Success Story: Overcoming Thyroid Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Thyroid disease as well as IBS, Crohn’s disease and colitis are epidemics affecting people at a younger age than ever before. However, there is no need to suffer for a lifetime. We’ve witnessed our clients achieve great success over the years, and we are proud to have played a small part in their journey. This is the inspiring story of a young woman’s recovery from chronic disease.


In the spring of 2016 I received a call from a seemingly energetic young woman. She introduced herself as Davida and proceeded to tell me about some vegan nutritional supplements that she was distributing. She was very pleasant, but I had no interest in her products. We hung up the phone agreeing to keep in touch. A few months later she called regarding a new item she had in stock. Again, I had to say “Davida, I like you and your enthusiasm, your products just don’t fit with what we offer here”. I felt bad, I wanted to help in some way and at least encourage this young entrepreneur. I decided to explain to her what we do at our facility, how we help people, the results we’ve witnessed, and why the quality of the products and services we provide matter so much. That’s when Davida began to open up about her own personal health struggles.

In Davida’s words ...

For as long as I can remember, something just didn’t feel quite right in my body. Stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation were a daily problem for me. When I was younger, people around me used to say that I was a complainer, exaggerating.  I wondered if I would ever be able to eat without pain and symptoms. 

As I got older, my digestion got worse. I felt helpless because I didn’t know too much about nutrition. I had very heavy periods, so I was put on birth control at the age of 15. I started experiencing chronic pain and tight muscles at 16. My parents took me to see homeopaths, acupuncturists. As a teen I slept A LOT - and I was always cold, no matter the temperature. At 18 I started putting on some weight, and my parents took me to the doctor. Because of my family history, she checked my thyroid, and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and prescribed Synthroid. I don’t know if the symptoms were so severe at that point that I truly even noticed a difference after taking the drugs. But I trusted my doctor at this point, and I didn’t know what else could be done.  

Even still, things were deteriorating to the point that i didn’t know what to do. I started experiencing horrible heartburn.  I had begun to see a gastroenterologist, and he suggested that I try a gluten free diet, as well as regular meds for the heartburn. At first, it seemed to help, but it soon became clear that there were other foods that were irritating my digestion as well. I would have to ensure I went to the bathroom 3 times before leaving the house in the morning, or risk having an accident while stuck in the car in traffic. I would have weeks of diarrhea, followed by weeks of constipation. 

So I tried harder - went to the doctor and had my stool sample analyzed. The doctor said the test results showed inflammation, but not enough to diagnose me with anything. I started taking probiotics and fish oil. I saw 2 separate dieticians. Tried eating healthy. Tried a low-carb diet. Tried a sugar free diet. 

And I was still tired all the time. I would flip flop every six months. My energy would pick up a bit, and then slow down, making it hard to get out of bed in the morning. The doctor kept diligently checking my thyroid, and sure enough, my TSH was low, so she prescribed me a higher dose of meds. Despite me probing her about what I could do to make things better, she continued to insist that diet and lifestyle had nothing to do with thyroid function- that it was genetic condition.

I started making the switch to a vegan lifestyle. I didn’t do this for health - I did so because I started becoming aware of how animals are treated in factory farms, and I felt morally opposed to consuming them. Regardless of how excited I was to live a more compassionate lifestyle, after four months of going vegan I felt my body was deteriorating and fast. I was so tired at this point that I was sleeping 14 hours a day. I had become so constipated that I had a horrible pain in my stomach all the time. My belly was so bloated that I looked 4 months pregnant, and I was gassy 24 hours a day. I felt so bad that I thought I was going crazy. My hair had started falling out. I was wearing thick sweaters and socks in the middle of summer and I was still freezing cold. I would go out for something as simple as the groceries and then have to take a three hour nap. I tried following clean eating protocols, eliminating white carbs, sugar, you name it! I had read all this amazing info about how the vegan diet was so healthy, but part of me was starting to wonder if I would ever feel good again. I was barely functioning, and I was frustrated, exhausted, and broken.

Furthermore, ever since going vegan for ethical reasons, Davida had to increase the dosage of her hypothyroid medication multiple times. Her new diet wasn't working out as well as expected. She was at a loss, wanting to remain vegan but also knowing that her health had to improve- and fast. She was only 28 years old with her entire future ahead of her.

 

Accepting Responsibility

Despite all of her failed attempts at health, Davida had something wonderful going for her: she hadn’t given up. She had the drive to do whatever it took to get the results she wanted. Some bad information had led her down the wrong path, but she wasn’t jaded for it. Some people are not ready to accept responsibility of their health, preferring to instead blame their genes or their doctors. Others don’t think twice about their thyroid disease, and are lulled into believing it’s just something out of their control that requires nothing more than a daily drug. Davida was not like that. It didn't take long for her to absorb how certain nutritional and lifestyle changes could dramatically improve the conditions she was struggling with. She was set on getting the right information and taking charge of her life.

You Are Not Alone

Like many others who may be feeling that their struggles are unique, it was important for Davida not to feel alone with this challenge she was going through. Thyroid disease, and specifically hypothyroidism in Davida’s case, is indeed an epidemic that is affecting our younger generation. And yes, it does go hand in hand with IBS as well as inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These are all challenges that can rob a person of their confidence and leave them feeling run down and alone. It’s gotten to the point that almost all of us either suffer or know someone who suffers from these issues.

