I know is that eating a Paleo/Primal diet has made a tremendous difference in my energy level. I spent many years as a single mom of three, barely able to hold down a part time job as I was so tired all of the time. My diet consisted of way too many carbs – especially gluten. And people can be so mean and critical.

    I know it’s been a difficult journey for you. I’m traveling one of my own with periodic stomach trouble. I’m so glad that you’ve found the relief and energy that come from vibrant physical health. These stories help so many others in similar circumstances. Thank you for sharing!

    1. OMG! I’m the same as you! Even functional docs can’t figure me out…but blowing up after eating starches is one of my recurring problems! Would love to hear more from you!

  26. Thank you for sharing this story! I am wondering if on a primal diet, you do intermittent fasting or eat more often. I have read, and the link below is one place, that it can backfire for people with thyroid issues, and that they are better with eating more often. Have you experimented with both? What have you noticed?

  27. Have you read Dr. David Brownstein’s book “Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Cant Live Without It”? You can’t have a healthy thyroid without enough iodine and Americans don’t get enough unless they’re taking a supplement. Americans are HUGELY deficient. It has made a big difference in how I feel.

  28. Thank you for writing this book, it is SO important.
    I have several friends and acquaintances that have tryroid problems, and in general the medical community, including the endocrinologist, don’t the thryroid problems seriously and is highly conservative in treatment.
    My friends have been diagnosed with depression, PCO, stress, or simply being hysterical, eating to much and being “female”.
    I think that there is a big component of underdiagnosing women with thyroid problems, simply because of a medical community, that is still thinking of female bodily problems as less important.
    And since thyroid problems produce symptoms thought of as how women are, it is not taken seriously.

    The second thing is that the doctors seem to be poorly educated about how to treat thyroid problems. It is simply not an area where new knowledge is taken into account and the doctors seem to think that thyroid problems are insignificant.

  29. I’d love to have a look at your book. But where is the ebook version?

  30. Very interesting story. However most thyroid problems are caused by the adrenal glands being over stressed. Many years ago I developed a goiter and went to a medical doctor. He told me I had to have the goiter removed. Fortunately they only removed 1/2 my thyroid and I did not require medicine.
    After about 5 years I started to develop another one. I did not want to have the other part removed and be on meds for the rest of my life. I went to see a Naturopath Doctor. 15 years later and I still have my thyroid. The ND. explained that if the adrenal gland is not working well, then the thyroid is well. Most people do not need meds for the thyroid. I live the Paleo lifestyle so I will not have to take and meds. 68 years old and no meds. My wish is to try and educate people on a drug free lifestyle. Paleo on my friends.
    Paleo Princess

  31. I guess I meant medicine free lifestyle. But you all get the drift.

    Paleo Princess

  32. This ‘story’ is outrageous. NO ONE should self treat with thyroid hormones. And I’d like to know how this individual obtained T3, which is Rx only.

    The various ‘myths’ in this narrative are misleading.

    Yes, thyroid treatment is difficult to obtain (I was misdiagnosed for 5 years myself), but it’s worth seeking adequate medical help.

    The entire ‘reverse T3’ issue is an internet fabrication without any medical basis.

    1. Thank you for this comment! I was horrified by her story and by the subsequent comments. Thyroid dysfunction is the easy scapegoat. Treatment with inappropriate doses of thyroid hormone can cause atrial fibrillation and osteoporosis. Treating adrenal fatigue with supplemental steroids is also asking for big problems. I wholly support the primal lifestyle and looking for appropriate supplements, but it is a big mistake to use a superficial understanding of the endocrine system to self prescribe medication. The internet is a wonderful resource, but caveat emptor always applies.

    2. I agree it is dangerous to self treat, but the reverse T3 issue is quite real. Personal experience….28 years worth.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have been playing the hypothyroidism game for 5 years now (well, according to blood work, but really much longer than that).

    It’s a continual struggle to get my doctor to understand that the numbers on the Your story sounds like a variation of mine over the past 20 years. Your story has motivated me to keep going and find someone who will listen to me.

  34. Wow, you look so much better. Not just slimmer, but healthier and happier. I hope you keep enjoying good health.

  35. I am in tears right now, I was diagnosed hypo 8 years ago, and both my sons were born with it (congenital)(my oldest is 1 in a million and “grew out of it”). My dad, brother, grandmother are all hypo, though I am told it is not hereditary. I am terribly concerned for my youngest, Synthroid is not good.Syn being the operative prefix here…synthetic. He is only 13, so I feel I can’t experiment on him, but I will try this on myself. I have not been on levothyroxine in 2 years, no insurance, and can’t afford doctor and lab fees. I never liked the idea of being on that stuff. I will try to treat myself, and getting insurance this year, and will tell my doctor what’s up. He’s pretty cool, and so hopefully will get on board.

