A lot has happened in the month of August so far, and it’s still early in the month. I have a lot to cover in this post.
Before I dive in, let me review the last few months.
In April I met my NP and discussed my health history and symptoms. She ordered blood work which looked at everything: TSH, Free T-3 and T-4 and Reverse T-3, Iron, B12, Vitamin D. Pretty much a laundry list of things. I changed my diet by eliminating dairy, gluten and simple carbs from my diet, started a probiotic and Morinda Supreme as she diagnosed me with candida and “leaky gut”. I know, that just sounds gross, and it really is.
If there is one thing I learned quickly, it’s that your guts have A LOT to do with how you feel.
There was a delay at the lab and so my results took twice as long to get back. When I met with her in late May, at that time, my blood lab results were “relatively good” and she determined that I was not hypothyroid just really stressed and low in my Vitamin B’s and Vitamin D. She did agree to start me on Lugol’s Iodine solution (6 drops, daily) to see if that would help my fatigue, anxiety, weight, etc when I pressed her for an explanation as to why I felt so drained and agitated all the time and my temperatures were low. She also increased my B Complex, and Vitamin D3.
Over the next few weeks, I did notice a subtle improvement in my energy (any improvement was noticeable) but I still struggled with nearly constant anxiety and all the fun stuff that comes with that: avoidance, irritability, exhaustion.
It was a really discouraging couple of months. I expected that my blood work would have bright flashing hazard lights indicating thyroid issues and it was a huge let down when that didn’t happen but my symptoms persisted.
I was encouraged by my husband to continue to look for help for my anxiety and depression and so I entered counseling to help me process everything that was going on: my grief from the pregnancy losses, my health, my vocation, the challenges I experience daily just getting out of bed. All along I have said that I just want to be healthy and find out what the problem is. I am willing to recognize that the last few years certainly justify feeling depressed and I am not a stranger to the benefits of counseling as I have found great healing and renewal through this process in years past.
It’s work, though! Whew!
So far, counseling has brought me some great insight and my therapist is a very kind and genuine woman. Her office is my safe haven where it’s all about me and I can let out all my thoughts my complaints and frustrations. It’s also a place where I learn new ways of coping and looking at things. I am committed to working on my whole self: body, mind and spirit.
In July, my husband, who is also treated at the clinic I go to, had an opportunity to mention to my provider what he sees me struggle with and she told him that we should do a saliva test to check for Adrenal Fatigue. I had an appointment with her the following week and we agreed to do the test.
On August 1st I had an appointment to find out the results from the saliva test. Before she started to explain she looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you get out of bed in the morning.” I chuckled and said, “Well, it’s not pretty.”
Trust me. It isn’t.
I have been reading a lot about adrenal function and cortisol. As I understand it, cortisol is one of the hormones the adrenal glands release to prepare us for challenges, including “fight or flight” situations. Cortisol, also known as a “stress hormone,” works by increasing blood pressure and blood sugar (for energy). These are helpful physiological responses in the heat of a stressful situation, but if they continue throughout much of the day, weeks or years, the body will suffer. Sustained levels of cortisol can destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and cell regeneration, disrupt metabolism and digestion, and compromise your immune system.
To help me explain my results, I took a picture of the graph that shows my “Circadian Cortisol Profile:”
The light grey shadow you see is considered normal range. As you can see, I start the morning out low and just keep crashing. Even though I am considered normal range by 4pm and midnight, she explained that I am still so low for “normal”. I struggle throughout the day with energy, my anxiety is highest in the morning and then I feel more fatigued through the afternoon and evening. I wouldn’t consider the way I feel as normal, either.
The saliva test also tested my Cortisol-DHEA Correlation. My results are in the picture below:
In order to explain this accurately, I’m going to refer you to this link: DHEA and Adrenal Imbalance, by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Results showed I am in what is considered “Zone- 4- Maladapted Phase II”. I’m just going to quote directly from my lab paperwork: (this) “represents a marginal cortisol output with reduced DHEA levels reflecting a limited adrenal response…this suboptimal response is any response not consistent with a normal diurnal cortisol production pattern. This condition is usually the outcome of chronic and protracted stress exposure.”
A surprising result from this test was that I was found to be positive for Gliadin Ab, or Gluten Intolerance. Borderline range for this lab was 13-15 U/ml.
A positive result is anything greater than 15/mil.
My result was 32 U/mil which was described to me as moderate to severe gluten intolerance.
I was surprised to learn this, although it made a lot of sense as to why I felt better when I consistently eliminate gluten.
I think that this has been the slowest realization to sink in because I am faced with challenges every day. I find myself repeating “I am gluten intolerant. When I eat gluten, my intestines are inflamed and my body doesn’t absorb nutrients I need.”
I have read a lot about gluten over the last 2 years, where it hides and how to cook most “normal” things without it, so I’m not completely at a loss. My greatest challenges are being prepared and holding the boundary when others I am with don’t have this issue. At least now I have a medically diagnosed reason to be gluten-free.
I guess it feels more “official” and helps me feel justified when I explain it to people.
I already updated my treatment page a few days ago, but let me explain in detail. Our plan to strengthen the adrenals involves taking Hydrocort at specific times throughout the day. I am working up to 7.5 mg (5 mg am, 2.5 mg at noon).
My NP has not prescribed DHEA support at this time as she wanted to see how I respond to the Hydrocort. She also prescribed a supplement called Ashwaganda, an adrenal adaptogen that I also take in the am and at noon.
I started this medication just over a week ago and I am still building up to the full dosage. I still feel extremely tired, but I can say I have noticed a lot of improvement in my anxiety, especially in the morning. I definitely still feel anxious, but it’s more subdued than a week ago. I am hoping that my energy improves over the next few weeks too.
I’ll leave it at that for now.
I still want to talk about what I have to teach myself about adrenal fatigue, fertility and how to effectively treat myself but I will save that for another post.
I also have some very important information about thyroidchange.org, but I want to give it my full attention so I’m saving that for my next post coming soon.