Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I'll take a break today from my thyroid blogs. Tomorrow's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It's a wonderful time to take our healthy lifestyles to another level. Everything we sacrifice we can offer up to our Lord as penance for our sins and to unite our suffering with his ultimate sacrifice for us. Feeling hungry, giving up certain foods, all these sacrifices can not only benefit our bodies, but our souls as well when we offer them up.
I wish everyone a very Blessed Lent.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Thyroid patients such as myself have discovered in hindsite that our symptoms lingered on for years before ever being diagnosed. I probably needed to be on dessicated thyroid in my mid twenties. That's when I started gaining weight despite exercising and eating well. Granted, I'm no athlete, nor was I perfect at eating well and dieting. I still did not deserve the weight I was gaining. This was also when I started having trouble with mild depression, especially in the winter.
Here's a list of common hypothyroid symptoms:
Long recovery after activity
Chronic low grade depression
Feeling cold/cold hands and feet
Thinning eye brows
Dry cracking skin
Inability to lose weight
Always gaining weight
Blood pressure problems
Tightness in throat/sore throat
Low body temperature
This is by no means a complete list of complaints. You can see a pattern here, though. Every cell in your body needs thyroid hormone to function. If your thyroid isn't functioning well, nothing else will. It affects every system in your body. Patients just feel like they are not themselves anymore. Your brain is foggy, you over react to the smallest of stresses, constantly mildly depressed, and the list goes on. Loss of eyebrows and constipation are very common signs of a thyroid problem.
Doctors will frequently only order a TSH lab to diagnose hypothyroidism. Patients have discovered, though, that this lab only adequately diagnoses a pituitary problem. It's important to find a doctor who looks at your symptoms and not just a TSH result. If that's all he/she is looking at, run from his/her office. As a patient, you need a doctor who will not only listen to you, but work with you through treatment. Many patients have found general or family practitioners much easier to work with than endocrinologists. Most endocrinologists have a "god" complex and will try to dictate to you that they know what's best. They will diagnose based off of TSH, put you on levothyroxine (T4) only, and when your symptoms don't go away, they will prescribe more meds for these symptoms. Patients have ended up on a whole slew of meds they didn't need because the root of the problem was never addressed appropriately, hypothyroidism. You can see from the list of symptoms how a patient can end up on: one or more anti-depressants, one or more cholesterol lowering drugs, one or high blood pressure meds, meds for constipation, etc...
Take a look at this list of symptoms. There are more complete lists on the "Stop the Thyroid Madness" website and also at the about.com thyroid site run by Mary Shomon. These are excellent sites to visit for information. I plan to post tomorrow about what labs are the correct labs to insist on for better diagnosis. With proper labwork and tracking symptoms, hypothyroid patients will get diagnosed sooner and begin treatment sooner.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Having six kids, I've gained and lost weight numerous times. Yes, I've lost 30 pounds four times in my married life. When my twins (the youngest of the six) were three, I decided again to commit myself to losing weight and getting in shape. At that time I had been on levothyroxine for over 10 years to treat my hypothyroidism. I worked out and ate well for eight weeks. This was real commitment because it was over Christmas that I was doing this, December 2008. In January I was horrified to find out that I had gained 20 pounds.
This was my wake up call. I was seeing a new doctor who only prescribes dessicated thyroid for his patients. He referred me to the "Stop the Thyroid Madness" (STTM) book and website. I thought I already understood thyroid problems. I'm a pharmacist and in college I learned to diagnose hypothyroidism you use one test, TSH; to treat it you use one drug, levothyroxine. I had read some articles already about patients switching to dessicated thyroid (DT) and doing much better. Reading STTM changed my outlook on hypothyroidism. It's a patient lead movement to change thyroid diagnosis and treatment. Many patients are fed up with inadequate diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. I'm one of these patients.
Reading what other patients have gone through made me realize in hindsite that my symptoms were never relieved by levothyroxine treatment. My TSH lab would correct to the so-called normal range, but symptoms kept worsening. Lingering depression, seasonal affective disorder, sleep problems, weight gain, brain fog, and the list goes on. I could have been on numerous medications to try to "treat" these symptoms, but being a pharmacist I'm familiar with side effects and chose just to put up with these symptoms. I decided to follow the advice of other patients who were sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time.
2009 was both a good and frustrating year. I was able to correct some nutritional deficiencies. I had both low ferritin and low vitamin D levels. Both of these can adversely affect thyroid treatment. Ferritin is storage iron. The optimal range is 70-90. Mine was 7. I was well on my way to being anemic. Everyone with thyroid problems needs to get their ferritin checked. With low ferritin, your body doesn't use the thyroid medication properly and can even make you feel hyperthyroid (too much) when you are actually still hypothyroid (too low). The treatment is easy: Take iron supplements. It takes time, however, to raise your ferritin level. In August, mine was up to 45. I'm still waiting for my newest results.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the US, especially in the winter. This can explain some of the depression and seasonal depression I was suffering. I've been taking supplements for almost a year now and recommend people research taking vitamin D. This is the first winter in 12 years I haven't gotten completely depressed. Amazingly, it's the worst winter I've experienced here in Iowa.
Correcting these two deficiencies are the first step in treating hypothyroidism. There are other deficiencies mentioned by STTM that need to be addressed as well. In future blogs I hope to mention:
I want to share my journey. We thyroid patients need to stick together if we are going to help each other get well.
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