Matt Farina’s Recovery from Hypothyroidism

Matt Farina is in the process of using the Perfect Health Diet to recover from hypothyroidism, and wanted to report his progress to PHD readers. Here’s Matt! – Paul Jaminet

My hypothyroidism was discovered in 2012. I was age 30 at the time and had just moved to a new part of the UK and enlisted with a new doctors surgery. The condition was discovered by accident when a nurse at the new surgery noticed I had an irregular heart beat. I was sent for blood tests in April 2012 where it was discovered that I had an underactive thyroid. My serum TSH was 11.3. We retested a week later and it was similar, 11.7. Free T4 was 11.1 and 11.6 pmol/l, on the low side.

The doctor asked if I had any of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism; I said I was tired in the day and had brain fog in the morning. I regularly go to the gym and run 10k and half marathon races, so the tiredness was noticeable. My mood was sometimes a little unstable too.

The doctor prescribed 50 mcg levothyroxine, and I began taking it daily. In July 2012, we remeasured. With the levothyroxine, my TSH had fallen to 3.0 and my free T4 had risen to 17.6 pmol/L – right in the middle of the normal range. Nevertheless, my hypothyroidism symptoms, such as brain fog and tiredness, persisted.

In early 2013, I relocated to a new part of the country and found a new doctor. They remeasured and my TSH was now 2.71. In July 2013, it was 2.6. I was still taking 50 mcg levothyroxine daily.

In early 2014, I moved again, and found a new doctor. My TSH had risen a little, to 3.3.

I decided to start researching causes and cures of hypothyroidism, and started to listen to podcasts from Ben Greenfield and Robb Wolf. Through them, I noticed that some people were successfully curing hypothyroidism through the Paleo diet. This really piqued my interest and I wanted to know more.

In May 2014, I sent Ben Greenfield an email saying I was considering starting a Paleo diet to overcome my hypothyroidism and I really wasn’t expecting a reply considering how busy he must be. He kindly responded very quickly saying, “I would say Paleo may be a bit dangerous, ideally I encourage you to follow a diet closer to this one.” He linked to the Perfect Health Diet.

A new set of blood tests were taken a few days after Ben’s email which showed a significant decrease in serum free T4 and an increase in TSH levels; free T4 was down to 12.1 and TSH was up to 6.42.

The doctor wanted to double my daily dose of levothyroxine to 100 mcg per day. I asked him why he thought I had hypothyroidism, and whether he would recommend that I change my diet to help overcome it. His responses shocked me. He said my hypothyroidism “could be genetic” and “unfortunately it’s just who you are.” He also said that he wouldn’t recommend any dietary changes because I didn’t show symptoms of food intolerance.

I decided that I would stick with the 50 mcg dose of levothyroxine, and see if diet could help me. I started the Perfect Health Diet the next day – June 2, 2014.

The first 3 months on the Perfect Health Diet yielded weight loss and other health benefits. I was never over weight but I dropped a jean size, started noticing stomach muscles and people were commenting on me losing weight in my face. As I intermittently fasted in the mornings, my clarity of thinking improved at work in the mornings with reduced brain fog. Other benefits included easier breathing through my nose, reduced tiredness in the day, and no more heart palpitations. The first few weeks were a little tough as my body was becoming fat adapted but that soon passed. The diet left me feeling satiated the vast majority of the time and the food I was having were truly delicious combinations. I used the Perfect Health Diet audiobook to scrub up on knowledge while I was at the gym.

After 3 months on the Perfect Health Diet, in late August 2014, I had a set of blood tests. My serum free T4 was back to normal at 18.0 and my TSH had dropped to 5.25. Nevertheless, my doctor still wanted to double my levothyroxine dose to 100 mcg. I politely declined as I knew the diet was working and that there would be even better results to come.

After 6 months on the Perfect Health Diet, in November 2014, free T4 was up again to 19.2 pmol/L and TSH had dropped again to 3.78. At this point the doctor had no comment except to say that I should stay at 50 mcg of levothyroxine daily.

At my next test, in March 2015, free T4 was up again to 19.9 pmol/L and TSH had dropped to 2.08. I continued to take 50 mcg levothyroxine daily, though in retrospect this would have been a good time to begin dropping the dose.

