Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Exhausted 24/7? Get a Thyroid Test

Exhaustion! That's how it started for me. I was constantly running around like a chicken with my head cut off, always exhausted. But, still, I never stopped. I never slowed down. I pushed myself relentlessly. And then, one day, I realized that I hadn't had my period for almost five months. From May to September, I'd had nothing. After the freaked out run to the pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test (which was negative, thank heavens), I sat stumped and tired and tried to figure out what the heck was happening to me.

This sort of thing had happened before. When I was fifteen, I missed my period from December to May. At that point, I was so busy (high school, working at the ice cream store, and theater, choir, and all sorts of other extracurricular activities) that I didn't notice (and wasn't sexually active so pregnancy was a non-issue). The morning after the closing night of the last play of the year, I got my period and it plagued me for almost three weeks. Payback is a bitch. Then, there was a time or two when I got my period and it didn't stop for two months. What delightful fun. These happened when I was in my twenties and had no insurance so I didn't head to the doctor. Stupid? Yes. Reality? Sadly, also yes.

At the time, I had no idea these were some of the biggest indicators that my thyroid was desperately trying to tell me something. Some of the others: hair and nails get brittle, unexplained weight gain, fatigue, infertility, a puffy face, constipation, muscle weakness, loss of muscle tone, high cholesterol, hoarse voice, sensitivity to cold, painful, stiff joints, and depression (these and others are listed on the Mayo Clinic hypothyroid website:

It turns out that women are at the highest risk for thyroid issues (and something like 20-30 million are wandering around, exhausted and undiagnosed) and one of the big signs that something is amiss is when your period stops, or it starts and never ends or it just becomes irregular. That and fatigue. Holy moly: the fatigue! I would find myself more exhausted when I awoke than I had been the night before. It never ended. There simply was never a time when I felt energetic and strong. I was always desperately trying to catch up, like I'd just finished sprinting nine tenths of a mile, had the last tenth to go, and if I didn't get there, everything would collapse around me. I would force myself out of bed and push myself or throw myself into my daily activities because if I didn't, I would just drop. Literally.

Finally, in 1996 (at thirty) I found time to stop and do some research. Potential thyroid issues? WTH? Quickly, I made an appointment with an endocrinologist. My Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test came back 14. TSH is what they test for first, once they've heard your list of symptoms. Here's the thing about TSH. The result is counterintuitive. The pituitary releases TSH when the thyroid isn't producing enough thyroid hormone (T4). TSH prods the thyroid to do its job. So, if there's a lot of it in your system, it means that the thyroid is sluggish for some reason. (Normal ranges and what they mean, next time.)

Here's the thing about endocrinologists. They treat the energy system of your body. The endocrine system governs the thyroid, the adrenals, the pituitary, and all the other glands that have responsibility with our energy and metabolism. (For a full write-up of that, see: So, the importance of taking care of those glands cannot be over stressed unless you want to be forced to lie in bed without the energy to raise your head.

I knew what was wrong and now I had decisions to make. Next time, we'll talk about normal ranges, and what happened to me next.

Do you find yourself exhausted, depressed, stressed, achy, and feel like you are pushing yourself just to get through a normal day on a daily basis? Can you relate to any of these symptoms and issues? What's your story?


  1. I have hypo and it's a daily struggle. I am on levo and I have a feeling my hormones are out-of-whack again but I am probably getting tested again next week. I'm exhausted a lot again and depressed. I'm so sick of this, I wish there was a more solid way of getting back on track without constantly fighting against myself. I've written about it on my blog.

  2. It really is a struggle. How long ago were you diagnosed? For me it was 16 years ago. I decided not to do pharmaceuticals and instead went a more natural route (lots of kelp, a change in diet, exercise, etc.). and I've brought my TSH down to almost the normal range. I don't always keep it there, but I can bring it back to close to where it's supposed to be.

    Have you tried to supplement your meds with any of those types of changes?

    It's so difficult to know that it's our own bodies that are making us this tired, depressed, etc. Hopefully, your blood test will give you a direction and some hope.

    1. I was diagnosed a year ago I think but I've known something was off for a while now. I want to introduce more vitamins into my diet and I want to change my diet but I'm having a hard time with that. I'd love to hear more about the changes you made and what changes really made a difference for you.

