Tag Archives: thyroid

This one thing is not like the others

It turns out I’m the anomaly.

The problem most people have during Hashimotos is not the problem I have.

Its taken some time and trial and error to figure this out.

Partly because I have not found ann affordable doctor who is also knowledgeable about all things Hashimotos.  The closest I have come is Dr. Kharrazian, who I follow and read his books (and love pretty much anything that he comes out with) but who is not my personal physician.  Sadly.

BUT. Back to this anomaly.

From reading countless posts from poor women who are really suffering from this disease, there seems to be a common thread of being medicated with synthetic T4 and receiving not so stellar results. Basically their symptoms improve slightly, if at all, but not in a lasting fashion.

A lot of these patients beg their doctors to make the switch to a natural dessicated thyroid medication, some with luck.  Others are refused.

In case you are new to the world of thyroid hormones, this is how it breaks down:

Natural dessicated hormones are usually collected from a pig thyroid.  These contain various combinations of T3 and T4.  T4 is the “slow release” version of thyroid hormone.  T3 is the “ready to use” version.  T4 will get converted to T3 at some point in your body.

So the natural hormone medications have both ready to use energy and slow release energy in them.  This works well for a lot of people.

Examples of natural dessicated thyroid medication brands are: Armour, Naturethroid, WP throid,  as well as a few others.  A good comparison can be found here on the Stop The Thyroid Madness site:

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/armour-vs-other-brands/

To contrast, synthetic thyroid hormone medication usually only includes T4. This means that the “ready to use” part is missing and only the “slow release, yet to be converted piece is what remains.  For most people, this is not effective treatment.  Some people have issues converting T4 to T3 in their bodies.  For them, having a ton of T4 floating around but not being able to effectively convert it to T3 will not do diddly squat for their symptoms.  Examples of synthetic meds are Synthroid, Levothroid, Tirosint, and other levothyroxine containing products.

Like I said though, I’m an anomaly.

I had stumbled upon an endocrinologist who was willing to prescribe me Armour from the get go.  Some people fight their doctors tooth and nail and switch several times to find a physician willing to prescribe this.

I should consider myself lucky.  I did, actually, because he is an excellent physician in many ways.  But it wasn’t right for me.

The combination of T4 and T3 sent me into a two month long ordeal. I suspect it’s because I was low normal to begin with.  And although I had symptoms (like being practically frozen), the T3 in Armour was too much for me.  When I took it, I had heart palpitations that took months to go away after stopping Armour.

Another awful side effect was the crippling anxiety that came along with it.  I remember during this time period thinking, I understand now why people kill themselves.  When I say crippling anxiety, I mean such a mental state that I wanted to escape it desperately. I have never before experienced such a thing, but I believe it to be representative lot of too high thyroid levels in the body (at least in my body).

This left me feeling like a paradox.

On the one hand, I definitely didn’t feel “normal”.  Something definitely wasn’t right.

On the other hand, I also wasn’t off the charts.  So the medication we tried was just too much.

What options does this leave me with?

After months, my thyrotoxicosis symptoms (anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations) were finally wearing off (thankfully!!) and I had found a functional medicine practitioner who was a nutritionist, I thought why not give this route a try?

After all, I am a proponent of natural things if at all possible.  And with being “low normal”, maybe it was possible to stabilize my thyroid function with diet alone.  Because a high percentage of T4 gets converted into T3 in the body by multiple organs including the gut, going the nutrition route instinctively made sense.  Since then I have learned that the body is more complex than I ever imagined it could be and a multitude of factors can inhibit this conversion.

Next, we’ll dive into the beginning of the nutrition protocol that I began with.  Stay tuned 🙂

 

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Where do I begin?

Well at the time, I didn’t really want to begin.

Or need to.

I mean, I wasn’t feeling completely awful. Yes, my life had taken a turn for the worse and I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. But I’ve learned the hard way that we need to reach a certain threshold of pain, whether physical, mental or emotional, to be willing to go in a new direction. And I wasn’t there yet.

At this point in the diagnosis process, I had a thyroid ultrasound that looked like beeswax, full of holes where my thyroid had been eaten away by my immune system. But my thyroid levels were low “normal”.

I also did not test positive for thyroid antibodies.  What this means is that my antibody levels were low enough to be undetectable.  I took this to be good news.

I am hopeful that what this means is that we caught this monster early enough to be able to make a dent in it and bring it to a grinding halt.

And because medication only brings thyroid hormone in the blood to an optimal level for a limited time, I wanted to find a more sustainable way of managing my newfound disease.

After much googling, I stumbled upon Dr. Kharrazian who wrote a book called

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? when My Lab Tests Are Normal

This book changed my entire understanding of Hashimoto’s and for that I will forever be grateful to Dr. Kharrazian.  By the way, I am not paid to endorse him or his book, I just really love anything he has to say regarding Hashimoto’s and find it to be based on real patients and their symptoms as well as successful management of said symptoms.

So if you have Hashimoto’s and have no idea where to start, I highly recommend his approach.  It’s very detailed but understandable by regular people.  I especially enjoy the thorough explanations of what takes place in an auto-immune situation on a cellular level.

Another great thing I found thanks to Dr. Kharrazian is the Hashimoto’s 411 support group on Facebook.  There are several Hashimoto’s support groups on Facebook but I found this particular group to be the most helpful and not as judgemental and bossy as some of the other groups (just from my own personal experience).  Those ladies (mostly ladies 🙂 are FULL of buckets of knowledge about this disease.

