Another Year

Greetings!

My, it has been a while.

I often have to remind myself often that this process is a journey. I can’t race to the end of the road or read the last page of the book. I have to live this journey. And some days that thought totally overwhelms me.

This truth has been hitting me hard this week as I celebrate another year. I turn 36 this week and the ticking of the clock gets louder each year. I find myself wishing I could buy myself 5 years but I can’t do that no matter how much I might like to.

I have some updates about my current treatment and how I have been feeling over the summer. I need to warn you, though, this post feels extra- whiny so I am sorry in advance.

Before I start, and because it has been so long since I posted, I thought I might quickly review basic thyroid function. For such a little gland there is a lot of technical stuff going on,  so I want to try and help you understand what I am dealing with here!

The thyroid gland is the little butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which converts to T4 (inactive Hormone) and converts again to T3 (active hormone). I believe there is some additional conversion after that (T1 and T2), but the T3 is the active hormone that is supposed to be absorbed into the cells of the body.

If you are Hypothyroid (underactive), and still have a thyroid gland, a few things may be happening (or not happening):

1) You thyroid gland does not produce enough TSH and it cannot convert to T4 and then to T3 so you need to take thyroid replacement
2) OR, your body does create enough TSH, it converts just fine to T4, but it doesn’t convert to T3 (active hormone that absorbs into the cells of the body)
3) OR, your body does all of the above things but your body doesn’t absorb the T3 hormone causing high Reverse T3.

Did you get all that? There is probably a lot more to add but I’m tired.

During an appointment with Joanie (in June) I had labs drawn to see how I am doing on my thyroid meds. A few weeks later I came back to review the results with her. Joanie and I were surprised to find that my Reverse T3 is high, which indicates that the T3 hormone (active thyroid hormone) is not getting to my cells like it’s supposed to. I have heard this called “pooling” before, meaning that the T3 is collecting in my bloodstream and not absorbing into my cells where my body needs it to function on all cylinders. The lab results were a surprise to me and a little confusing considering I still feel better than I have the last few years (especially last year) but I have wondered if I should be feeling better than I do. Joanie decided that she wanted to continue on my current dose and that she wanted to see me in a few weeks to determine if we needed to adjust my meds.

Several weeks passed and I saw Joanie again in early August. She decided that the root of my high Reverse T3 is that my Adrenals are still weak. So we need to continue to work on strengthening my adrenals. Ugh. She reduced my Armour (thyroid meds) to 60 mg which was terrifying to me. I was so afraid I would turn back into the anxious, irritable, exhausted zombie of a person I was a year ago. This hasn’t happened, however, which is a good indication that my body was not making full use of the full dose I had been taking since earlier this year. Which also means I can feel better than I do today!

(WARNING: it’s about to get whiny up in here)

This is the part of my health that makes me feel powerless and a little hopeless. You see STRESS is the culprit behind most of my health issues. It’s kind of a no-brainer that the best thing I can do for my health is reduce stress in my life. I have read of people with adrenal insufficiency that have had to take extreme measures and quit their jobs to stay in bed until their adrenals healed. One person literally stayed in bed for 6 weeks except to bathe and fix something to eat. When it comes to healing the adrenal glands you have to rest and change your diet, eliminating caffeine, sugar, starches (which are all adrenaline triggers). While I do have the ability to control my diet (which I admit I am not perfect with and realize I must make a permanent change), lying in bed for 2 months is not an option (although that sounds amazing right now). I do the best I can but I usually feel like I am depositing and withdrawing energy from my adrenal savings account.

I do try to fit as much rest in my life as I am able. I can try to go to bed no later than 9 pm; I can force myself to stay in bed until 9 am on weekends and try to get a nap in later. I do close my door an turn off the lights for 20 minutes during my lunch when I am able to. While I can’t sleep I am able to lie down and relax a little which is something.

(WARNING: More whining ahead)

What I CANNOT control is the fact that I chose a profession that involves a lot of crisis. Human crisis. I work in the Human Services field and while a typical day for me might include a lot of paperwork and writing case notes it can change in a moment if/when I get a phone call that someone is suicidal, in jail, homeless, a victim of battery or sexual assault, etc. It’s been this way for 14 years. But here’s where the insanity is: I CHOSE to do this work and even though I am starting to fully understand that all I am dealing with now is directly connected to the stress of my chosen occupation I really can’t imagine doing anything else because I don’t want to.

I was told once that I’m really good at being in people shit (not literally by the way!). What I think they meant is that I am good at being with people when shit hits the fan… people shit (chaos, dysfunction, drama, etc). I know this is true, I can’t look back at my career and think about the insane situations I’ve been in over the years and not see that. “Normal” work is boring to me.

Recently I realized something about myself. I got a call from a client thanking me for the help I had provided on an issue. Before we hung up they said to me: “I don’t know what we would do without you.” I felt a rush of satisfaction through my body when they said the words and it suddenly struck me: being needed/helping/rescuing is my drug. I need it and I know what I need to do to get it.

So I’m evaluating myself, my real motivation for my work, and I realize I have some major things to consider in the next few years.

