Friday, December 30, 2011

Could Your Thyroid be Low?

Have you been told lately that your thyroid tests are “just fine” or “normal”? And yet you still feel tired or sluggish all the time, keep gaining weight, and have a bevy of almost puzzling symptoms that seem unrelated? Well, it’s time to give your thyroid some attention. Why?
Because normal is not “optimal” (in the infamous words of Dr. Christiane Northrup) and your thyroid, while appearing normal, could be low. 

See if you have any of these common symptoms of low thyroid:
  • Low energy or fatigue, sometimes extreme
  • Depression or low mood, overemotional, irritable
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Carpal tunnel or tendonitis in the forearms, or anywhere
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle aching
  • Joint pain
  • Infertility or menstrual problems
  • Migraines, headaches
  • Feeling cold, cold hands or feet, low body temperature
  • Inability to concentrate or brain fog
  • Weight gain, belly fat, inability to lose weight when trying
  • Digestive problems, like indigestion or bloating
  • Insomnia
  • Lower immune function, more viruses/infections or other immune problems
 If you think this is a long list, it’s not -- there are many more! See below for a very long list of many more possible symptoms of low thyroid. The good news is all these symptoms can be reversed completely if the thyroid is diagnosed and treated properly.  If you have any of these symptoms, please see your doctor to get tested and get treatment. It could change your life.

Thyroid lab tests are not routinely done as part of any health screening. They need to be asked for.  If you’re not at least tested, then no diagnosis or treatment is even possible and symptoms will continue and could (and probably will) get worse over time and could contribute to a chronic illness.

Make a list of your symptoms
If you’ve had a particular symptom for a long time, such as fatigue, low-grade depression, loss of or thinning hair, chronic inflamed tendons (e.g., carpal tunnel), joint pain, muscle aching, weight gain, or any chronic issue – take a moment to think about what your symptoms are. It’s possible to have had the symptom for so long, it’s easy to forget that it is a symptom. Make a list to take to your doctor.

Not sure of your symptoms?
Sometimes we don’t even realize what is happening because it’s happened over time – a period of months to years even. In fact, many of us tell ourselves why they aren’t really “symptoms”. We rationalize to ourselves why we have it, so it doesn’t seem like a problem. I don’t think we do this on purpose. It may happen as an adaptive response because the symptoms develop slowly at first. One day’s little handful of hair coming out in the shower doesn’t seem like too much. Or we may think of constipation as just the way things are, or the painful forearm and aching joints a result of pulling weeds three months ago. And in fact, sometimes we don’t even know we’ve had a symptom until it’s gone – like brain fog.

I’ve known people that were tired for so long they hardly even realized it! They had just adapted to their situation by doing less, taking naps, not exercising, working less (or not at all), staying home more, or whatever had to be done to cope with having less energy. 

Why are there so many unrelated symptoms?
If the body can be compared to a car, I think of the thyroid gland as the “engine”. An engine needs all sorts of stuff – oil, spark, gas, and on and on. But if the engine isn’t working, then not much else is either! And that is so true of the thyroid. That’s why the list of symptoms can be long, and seemingly unrelated. The thyroid is one of our master workers regulating our basic metabolism. It’s also interlinked with many other hormones, including adrenal cortisol and estrogen. That’s how so many different systems of the body can be affected, from digestion to joints to mood to sleep -- beginning with the basic running of our engine (metabolism). Things just won’t work very well, system-wide, when the thyroid is low.

Don’t forget the adrenals!
One really important note needs to made here. The adrenals work pretty closely with the thyroid to help it work better. If your thyroid is low, then your adrenals are working harder than need be to keep it bolstered up, and can eventually get exhausted as well. But your adrenals could have been low (or fatigued) in the first place, which might contribute to the lower workings of the thyroid. Often there’s a mixture of both low thyroid and low adrenal, especially if you have any ongoing fatigue. If this is the case, the adrenals always need to be supported first. Think of the adrenals as the “gas” that helps keep the “engine” running. I’ll be posting more on this in the near future, but please ask me if you need more information on this in the meantime.

Low thyroid can happen at ANY age
It’s more common as we age to have low thyroid (especially over 50), but absolutely anyone at any age can have low thyroid. I’ve known many very young women in their late teens and twenties who have health issues related to hormonal imbalances, including low thyroid. The results (e.g., infertility, migraines, or chronic illnesses) can be just as devastating at any age.

We’re all such unique creatures with our own unique hormone profile, symptoms of low thyroid can be different for everyone, in type and severity.

Many chronic illnesses have low thyroid as a component
Have you or anyone you know been diagnosed with “fibromyalgia" or "chronic fatigue"? These are perfect examples of a chronic illness where the thyroid is likely low -- with likely low adrenals as well (among other things). The good news is….more and more doctors and practitioners are learning that the thyroid needs to also be treated with chronic illnesses, not only for fibromyalgia but any kind of chronic fatigue or autoimmune disorder (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s, or multiple sclerosis).

Always get your lab results!
If I could bring one point to anyone’s attention, it’s this: don’t ever let your doctor tell you that your lab tests were “normal” or “okay”. ALWAYS GET YOUR NUMBERS, and know what they mean. If you’re having low thyroid symptoms, yet your lab results are “normal”, it's nice to know but it matters little. You need treatment based on your symptoms. This is called “functional medicine”.

You’d be surprised just how many doctors are uneducated about functional thyroid problems, or maybe you wouldn’t’ be surprised. I had severe low thyroid symptoms once while my lab tests were right in the middle of normal. This defies reason until you understand that lab results aren’t necessarily “your” numbers. Normal lab results are simply a range of a group of people’s results that are graded on a bell curve. Your “normal” may fall somewhere to the right or left of this curve.

