It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘thyroid’ Category

Ironing out a few things.

I always associate canker sores with stress. When my mouth was suddenly covered in them even though nothing really exciting was going on, I turned to Dr. Google. Where I discovered that nutritional deficiencies can cause them. Particularly iron and B12.

Well, B12 should have been fine because I’d recently had a conversation with a friend who mentioned that metformin causes B12 malabsorption. Really? ‘Cause I’ve been on metformin over a year and I don’t recall anyone mentioning it to me. I did my research and have both a liquid and a spray. I think it helped my energy levels some.

Iron though. I’ve never had any trouble giving blood and I’ve always eaten plenty of red meat, so my iron levels were probably fine. Right? Not so much.Iron can also be a cause of peeling flaking nails, which I’d suddenly come down with too. Hmm. My favorite thyroid site has a lot to say about iron. Specifically ferritin vs serum iron. I talked with my usual group of fellow sufferers and got myself an iron supplement.


Talk about flipping a switch. Nothing has made that big a difference since I found selenium. Which, by the way, is also much discussed by my favorite thyroid site.

Before selenium, I just hurt, everywhere, all the time. Life was a lot better once I started supplementing. I’ve leveled off at about once per week. But I was still pretty limp and my default state was something I call ‘couch zombie’. A state where I had things to do, and I’d sort of like to do them, but it just isn’t possible to find forward motion, or even to sustain it once moving. It was fairly horrible. Iron is the key to defeating the couch zombie. Who knew? It isn’t in the apocalyptical literature. But it’s helped me a lot. My canker sores went away almost immediately. My nails have stopped shredding. But moving past couch zombie has been huge.

If nothing else, I’m certainly blogging more regularly!

I’m not where I’d like to be, but I no longer feeling like I’m traveling the road of life on a cart with square wheels. Time to work on picking up some speed!


Positive outlook, positive outcome.

That’s what they say. Attitude is everything. Create your reality. You get what you expect.

Well, here’s my chance to prove that. I recently got a letter saying that the doctor I like and trust and worked so hard to find is leaving practice to spend more time raising her children. I completely respect her choice. But my first reaction to that letter was panic. It took me 5 tries to find her.

I could continue to panic. To rehearse in my mind all the various problems that I’ve had in the past. How much trouble others have had.


Or I can take this as an opportunity to walk my talk. I can trust that I’ll be given what I need. I can believe that this is an opportunity to improve my situation, rather than an irredeemable tragedy.

I’d like to think I deserve better health care than ‘pleasant’ and ‘non-obstructionist’. This could be my opportunity to find someone who will invest in working with me to figure out how to optimize my health, rather than just keep it from deteriorating. Dare I say, someone I can trust to actually know more than I do about what is currently not functioning correctly?

I am definitely up for something better.

An unexpected pleasure

After all the years of combative and distrustful relationships with my physicians, every pleasant encounter with my current doctor is a surprise. It shouldn’t be, really, after 3 years, but it takes time to get over the past I guess.

I drive 45 minutes each way (assuming no traffic problems) to see this woman. And it is worth every minute. She respects me. She listens to me. She believes in patients who participate in their own care. It’s really too bad that it took me so long to find someone like that.

It isn’t that I wanted anything radical. I asked for some specific blood tests so my other care provider, an acupuncturist, could have some specific numbers for reference. I asked to try another small increase in my thyroid meds. That’s it. Yet there are so very many doctors who would make you fight for every test, like it was going to come put of their personal pocket or cause the downfall of civilization. So many who make you fight for every mg of thyroid med like it was an illegal drug. I had to wait until I was nearly 40 when things changed and you started to be able to order your own blood tests to even get the test that properly identified my problem, and I had to pay for it out of pocket. Why?

Why does it feel like current medical standards have a vested interest in keeping people under treated for thyroid? I don’t really think it’s a conspiracy, but I’m at a loss to understand what it is. I have so many friends who can’t get a full thyroid blood panel because their doctor just won’t order it. So many who are stuck with not enough synthroid, or stuck with synthroid when it obviously isn’t working for them.

How did the system get so fouled up?

I started this piece to be all happy about my wonderful doctor, but I guess there is still too much wrong with the industry to just leave it with that.

She’s amazing. I’m glad I searched as long as I did to find her. I’m really really glad I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’m just really angry that getting good health care requires luck.

What if depression isn’t in your head?

This morning I came across a fascinating article from The Guardian discussing a new theory about depression. What if depression is a side effect of inflammation?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

There are a number of experiences in my own life that make me really, really want to see more research on this possibility.

In my early 20’s I had a horribly stressful job with a crazy boss. I spent several years on anti-depressants.

I have always had a tendency towards depression. At some level, I was able to manage this without additional medication by watching my diet and supplementing regularly with Vit B6 and Vit D both of which are known for an anti-inflammatory effect.

Everything got much, much better once I got my thyroid properly treated, and inflammation is both a cause and an affect of low thyroid.

