I have thyroid problems.
More specifically I have hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s disease.
Hypothyroid means the thyroid is sluggish and not functioning at an optimal level. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid resulting in poor function.
I started with a diagnosis of hypothyroid back in 2014 and last year, I learned it had progressed to Hashimoto’s.
Some of this might seem very foreign to you. But I want to share my thyroid story with you today, because awareness is important. An estimated 20 million Americans have thyroid problems and up to 60% don’t know it.
My thyroid story began a long time before I was diagnosed.
My Story Begins:
After my second child was born, I didn’t bounce back quickly like I had with my first. I was tired, very very tired for a long time. My doctor ordered a thyroid level blood test at some point, but as I later learned, it was an inaccurate test and came back negative (as most TSH tests do).
When I continued to experience unexplained fatigue, my doctor chalked it up to the fact that I had two kids. Then I had our third child and 18 months later, our fourth child.
Two babies close together will wear anyone out, but my health deteriorated to where I could hardly get out of bed each morning. I had to drag myself through each day and was miserable.
I made excuses for my exhaustion. I’m recovering from a 4th c-section. Luke isn’t sleeping through the night. I have four kids eight and under.
But in my heart, I knew something was wrong with my body. Especially as Luke did begin sleeping through the night. I would get 8+ hours of sleep but still wake up feeling like a zombie each morning.
My Search for Answers:
I’ve never been one to just “deal” with something. It’s probably due to my highly sensitive and type A personality; I can’t stand for something to be wrong if I can fix it.
I began searching for answers. When Luke was 18 months old, I had a partial hysterectomy (my uterus was removed but I kept my ovaries and cervix), because I had severely heavy periods each month. I reasoned that that much blood loss on a regular basis would naturally cause fatigue. You can read my hysterectomy story here and here.
But my fatigue didn’t improve after my surgery. For awhile, I reasoned that even despite a laparoscopic surgery and fast recovery initially, it must have taken more out of me than I thought.
But 6 months passed, then 9 months, and it became obvious to me that neither anemia nor my recovery from surgery were to blame for my continuing chronic fatigue. I was also cold all the time, had dry skin, gained weight and had a hard time losing it, and experienced joint pain, muscle weakness, depression, anxiety, and difficulty remembering things.
At this point, I felt like I was drowning. I had four young children to care for, ages 2-10 and I couldn’t do a quarter of what I needed to do.
Throughout those years, my doctor ordered several more TSH thyroid blood tests and every single one came back normal.
Then in the winter of 2013, I stumbled upon this book: Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled by Richard Shames and Karilee Shames.
I felt all three of those big time! I couldn’t think clearly, I was gaining weight, and most of all, I was continually exhausted and was overwhelmed. I purchased the book and poured over it within a couple of days.
Without going into detail about the book, it was very informative and really helped jump start my journey to wellness.
At the book’s advice, I ordered lab tests (yes, you can order it yourself if your doctor won’t honor your request), including more extensive thyroid testing, like Free T3 and Free T4, thyroid antibody levels. I also had hormone and adrenal testing done.
My results came back very definitely positive for hypothyroid.
Once I had those numbers staring at me on paper, I cried. It wasn’t all in my head. I wasn’t just a lazy fat person. There was truly something wrong with my body!
Of course, I didn’t know at the time that my journey was just beginning and it would still be some time before I felt better, but at least I was on the right path.
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I am blessed to have a wonderful naturally-minded osteopath family doctor and when I shared my results with her, she immediately prescribed a natural thyroid medication: NP Thyroid, otherwise known as natural desiccated thyroid.
Please read this article for more information on why typically prescribed thyroid medications, such as Synthryoid, Levothyroxine, etc do not work well.
My next year was spent tweaking my medication dosage. I quickly discovered that treating thyroid disease wasn’t as simple as popping a pill. There are many factors to poor thyroid function and each person needs to be treated individually.
My doctor and I finally settled on a combination of mostly Cytomel or Liothyronine (straight T3 thyroid hormone) and NP Thyroid. I now take 75 mcg of Cytomel each day, split into two doses, and one dose of 60mg NP Thyroid later afternoon.
Beyond Thyroid Medication:
While I hoped that my thyroid medication would get me back to optimal health, unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. I also had adrenal fatigue (exhausted, overworked adrenal glands often go hand-in-hand with thyroid disease) and that required additional treatment with supplements and care in making sure I got plenty of rest each night.
Still, I struggled with intermittent fatigue and depression. About a year ago, I sought out the help of a functional medicine doctor in NYC. He ordered extensive testing on everything from amino acids to food sensitivities along with stool samples to determine the state of my gut.
The results came back that I had a pretty severe leaky gut. Read about that here: Leaky Gut
My doctor put me on a strict detox diet and gradually eased me into the Paleo diet. After about 5-6 weeks, I started feeling pretty good. So good, in fact, that by Thanksgiving, I was able to cook our entire feast without falling over in a heap and crying! It was amazing!
But I took more than a few steps back last winter as I once again struggled with fatigue. As I continued to search for answers, the truth made itself clear to me over the summer.
It was sugar.
All my life, I’ve been addicted to sugar. I’ve turned to cake and chocolate and candy as comfort foods ever since I was a little girl.
Even on the Paleo diet, I was eating far too much “natural” sugars. Even maple syrup and honey are addictive for me.
Like most addicts, I didn’t want to admit it. I finally reached a point of desperation and I realized and accepted that sugar plus more sugar = poor health.
I felt good last fall because I wasn’t eating sugar. But my health deteriorated again as I baked Paleo Christmas cookies and continued “remaking” old dessert recipes throughout the winter.
Enough is enough.
On August 1st of this year, I said goodbye to sweets. I went on a very strict no-sugar (not even fruit) diet for the month of August and in September, I slowly added fruit back. I now eat apples and berries and other fruits without any problems as long as I watch my portions.
Guess what? After almost 3 months of a sugar-free lifestyle, I’m feeling pretty great right now. I’m not 100% healed, but years of damage from stress and overeating sweets takes more than a few weeks to heal all the way.
I am still taking my thyroid medication, but I’m hoping to decrease my dosage next spring as I continue to get stronger and healthier.
I’m the kind of person that’s not satisfied with just results. I want to know how and why. With my health journey, I wanted to know why my thyroid began having problems in the first place. While I still don’t know for certain, I have an idea now.
I believe that years of stress, beginning at age 5 when my parents divorced and only worsening as I grew older and reaching a horrific peak as a teenager, played a big role in my thyroid issues. I also believe that years of sugar dependency also weakened my thyroid. Combine that with four pregnancies that were not easy on my body (some women do develop thyroid problems during or after pregnancy) and that was the kicker for my poor thyroid.
Am I healed from my thyroid disease? Not yet, but I am on my way.
I share my story with you in hopes that this will encourage you to seek answers if you are dealing with health issues. Perhaps you have a problem with your thyroid as well.
Stay well and take care of your body. It really does matter.