Thursday, January 24, 2013

Part Three: Thyroid, Adrenal, and Hormones - The Game Changers


In Part One of this blog series, I got you up to speed on my extreme dieting for a Figure show, and elaborated on some of the symptoms that crept up over the next few years as a result of it.

In Part Two, I talked about my many, many blood tests, the results, and the recommended treatments from both of my doctors. 

In this last segment (at least for now), I want to send you off with some advice and lessons that I have learned throughout this messy process, but not until I share my most recent test results with you... 

January 2013 Test Results

After running the most recent treatment protocol and making the lifestyle and supplementation changes that I outlined at the end of Part Two for a little over a month, we re-tested my labs yet again. (I have a punch card with Quest Diagnostics now - one more blood draw and I get the 10th free!) 
My doctor emailed me that was prefaced with following:

"Labs are all within range!"

Never have there been five words that I wanted to hear so badly! Now granted, some of my stuff is still "low/normal", however it is within the given range* and most importantly, it's all improved! I did what any rational person would do upon receiving such great news.

I cried. Like a baby I cried, and then I profusely thanked God over and over again. 

*Quick note about the "normal" ranges: these ranges are established using people with thyroid problems. That means that these ranges printed on your labs are slightly skewed. A good doctor should take into consideration how you feel along with your lab results, and resist the urge to view the given ranges as black and white. If your labs are "within range" but you still feel like poo, then they obviously need to keep digging.

Symptoms

You don't have to exhibit all of my symptoms in order for there to be a problem with your thyroid. I'm not trying to turn you all into hypochondriacs, but it's important to point out that some people only get brain fog and cold feet., whereas others might get the whole kitten caboodle. If you suspect something is wrong, something probably is. Heed those warning signals that your gut is throwing off!


Dietary Changes

As I mentioned in Part Two, I was instructed to bring my carbohydrate intake up substantially and to eat frequently - no fasting! Both of these took quite a bit of adjusting for me because I prefer a lower carb diet and I preferred not to eat my first meal until around 11am.
Now I have to make sure to get in at least 100 grams of carbs per day (which is still admittedly lower than I'd like it to be) and I eat as early as possible. If you believe that you have a thyroid issue, I'd like to encourage you to make sure you are getting in plenty of carbohydrate and put the Intermittent Fasting on hold for a little while.

My girl Jen Petrosino is working on an article for EliteFTS that will dive into the correlation between T3 and glucose, so when it's up, I'll make sure to link it to this post. It's out of my scope, and she can explain it better than I can, but suffice it to say, eat your carbs. Eat your carbs, eat your carbs, eat. your. damn. carbs! 

** Note: I'm not giving you a pass to have a carb-free-for-all. What I'm getting at here is that carbohydrate, when consumed in a responsible manner, is wonderful! 

Finding a Doctor

This is the hardest part. Unfortunately, most medical doctors (including Endocrinologists) refuse to test anything other than a basic thyroid panel, which is just TSH and maybe T4. If you remember from Part One, my TSH and T4 initially tested "within range" so my doctor thought everything was groovy, when in fact, everything was totally effed but at a much deeper level - a level they never saw because they refused to test for it.

Because of MDs trepidation of extensive testing (and ignorance to most thyroid issues in general) I recommend that you seek out a good Naturopath. NDs are more typically more than happy to run these extensive tests. If you aren't sure whether they do or not, call them and ask them before you make an appointment. 

If you want to run an extensive thyroid panel, I recommend that you test for the following: TSH, Total T3, Free T3, Free T4, Total T4, reverse T3, and even thyroid antibodies to rule out the possibility of Hashimoto's Disease. 

Warning: If a doctor doesn't want to run all of these, you simply need to find somebody else. Because even if you can convince them to run them, they obviously won't know how to treat it if anything does turn up.