So now I was armed with knowledge.  Thanks to the lovely people at Hashimoto’s 411, I found out there was a special type of doctor called Integrative or Functional.  These doctors go through special training to take the entire body into consideration instead of looking at it through the lens of a particular organ or body part (urology, cardiac, etc).  The idea is that everything is interrelated and can affect everything else.  I strongly believe in this concept in my own life so it made perfect sense to me to seek out this type of treatment.

According to Functionalmedicine.org:

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership…functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors …In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

After lots of phone calls, I finally struck on a nutritionist who was also a certified functional practitioner who was not too awfully far away from me (a few hours).  I should not that this field is relatively new and while there are lots of doctors listed in a 100 mile radius, not all of them align with my particular issue.  So weeding through the list and getting someone to actually call me back was an arduous task.

I found this to be the case with most things regarding this disease.  There is no clear cut “best” option.  There are many paths, many providers, many opinions, many courses of action.  In the end, the only way to know if some path will help is to try it (after some prayer and meditation on it lol).  This is, in a way, terrifying.  What if, by going down this particular path, I’m wasting the chance to fix this problem at THIS point in time with some other remedy?  I’m certain this is a malady facing lots of patients with chronic or urgent issues to address.

I guess we just make the best decision we can with the best information we have at the time.

And hope for the best.

Wait….. let me back up a little

This began in the summer of 2013.

I was 60 days into P90X and I was feeling increasingly exhausted.

(For those of you not familiar with P90X, it is a high intensity fitness program where 6 days a week you are working a different part of your body.)

I was so fatigued, that I was postponing workouts to the next day, and finding myself days behind and trying to catch up.  I was so tired, I literally had a hard time standing up during the workout or even finishing it.  Being tired during the workout, and also afterwards, should have been my clue that something wasn’t right.  I mean, exercise is supposed to make you feel better, not WORSE!

To make matters worse, I was getting periods about every 2 weeks.  Prior to this, I could set a watch by my cycle, it was extremely regular and predictable.  So for it to freak out like this, it definitely (FINALLY) made me take notice.

I am a big proponent of natural routes if possible, so I sought advice of my voodoo doctor chiropractor who advised me that my thyroid was overactive, which was responsible for my symptoms.

Looking back, this made sense.  Our thyroid is like a gauge on our metabolism.  When it speeds up, everything speeds up – digestion, energy usage (which explains why I was exhausted), female organ activity, etc.  I was unknowingly telling my body to speed up metabolism by loading it up with tons of activity.  At the time, I was also at the height of my 3rd year of triathlon training.  My body was being overworked like crazy.  And it couldn’t handle the load.

Here I was telling my body to speed up, and speed up and speed up until the speedometer was broken.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

P90X is a wonderful program that has brought a lot of people awesome fitness levels.  I adore Tony Horton and his positive attitude throughout the program.  He has helped thousands of people lead more positive and productive lives by shedding fat and getting into shape.  It was, however, not right for me.  In my body, what it did was kick my Hashimoto’s into high gear.

In my body, it was part of what I have come to know as the trifecta of Hashimoto’s.

  1.  In order to develop Hashimoto’s, there is usually a genetic predisposition.  Something about this could also be the reason why so many more women get Hashimoto’s than men.
  2. The second thing is that the gut, our wonderful armor from the inside, has to be compromised in some way.  For me it was eating an overabundance of wheat, eggs, sugar during my overtraining.  I was HUNGRY!  I also have decades of sugar abuse under my belt that I’m certain didn’t help the situation.
  3. The final piece is a trigger event.  For me, that trigger event was physical stress from overtraining as well as emotional stress from life in general.  I am super great at taking on the problems of the world, and apparently killing myself in the process.

 

Autoimmune Humor

 

 

Hashimoto’s

What is this strange word?

Sounds fun and exotic almost doesn’t it?

This word was said to me at a doctor’s office while on my journey to trying to monitor my thyroid.  You see, I was born in Ukraine and was still there when Chernobyl blew up.  I knew that this made me more susceptible to thyroid conditions, even thyroid cancer, more so than the typical individual.  So after pulling teeth for a year for a referral for an endocrinologist, I finally got my wish.

I am a research fanatic, so my endocrinologist was highly rated by his patients and a likeable fella.  He explained to me that according to the ultrasound, my thyroid was “highly indicative of Hashimoto’s” to which I replied, “Hashi-wha-wha?”

We joked about how fun it was to say and he tried to tell me that he wished it was a good thing.  Oh how far from grips I was during that appointment.

As I found out later, Mr. Hakaru Hashimoto was a Japanese Doctor who discovered the world’s first autoimmune disease.  Meaning instead of fighting off viruses and bacteria to protect itself, the body turns on itself and becomes the villain.  It attacks the thyroid (but can also attack other organs and tissues).  This is what was happening in my body.

The reason it came as a somewhat surprise was that my disease was not extremely advanced.  After all, my weight hadn’t ballooned exponentially, nor did most of my hair fall out like happens to a lot of women.  It has been simmering for years, possibly decades until it got kicked in by a trigger event.  That trigger event for me, was over exercising.  And once the Hashimotos gene is turned on, it cannot be turned off.  Only the response of the immune system can be lessened, God willing.

I left the office that day with medicine in hand, which I made my Doctor give me.  He tried to tell me that I was borderline and that my thyroid blood test results were technically “normal”.  But..but…but…what about this thing? Hashi-something? Don’t I need medicine for it?

And although I felt better that day knowing that I had caught this malady proactively and I had medicine in hand to “fix” it, I had no idea what was in store for me.