I shared with Davida a few examples of my clients who had gone through very similar struggles before learning how to get their lives back. I told her that if she was willing to put aside what she thought she knew about nutrition and took the time to re-educate herself, we would be there for her every step of the way. To establish a wider support system, I immediately put Davida in touch with an existing client of mine who had dealt with the same problems. After all, Davida was about to embark on a type of therapy that her doctors did not believe in- to them, managing these health issues was just about taking the right dosage of medication. Davida was about to discover that proper nutrition is more powerful than any drug prescribed for chronic disease.

 

How Davida Got Her Life Back

A proper plant based diet is the most important therapy for recovering from inflammatory bowel disease and improving thyroid health. The steps a person takes to transition to such a diet depends on various factors that are unique to the individual. Davida, who was vegan for ethical reasons, had to learn that being vegan doesn’t always mean better health. There are lots of unhealthy vegan foods on the market, as well as bad habits that are easy to fall into. Simply put, a vegan diet can be the healthiest diet on earth- but only once we learn to eat the right foods.

Davida immediately began to follow our Step 1 process, adding wheatgrass, algae, and sprouts to her daily routine. But our Step 1 isn’t just about eating healthier- it’s also about teaching our clients the reasons behind every recommendation we provide them. Davida was very eager to learn and was great at asking lots of questions on a daily basis. That’s how I knew early on that she would do so well. She understood and relished the importance of learning the truth. This, above anything else, is what empowered her to go through her amazing life transition, overcoming every challenge that presented itself even in the face of outside doubt- often raised by others who didn’t quite understand what she was up to.

In addition to coming by our facility to pick up her sprouting seeds, various foods and juices, Davida continued to keep in touch on a daily basis - not afraid to reach out when needed. Just a few months after starting her transition to healthier eating, and just as she was hitting her stride and beginning to truly enjoy her new diet, Davida’s TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) score dropped from over 6 to a normal level of 2.3 mIU/L. Furthermore, her digestive problems were coming to an end. Davida felt in control of her life for the first time in years. Here’s how she described her success:

In Davida’s words ...

Not too long ago, my life looked very different then it does now.

I remember feeling bloated 24 hours a day. No matter what I ate. No matter how “healthy" my meal was. No matter how awesome and vegan my food was!

I remember a dietician telling me to limit my intake of carbs. That was a nightmare. I felt hungry all the time.

I remember doctors saying "just try to eat a balanced healthy diet". Which I thought I was doing.

I also remember doctors saying that food didn't matter. A lot of doctors said that.

I remember a naturopath telling me I would have an easier time if I would be open to eating chicken and fish. At least I knew that was bogus advice.

And I remember feeling tired, swollen, frustrated, in pain, and FED UP.

Let's get real - it's hard to do it alone. I sure didn't. I had almost given up when I was introduced to Marc. I came to him as a happy accident, and when we connected and he told me about the work he was doing, I knew instantly that he was teaching exactly what I needed to learn. It affirmed everything I had been reading about a whole food plant based diet, that I had not been able to implement myself. I told my doctor that I wanted to try a whole foods intervention before taking more medicine. She repeated that she did not feel it would have an impact, but agreed to monitor me through the process. 

It wasn’t easy at first as my body went through a healing crisis. My fiancé and my family thought I was crazy – but I pressed on with Marc’s support and remained focused. I started re-learning everything I had ever known about nutrition. It was a gruelling. My body went through a very tough withdrawal process, and then about a month into working with Marc I started to experience some life changing transformations.

For the first time in my life, I was eating food that was being digested with ease. I noticed a marked difference in my energy levels after eating - my food was giving me energy and life force. Going to the bathroom became WONDERFUL. This might be too much information, but when going to the bathroom has been painful and uncomfortable your whole life, it is a pleasure to wake up in the morning, go for a satisfying poop, and not worry about it for the rest of the day. My once constantly-bloated tummy finally felt, well, GOOD!  Five months into my transformation I had my blood panels redone. My TSH had dropped dramatically. It was now in normal range. I was thrilled, and my doctor was shocked.

After a lifetime of suffering - the transition to better health and digestion didn't take long. Thank goodness that what takes YEARS to do, doesn't take years to undo once you get educated with the right information.

 

Today Davida continues on her path to recovery and, inspired more than ever, she is committed to paying it forward by helping share her success with others, as well as furthering her education to pursue a career in nutrition.

In fact, Davida encouraged her mother who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis to come see us. And, just like her daughter, it didn't take long for her symptoms to dissipate - proving once again that proper nutrition, regardless of our genetics or family history, is the key to reversing disease and unlocking our health potential. Today I learned that Davida’s father and sister may also be joining the bandwagon- it’s a beautiful thing when a family chooses to create their own health-care system, supporting each other every step of the way.

 

Marc Jaoude
Naturopath, Health Educator
Nutrition & Exercise Specialist

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1 Response

  1. What a great story! It inspires me to continue the plant based vegan diet that I started 3 weeks ago. Since starting this diet/lifestyle I feel much better:
    Easier bowel movements
    Not feeling bloated
    Less gas
    Not feeling as hungry as before between meals
    I lost 5 pounds in the last 3 weeks
    No need to count calories/points as in a weight watchers diet plan
    I will definitely continue on.

    Abe Syne
    (Davida Syne’s father)

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