Remember that doctor's work for us. It is their job to listen to our symptoms and run the appropriate tests. If you find yourself begging and pleading for them to run some simple tests that don't cause any harm, then get a new doctor. Straight up. I could walk into my doctor's office tomorrow and ask her to test me for Rabies and she'd do it. She'd probably think I'm nuts, but she'd order the test. That is their job, and don't let them lead you into thinking otherwise. It's drawing blood, for hell's sake - you aren't asking them to amputate your friggin' arm and then reattach it!

(I have joked about cutting out the middle man and just purchasing my own needles and centrifuge because it's gotten to be such a circus to get testing done.)

I have solid recommendations for excellent Naturopaths in Utah, Kentucky, Las Vegas, and Baltimore! If you are in those areas, just let me know and I'll pass on the info!

Also, check out this site for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for a directory to find a doctor near you. Anybody can call themselves a Naturopath, so it's important that they are licensed through the AANP!


Lots of Treatment Options 

The thyroid is a tricky little bugger and it affects nearly everything in your body. Because this situation is so incredibly multi-faceted, I have discovered that every doctor treats it differently; most of their approaches aren't necessarily wrong, they are just different. On top of doctors all treating thyroid problems differently, every individual will react differently to certain treatments. Some people do better using a natural approach, while some people only respond to synthetic drugs.

What I'm getting at here is just because one treatment doesn't work, don't feel defeated. Just try something different. There isn't just one way to approach thyroid issues, and it's rarely as simple as "Low T3 means to take synthetic T3". I wish it was, but it's usually not.

Also, don't be afraid to get a second opinion. If it offends your doctor, then oh well. You've got to do what is best for you, and if they are a good doctor, they will be respectful of your seeking out a fresh set of eyes to look at the situation. Some doctors get stuck in a rut, continuously treating a condition one way and one way only. It can be extremely helpful to get with somebody else and ask them what they think. Remember, different treatments work differently for everybody. You've got to find your sweet spot, and don't give up or settle until you do.

"But it's expensive!"

Oh, trust me. I know. After a year of this mess, gallons of drawn blood, and over $6,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, I know just how expensive it can be. However, we are talking about your health. Running extensive thyroid labs typically cost around $200 out of pocket. Yes, it sucks. Sorry. You may have to give up your morning Starbucks and back down on your Netflix rentals for awhile, but it's important. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but it's pretty rare that a wonky thyroid will eventually just self-regulate on it's own without any intervention at all. Get it checked! Get it checked, get it checked, get it checked.


Final Thoughts



When I first discovered my thyroid issues, I didn't want anybody to know. I told a total of about five people, and swore them all to secrecy. It sounds silly but I was embarrassed! Here I am, trying to be a good example and role model for health and fitness, yet my body was totally out of my control and all I wanted to do was sleep. My brain understood that it was nothing to be ashamed of, but my heart didn't. 

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to flip the script and air it all out in the hopes that it helps somebody else that feels utterly helpless and confused with such odd symptoms... and so far it seems to be working. I have been absolutely flooded with emails and messages from people (mostly women) suffering from the same things. It's actually devastating to see just how many people are going through this b.s.! And I don't want to  position myself as an expert, because God knows I am not one on this topic, but hopefully I can at least let people know that they are not alone, and give them some sound advice on what to check into. 

This journey has also really made me re-prioritize things in my life. At the risk of sounding like a total narcissist, focusing on my looks and my body have made up a significant part of my life, especially the last 5 years as I've really made a name for myself in the health and fitness industry. This whole mess made me realize that my health isn't worth a few bodyfat percentages. It just can't be. I've never felt as awful as I did last summer. The word "nightmare" doesn't do it justice. 
I'll never stop training smart and eating healthy, because that is what makes me happy, but my days of obsessing are over. 

It can't hurt to get everything checked out. It's what I should have done years ago, and unfortunately, my quest to (try to) be lean exacerbated everything. But, we live, learn, overcome, and pass on! 

I hope you will share the posts from this series with anybody that you think can benefit from them, and don't hesitate to reach out to me! 
Drop me a line below! 


For now, lets lighten the mood a bit, shall we? My next post will be a fun one with a yoga flow for you to try!