At my 12 month anniversary of adopting the Perfect Health Diet, in June 2015, I was tested again. This time free T4 was 27.6 pmol/L – well above normal – and TSH was only 0.12. I was now overdosing on thyroid hormone.

The doctor suggested cutting my levothyroxine dose in half, to 25 mcg per day, but I’ve decided to drop levothyroxine entirely and see if I show hypothyroidism symptoms. If I do I’ll try small doses of levothyroxine to see what works for me. I’m eagerly looking forward to my next blood test in three months to see if I am back to normal.

I fully intend to continue the Perfect Health Diet indefinitely, and I hope my story helps other people overcome their hypothyroidism.

Back in May 2014, when I first learned about PHD and the hope that it gave for natural thyroid healing, and heard my doctor say that hypothyroidism was genetic and incurable and that I would be living with it for the rest of my life, I left the doctors office feeling sad. If diet could heal hypothyroidism, then many people were being misled by their GPs.

Now I feel hope. I know hypothyroidism can be healed. Thanks for you hard work Paul, it’s really appreciated.

Leave a comment ?

32 Comments.

  1. Hi Matt
    Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story.
    I’m in UK too so know how UK GPs view under active thyroids. Please keep us updated with yr progress and well done.

    Best wishes .. Sharon

  2. Congratulations, Matt. Parallels my situation closely. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, but on PHD began “overdosing” on my 150 mcg Synthroid. I stopped entirely when my dose got down to 50 mcg, but TSH (and symptoms) escalated, so I have stayed on 50 mcg. Carbs, I think, really are key, something the paleo diet proper doesn’t achieve. My doctor told me I no longer have Hashimoto’s. Curing an autoimmune condition with food? Maybe so.

  3. Forgot to say that the doctor based his statement about no longer having Hashimoto’s on the decline and eventual total absence of thyroid antibodies in blood tests. It was kind of exciting watching those antibodies go away!

  4. Hi Matt,

    Congratulations on your success!

    Are you able to guess which change in your life was the most helpful?

    Maybe you were already quite PHD compliant sleep-wise, but not diet-wise, or maybe you know that upping the carbs too much causes you trouble, or maybe one supplement made a noticeable difference when you started it, etc. Do you have a sense of what exactly made the biggest difference?

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Hi Matt,

    what was your iodine and selenium supplementation like (if any) throughout this period.

    Thanks

  6. I didn’t have quite the same success on paleo. I discovered Hashimotos 5 years ago. A the time I had borderline high TSH, and normal T4, T3 and no symptoms. Despite being on a paleo diet, my TSH continued to increase, and my antibodies stayed high – although they dropped by about 50%. I now take levothyroxine, and have no symptoms and remain very well. I’m currently trialling a red meat free diet to see if that makes a difference to anti-bodies.

  7. Hi Matt,

    Would you be so kind as to elaborate on your version of the Perfect Health Diet? Specifically, did you follow the Jaminets’ supplementation suggestions to the letter? Even more specifically, did you supplement iodine and selenium or did you try to get these minerals from food? Also, how did you approach carbohydrate consumption – did you make sure to get 5-600kcal from carbohydrates as per the book (meaning a net carb intake of 125-150g), or did you go with the simplified suggestion that many seem to follow, i.e. 1lb of safe starch sources and 1lb of sugary veg/fruit?

    • Hi Zoltan,

      I did my very best to stick to the fat / protein / carbohydrate percentages as laid out in Paul’s book. The tool I used to do this was the ‘My Fitness Pal’ app on my phone. It can quickly read barcodes making it very useful for tracking throughout the day.

      Iodine and Selenium were taken as supplements to ensure I have a consistent daily supply, however I am now adjusting my intake in accordance with Paul’s recommendations on his supplement page.

      Carbohydrate consumption was typically 100g per day of safe starches +/-20% depending on exercise. On occasion I would ramp up my carbs for a day to as much as 300g although this was very infrequent.

      I hope this answers your questions. If you have any more, please feel free to ask.

      Thanks,
      Matt

  8. Hi all, thank you for your positive comments.

    I will give Paul yearly updates with the intention of him being able to use the data as a long term case study.

    With regards to some of the questions and comments above;

    @Sharon – thank you for your kind words.

    @Becky – thank you for your kind words and it’s great to hear your progress too.