I still love my job, I really do. I just wish it wouldn’t kill me.

(rant over).

Also, I updated my treatment page.

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It’s not a diet. It’s a “food lifestyle”

It has been a year since I started making permanent changes to my diet. As I learn more about thyroid disease, I continue to adapt and make changes. I found this great article the other day about the Paleo diet and thyroid. The article also explains the importance of gut health, and how gluten and adrenal insufficiency affect thyroid function.
Until recently I was still eating some starches: gluten free flours, beans and legumes, my beloved corn tortilla chips (sniff). I have been slowly reducing the remaining starches from my diet. I hear from many thyroid patients who have had success with managing their weight and symptoms that the paleo diet was most helpful–and doable. So far I am finding it simplifies my shopping even more and I am enjoying what I eat. I keep a food journal which helps me track how much protein and complex carbs I am consuming through the day. I am learning what time of day I have the most cravings for something salty and sweet (between 3 and 5, btw) and I try to pack the right type of snack for my late afternoon “witching hour”
I am trying to be really mindful of my motivation for “going paleo,” sadly many thyroid patients are accused by some medical professionals of just wanting thyroid meds to lose weight (really, I’m not making that up). I have tried so many starvation diets that promised results, I joined Weight Watchers 3 times in the last 6 years, I started running several times a week but my weight never budged. In my adult life I have always been active but my weight just continued to increase. I have often said to myself, “be glad you are pretty tall for a woman. If you we’re any shorter you couldn’t hide being 30 pounds overweight as easily.”
My first priority will always be my health and how I feel, not a number on a scale or the size of my clothes. However, I do feel responsible for knowing what I eat, how much I eat and certainly how the food I eat affects my body.

One year update

I have passed the one year mark since I started working with Joanie. Since my last post in January, I continue to feel better, stronger and more alive. My Armour dose seems to be working well, I take 90 mcg daily and I increase it to 120 a couple of times a week. This is working well and I am so encouraged!
My adrenals also continue to improve although it is a constant balance of not over doing it and resting when I know I need it. I recently added 5 mg of DHEA for additional adrenal support. So far it seems like a good addition and that my body was ready for it. I haven’t experienced any side effects at this point.
The candida I have been fighting seems to be surrendering… FINALLY! I continue to take Morinda Supreme because, according to Joanie, it is helping to push it out of my body and that is a good thing.
I am happy to say that I have been incorporating some exercise into my daily routine. No cardio at this point (besides walking) but I am doing strength exercises focusing on my core for 30-40 minutes a day. My body seems to like this and I have yet to feel any kind of energy crash indicating that I have taxed my adrenals.
So, I am feeling good and looking forward to this summer and spending time outdoors tackling some projects I haven’t had the energy for in a long time.
Robin

Update: Hormones

I have an update following my recent appointment with Joanie. She reviewed my hormone level lab results which tested my Progesterone, Testosterone and Estrogen levels.  I forgot to ask for a copy of my labs for my records, so I cannot provide the reference ranges right now, but I do remember most of the information:

Luteal Phase (time of my cycle when labs were drawn)

Estrogen: high end of the reference range

Testosterone: normal range

Progesterone: lowest possible number on the reference range

I have been taking bio-identical progesterone since April of last year, without it I don’t know if I my levels would even be on the chart! Obviously my progesterone levels continue to be extremely low and my estrogen levels very high. I am hopeful that as I continue on Armour and continue to heal my adrenals that my body will be able to naturally refuel my deficient hormone levels.

It is no wonder that I have not been able to carry a pregnancy with such low levels of progesterone.  I am left to wonder if my body will ever heal itself in such a way that I can support a pregnancy naturally. This is one of the many questions I have for Joanie in a few weeks.

I have increased my zinc to 2,000 mg a day and Joanie has added Morinda Supreme to my regime again as my Candida continues to rear its ugly head.  I have also started to have some small rash breakouts on my skin.  When I showed the rash on my leg to Joanie she said immediately that it is likely the Candida.  She wrote a prescription for an antifungal cream and I left her office totally grossed out at myself. 

She also referred me to a new chiropractor and I will be calling to schedule an appointment soon. I think that is it for now. I have updated my treatment page.

Yoga for Adrenal Fatigue

I have been trying to find a way to work in activity without overdoing it and taxing my adrenals even more than they already are. I know that exercising on a regular basis is essential to my health but I have felt an increase in fatigue over the last several days, especially in the morning, which is when my adrenal levels are tanked so I know I need
to be patient with myself.

I am paying a lot of attention to what I eat and how different foods make me feel. I have definitely noticed I am sensitive to carbs! It’s amazing, I can feel it within a matter of minutes.

Even though I really want to start a fitness routine, I keep reminding myself what others have told me which is to take my time and go slow.

I found this website and I have printed the yoga cards for this gentle yoga routine. I wanted to share in case you are interested.  http://www.yogacards.com/adrenal_Gland/adrenal-gland-disorders.html

2012: Reflections on my journey so far

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I’m really tired to day. My head is fuzzy, but I’m going to try to put a couple of sentences together. I think that taking time to reflect on what has happened helps a person move forward in life.  I thought I might take some time to reflect on my health journey and how I discovered I was dealing with thyroid and other reproductive hormone issues.