Check out these popular posts:


27 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you decided to share all of this Jen! While we don't have exactly the same thyroid issues, I can really relate to your experience. I've also learned from your story that I really need to push my doctor for the tests I want. For some reason I feel bad asking for extra tests, like it's wrong? But you're right, it's so much better to get it checked out and know, instead of guessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Theresa,

      I'm really glad I decided to put it all out there, too. Hopefully it's helpful to many!

      Absolutely ask for whatever tests your heart desires! Now I will say this - getting your insurance to pay for tests that they don't feel are necessary is another topic altogether, but your doc should be more than willing to help.

      Get it checked out - you've got nothing to lose... except a bit of blood! ;)

      Delete
  2. Thank you for sharing. I am not sure that I have thyroid issues but I recently found out that I have an ovarian cyst which has caused many issues and one of them is extensive weight gain(a tough thing when you train, eat clean and keep track of everything and still gain weight). I have thought about seeing a ND once the cyst is removed to help get my hormones and everything under control again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I think seeing an ND and getting all of your hormones checked is a fantastic idea! After all, it can't hurt, right?

      Good luck with the removal of the cyst!

      Delete
  3. Thanks so much for sharing! I have a quick question, does this effect men in similar ways? My boyfriend has always had issues sleeping, wakes up completely groggy and out of it and his brain fog can last all day not just morning. He's always getting sick and has frequent headaches. I'm wondering now if this could be a thyroid issue. I'd like to go to a naturopath - we live in Ontario Canada - any recommendations on what exactly to look for with a naturopath?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sarah,

      my pleasure!

      Yes, this stuff affects guys just like it does women, although I feel like it's less common in men. A male friend of mine has been dealing with thyroid issues and said he is going to do a big write-up on it as well, so when he does I will be sure to link it to these posts. I think it's important for people to read things from a man's perspective, too.

      I suspect your boyfriend's thyroid or testosterone levels. He'd be smart to get both checked.

      When looking for an ND, please make sure that they are licensed through the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).

      A note from Dr Bryan Walsh regarding this:

      "Anyone can call themselves a "Naturopath" or a "Naturopathic Doctor". There is a group of practitioners in the United States who call themselves naturopaths or naturopathic physicians that do not have the formal training necessary to obtain licensure or membership in the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). Some may be certified by organizations that sound official or similar to the AANP. Certification is not the same as licensure. These "doctors" are not regulated. As with all health care choices, educate yourself. It is important to check the education and professional references of your doctors."

      Delete
  4. Thank you for sharing! I have Hashimoto's and just until recently, my family and friends thought I was nuts. I am going to see a new ND in February and will take the list of tests you recommend. I am an avid follower of your blog and notice that you use oats and egg whites/eggs. Do you not react to these? I know many people with Hashimotos have to cut them out entirely. Just curious! thank you again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there!

      Oh yes, it is quite common for everybody around you to think you have lost your marbles until you finally get a thyroid diagnosis! Glad you figured it out though, and I hope this new ND can help you get it under control.

      I do not have Hashimoto's Disease, however, I had to stop eating eggs because I developed a food allergy to them. Have you cut out gluten and dairy? From what I understand, these two food groups *can* cause problems with people that are dealing with Hashi's, particularly gluten.

      Delete
    2. I am dairy free (except for chocolate as it tends to be my true weakness!) and working on gluten free. Eggs cause brain fog and extreme fatigue and it is the hardest for this non-cook to substitute in most recipes; even the egg replacers are full of "junk." Hopefully in a month or so I can try to add eggs back in, as they are one of my favorite protein sources.

      Sorry for a few more questions...I assume vegetables and sweet potatoes are your main carb source. Any other suggestions? Also, do you know of a decent dairy/egg/soy free protein powder? The vegan ones I have tried taste terrible. I can't wait to get into my clean powder again. Thank you again. You truly are an inspiration to me, both health and fitness wise

      Delete
    3. Ahh, you and me both - I LOVE chocolate!

      If eggs are problematic, then it's definitely best you avoid them, and sounds like you have been. It's been a tough adjustment for me as well. I miss omelets!

