And in a complete deviation from the normal subject matter of my blog…
Note: Please see the “Final Note” at the bottom of this, before attempting to email me about this post.
…because I have this platform, and because I would have given anything to have read the very blog post I’m about to write before I was diagnosed, I would like to briefly touch base on auto-immune conditions, particularly thyroid conditions.
Why? Because you might be suffering from one, and not even know it. Or perhaps someone you know and love is suffering, and they don’t know why.
Worse? Your doctor might not be doing the right test results, or might be telling you that everything is normal, when absolutely nothing is normal.
You might be going through life feeling anxious and irritable and tired and frustrated, and you might be beating yourself up thinking “Why can’t I do it better?” What I’m about to write about, for some people, could point them towards a possible solution.
I’ve already written about being diagnosed with an auto-immune thryoid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Briefly, when your body goes auto-immune rogue, it starts attacking its own cells. What I have right now is an auto-immune attack that might eventually become a full-blown thyroid condition. In the most technical of senses, my poor little thyroid gland is rocking and rolling as best it can, while my body mistakenly thinks, “Invader, invader!” and pulls out a can of whoop-ass.
The doctors pretty much say that eventually, my thyroid gland will die, at which point things change from “auto-immune” to “thryoid disease.” I say it “might” eventually become a full-blown thyroid condition because I believe in the principle of “fuck being realistic.”
Sometimes these conditions are genetic. They can also be linked to several things which the medical establishments don’t support with empirical evidence. I’ve read personal accounts of people having conditions like mine if they grew up in an old house and could have been exposed to lead piping and other heavy metals in small doses over time; if you were on birth control pills for a long time; if you have a serious illness and your body goes into “hyper-arousal” mode and can’t turn off after the illness has abated; if you are sensitive to or allergic to gluten.
A doctor? Nope, I am not. But I’ve read a lot about this, and this blog post is simply a distillation of what I’ve found. Disclaimer time: Check everything with your own doctor. I make no guarantee, warranty, or claim about this information.
Suffering in Silence
Back in 2008, I went to the doctor because I was tired all of the time. Blood was drawn and something called “TSH” (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was measured.
“Everything’s within the normal range,” the doctor at the time told me, and she sent me on my way.
Turns out, this doctor–lovely as I’m sure she was/is–didn’t know that she was telling me the WRONG information.
TSH is typically measured on a 0.5 – 5.50 scale.
However, most people these days tend to agree that anything above a 3.0 will give you symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, at which point you’ll feel achey and exhausted, you’ll gain weight, be irritable/anxious, and a whole host of other symptoms.
My TSH in 2008 was already at 3.45 . Using the 5.50 marker, I was sent on my way to spend another four years tired, achey, etc.
In fact, I’m very lucky that getting my blood re-tested in 2012, the doctors I saw knew and understood that people are usually symptomatic by the time their TSH is above a 3.0.
In 2008, they also didn’t measure a few other important markers of thyroid function, and these are the tests that I would recommend if you suspect you have any issues with your thyroid:
- TSH test
- TPO antibodies test (this is the specific test to see if you have the auto-immune condition I have, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
- A “free” T3 test
- A “free” T4 test
- Vitamin D test
- Iron/Ferritin test
Why T3 and T4 tests? These are the two thyroid hormones that work together to regulate the thyroid, and from there to regular your energy levels, hormones, metabolism, the whole nine yards. Getting these tests will give a fuller, more complete picture of what’s happening.
Note: Some doctors are resistant to doing anything other than TSH test and perhaps the TPO test. The regular T3 and T4 tests are not as good as the “free” T3/T4 tests, but get what you can get.
Why D and Iron? Vitamin D and Iron both affect thyroid function and energy levels, so you might as well get those measured while you’re getting blood drawn.
What I Know, Now
In 2012, the worst my TSH test ever registered–and at this point, I felt truly awful–was a 5.18.
It is unbelievable to me that even that still would not have been enough to officially “qualify” me as having a problem, using the current standard of measurement (which, I hear, is something that thyroid advocacy groups are trying to get changed). It’s unbelievable to me that anyone like, LIVES through their day with a higher TSH than that, because at that level my exhaustion was so extreme.