    2. Vitamins can be really good additions or they can have minimal returns. I'd suggest you really take a look at what you need. What is your diet like now? Do you by any chance eat a lot of bread/carbs? I notice that I crave carbs a lot and I think it's because they give quick energy and so I feel better for a bit but then very quickly, my energy level drops into the basement.

      I'll be posting a good bit about my diet so hopefully, you'll find some of that information useful.

      If I had any suggestions, first I'd say take a look at your simple carb intake (white rice, white bread, potatoes, etc.). I love them all but they are culprits. I'm going to have a big post on bread and my love/hate relationship with it, soon. Cheers!

  3. I have all the symptoms.. I have gained weight, irregular, SO exhausted to the point where I cant even go to work some days. I feel like im in a fog. My mom, my uncle, and my grandmother all have thyroid problems. I know this goes misdiagnosed for a while. I guess my question for you is what are my other options other than the TSH test? From my understanding ranges are different for different doctors for what IS normal. My doctor has me getting antibodies tested so I guess that is a start.

    Also I got an old test back and it said my PLT was low. What does this mean/stand for?

    Thank you.

  4. I'm so sorry you are so exhausted. It is a really tough place to be when it takes all your effort just to get out of bed in the morning. And yes, your mind feels like it's trying to push through molasses to get anything done. It's debilitating and disheartening and I'm sorry you are going through it. I'm so glad though that you are thinking about things you can do. Even if it's tough on you, you are trying and that is amazing. Good for you.

    I agree with you that different doctors will tell you different ranges of TSH are normal. Some say the upper limit is 4.5 and others say it's 2.5 so that's a pretty wide difference in what is "normal." I am not sure if you are asking about other tests or if you are asking what you can do to deal with it without testing at all. If you want a more concrete test than looking for TSH, (which really only tells you that the pituitary is sending out thyroid stimulating hormone rather than telling you how much actual thyroid hormone you have in your system) you might want to have them test for T4 (thyroxine), FT4 (free thyroxine) or T3 (triiodothyronine). (Here's the webmd page on the tests: Those tests are more expensive but they will give you a better picture of what's actually going on as far as how much thyroid hormone(s) you have in your body.

    If, on the other hand, you are asking what you can do to start potentially mitigating the issue before you have the blood work done, I might suggest a few things. First, try to get more sleep. Then, if you exercise a lot, cut back and only do a few minutes a day. Next, take a look at what you eat. If you eat a lot of bread, spinach, broccoli, tofu, or cauliflower, cut back on those as they can be thyroid inhibitors. I'd suggest eating no tofu at all. Find kelp or spirulina or other iodine-rich foods and start eating those (or taking a supplement daily [or whatever is recommended], with food). There are also some acupressure points that I detail in later posts of this blog that you might want to work on. They might help as well.

    Please know: I am not a doctor and I am not trying to give out medical advice, and I would love for you to know exactly what your issues are. If you are hypothyroid, then there are meds that can help. I am treating my hypothyroidism naturally, but it does take a fair amount of work. But, I did go ahead and have them run the tests just so I know exactly what the issues are and I do have my TSH levels tested every six months just to make sure that I am still either in or close to the normal range. I would hate to see you suffer any longer than you already have and getting tested and finding out exactly what the problem is will help you make informed decisions on what to do next. Regardless, I wish you a speedy recovery and I hope your energy comes back. I know that it really does feel like you are sleepwalking through your life because you just don't have the energy to do any more. I hope that you start feeling better soon. Please keep me posted on your progress.

    Last, I believe PLT is shorthand for platelets. A platelet test is done to test for how many platelets you have in your blood. They are smaller than either white or red blood cells and they help the blood clot. Here is the NIH web page ( for them so you can see more information.

    Be well. (Oh and you might have to copy and paste the urls to get to the websites.)


Please Note

Welcome to Natural Thyroid. This blog details my process of treating my hypothyroidism naturally. Please note: I am not telling you *to* do or not to do anything with my posts (remember to work with your medical practitioner, whether it's an allopath or an alternative medicine practitioner).