    1. Hi, Sherry – I have a recommendation for you and your family – can I contact you on email?

  36. Thank you very much for your story. My life follows a similar narrative. Thyroid problems after taking birth control (too much estrogen I found out later is an antagonist to thyroid hormone). Got on NDT and it worked swimmingly for a couple years. Then quick onset weight gain of 30+ lbs. My body feels extremely foreign. My naturopath suggested adrenal issues, and prescribed supplements. It helped, but the weight has not budged, nor has the fatigue, nor the constant water retention and bloating. I’m not someone that eats that much or has much of an appetite at all. Similar experience in visiting Endocrinologists who have literally laughed at me during my office visit. Last one earlier this year said I’m fat because I don’t exercise and eat too many treats–she didn’t want to hear that I have a healthy lifestyle. I feel like doctors just don’t care and have made up their mind before I even see them.

    Looking forward to reading your book and getting some helpful hints. Ready to go fully primal, I guess I can’t be worse than my life is right now.

  37. Wow, Elle, that’s quite a journey! Can’t help wondering if just a Paleo eating plan all by itself wouldn’t have saved you all that misery with the thyroid issues. I’m sure it doesn’t work that way for everyone, still it is an interesting question to ponder.

    1. I was paleo for a couple of years–feeling fabulous, as slim as I was in my 20s (I’m60), and with unbelievable energy. Then, for some reason, I “crashed and burned”. Finally got a diagnosis: Hashimoto’s, goiter, multiple nodules and hypothyroidism. But proper treatment? Not so much. The endocrinologist literally rolls her eyes at my symptoms. The worst is the profound exhaustion and brain fog.

  38. I felt as if I was reading my own thyroid health nightmare! After maintaining my weight for 5 years, I started gaining a pound a week for three months despite eating Paleo and exercising daily. My NMD finally put me on the HCG diet because there was no other route to take. I have lost the weight but I’m fearful it will come back! I need to check my reverse T3. Thank you for sharing and writing this book!

  39. Thanks for your story, Elle! A huge portion of our society suffers from thyroid disfunction, without knowing it. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and have learned that many of my problems throughout life have been connected to this (including hormone problems, leading to a hysterectomy in 2004). I am a huge advocate of ‘knowing thyself’ and follow a number of groups, including Stop The Thyroid Madness.Like you, I have found immense relief from Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT), but it has not solved all my issues. I went gluten free about 5 months ago and found a modest difference. I went grain free three weeks ago and am amazed at the difference! I have just started reading The Primal Blueprint – and it all makes complete sense to me. I am looking forward to increasing my good health and life balance.

  40. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story with us! I feel like I’m reading my life story. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos several years ago & I am currently struggling with severe anemia ( ferritin 4) & horrible fatigue. I also just found out that my polyps have returned. Your story has given me so much hope!!

  41. So sorry to hear what you have been through, Elle, but thank you for sharing your story. It’s amazing and will be so useful for others who are having to educate themselves. P.S. I love your style as a podcast interviewer!

  42. Why are women in America experiencing a crisis related to the thyroid? What has changed about our food supplies or is it something else that is leading to even women that eat healthy developing hypothyroid? That’s the real question here.

    1. I wonder if it has to do with fluoride in so many water supplies. Fluoride, I’m told, competes with iodine. It’s great for teeth, but not so great for the rest of the body.

  43. Your perseverence and strength is applauded.
    Question: did you ever dapple in iodine/selenium levels and their impact? For example, flouride, chlorine and mercury can impact your iodine/selenium levels and cause hypothyroidism inadvertently. This taught me about the importance of balanced iodine/selenium levels in hypothyroidism and its metabolic impact:

  44. Wow. This story is so timely, it gave me chills to read it. I think I may have some thyroid issues; I’m actually getting a blood test tomorrow. It’s great to be able to be an advocate for myself with this story and ask for specific testing. Aaannnd… My name is Elle too. When I read that, I was like, “Oh Universe, you’d been trying to get my attention about this issue- you’ve got it now.”
    I am already on a full blow autoimmune paleo diet (it can’t hurt right)? And I do feel a little better. I don’t have the weight gain… Yet. But heart palpitations are nearly constant.
    Anyway, yes, very timely.
    And you my dear, you look wonderful. So thrilled to see that some people can find health. Yes, there are some naysayers in the comments, but we have free will right? And if you have nothing to lose, well, why not be a pioneer for your own Self? Capitalized! You have show. It can be done. Sometimes life is risky like that.