Gluten and Dairy and Diet
After my diagnosis, I went gluten- and dairy-free, hoping that dietary changes would help me avoid taking a prescription. People ask me if that made a difference. I don’t have a gluten allergy, and yet–YES. It took a few weeks, but it made a difference in my energy levels.
I also supplement with a great B-vitamin complex and Vitamin D, among other supplements that help.
MD vs. DO
When I talk about my doctor to Andy, I call her–with total love and respect–Dr. Flowy Pants. She’s a Doctor of Osteopathy that I switched to. I didn’t know that DO’s existed. They are actual vetted doctors who went to medical school, but who look beyond symptoms and examine the body as a system–such as what gets in the way of the body’s normal healthy functioning, or what causes might be in the environment.
I LOVE having a D.O. How did I find her? I was randomly (thank you, Universe) assigned her when making an appointment.
She does not wear a lab coat. She has worn flowy pants and Danskos every time I have seen her. She didn’t act impatient with me, the time I started crying in her office. She has not put up a fight about ordering full panels of blood work so that I can rule things out–she seems to understand that I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass, I’m just trying to do this kind of crazy thing: heal my body.
If you don’t like your MD, check out your provider list and find a DO. If you’ve already got a condition and your MD just wants to dump you on a prescription and that’s it? Get the hell outta there. Change your primary care physician to a DO. (NOW).
I’m not trying to hate on the MDs–many have positively influenced my life. Unfortunately, as it pertains to this auto-immune condition, more than one MD has followed what seems to be an MD protocol that simply does not work for myself, or for many of the patients I’ve spoken with.
Prescriptions and HOLY SHIT I Feel Better
Even though I cleaned up my diet and took supplements and even did six months of acupuncture, I was still symptomatic. So, I went on the “holy grail” of thyroid prescriptions, a generic form of Synthroid. This line of prescriptions is completely synthetic.
Six weeks later, I was officially ready to throw in the towel on that. I felt zero difference in any capacity, unless you count that I felt really numbed out and depressed and cried a lot. That could have been coincidence, of course–I’m not blaming the prescription so much as I’m just sharing my personal experience.
I switched to Armour, a “dessicated natural thryoid” prescription that contains T3 and T4.
Within 48 hours, I swear to Goddess I felt different.
After one month on Armour? I was waking up in the morning at 7:30, on my own, without an alarm clock, and without that desperately tired, “Oh god, if I could only sleep longer” exhaustion.
Needless to say, I LOVE ARMOUR.
I don’t want coffee as much, because I don’t feel like I need it.
I have a ton more energy.
My immune system as a whole is doing better.
In fact, I didn’t even know it was POSSIBLE to feel this much better, I had become so accustomed to a low-grade tired feeling.
If you’re tired a lot, yes–there’s mind over matter. There’s positive thinking. There’s taking responsibility for your shit. There’s eating more salads and exercising.
There’s also…the possibility that a biochemical cocktail has gone awry in your body. So, hey–get tested.
If you get tested and have something, forget “being realistic” about it. You deserve and can find your way to optimum health.
If you have a thyroid condition and have just been dumped on whatever prescription your doctor is most comfortable with, and you don’t really feel better, try something else. In my case, I am bananas about Armour. If something else works for you? Awesome.
(And no, I’m not a paid endorser!).
A Final Note
It would be my preference if you didn’t email me to share your thoughts about this blog post or this condition.
Instead, use the information for yourself as you see it appropriate to do so, and if you know someone who has been suffering from symptoms that they can’t explain, perhaps forward the URL to them in the hopes that it’s helpful.
While I appreciate any insights you might have, I’m finding my own way with all of this, and notice that whenever someone well-meaning starts sharing their findings with me or offering me suggestions for other things I might consider or try, I am quickly overwhelmed.
I’m feeling really awesome about where I’m at with things, and look forward to a return to full health.
~ with care and love ~