I just had an appointment with my doctor to follow up on some blood work. It was part of my annual physical, but I put it off for months because I have a thing about needles. He wanted to test my thyroid hormone levels because I had put on weight over a year that hadn't come off and my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms have been stronger this year. I just have no energy and I'm more sluggish than usual. He wanted to check if I have diabetes or an iron deficiency.
I was nervous for the last week after booking my appointment, mainly because my doctor's schedule was so open and I'm used to booking appointments farther out. Usually, I need to book at least a week in advance, but the receptionist sounded like I could come in the following day. That didn't work with my schedule, but I kept thinking, 'What's wrong that he can see me right away? He never sees me right away!' I joked about it with Sweetie last night, telling myself "It's not a tumor." Okay, so I can be fatalistic.
He confirmed that I have hypothyroidism. My thyroid is producing about half the thyroid hormones I need to run my metabolism properly.
Now for the crazy part. I'm looking up hypothyroidism online, and I discover the following symptoms. Look at how many I have (in green):
- Dry, thick skin (check - most of my skin's not thick, but it's been super-dry for about four years)
- Hair thinning
- Painful muscles and joints (check - my shoulder has been giving me pain for about two years)
- Depression (CHECK- that's a big 10-4, buddy! Four years ago I had my worst bout of SAD in two decades and I still haven't recovered fully. It's been pissing me off because it's supposed to lessen as you age.)
- Memory problems (check - I have horrible short-term memory, and it's seemed worse in recent years)
- Heavy, irregular or prolonged menstrual periods
- Low body temperature (below 97.8°F first thing in the morning) (check - I've been checking my basal temperature daily for 6 months)
- Low blood pressure (check - it runs in my family)
- Puffy eyes
- Slow pulse
- Reduced libido (check - for the last few years)
- Fatigue (check - tired when I wake up, drained when I go to sleep, too tired to sleep)
- Chronic sinus infections (check - my whole life)
- Headaches (check - in the last few years I've had fairly regular headaches, but it was problems with my bite/teeth)
- Sweating abnormalities
- Heat and/or cold intolerance (check - I'm a bit of an iceberg)
- Irritability (Shut Up! I mean, check)
- Fluid retention
- Anxiety/panic attacks (check)
- Frequent colds and sore throats (I get sore throats all the time, but only for a day or so)
- Lightheadedness (check - all the time)
- Ringing in the ears (check)
- Decreased concentration (...what? Oh, check.)
- Slow wound healing (check - it takes months for the red spots from even the tiniest sores to heal. Ingrown hairs are the bane of my existence right now.)
- Easy bruising (So my Sweetie says... Not like that!)
- Unhealthy, dry, brittle or ridged nails (check - I've always had a couple of nails with ridges, but the last five years they've gotten worse and more nails have them.)
- Acid Indigestion (check - doctor told me it was acid reflux)
- Cold hands or feet (check - my feet are always freezing cold, but I try to ignore it until I touch other skin to them)
- Inappropriate weight gain (check - no, I won't say how much. Not a lot, but enough for my doctor to wonder)
- Hypoglycemia (sorta check - my baseline blood glucose is normal, but if I go too long between meals, I get extremely irritable and lightheaded)
- Falling asleep during the day
- Itching (check - comes with dry skin, right?)
- High cholesterol (check - Dude!)
- Loss of outside portion of eyebrows (although mine are thinner than they used to be...)
This blew my mind. Most of the oddball things that are wrong with my health are symptoms of low thyroid function! This sounds like a laundry list of woes, but if you think about how much your endocrine system controls your body, it makes sense that systems all over would be affected. The human body is wild.
This is good news because it's a relatively easy fix. From the western medicine side, I can just take a synthetic thyroid supplement, just like taking extra vitamins. He wrote me a prescription for SynThroid and told me that it will take about two weeks to feel the effect, so by Christmas I should be a ball of energy. He also told me to book a six-month follow up. More needles. Great.
I'm not taking this lying down though. A bit of research revealed that from the holistic side, I can take iodine, selenium, and add coconut oil to my diet.
It turns out that too much polyunsaturated fat can inhibit tissue response to thyroid hormones. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, and it promotes increased metabolism. Coconut oil will not cure a sluggish thyroid, but it's like adding high octane fuel to your engine - it improves performance (metabolism). Crazy, huh? That might explain why I ate like a pig in the Dominican Republic and didn't gain a single pound. Lots of pina coladas.