Get your free T3 and free T4 tested
If your doctor doesn’t routinely test for free T3 and free T4, then ASK FOR IT. And insist on it! Your health depends on it. Some doctors only test for “TSH” which is not the best indicator of why you’re having these symptoms. And begin to educate yourself about what all these symptoms might mean, and how to get treatment (more posts coming from me on this).

But I trust my doctor!
And you should. Or at least, I hope you see a doctor that you can trust. But think about all the many maladies a primary care doctor needs to be aware for babies, children, and adults.  And there's often just not time in a 15-minute doctor visit to thoroughly explore your situation. In reality, it would probably take another 30-60 minutes for a doctor to take a proper “history” and get all of your symptoms so you could be properly treated, or referred for treatment. And that would be if you arrived with a very good idea in mind of what they all were. Many times a doctor or practitioner has to ferret out what the real symptoms are.

Be the captain (or no less than the co-captain) of your health ship and insist on getting what you need.

Personally and professionally, I really hate to see anyone have these kinds of symptoms (with related chronic illnesses) and not know what’s wrong. Many think it’s all in their head, or just a part of aging, or even bad luck or bad genes. This makes me so sad because it can all be helped with treatment. Help is available by learning about the problem and asking for help – repeatedly if necessary!

To my great satisfaction, I’ve helped many friends and clients get their thyroid back on track. And I’ve watched their lives change for the better, just like mine did after taking my first thyroid glandular. What a life-changing day that was.

Have any comments or experiences you’d like to share about your thyroid? I’d be interested to hear them. Or let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Adele Sonora
Nutrition and Health Educator

From “Stop the Thyroid Madness”
The list below is based on symptoms as reported by a variety of hypothyroid-diagnosed patients. Some patients have some symptoms; other patients may have others. These are also lingering symptoms that patients report having while on Thyroxine T4-only meds (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine, Eltroxin, etc) and with a so-called target TSH.

But there’s MORE! In order for symptoms to qualify to be on this list below, these ALSO had to be symptoms which were improved or totally eradicated when these same patients worked with an informed doctor and got on natural desiccated thyroid like Armour, Naturethroid, Acella, Canada’s Erfa, compounded or others, and found their optimal dose (and in the presence of good adrenal function and adequate iron labs):

In other words, if you feel you have many of these symptoms, and have never received a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, it’s time to visit a doctor. But informed patients who have walked this path ahead of you strongly encourage you to learn from other patients i.e. to not let a doctor solely diagnose you simply by the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) lab, but to do the free T3 and free T4. And just as importantly, to listen to your symptoms, not just an ink spot on a piece of paper.

Or, if you have received a diagnosis and still have many of these symptoms, it’s time to become more informed about better thyroid treatment and all things related to being hypothyroid. YOU are your own best advocate. Teach your doctor!

· Less stamina than others
· Less energy than others
· Long recovery period after any activity
· Inability to hold children for very long
· Arms feeling like dead weights after activity
· Chronic Low Grade Depression
· Suicidal Thoughts
· Often feeling cold
· Cold hands and feet
· High or rising cholesterol
· Heart disease
· Palpitations
· Fibrillations
· Plaque buildup
· Bizarre and debilitating reaction to exercise
· Hard stools
· Constipation
· No eyebrows or thinning outer eyebrows
· Dry Hair
· Hair Loss
· White hairs growing in
· No hair growth, breaks faster than it grows
· Dry cracking skin
· Nodding off easily
· Requires naps in the afternoon
· Sleep Apnea (which can also be associated with low cortisol)
· Air Hunger (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
· Inability to concentrate or read long periods of time
· Forgetfulness
· Foggy thinking
· Inability to lose weight
 Always gaining weight
· Inability to function in a relationship with anyone
· NO sex drive
· Failure to ovulate and/or constant bleeding (see Rainbow’s story)
· Moody periods
· Inability to get pregnant; miscarriages
· Excruciating pain during period
· Nausea
· Swelling/edema/puffiness
· Aching bones/muscles
· Osteoporosis
· Bumps on legs
· Acne on face and in hair
· Breakout on chest and arms
· Hives
· Exhaustion in every dimension–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional
· Inability to work full-time
· Inability to stand on feet for long periods
· Complete lack of motivation
· Slowing to a snail’s pace when walking up slight grade
· Extremely crabby, irritable, intolerant of others
· Handwriting nearly illegible
· Internal itching of ears
· Broken/peeling fingernails
· Dry skin or snake skin
· Major anxiety/worry
· Ringing in ears
· Lactose Intolerance
· Inability to eat in the mornings
· Joint pain
· Carpal tunnel symptoms
· No appetite
· Fluid retention to the point of Congestive Heart Failure
· Swollen legs that prevented walking
· Blood Pressure problems
· Varicose Veins
· Dizziness from fluid on the inner ear
· Low body temperature
· Raised temperature
· Tightness in throat; sore throat
· Swollen lymph glands
· Allergies (which can also be a result of low cortisol–common with hypothyroid patients)
· Headaches and migraines
· Sore feet (plantar fascitis); painful soles of feet
· A cold bum
· Irritable bowel syndrome
· Painful bladder
· Extreme hunger, especially at nighttime
· Dysphagia, which is nerve damage and causes the inability to swallow fluid, food or your own saliva and leads to “aspiration pneumonia”.

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