Reversal of Hashimoto’s disease and regaining health with a whole food plant-based diet and lifestyle
By Piotr Stepien with support from nutritionist Alicja Wypasek
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland, at the age of 30.
At the age of 40, I was 93kg, taking 100mg of Levothyroxine daily to keep the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level within the normal range. However, after 10 years of taking the medication and despite TSH levels remaining within limits, I had gained 30kg (4.7st), increased my waist size from 32” to 38”, and seen an increase in my blood cholesterol levels. I was therefore referred to the metabolic unit. I felt that the treatment I had received up till then had only focused on controlling TSH levels, rather than addressing my needs and concerns.
I therefore decided to take action and look for a nutritionist to address the weight gain and other side effects.
‘I felt that the treatment I had received up till then had only focused on controlling TSH levels, rather than addressing my needs and concerns.’
My nutritionist was Alicja Wypasek, a member of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK. She told me: “Your current diet is exacerbating your health problems. Your cholesterol is high, and your inflammation levels are through the roof. I strongly recommend you consider transitioning towards a plant-based diet to improve your overall health. Let’s start with baby steps!”
My nutrition plan was simple to follow. It included porridge with seeds and berries for breakfast, salad with legumes for lunch and cooked warm vegetables with grains for dinner. The recipes were rich in herbs and spices and so full of flavour. I kept my snacks very simple varying from raw fruits and vegetables with hummus or nuts with seeds. Although I started to feel better, I was feeling bloated after eating pasta and bread, so Alicja suggested trying a gluten-free diet. This improved my symptoms and I have continued to favour gluten-free whole grains.
Alicja also recommended testing blood mineral levels, selenium, magnesium, chromium, and zinc, which were all below the normal range and could have been contributing to my health issues. Following appropriate supplementation, the levels returned to normal within 6 months.
‘It was easy to ditch animal products and processed food because I treated food as the fuel for my body.’
12 months after gradually switching to plant-based diet, I had lost 14kg (2.2st) with no yo-yo effects and that encouraged me to keep going. It was easy to ditch animal products and processed food because I treated food as the fuel for my body. Rather than searching for plant-based substitutes, I have focused on combining as many healthy ingredients into my meals as possible to nourish my body. I also supplement with a vegan omega-3, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
I have found a plant-based diet easy to follow, with a wide variety of easy-to-cook recipes. I added beans, lentils, and chickpeas to my diet for protein and fibre, which helped me with weight management and satiety. Whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat worked well to make gluten-free fermented bread. Seeds and nuts became my go-to snacks, providing healthy fats, protein and essential nutrients like selenium, which is beneficial for thyroid health.
I started to feel much more confident in the kitchen and even creating my own recipes! My taste buds adapted well to the new flavours and textures. One of my favourites is plant-based recipe for “cottage cheese”:
Plant-based “cottage cheese “
- 50g crushed nuts (pecan, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew, almonds)
- 50g milled seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
- 250ml (1 cup) soya yoghurt
- 1 tsp horseradish
- ½ tsp spirulina
- 1 tsp hemp protein powder
- 2–3 chopped red radishes
- 2tbsp chopped chive
- Crushed nuts and seeds are left overnight in soya yoghurt.
- Next day, add horseradish, spirulina, hemp proteins powder, chopped radishes and chive, and stir well.
- Works well with seeded crackers or bread.
My body responded very well to Alicja’s advice and following a plant-based diet has helped me to significantly reduce my weight and cholesterol levels while improving my thyroid health and increasing my energy levels to the point I started to look for new physical activities. So, I turned to running, as I found this was easy to start with and follow regularly. In the beginning, I could hardly run just 1km, but week by week, I started to improve. During the first 6 months of regular running, I was able to complete a 10K run.
‘following a plant-based diet has helped me to significantly reduce my weight and cholesterol levels while improving my thyroid health and increasing my energy levels’
I learned a lot about the abundance of nutrients in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes that could help me become a healthy runner.
After 20 months of working with Alicja, I consulted an endocrinologist, who confirmed that taking Levothyroxine was no longer required as my thyroid could generate sufficient hormones. My TSH remained within limits, and the level of the autoantibodies had significantly dropped as well. After 12 years of taking thyroid medication, this was no longer required, and I have now been in remission for 4 years. I continue attending regular follow-up appointments with my endocrinologist, who monitors my thyroid hormone levels.
By February 2020, (after 22 months), I had lost 23kg (more than 3.5st), my waist dropped from 38” to 32” and my cholesterol levels were back in the healthy range.
‘After 12 years of taking thyroid medication, this was no longer required and I have now been in remission for 4 years.’
I completed my first official 10k run during the Edinburgh Marathon Festival (EMF) 2021 (virtual edition), my first half-marathon the year after, and my first-ever full marathon during EMF 2023!
After this successful health transformation, I want to maintain a healthy diet and regular physical activity. I have recently joined the local running club, which helps me to stay on top of regular running, socialising and exchanging ideas about a healthy lifestyle. I have also joined online support groups focusing on plant-based diets, which helps me stay accountable on my plant-based journey.
I am looking forward to following a plant-based diet as a part of my daily routine, focusing on obtaining sufficient micronutrients and exploring a wide range of fruits and vegetables while cooking from scratch. I am looking to keep my cholesterol level in the safe range and my thyroid and other organs healthy.
I wish there were better links between medical practitioners and nutritionists, as the proper diet can solve many issues without relying on prescribed medication. Patients should be encouraged to explore the healthy diet route while receiving full support in their lifestyle transformation. We could all save so much money in the healthcare system this way.
Piotr’s health journey with Hashimoto’s was led by a nutritionist, Alicja Wypasek. You’ll find her on Instagram @alicja_wypasek and www.healthbynutrition.co.uk