A few days ago I said goodbye to a pretty wild year.  2012 was exhausting and painful but looking back I also see a great amount of progress and renewed hope.  Last year at this time I was grasping the reality that I was pregnant again and looking forward with joy and expectation. It was a very welcomed surprise and my husband and I were beyond excited to be parents. It didn’t take me long to start planning a nursery. I even started crocheting a little blanket. I knew that it was still so early but I couldn’t help but be caught up in the excitement of a new life joining our family. Fast forward to 4 weeks later and I found myself lying on an exam table while an ultra sound technician searched in quiet desperation for any signs of life in my womb. When she left the room without any explanation my husband and I sat in silence looking at each other. There just wasn’t anything to say out loud. I remember he held my hand and wiped my tears. About 15 minutes later, she put us on the phone with my Doctor who first told us we were expecting twins but that there was no sign of life.  It was a cold and dark January day and I found myself reliving the same nightmare for the third time.

The weeks following my miscarriage I remember praying and pleading that I might find some answers to my most consuming question, “why?”  The next few months I poured myself into researching the terms I’d heard my doctor use: “recurrent miscarriages” and “unexplained miscarriages.” It was all I had to go on and at some point in one of my searches I stumbled on the word “hypothyroidism.”

I read everything I could find about hypothyroidism over the next few months.  I remember pouring over the list of symptoms and feeling like I had discovered a missing piece to the last few years. It was eye opening to me think how far back I could remember experiencing several of the symptoms and yet I would doubt myself that I was making too much of it. 

I was too nervous to talk to a doctor about it.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed and honestly, I expected they would just tell me I was depressed and put me on depression and anxiety meds.

In March I made an appointment to see a new chiropractor as I had been experiencing some flare ups of pain in my lower back, and my left ankle I had injured a year earlier while I was trying (key word: TRYING) to get in shape so I could run a half marathon and hopefully lose some weight. About a month into my “training plan” I hurt my ankle after a run and was told I had Achilles Tendonitis. It was really painful but after a lot of physical therapy I did get the green light to start running again. I worked up to 10 miles a week (which wasn’t a lot but it was something). I was always confused by the fact that I never saw a change in the scale even though I was exercising and watching my diet. I started juicing fruits and vegetables that summer too. It was really frustrating because I really found that I enjoyed this sport and it helped ease stress and anxiety and for a little while I would feel an increase in my energy. I gave up trying to run around September of 2011.

Anyway, back to the Chiropractor appointment. I went for my first appointment and filled out a “new patient questionnaire” which asked for health history and current symptoms. I was surprised to find that the questionnaire asked about a lot of other things besides my back.  I decided to check all that applied including feeling depressed and anxious, trouble sleeping and fatigue. I also included in the notes section that I’d had 3 miscarriages. I sat down with my new doctor and he asked me a couple of questions about my back and ankle and had me stand and do a couple of exercises to measure my level of discomfort. 

The next part totally surprised me.  He pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of me.  He asked me to explain my anxiety, fatigue and depression and the miscarriages. So I told him. I told him that for as long as I can remember, I always feel tired.  Not just “I need to get to bed earlier tonight” tired but after at least 8 hours of sleep I wake up to feel knuckle dragging exhaustion by 1:00 in the afternoon.  EVERYDAY.  I told him how I find it really hard to concentrate at work or any task for that matter and that sometimes, more often than I would like to admit, I don’t want to leave my house.  I explained that I wasn’t afraid or paranoid to leave my house; I just couldn’t muster the energy to walk out my door. I told him about the babies and that I had lost them all before 9 weeks and no one could tell me why.

I remember saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me” to which he quickly replied “I do.” He said, “Robin, I think you have a thyroid condition. I can tell just by looking at your neck.”

I really don’t want to make this sound all dramatic, but when he told me this I literally burst into tears.  I couldn’t believe what he had just told me. I had been reading everything I could find and yet I struggled to believe it could be happening to me.  He let me sit there and cry and offered me a Kleenex. I said “You must think I’m crazy!  I just met you, but I have been wondering for some time if this was happening to me.  It means a lot that you just said that.”  He encouraged me to find a doctor that would prescribe desiccated thyroid, like Armour.

A month later, I met Joanie.  It’s been quite a journey that continues to bring surprises but today I increased my dose to 90 mg of Armour Thryoid.  I am hopeful that I will continue to feel better and that my other hormone and digestions issues will improve also.

On another note, I had my annual eye appointment a few weeks ago (just before Christmas) and would you believe that my vision has actually improved in my left eye from my appointment last year?  It’s a slight change, but I was very surprised to hear this considering how much work I do on the computer.  She adjusted my prescription and I just received my new contacts.  I don’t know if this could be related to being treated for hypo, but who knows!

It is amazing how everything is connected.

Looking back, I feel like I am very far away from a year ago.  I feel that my prayers were answered, which is a great blessing.  I still have no idea what may or may not happen in the future, but I know that I am making good strides in my health.

That is all I can ask for now.