Written by Tristin Halie Fleetwood
IT ALL STARTED…
When I was 14 I began to have severe migraines and chronic stomach issues. What I didn’t know was I would spend the next 10 years of my life seeking out over 20 medical professionals, receive 13 different diagnoses and over 30 pharmaceutical prescriptions.
In 2016 I was tested for the 4th time to see if I had the thyroid autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It seemed to be the only answer my naturopath could come up with to explain my thyroid tribulations. I dreaded those test results. I thought my life was for sure going to be over if that diagnosis came back positive.
I walked into my follow up appointment and laying on the desk in bold print with my name on the top of the document was the word I’d feared for so many years. Just sitting there, mocking me was the word HASHIMOTO’S. To say that I was angry would be a severe understatement. I felt betrayed by every other health care professional I’d ever seen. Why had it taken this long to find this seemingly simple answer?
I argued with that piece of paper. I argued with the blood results. I argued with my body asking it countless questions about why it hadn’t given me the signs sooner (even though it had). Mid sob session, I looked up at my doctor and said I want to fight this. I’ve heard of ways to rid the antibodies from the body and I’m going to do exactly that. I refused to be defined by that diagnosis. I was going to have children someday. I’d battled my thyroid symptoms for so many years already and in that moment I decided the only way to move forward from this was to take matters into my own hands.
Have you heard of LDN?
LDN, short for Low-dose Naltrexone, is a wondrous medication that helps treat many autoimmune conditions. It can reduce the thyroid antibodies of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yes. It happened to me.
Naltrexone originally developed in the early 1960s is used in much higher doses to address the symptoms and withdrawals in chronic drug users. It helps block the effects of opioids and reduces drug cravings.
Low-dose Naltrexone & The Immune System
Dr. Bernard Bihari is credited with the discovery of the benefits of Low-dose Naltrexone for normalizing immune system function in his groundbreaking clinical trial of LDN on patients with HIV/AIDS at Downstate Medical Center in 1985-86.
It is termed Low-dose Naltrexone because the amount of naltrexone used is in micro doses compared to the amount given for drug addiction. Studies have now found that Low-dose Naltrexone can be used to effectively treat autoimmune diseases including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, and fibromyalgia.[2-7]
There were very few known risks to taking this prescription, so I found an LDN physician and dove right in.
A local compounding pharmacy created a batch of capsules for me to start my first month’s journey on this medication. The pharmacist provided me with as much education as she could and expressed to me how excited she was for me to try this process. She informed me that I would be experiencing some vivid dreams for the next several weeks, but otherwise that was the only side-effect anyone had reported back to her. She then asked me to keep a journal of my thyroid symptoms and how they were progressing as I went through my treatment. This particular pharmacist had been following the medical journals on Low-dose Naltrexone for many months and was very intrigued to work with someone directly on this matter.
The pharmacist was 100% correct on the vivid and sometimes peculiar dreams. I experienced those for almost 3 weeks, but continued to achieve restful and deep sleep each evening, despite the extreme curiosity for my subconscious’s dream selection. I continued taking the recommended doses for 1 month, then dropped down to the lower dose recommended by my physician. I took the prescription for just shy of 6 months before seeking out another blood test to find out if my levels had shifted.
The results of my next blood test completely blew my mind. In less than 6 months, my thyroid antibodies had become clinically insignificant. For those of you who don’t know what that means…it means they were GONE! That’s right, you read that correctly.
The antibodies that were once attacking my thyroid were no longer significant enough to show up in a blood test. Did that mean I was completely rid of my Hashimotos? Unfortunately, no. Now that my body had developed the antibodies, it was something that could always stir back up later down the line. However, in this moment I was western medicine’s version of Hashimoto’s FREE. The number of emotions that overcame me were so vast I couldn’t hardly stand. I felt liberated, powerful, relieved, and so amazed at how my body was actually healing. I had lost faith in the power of my body so long ago as I battled one illness after the next.
THERE IS MORE…Hashimoto’s & Infections
Now that I had my Hashimoto’s temporarily under control, my next task was to discover the underlying causes of my digestion issues. In July 2017 I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where they found that I had an active staph-infection which had likely been plaguing my body for over 10 years. The infection had caused issues with my thyroid, digestion, adrenal glands, sleep patterns, white blood cell count, and more. Once they isolated the infection and began treatment, I was quickly able to function like a normal (I’ve never been all that normal, it makes life a little more fun) 24 year old.
Digestion Issues? It could be your Pelvic Floor!
Another piece to my Mayo Clinic journey was nothing short of shocking to me was my diagnosis of Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia. This condition doesn’t allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax properly, particularly during a bowel movement. Here is a quote from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
The pelvic floor is composed of a group of muscles that span the underlying surface of the bony pelvis, which function to allow voluntary urination and defecation. “Paradoxical contraction” refers to an abnormal increase of pelvic floor muscle activity with defecation, rather than the normal decrease in muscle activity that is necessary in order to have a normal bowel movement. This condition can contribute to some forms of constipation, complaints of incomplete evacuation, and straining with stool. Because pelvic floor muscles are controlled voluntarily, their function can be improved through various learning procedures – such as biofeedback.
With a few semi-invasive yet simple tests, the gastroenterologists were able to diagnose this disorder in less than a day. After having a half a dozen other doctors diagnose me with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) time and time again, this new discovery made so much more sense. While in Rochester, I took part in 2 brief sessions of bio-feedback training, which is essentially Physical Therapy of the pelvic floor monitored with electronic devices. After these sessions, I was able to understand so much more about how my body was processing food and trying to dispose of the waste material, simply by learning which muscles were functioning improperly. Upon returning back to my home in Bozeman, MT, I was participating in pelvic floor physical therapy on an at home basis 3-5 times a day. My digestion and bowel movements drastically improved and are still improving to this day. Where I used to have ZERO relief with my constipation and diarrhea, I now have an understanding of my body and am able to work with it instead of against it.
Even after all this healing, I still experience migraines, but on a much less frequent basis. I manage my compromised immune system and thyroid through a combination of Chinese Medicine and lifestyle care including coaching, counseling, proper diet, acupuncture, massage, exercise, meditation, chiropractic and LOTS of self-care.
Certified Health Coach
Tristin Halie Fleetwood