Hypothyroidism is a condition the American Hypothyroidism Association estimates affects up to 20 million Americans with up to 60% of people unaware of their condition. The process of finding out what is affecting you and how to go about fixing the situation usually develops into a long journey. As you battle the symptoms, you even may end up having to go to war with your own doctor!
Joe Rogan recently released a podcast with Dr. Mark Gordon (#574) and they delve into why Dr. Gordon now treats traumatic brain injury with hormone treatment. On this podcast (below) they also discuss how important having your thyroid, testosterone and every other hormone in balance in order to live a life that allows you to function at a high level in day-to-day life. Unless you are in your twenties you probably don’t have optimal hormone levels. As you get older you can drop into daily pain due to low hormone levels. Any sort of brain trauma will also help to drop hormone levels. This could be from hits taken in football, a soldier on the battlefield or even heading a soccer ball repetitively over a long period of time.
Some key areas that people with hypothyroidism encounter usually include the following.
1. The symptoms of hypothyroidism
2. Convincing your doctor
3. The necessary steps to get treated
4. Why your thyroid medication could be wrong for you
5. Living with hypothyroidism
This article is entirely from a personal experience and is by no means a comment on every doctor or every case of hypothyroidism. Doctors have a very difficult job. This is simply my viewpoint. My goal is to help spread awareness about hypothyroidism and possibly help someone go about getting back to feeling close to 100% again. The real first step was having my eyes opened to the fact that my medication at the time may even be causing some adverse affects in my body. That was an aha moment courtesy of Brendon Rearick at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. It was then that I started to question the route my doctor was leading me down.
1. The Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Some of the symptoms according to the ATA include extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, and unexplained weight gain. There are many more symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and it can be difficult to diagnose for your doctor. About three years ago I was continually cold and shivering in generally mild or warm climates and in temperature controlled rooms. Add to that some unexplained weight gain and I was asking questions my doctor was unable to answer. If you have ever seen “Dumb and Dumber” as Lloyd and Harry ride into Aspen, that’s how cold I was on a daily basis.
My blood tests came back showing my TSH level as “normal”. The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone blood test is used in western medicine to see if someone’s thyroid is functioning normally. The TSH test however is quite unreliable. Dr. David Derry from Canada was practicing medicine when the TSH lab was introduced, and he made this profound observation:
“The consensus of thyroidologists decided in 1973 that the TSH (lab) was the blood test they had been looking for all through the years. This was about two years after I started practice. Having been taught how to diagnose hypothyroid conditions clinically, I was in a position to watch to see what the relation of the TSH was to the onset of hypothyroidism. What I found was many people would develop classic signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism but the TSH was ever so slow to become abnormal, rise and confirm the clinical diagnosis. Sometimes it never did. Finally I began treating patients with hypothyroid in the normal manner I was taught. I could not see why I had to wait for the TSH to rise for me to be able to treat them.”
Unfortunately not many physicians like Dr. Derry exist today. Once your blood is in normal range you are usually dismissed and continue to feel miserable. I had all the symptoms, fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold all the time and I was told I was “fine”. After numerous blood tests I decided to request to be put on medication to see if it helped. My doctor was not impressed and reluctantly agreed. I was initially put on synthyroid and after a little respite early on, I actually started to feel worse.
2. Convincing Your Doctor
There wasn’t an initial diagnosis that I was hypothyroid. My levels were deemed “within normal range” by my doctor. There in part is the issue with modern medicine. I have a hard time believing you can group every human being into these “normal ranges”. People vary greatly and it’s not a radical idea to think everyone’s levels could vary for them to feel at THEIR optimal level of daily performance. My doctor was willing to prescribe an anti-depression medication to help improve mood from the extreme fatigue and general feeling of being “down”. This wasn’t the long-term answer and not a path I wanted to go down. Unfortunately the rapid offer of anti-depressants is quite common. Big pharma reps make sure to drill home the message of how great their product is and also how much money they’ll receive for prescribing it doesn’t go unnoticed either. Healthcare is a money racket and we are the guinea pigs.
3. The Necessary Steps to Get Treated
Synthroid gave me a brief respite from feeling like crap. The fatigue and coldness soon returned. I also had blood work done to see just where I stood in relation to how much inflammation I had. It was quite alarming. Whether or not that was in part due to synthroid or just hypothyroidism in general, it’s not clear but I felt I needed to get off that medication. I had plantar fasciitis in both heels, barely able to walk and in constant pain. Synthroid did not work for me, I needed to try something else. “Stop The Thyroid Madness” discuss in-depth all the options for hypothyroid medications here.
Next up was a desiccated thyroid in the form of Armour. Similar to my synthroid experience, there wasn’t a long lasting effect. Many people overcome their symptoms with Armour but it wasn’t effective for me personally. After seeking a second opinion in the form of an Endocrinologist I was put on Levoxyl. My most recent blood test was examined and the doctor mentioned that my aches and pains in my joints most likely came from my vitamin D being so out of whack. As you can see below I was close to a rickets level of vitamin D. My diet had sufficient sources of vitamin D but the lack of thyroid regulation had me well below where I needed to be.
4. Course of Treatment
With the guidance of my endocrinologist, I am now on levoxy and a supplement regime (listed below) that combine to enable me to function at a level closer to what I would describe as “normal” for me. Supplements don’t do anything except level the playing field in this equation. What struck me was the vast difference in how this doctor approached my hypothyroidism compared to my previous primary care doctor. During my first visit we went over nutrition and what I was currently eating as well as improvements I could make moving forward. What a relief it was to hear a doctor look into the food we consume as a possible cause of inflammation. A refreshing approach compared to prescribing pain medications straight away.
-Vitamin D 5000iu
-DHA/EPHA Fish Oil Tablets (DHA 200mg/EPA 400mg)
-Turmeric with Meriva (500mg)
-Alpha Brain (For the days that Brain fog still affects me)
Having cut out all wheat products and anything containing gluten my brain fog was greatly reduced and my body continued to improve. My sense of well-being was at an all time high compared to the inflammation filled eighteen months from hell. I have never been a fan of processed foods but wheat, sugar and anything processed will noticeably set me back. Every food I plan to ingest needs to be examined to make sure I won’t have a negative reaction.
Our friends over at Positive Health Wellness put together an infographic on 4 essential minerals to optimize thyroid function. Definitely check this out also.
5. Living with Hypothyroidism
I found a great post from a blogger called EcogGrrl that details her experience with hypothyroidism. It has definitely been an eye-opening journey seeing how different people respond to the traditional route of synthroid. One treatment does not work for everyone. Different things work for different people. Hypothyroidism is so complex, it’s impossible to say there’s a one size fits all remedy. Its starts with a wide range of possible symptoms that lead doctors to usually look at putting the individual on anti-depressant’s as most people’s TSH level is within “normal” range. Always ask your doctor questions and do your own research. Through reading different studies and hearing people like Dr. Gordon speak, I truly believe that hormone regulation can help with a lot of ailments that people encounter in day to day life not to mention it will improve quality of living as you get older. A lot of the addictive pain medications out today should be avoided. Unfortunately, some doctors seem hesitant to get too in depth with hormone regulation.
The American Thyroid Association
Stop the Thyroid Madness
The ATA Hypothyroidism Booklet