    @Valerie – I believe the diet healed my gut which in turn had very positive effects with autoimmunity. Carbs were typically 100 grams per day +/- 20% depending on daily exercise. I paid more attention to sleep and tried to be exposed to blue light a lot less in the evening. Throughout my time on the PHD, I used the suggested supplements paying close attention to iodine and selenium.

    @Darrin – Iodine supplements are 6.25mg Iodoral and 200mcg Selenium daily.

    @Julianne – It’s great to hear your success. I’ve not really experimented with increasing or decreasing red meat but would be interested to hear your results.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    • Hi Matt,

      Just a note — we’ve shifted our iodine recommendations and recommend reducing to 225 mcg per day iodine and supplementing selenium at most once per week in the US, 2-3 x per week in Europe.

      • Hi Paul,

        What is the recommended dose for the weekly selenium suplementation? Are these recommendations for iodine and selenium for healthy people, or just those who have hypothyroidism? Thank you very much for all your work and for sharing your knowldege with us.

        • Hi Cristina,

          As you can see here (http://perfecthealthdiet.com/recommended-supplements/), we don’t generally recommend supplementing selenium because PHD is a selenium-rich diet (egg yolks, seafood are high in selenium). If you do supplement, keep it to 200 mcg/week. For healthy and sick people we do recommend iodine, 225 mcg/week.

          • Thank you very much Paul for your reply, much appreciated. We eat plenty of seafood and eggs on a weekly basis, it’s good to know they provide enough selenium. I think you meant to say 225mcg/day for the iodine, not per week. I am currently taking 325mcg/day, but will reduce when buying a new supply of supplements. Thanks again.

  9. when is hypothyroidism caused by iodine and selenium deficiencies, and when is it caused by chronic undereating? How do MD’s distinguish between the two?

  10. Hi Matt,

    Your story is very encouraging.

    Have you considered finding another doctor who better understands what you have been doing?

    • Hi RS,

      Unfortunately it can be tricky to change doctor in the UK due to having to be in a catchment area per doctor’s surgery where I live.

      Other alternatives for me could be to go private or find an alternative private specialist.

      Thanks,
      Matt

  11. Matt, what was your diet like BEFORE you went on the PHD? Carb intake is normally hormetic in regards to TSH levels.

    • Hi,

      I suppose prior to PHD my diet used to be similar to how the Standard American Diet is described. Much higher percentage carbs, lower percentage fat and moderate protein. The amount of vegetables in my diet was also a bit lower. I never checked labels on food and would occasionally eat microwave ready meals without a second thought. Gluten, milk, sugar, vegetable oils etc. would have also been eaten.

      Daily supplements would have come in the form of a multivitamin.

      Thanks,
      Matt

  12. Matt,
    Thanks for your post and congratulations on your success! Am I understanding correctly that your hypothyroidism was caused by Hashimoto’s?

    I do not have any thyroid antibodies (as confirmed by repeated testing), but started having poor T4-T3 conversion years ago. Unfortunately this was treated with Nature-throid (porcine thyroid containing both T4 and T3) and perhaps this is why I now have very low TSH even in the presence of almost non-existent T4 levels. I tried going off thyroid medication for a while to see if I could reboot my own production, but after a month and a half I had such strong symptoms, the scariest of which were the cognitive symptoms, that I gradually went back on medication again. I am yet to find a doctor of any ilk who would be interested in exploring this with me, so if anyone reading this thread has had a similar experience or has any thoughts on the matter, please chime in!

    • Hi Webraven,

      I cannot say for certain if my hypothyroidism is / was Hashimoto’s. Unfortunately I was never tested for coeliac disease prior to starting PHD.

      I have a very strong suspicion it was Hashimoto’s though due to a number of indicators including getting strong stomach discomfort on the few occasions I had gluten containing foods during my time on the PHD.

      I very much hope you can find methods to rectify your condition. Maybe Paul might have some suggestions for you?

      Thanks,
      Matt

    • As you’ve implied, it sounds like you just need to take synthetic T3 not natural T3 & T4. How’s your carb intake? Are you taking enough iodine and selenium?

      • Thanks for commenting, Matt and MachineGhost.