      My main carb sources are currently butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, and sometimes small amounts of white rice (brown bothers my stomach) and gluten-free oats.
      I do eat plenty of veg, but as I mentioned in the posts, I have eliminated a lot of the goitrogens I eat, and the ones I do are always cooked.

      Protein powder: I don't use it often, but have you tried Vega Sport? I really like the chocolate a lot! You can get sample packets at Whole Foods if you want to try a few flavors before you commit to a big jug of it.

      Thank you so much - that means a lot!

      Delete
  5. Hi Jen
    Sorry to bother u with this question n how u emphasize on eat carbs could u provide us a sample of ur day about how much carbs n what meals not dating what u do will work for everyone else but it gives us a picture of how you emphasize on eat carbs.
    Also do u believe there should be a time in ur day to stop carb intake.
    Thanks so much Jen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey there,

      What I'm getting at with carbohydrate consumption is that I'm seeing far too many people (mostly women) following an extremely low carb diet or worse, a no carb diet, for prolonged periods of time with extremely high activity levels. Some carbohydrate is a good thing. :)

      I'm unable to provide you with a sample of one of my days because they are all extremely different. It depends on what time I train, how hard I train, what time of day it's at, what I ate the day before, etc etc.

      I think eating carbohydrate at night, if merited with a training session, is just fine for fat loss, but it's really rather individual.

      Delete
  6. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing all this!! I can definitely relate myself to much of it, so I NEED to take action and not just sitting around, trying to sort this out from the web! Oh well...
    One question about fasting, what is the reason that short term fasting is bad for the thyroid, do you know? I usually fast daily for 15-16h but then eat lots and have also re-introduced starchy carbs back in my diet. I generally like it this way, but of course I'll reconsider if it is to fix my issues! I just hate going back to the 6-7 small daily meals...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, definitely take action! The internet isn't effective at diagnosing or fixing things as complex as hormonal issues.

      Fasting: I'll be honest here - I don't know. These were instructions from my doctors, and it's something I plan to dig into a bit more on my own. I can tell you that I have a few friends with thyroid issues and once they stopped Intermittent Fasting their symptoms vastly improved.

      I typically eat 3-5x/day. There is no way I could do 6-7x/day - that is too much work! ;)

      Delete
  7. Thank you again for sharing your story, Jen. Thank you especially for listing all the things you need to get tested. My doctor wouldn't even do a fasting glucose test on me - it's kind of important to know whether I'm insulin sensitive or not!!

    I've been procrastinating about seeing a naturopath, not because I'm scared of the results but I thought I would try to heal things myself first. I need to go do it and I have no excuse considering I train a naturopath!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe your doc won't run that test. That drives me nuts - no skin off his/her back!

      I know you live overseas, but here in the States we can do a home fasting glucose test. Is that an option for you?

      I really encourage you to get the well-educated opinion of an excellent doctor on your issues. :) It could be a game changer for you, and really, what have you got to lose, ya know?

      Delete
  8. Hi Jen, Awesome series. Thank you so much for sharing, it couldn't be more timely. I don't have thyroid issues, but I quit smoking back in early september. The stress of that, coupled with crazy training schedule, and micromanaging food intake to a fault caused some serious issues.

    My training fell off, and due to other huge stressors, I have been expriencing some crazy adrenal fatigue and all sorts of issues stemming from that.

    Since quitting smoking, I have gained at least 15 pounds over the past 4 months. I follow a paleo template (currently doing whole 30 - only real changes are no sweetners or dairy, way more veg and eating 3 meals/day instead of just 2 with intermittent fasting).

    When I first quit, I was definitely snacking more to compensate for not smoking, but that's finally leveled out. Initially, I experienced out of control digestive issues (like once a week BM) -and I feel the thing that helped that the most is bone broth and probiotics. I also was not sleeping well at all. Waking up every couple hours and not being able to fall back to sleep. Finally, that has resolved and I'm back to just needing to get to bed a little earlier. Lastly, I lost my period SUPER Sad Face :( I just missed my 3rd period in a row and that in itself is stressful. Getting that checked next week.

