I appreciate the opportunity to return as a guest poster, here, to share my story. My name is Sherrie Shepherd. I am a thirty-something wife and mother of three cute, crazy monkeys by day, and an independent professional musician/composer by night. I released my first solo piano album, “Solitude” last year. Some of my hobbies include, but are not limited to: blogging (obviously), running marathons, playing piano and writing music, singing, softball, reading, and lunching with my girls, and hanging out with my family. I blog at Sher the Love, and you can find my music at http://www.sherrieshepherdpiano.com/
Do you struggle with your weight?
Do you suffer from depression?
Do you feel tired and exhausted all of the time?
Do you have trouble focusing?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, chances are you could have a thyroid disorder.
How do I know? Because I have one too.
A little over a year ago, I started noticing strange symptoms. Things I thought at the time were unrelated to each other. Over the course of a few months, I experienced symptoms such as tremors–shaking/shivering, severe and chronic diarrhea, extreme weight loss, heart palpitations, excessive hair loss, anxiety and depression, itchy, rashy skin, heat intolerance and sweating, insomnia, exopthalmopathy (bulging of the eyes), feeling fidgety and unable to relax.
This is a little embarrassing, but this is a surprise picture my then 4 year old snapped of me. You can see my sunken cheeks (from the rapid weight loss) and my bulging eyes.
Another embarrassing snapshot, but the only two I had taken of me at my worst. You can see my sunken cheekbones.
After seeing doctor after doctor, and having googled all of my symptoms, and the only thing that seemed to fit was a thyroid imbalance, I went to a fifth doctor. I begged him to do a thyroid test. At this point, it was no surprise to find I was suffering from hyperthyroidism. Extreme hyperthyroidism. I was referred to an endocrinologist, who confirmed the diagnosis as Grave’s disease–an autoimmune disease which attacks thyroid gland, and causes it to over produce.
In December of last year, I was prescribed radioactive iodine ablation treatment. Basically, I got to the go to the hospital, and a doctor dressed in a haz-mat suit, placed a giant lead container, the contents of which, was a huge radioactive pill that I then had to put in the mouth and swallow. I honestly waited to start glowing in the dark, or growing extra limbs and climbing walls, etc. I was forced into solitary confinement for 72 hours, while the radiation did it’s work.
The product of which, six months later, is that now I am no longer hyperthyroid. Now, I am hypothyroid.
What’s the difference? Well, a person with hyperthyroidism experiences the symptoms I listed above. A person with hypothyroidism experiences symptoms that are simply exactly the opposite: Constipation, fatigue, depression, weight gain, cold intolerance, memory loss, low heart rate, decreased libido, abnormal menstrual cycles, muscle and joint pain.
Who knew such a tiny butterfly shaped gland could cause so much trouble?
I have been prescribed a drug called Synthroid, which is a synthetic hormone used to replace the thyroid hormones that my dead thyroid can no longer produce. It’s not working. At least, I feel like I need more oomph.
So, I have been doing a lot of research about how to supplement the body’s natural hormones with a holistic approach, with foods, and vitamin supplements, simply because my medication just isn’t enough. I have been using myself as a living guinea pig, testing out the theories I’ve read about in books and on the Internet.
I have been dismayed to learn, and ultimately confirm, that foods that I used to love, such as raw spinach, strawberries, peaches, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, pears, radishes, cauliflower and cabbage actually block the thyroid’s ability to produce or absorb the thyroid hormones the body needs. I did learn that it is only these foods in raw form that are bad, and it is ok to eat them cooked. So much for my favorite spinach and strawberry salad, and looking like Popeye.
Also, anything with soybeans are no good for thyroid function. I have been advised to stay away from Gluten, because of the digestive problems associated with thyroid imbalance. This is a hard one for me because I love me my bread! I started eating Spelt bread, which is sprouted wheat, instead of the normal breads that use wheat gluten. I buy Prairie Grain Bread co. brand because it’s made locally, and I can buy it at the grocery store, but you can also get spelt at the health food store.
I was shocked to find that some vitamin supplements can block thyroid function as well. You know the two vitamins that women are the most deficient in? Calcium and Iron. And now, I have learned that those are the two evil supplements, when it comes to my thyroid. I asked my doctor about this one, because, I am a woman, and we naturally run low on those nutrients anyway, because of our menstrual cycles. He said for someone like me, who is taking a synthetic hormone, that it’s ok to take a multivitamin, as long as it’s several hours after I take my hormone pill.
On the other hand, I learned that food needed to stimulate the thyroid hormone are ones you wouldn’t necessarily think are good for you. For example, coffee, tea, chocolate (basically caffeine), and also avocado and coconut are good thyroid foods. (I am happy to tell myself that my daily visits to 7-11 for my giant Cherry Coke are now for the good of my health!)
Plus, red meat. VITAMIN B! I take a B Complex vitamin everyday. And vitamin C for energy. Try those Emergen-C packets. They’re awesome. I use the joint health one, with glucosamine, for my chronic joint and muscle pain.
Also seafood is excellent. Any type of food that contains high amounts of iodine are great.
Remember that radioactive iodine pill I took? They use iodine, because the thyroid naturally wants to suck up the iodine. It loves it. So, go fishin’! If you can’t stand seafood, then fish oil is a great alternative. I have heard that brands that use salmon oil, instead of the anchovies or whatever they are, are better. I would suggest going to a health food store, instead of Walmart.
Also, essentail oils have their place, too. I use lemon grass, frankenscense and melaluca oils. They help to balance out your body’s natural chemicals.
Also, I’ve noticed that to stave off being so depressed and exhausted that I can’t stand it, I have to force myself out of bed and do some sort of exercise. Because low heart rate is a symptom if low thyroid, getting my blood pumping, and my heart rate up actually can increase my energy level, and endorphins from the exercise will eliminate that depressed feeling.
Suffice it to say, it’s still a work in progress for me.
Just a few words of advice to those who are wondering if their thyroids are under or over active…
Call your doctor and get tested! And push for more extensive tests!
The first test your doctor will do is a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test. This hormone is produced by your pituitary gland, and tells the thyroid to do it’s job. The “normal range” for this test is quite wide. Unless you’re like I was and totally off the charts, chances are you will test normal, but still have a thyroid imbalance.
Ask your doctor to test your T3, T4, free T3 and free T4 levels. These are the actual hormones produced by your thyroid.
Once you’ve been tested, you can find out from your doctor, or nutritionist what’s best for you to get your thyroid in balance. From my perspective, because my condition is so permanent, I would suggest trying anything and everything you can before undergoing any long term treatments (like surgery, or radiation).
Try different foods and vitamin supplements and see how you feel. Exercise. And feel free to ask me any questions you might have, or if you need to talk to someone who’s been there, I’m all ears!