        Initially I should have taken only T3, I agree, but that ship seems to have sailed because by now my TSH production is suppressed even in the presence of T4 close to 0, and that to me signals a bigger problem of pituitary suppression/ under-functioning. You’re astute to ask about carb intake; due to SIBO I have had to keep it very low for years, and that has no doubt affected the conversion. But again, I don’t know how much it affects pituitary functioning and what to do about it beyond hoping that the SIBO treatment will finally work and I’ll be able to increase my carb intake to recommend PHD levels, which I find ideal. Iodine and Selenium are both on my supplement list. I also take some other supplements recommended by Dr Kharrazian (anyone reading this suffering from thyroid issues should absolutely rad his thyroid book) , but again, no TSH or T4 elevation.

        Thanks again for commenting!

        • I’d say you are either stuck in a major negative feedback loop (from too low carbs or excessive natural thyroid) or have a pituitary tumor. Have you tried the Elixa probiotic yet? There’s a chance it may fix the SIBO without resorting to antibiotics.

        • Also, you might want to look into pituitary glandular extract or ThyroPlex from Dr. Wright. It might jumpstart things.

          • Thanks for the tip about Elixa! I haven’t heard about it before and have spent the last hour reading up on it and ordering the product. It emailed the company about whether they think it makes it to the colon intact. If it dissolves in the SI it seems it could potentially make matters worse. Do you have any experience with it?

  13. Thanks for the suggestion,MachineGhost. I do have a pituitary extract I that I was planning to go back on. The supplement you mention does look interesting. Is supporting all glands simultaneously to your knowledge more beneficial than supporting only the one you’re most interested in?

    • Well it’s a general “feel good” supplement, but there’s usually adrenal issues behind thyroid issues. Don’t expect much; I’d wager its the low carb intake.

  14. I am so encouraged by your story, Matt. Having developed hypothyroid symptoms, I started 30 mg. Armour thyroid in June of 2010. It was later raised to 60 mg., then 90 mg.
    In 2012 (I think!), I began PHD diet. Now, I am having symptoms of possibly too much thyroid replacement. Overall body pain (which I got rid of by cutting my evening dose in half), and swelling fingers with painful hands particularly. This week (9/1) I actually forgot my evening dose of Armour (the dose that I had previously cut in half) and woke up in the morning (9/2) with much less swollen fingers on my hands. As a result, I skipped my morning dose to see what would happen. All day long my hands became more and more normal. It was like the edema was leaving through my finger tips! Along with that was most of the pain! Thinking I shouldn’t go without it too long, I did take an evening dose, but only half as I had done before. A short time later my fingers began again to swell and my hands began to hurt. Today, (9/3), I decided to skip my morning dose of Armour again. The same phenomenon is happening. It’s great to see my hands becoming normal again!

    I complained May 13 to my doctor of all kinds of symptoms that made me think I was getting too much Armour. She did labs and my TSH came back at 0.11 (range 0.27-4.2 uIU/mL) and my Free T4 came back at 1.02 (range 0.7-1.7 ng/dL). I became hypothyroid as a result of an Iodine deficiency. (Iodine, Serum/Plasma 36 L mcg/L 52-109) What I am hoping is that my thyroid has healed itself. I am thinking of just not taking any more Armour thyroid medication and seeing what happens, but am afraid my hypothyroid symptoms might come back. My symptoms were severe body pain. I AM going to talk to my doctor.

    • Hi MU,

      It’s normal to recover from hypothyroidism on PHD and you do have to steadily reduce your dose to avoid inadvertent overdosing. The TSH of 0.11 indicated you were overdosing so I’m surprised the doctor didn’t reduce your dose then.

      I would recommend switching from Armour to levothyroxine at this point. You probably don’t need T3 any more. T4 is safer and less likely to cause symptoms, though you still want to avoid overdosing.

      With all of these hormones, you need to monitor yourself and periodically test fractional doses to see if they work better than the prescribed dose. You are the best judge of optimal dose, not your doctor.

      With time you’ll find you don’t need any thyroid hormone at all, but go to T4 only as a first step.

      Best, Paul

    • Hi MU,

      I’m happy that my story has been of interest to you. I’m also happy that the PHD has improved yet another thyroid disorder.

      It’ll be interesting to see your results if you and your doctor decide to reduce your armour intake.

      Keep us posted!
      Matt

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