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Amber Howell’s Thyroid Journey

Amber Howell’s Thyroid Journey
Amber Howell’s Thyroid Journey

I’ve been exhausted, I’ve been anxious, I’ve been depressed, I’ve had weird rashes on my face and joints, I’ve gained weight for no explainable reason, I’ve been abnormally dizzy, and I’ve had brain fog so bad that I could barely complete the tasks I was working on throughout the day. This is my Thyroid Journey…

All of the above are symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition I was diagnosed with when I was 12 years old. It is a condition that runs in my family: my mom, both of my grandmothers, and my aunts are all on thyroid medication. It all began when I was 6 years old; I suffered from a heart condition called Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome, which means that I was born with extra electrical tissue around my heart. This condition caused my heart to race out of control if I exerted myself too much. One day, while I was running around and playing with my younger brother my heart, began to race out of control like it had many times before, but this time was different, my heart sped up so fast that my body couldn’t handle it and eventually, my heart stopped beating. Thankfully, my mom was there to resuscitate me and I lived to see another day. Within a few weeks, I had surgery on my heart, which permanently got rid of the extra electrical tissue. It was a huge relief to no longer have to worry about my heart, but around this time new health issues began to arise.

Amber Howell
Thankfully, my mom was there to resuscitate me and I lived to see another day.

I believe that it was my heart surgery and the traumatic events leading up to my surgery that triggered the onset of my thyroid condition. Following my heart surgery, I began to gain a lot of weight for no reason, my joints hurt, and I was getting weird rashes on my body. My pediatrician sent me to a nutritionist to help with the weight gain. She told me to eat low-fat food and to sweeten everything with Splenda. I cringe thinking back to all the things she told me to do that were supposed to be “healthy.” I followed her diet as best I could and I was still overweight and tired, and I was only 7 years old!

I lived with guilt and shame for being overweight

I lived with guilt and shame for being overweight until I was finally diagnosed when I was 12. I beat myself up for everything that I ate and tried to be as active as possible, it was useless– I was still chubby. My joints were still aching and I didn’t feel right. My doctor suggested that I see a specialist who told me that I had some of the markers in my blood for potentially developing lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. He said there was nothing we could do about it and we just had to keep monitoring it. This was when my mom and I decided to set out on our own path and get me the help I needed.

We finally found a decent doctor who was an MD, but also studied holistic approaches to healing. He gave me a blood test and diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. Finally being diagnosed was great, I felt like there was hope. I started on thyroid medication and had to fight with my doctor to get the dose changed multiple times. We finally got it right to the point where I started losing weight, gaining energy, and coming out of my shell.

Around this time we discovered that my younger brother had autism, a disease that is now linked to hypothyroidism in mothers. We explored a lot of different treatment options for him as well as for myself. We saw many different doctors and took drastic steps. We had a year where we cut out sugar, dairy, and gluten from our diets. We added in fresh organic foods from farmers markets and local ranches. I also took B-12 shots, glutathione, selenium, iodine, and other things that I can’t remember.

I saw results…

I saw results. I lost a lot of weight, I had energy, my joints didn’t hurt anymore, I didn’t have rashes anymore, and I no longer felt depressed. My antinuclear antibodies decreased significantly on my lab tests. All of this began happening when I was 13 and the results lasted until I was 19. I healed my gut to the point where I was able to eat gluten and dairy again. I continued on my medication and continued to eat a healthy whole foods diet.
Everything changed when I moved out and went to college. In college, I lived in the dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and was stressed out. After my first year of college, I gained 10 pounds, which wasn’t too bad, but I noticed no matter what I did, I couldn’t lose it. My second year of college I continued to put on weight and felt very tired. In my last semester, many stressful things happened, and I became depressed. After a few months, I stopped being depressed and subsequently became anxious. My heart would race, my body would shake, and I would sweat uncontrollably for no real reason.


Amber Howell
My heart would race, my body would shake, and I would sweat uncontrollably for no real reason.


…the anxiety continued

After I graduated, the anxiety continued, and to my surprise, so did the weight gain. I tried my best to lose weight, I exercised religiously and cut back on calories, and all I lost was 5 pounds. The anxiety was crippling, oftentimes I would turn down plans to go out and do things because I couldn’t handle it. I would instead stay home and cry because I felt so horrible. I didn’t know it at the time, but I now know that anxiety is a symptom of Hashimoto’s disease when your body attacks your thyroid gland, pieces break off and circulate in your bloodstream, creating a state of hyperthyroid, which can lead to anxiety.

After gaining 35 pounds from age 19 to 23 and feeling terrible, I finally decided that enough was enough. Luckily, I heard about Dr. Izabella Wentz’s documentary series entitled, “The Thyroid Secret.” Through it, I was reminded of treatments I did in the past that were effective, and I also learned about new treatments that I have since implemented. The first thing I did was to cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. Right away I noticed results, I lost 6 pounds within the first week and my stomach was no longer bloated and in pain. The second thing I did was look for a doctor who could provide me with better and more effective medication. I found a doctor who switched me from 100 mcg of Levothyroxine to a plant-based compound of 25 mcg of T4 and 50 mcg of T3. He also discovered that my ferritin and vitamin D levels were low so I began supplementing those. Finally, he put me on 3.5 mcg of low dose Naltrexone to help reduce my thyroid antibodies. On top of all this I also began taking selenium supplements and probiotics.

Amber Howell

The best things I did for myself were to eliminate triggering foods from my diet

My journey to healing began in March of this year. Since that time I have lost 25 pounds and practically all of my symptoms. I now have plenty of energy to get through the day, I no longer have rashes or joint pain, my anxiety is much better, and I no longer experience brain fog. I still have a ways to go but I am so pleased with the results that I have seen in the last eight months. The best things I did for myself were to eliminate triggering foods from my diet, find a good doctor who put me on better thyroid medication, focus on healing my gut with probiotics, and adding supplements to address my nutrient deficiencies.

I think the most important thing for me was to never give up hope. Having a thyroid disorder can be extremely frustrating, and it takes a lot of effort to get the help you need. There were many times when I felt frustrated and wanted to give up. What kept me motivated were the success stories of others and the community that I found online. For those that are struggling with thyroid issues don’t give up hope, things can get better.


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