  45. Hi Elle,

    Thank you! This is me and after hitting rock bottom I’m so glad I got to read your story and have someone to relate to. I’m on the way back now but too realise intense exercise is not good for me after crossfitting for 6 years and coaching it has pushed my body to absolute exhaustion. I do yoga and swim now I have learnt that I do not need to punish my body anymore i now nurture me and look after me, it’s time 😊

  46. Would be interested to see what your labs look(ed) like after switching to T3 only!

  47. I’m pleased that Elle is feeling so well but I’m concerned with the conclusion that the rT3 is the only issue that needed to be treated. I’ve been on a very similar journey, for more years (I’m almost a decade older), with much more severe anemia and worse thyroid imbalances, and am finally stumbling through a really tough recovery. I too went to the doctor originally convinced that if she’d just treat my thyroid issues all would be well. Thankfully, because the anemia was so severe, no doctor would treat the thyroid (I had a FNP, an OB/GYN and a hematologist all three state that they needed to treat the hypothyroidism, only to back off completely when they looked at the numbers associated with the anemia – apparently it’s dangerous to rev up the thyroid in the presence of severe anemia). During the time I was going through multiple series of iron infusions I was researching like a fiend and kept coming across the statistic that women who are on thyroid hormone (natural or synthetic) have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. It seems that even though symptoms are relieved, the underlying deficiencies and imbalances and the adrenal exhaustion (as somebody else mentioned) that are inevitably concurrent with hypothyroidism are left untreated and now the metabolism is higher, leaving the glands and organs which were starving for something they’re missing, now starving even more. I made progress taking Lugol’s iodine, and magnesium and vitamin C in large doses, along with a good multi-mineral and a cabinet full of other supplements (all the while following a clean Primal diet with lots of ferments) but didn’t really start seeing true improvement until I was put on high doses of progesterone in an effort to decrease high estrogen. When I realized how much improvement I made, and how fast I felt it, compared to every other treatment I’d undergone (including raising iron levels) I realized that we’d stumbled onto something important. I read everything I could find and found a functional medicine doctor who specializes in hormones and now finally feel as if I’m getting somewhere. (When I feel that I am a healthy, functioning, realistic-weight success, I’ll also write up my full story.) The books I now recommend to others and keep next to my chair are those by John R. Lee, M.D. He explained the science in layman’s terms in a thorough way with no sales pitch. Particularly “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause” and “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause” and “Male Hormone Balance.” He’s the doctor who coined the phrase “estrogen dominance” and he made the case convincingly that our environment today throws far more estrogenic elements at us than our bodies evolved to be able to handle and that estrogen excess is at the heart of many of our modern illnesses. Excessive or unopposed (by adequate progesterone) estrogen actually prevents thyroid hormone from entering cells, so even if the thyroid is doing its job you may have miserable hypothyroid symptoms, all the while with plenty of freely circulating thyroid hormone. This is just one issue that unbalanced sex hormones can cause. Excess estrogen drives fibrin formation, causing uterine fibroids and fibrocystic breasts, is behind prostate growth, drives cancer, inhibits myelin formation and is now linked to Alzheimer’s development. I can’t properly convey how important I consider this and beg you to look into it. I thought that I could tough out the symptoms I was having while I tried to cure myself by eating/living Primal and really believed that that was all that was necessary, until I was debilitated. Taking bio-identical hormones to achieve physiologic levels has given me hope that I might actually get my life back fully. I hope others can learn from my mistakes and shortcut the road back to health!

  48. The ratio of RT3 to free T3–is it supposed to be in percent? You moved the decimal two places. Thanks.

  49. Anyone out there using T3 right now? I’ve had psuedoarthritis and cured it with T3 but looking for others using T3 for discussion about slowing heart rate and dosing.

    1. Just bought your book…just now. I had a neighbor tell me that syntheric medication was better because it is more consistent than homeopathic. I don’t believe that and looking forward a solution.!

  50. I just wanted to add that my experiences with T4 versus NDT versus T3-only meds were similar. I have had su clinical hypothyroidism since childhood. It didn’t become full-blown hypo until mid-life. My doctor ( primary care physician) prescribed Synthroid (pure T4) but it gave me horrible splitting headaches, so I quit. A couple years later, I tried NDT. It also made me ill, caused peripheral neuropathy, and made my reverseT3 levels dangerously high.
    Finally, I tried pure T3-only meds for my hypothyroidism. It made most of the symptoms go away. (Symptoms like obesity, slow metabolism, myxedema.)
    Fast forward to 2013. I had my genes tested with 23andme. I found out that I have inherited genes for chronically low T4 production AND genes that cause a reduced ability to convert T4 to T3. Doctors need to learn that some people just a genetically poor ability to make T4 and the same genetic low ability to make T4 to T3 conversion. For me, using just T3-only meds worked.

  51. Thanks for sharing.

    I know this was written years ago but I would like to know did you go back to your doctor with all the information, including diet with calorie count, And strip off again to show her your ‘normal again’ body?

  52. Dear Elle,
    THANKS for sharing your story. Because of radiation and chemo I am just staring on this journey of hypothyroidism. I have purchased your book and hope it offers help without having to be on synthetic medications. I have been eating very healthy for the past 4 years and this past year without sugar and no white foods. This was at the urging of my 44 year old son who eats the Paleo way. And to think I thought I was doing it right and I continue to have issues. My son has helped me by gently encouraging me to eat better/healthier. I can’t wait to read your book.