    Even though I feel so much better overall, and slowly working up to training 3 days a week again, I feel like I am steady gaining weight/fat - it's kind of ridiculous, as I am consciously making an effort to at least maintain. I suspect I need more carbs, and I don't know if the 3 meals a day is enough while I am going through this healing process, but I feel like it's crazy to commit to eating more often!

    What are you eating for carbs? I don't eat ANY grains, even rice and quinoa causes digestive issues for me. So far, I pretty much just eat sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash for starch. Fruit is supposed to be kept at a mininum during the whole 30 and I was over doing it throughout the initial huge weight gain from quitting the butts.

    Any advice on meal frequency and carbs? I feel so clueless and my current doc insists I should be eating "healthy whole grains"...

    TKS again for sharing - Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't have the issues you are having, but I posted all three of these on my fitness board on Facebook (Better Body), because I am almost certain we have participants there who ARE suffering through at least some of what you have.

    It's hard to get people to accept that this competition diet stuff is NOT healthy and not only jacks up the way you look at food, but can also really screw with your health.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for helping spread the word and bring awareness to this topic!

      You are certainly right about the competition diets - so scary!

      Delete
  10. Jen, Thanks for putting this out there. I'm in a similar situation and, if it wasn't for people like you and others fighting for their health, I would never have even HEARD of Reverse T3 nor would I know that my days of IF probably caused my entire problem. I'm about to blog about it myself, as my journey has been a little different than yours but, in the end, it boils down to thyroid issues. I'm still trying to fix my issue, but at least I have a doctor (she's an MD, but she's holistic/naturapathic in her ways) who listens to me and orders the tests I ask for. If anyone needs a recommendation near the NJ shore, let me know!

    I'm glad you're on your way to healing! Thanks again.


    Jenn D

    ---------------------------
    www.fitnesssafari.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jenn,
      my pleasure! It's crazy how many women have reached out, saying that they have (or are currently) suffering from the same thing(s).

      I wish you the best of luck and don't give up on seeking out the right treatment for you! We have to be persistent :)

      Also, let me know when your post is up! I'd love to read your story!

      Delete
  11. Do you know if there is a connection between this kind of thyroid problem and facial hair? I've noticed being more cold and tired recently, and this week I've realized I seem to have grown a little mustache, which is pretty upsetting. If these are all connected, then I need to make a Dr appointment soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sally!
      Typically facial hair on a woman indicates high levels of testosterone. I'd recommend that you look into getting your hormones checked. :)

      Delete
  12. Thanks so much for sharing your journey in detail, Jen. I have gone through so much of this as well, and had all kinds of tests, including the saliva. I am not entirely comfortable with my doctor who specializes in adrenal fatigue and such as she put me on HCG which I wasn't entirely confident was the best for me. My prescription was to use a CPAP, reduce stress, and take supplements. I've fought the CPAP so much and am not wearing it. I did quit my job and started my own company, which has ironically been incredibly stress-free.

    My weight is doing some really awful things right now and I'm so tired of fighting sometimes. But I'll keep pushing. If you know of someone in KY who you DO like, let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Em!
      Oh wow, I had no idea that you battled some of this stuff.

      I haven't been to her, but Molly recommended Dr Lena Edwards in Lex.

      Hope that you're having a great time with your new business, and hang in there. I've discovered it's all about trial and error, and finding what works best for your body. If adrenal fatigue is an issue - and I'm sure you know this - I'd definitely cut out all caffeine and stimulants, and focus on lots of relaxation!

      xo

      Delete
  13. Thyroid conditions are quite common in Bangladesh but fortunately once diagnosed they respond well to treatment. Specially between the poorer people, Thyroid is very common. Due to insufficient medical service in the rural areas, People are deprived to get cure from the effects of Thyroid.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is EXACTLY what I've been going through for the past three years. Thank you for getting word out for any of those who are going through the same thing.

    ReplyDelete