YES(!), you read that right, when I got diagnosed with Hypothyroidism last week (as soon as the shock wore off) I was pretty happy about it….relieved actually. First of all, the condition is treatable in most cases. Second, researching and learning that it wasn’t anything more serious or even remotely life threatening helped me chillax a bit. So here’s the what, why, how and now what about my little situation…..not just because I have a thing for oversharing, but because hypothyroidism is waaaayyyy more common than you might think and I hope that even if this post is beneficial for one person out there, well, that’s good enough for me.
You might know this already, but real quick: what is Hypothyroidism? In a nutshell, its an under active thyroid disease, in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormones (T3, T4 and TSH specifically). The body needs these hormones to run metabolism, regulate temperature, create energy, manage heart function and a whole lot of other super important things that keep the #bodyshow on the road so to speak.
It can be left untreated for a long time, because likely in the majority of people who have it, a lot of the symptoms can be low level, underlying and more of a nuisance but not scream out loud “there is a problem here”. So why live with it when you can do something about it?
First step is get a diagnosis. I have a “feeling” that I’ve had hypothyroidism for a few years, but I’ve learned that it can worsen with age and I’m aging!! Here were my symptoms:
Sluggish Metabolism: my diet is really good AND I exercise yet I had been slowly gaining weight in the past 6-8 months. Disclaimer, I workout a LOT and eat very cleanly (during the week) so this lifestyle likely offset major weight gain. While the physical change might not have been perceptible to anyone other than me, it raised a red flag nevertheless. I was having a hard time digesting and I was feeling overly full after having normal or even small sized meals. Plus I wasn’t eating nearly as much as my active counterparts and my body certainly felt and looked different.
Deep Deep Exhaustion / Low Energy: in my former life, I had boundless amounts of energy. I would teach 8-10 classes per week, commute on my bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan sometimes 2X/day, play with my crazy active twin boys and still have energy and time left over to entertain, go out with friends and cook healthy meals most nights. More recently, I would force myself to workout despite having this completely depleted feeling deep inside my muscles and core. To put simply, I felt like death inside. I couldn’t even sweat after running in Miami heat even though I was very hydrated. Furthermore, I felt like my body could never recover from normal workouts. I was constantly sore, achy and had intense muscle fatigue.
Irregular Cycle: this may be TMI, but most of you reading are probably women anyway, my cycle was absurdly irregular – like every 4-6 months, then every month for a few, then nothing for 5 – you get the idea.
Zero Temperature Regulation: not only are my hands and feet always freezing and often go numb, but I’m just always cold. I remember visiting NYC over the holidays and it was unseasonably warm, 70 degrees in late December. People were wearing t-shirts and i was bundled up in winter layers freezing my butt off. That’s not normal.
Hair Loss / Dry Skin: I thought living in the Florida heat and humidity would make my skin supple, hydrated and glistening. Not the case, my eczema had flared up and I had dry patches all over my body. Don’t get me started on my hair! I stopped, washing, brushing and cutting it because it was coming out in scary clumps.
So after putting it off for too long, I found a functional medicine OB/GYN and made an appointment specifically to get a complete hormonal panel, including all thyroid hormones, done. That means they take your blood, send it off to a lab to test for a whole bunch of hormone levels. After a few weeks, I got the lab results back but didn’t really understand them. Once I had a follow up with my physician she explained two very important things about my diagnosis:
1) My T3 was way below normal range, but my T4 and TSH were both at the very very bottom of what is considered normal range. Had she only tested T4 and TSH my condition wouldn’t have been detected. THIS is one of many reasons why its important to see a functional med physician.
2) Surprisingly, my Vitamin D levels were bottom of the barrel low low low despite all those freckles you see on my face from being outside! This could have also contributed to my low energy and overall well being. I was shocked because my diet is so rich in vitamins from the vegetables and fruits and because I live in Miami and get sunshine ALL the time. While its possible my sunscreen blocked what the body needs from the sunshine to produce Vitamin D, that is unlikely. Its unclear if my Vitamin D depletion is yet another symptom of the hypothyroidism or unrelated.
I know that supplements and hormone replacement therapy are a touchy subject so please do not take the following as a suggestions you should do the same and understand that this is what was prescribed for ME. I am in no position to give advice on how to treat hypothyroidism, even if you have all the symptoms above! I urge you to only start supplements and therapy under the guidance of a board certified functional medicine physician.
OK, now that I have that out of the way, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the day after taking the Vitamin D supplement my physician gave me (1 pill a week, so its a big dose) , I felt a LOT more energy. It was a huge internal shift.
I’m also on a prescription thyroid med but its unlikely I’m feeling the effects just yet as I’ve only been taking it for 9-10 days . From what I’ve read it can take up to 6 weeks to feel a difference. Before I wrap this up, my thyroid prescription includes BOTH T3 AND T4 which is important because I barely had the T3 and my T4 was super low. From what I understand, many physicians prescribe a popular thyroid supplement that only offers T4.
I am in the learning / discovery stages of what else I can do / take to help manage this. There is a lot of information out there, but I’ll always make sure that my doctor approves because mixing meds and supplements can be dangerous and could also prevent the thyroid medicine from doing its job.
So far, I feel physically more energetic, but I think that’s from the Vitamin D supplement. A lot of the other symptoms are still present, but I extremely hopeful that eventually the Thyroid medicine and my continued lifestyle will kick start my body and get me back to my usual self!