Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hypothyroidism Treatment Requires Permanent Lifestyle Changes

Treating hypothyroidism is like being on a maniacal roller coaster ride. When you're doing well, you have energy and can even fly pretty fast and loose. When you aren't doing well, life feels like it's taken a jello-filled body suit that weights three hundred pounds, forced you to wear it and still try to run marathons on a regular basis. In other words, it crushes you.

In my own process of treating it, things ebbed and flowed. For a little while, I was okay. When I wasn't, I thought I might turn inside out from the fatigue. At my lowest ebb, I ended up with an 83 TSH count (remember, normal is somewhere between .3 and ~4.5). I remember I was so exhausted that I barely made it in to see Dr. L, the Endocrinologist. She had advised me strongly that I needed to go on meds the first time she diagnosed me and at that point, my TSH level was a 14. So, when she saw 83, she was incredulous.

"How are you up and about?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" I replied.
"An 83 TSH count means you should be having trouble getting out of bed."
"Well," I was getting a bit nervous now. "Actually, I've been very busy. I've been doing a lot of running around."

Then, she said something that completely freaked me out. "With an 83 TSH count, you ought to be in a coma. Nobody walks around and does anything with this much Thyroid Stimulating Hormone in their system. This could get worse and very quickly. Your bodily systems could all shut down. You need meds. Right now."

"I still don't want to do that."

"At least, you can go on them for a few months to give your thyroid a break. Or it will burn out. You will have nothing left and you don't want to get to that point."

It's hard to describe how freaked out I was. I was barely hanging on, as it was. Moving through my days was taking every single iota of effort I could eke out of my exhausted body. The tiniest little thing took everything I had to give. And I had little left. So, I decided to trust her and try the meds.

"So, what you're saying is, I can go on them for a little while and then stop?"

"It's highly irregular, but yes, you can do that. You can wean yourself off them when your thyroid has had a rest."

"Okay," I agreed. "I'll do it."

I went on Synthroid for three months. I weaned myself off and here's why. Nothing changed. I had no more energy than I had had before. I didn't lose weight. My metabolism stayed the same as it had been. With the exception of the fact that I guess my thyroid got a little break, everything else was completely the same as it had been when I wasn't on the meds. So, my body had enough thyroid hormone, but nothing else changed. I decided that I might as well feel like crap without the meds since I still felt like the exact same form of crap with them.

It turns out that my form of hypothyroidism is the kind where my thyroid is making (just) enough Thyroid Hormone, but it's very inefficient. It's working too hard to make it. So, the pituitary gland was doing its job and pumping out more TSH to keep my thyroid on task. And the inefficiency spiral went on and on.

So, even going on the meds, made no difference in my life. What did make a difference? Grabbing my life by the balls made a difference. I had to step away from the "tie-myself-into-knots" life I had been leading. The "I work best under pressure" paradigm had to shift or I was going to burn myself to a crisp. I had to bring balance back into my life or I could have died. Here's another insidious thing about this seemingly innocuous little gland. It governs so many aspects of our bodies that we would be shocked at just how much it controls.

Here is the webmd article on the thyroid, its functions, diseases, and issues. I took this entire situation to mean that I needed to change my life. I obviously couldn't keep going the way I had been. It was impossible to sustain. So, I stepped back and changed.

In my early 20s, I'd been working a job (that I loved) but I was working 14-hour days seven days a week. I started having pains in my gut. When I finally went to the doctor, she told me that I was developing an ulcer and that if I didn't de-stress, I would be in deep trouble. I changed my ways. I stopped working so much. I took care of it and the ulcer never fully developed.

The same had to happen now. Maintaining the level of stress and activity in my life would lead to permanent shut-down. So, I walked away from much of my busy life and started on a different path. Here's the thing: for the most part, I loved and still love the vast majority of the activities that make me so busy. I could list all the things I do/have done but I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, there are and have been plenty. But, in order to chill out, I needed to get a grip and make some choices. And then, I had to stick to them. Forever. If I didn't, I'd keep riding the same roller coaster indefinitely.

And that's the crux. These changes that need to be made aren't temporary. They aren't about temptation and willpower. You can't just resist the temptations. You need to make a permanent lifestyle change. You cannot maintain good thyroid health naturally if you are still engaged in the activities and habits that kicked your thyroid's ass to begin with.  It will not work.

In my personal tale, allow me to talk about bread. I should. not. eat. bread. Period. For whatever reason, it exacerbates my drop into the fatigue hellhole. Bread exhausts me and enough of it slams me into sleep. Sometimes, the only way I stay awake is to literally slap my own face. It's not a good way to go, for me. And yet. And yet. I still go back to eating it and have done so periodically over the last fifteen years. I love bread. I really love it and once I have that one little piece, I start making excuses for myself about why I should have the next one tomorrow. Before I know it, the yoyo cycle of quick energy boost/fatigue hellhole has run amok again. And it can take weeks or months for me to get off that particular merry-go-round. Right now, I'm off bread and have been for the last five months. I feel great! But, and this is a big but, I have to remain vigilant about what I put in my body because even the tiniest crumb will start me down the cycle. Ideally, I want to become one of those people who just doesn't eat bread. I have done that with chocolate (which I love but which I have to avoid). I haven't had chocolate in three and a half years. Every once in a while I still miss it, but it's nowhere near how much I craved it before I gave it up. Potatoes are another temptation. they sing their crispy or buttery siren song and I am lost. But I am trying, hard, to be the kind of person who just doesn't eat them. That one might just take the rest of my life to attain, but I will not give up on myself. My health is too important to do that.

So, the big decision needs to be made by you. Am I going to change my life? Can I stick with the changes that are necessary? If the answers are Yes, then go to it. If not, then I would suggest you take the time to assess and evaluate your options. This method works if you work it, but only if you work it daily and permanently.

Do you have foods/habits/activities that exhaust you? What are they? How do you handle your fatigue?

As always, if you have questions, please ask. I will either answer them or try to point you in the right direction.
Until next time, Izolda. http://izolda.info

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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).