Food allergies and possibly one of the biggest and most misunderstood and undertreated causes of inflammation in my opinion. I only have to go a little overboard on dairy to start sniffling and wheezing again, and asthma is a leukotrine inflammation response, among other things.

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky gave an amazing lecture on depression which is available on YouTube in which he discusses a lot of diseases that cause or are associated with depression. A quick review shows that many of those conditions are also associated with inflammation.

Obviously it’s too soon to say anything for certain, but I can say that this one rat is going to spend the rest of the dreary dark season experimenting with increased use of turmeric and staying carefully on top of my vitamins.


Return of the spoon

My last post was about Spoon Theory. I am pleased to announce a remarkable improvement in my number of spoons, thanks to my new best friend metformin. Generally metformin is a drug for type 2 diabetes, but as it is increasing insulin sensitivity it is a wonderful solution for those of us who have insulin resistance that won’t come under control with a controlled carb diet. I read this interesting article on the best site on thyroid treatment Stop the Thyroid Madness.

Insulin is very important, but our bodies are just not designed for a life of refined carbohydrates, so insulin can get out of control very easily. Insulin is both pro-weight gain and pro-inflammation. Some of both is necessary for human survival, but too much is a problem.

It’s nice to believe that proper diet and exercise can solve most health problems, and for most people it has a profound effect, but sometimes things are just broken and need some extra support to actually heal.

Let me tell you about my friend A. A was chubby most of her life. Then she found low carb and lost about a person’s worth of weight, and she became an athlete who runs marathons and works out as regularly as I change my socks. And yet despite being draconic with her regimen and never, ever eating things she shouldn’t, her weight would not remain stable, and her hormones were a complete mess that made her miserable. Enter metformin. After only a few months what she refers to as Hormonal Hell has been reduced to the usual amount of annoyance that nearly every woman deals with. Her weight and moods have stabilized, and she is keeping her weight stable easily, rather than by the skin of her teeth.

Her tremendous success led me to ask my doctor for metformin. Which my doctor thought would probably be an excellent idea. She did do the ac-1 blood test which showed me only 1 point over the range into pre-diabetes. But I got my prescription. And despite eating poorly while moving house, and adding an adult beverage to my life many evenings due to that same moving house, I have lost a significant amount of weight. Enough for others to notice, and enough to dramatically increase my spoon count.

Feeling better is AMAZING.

Happy Spring

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything. I didn’t wander off and get distracted. I just haven’t had anything positive to say.

Back in November, I posted about a medication change that went horribly wrong. In 3 weeks (I have notes) I gained so much weight that I crossed the weight limit on my scale, needed to purchase new clothes in a bigger size, and felt practically immobilized. Wait, cross off ‘practically’. It’s very fortunate that none of the endocrinologists who say that adrenal fatigue isn’t really a problem crossed my path. It wouldn’t have been pretty. Or at least it would have been  very loud.

If you don’t have cortisol, you don’t have thyroid hormone uptake. If your thyroid quits, you gain weight. If you’ve ever seen a website that talks about ‘sudden weight gain’ as a sign of thyroid issues, I bet you don’t think in the range of 50 lbs or so. I can’t say for sure, as I mentioned, I exceeded the limit on my scale, so it’s all guesswork.

It was really and truly awful, and also scary how quickly I crashed, how hard I crashed, and how long it’s taken me to feel decent again. I distinctly remember a conversation with a very dear friend who called one day and asked “so how are you?” In the usual fashion of friends. And because she is a very dear friend, I answered completely honestly “I feel as though I’ve been beaten and left for dead, thanks for asking. How are you?”

It’s taken me most of 4 months to get my weight back to what it was in October. (A number up 30 lbs from my previous longtime steady weight.) I still haven’t regained the strength I lost, and I’m still having crazy problems with insulin resistance, which I recognize from a diagnosis I got in 2006.

I’m back on a pretty strict, controlled carb paleo diet. It’s boring, but it doesn’t make me feel bad.

I’ve been going to the pool, but I think I’m finally to the point where I can get back on the elliptical, even if I can only do it in 3 minute bursts, which is where I started back in 2007. I think I can also do some basic weights. I need to build up my muscles, both for ease of movement and because that’s the best way to reverse insulin resistance. That and controlling insulin in the first place with a controlled carbohydrate intake.

My allopathic doctor wasn’t helpful. I found an acupuncturist who also uses a lot of really non-traditional modalities that seem to be helping.

So in case anyone noticed I was gone, that’s where I’ve been. Limp and tired and hurting and despondent about my poor health. I had nothing positive to say, so I thought I’d keep it to myself.

But now recovery is definitely in place and progressing, and we’ve turned the corner to spring even though we in the DC area are expecting more snow this week. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s get back to the things I love to do, like helping people raise a fuss about health.

Are you sad?

Something I don’t hear a lot of discussion on is sadness vs depression. You’d think in a country where they dispense anti-depressants like tic-tacs that more people would be concerned about the real problem. Oh, wait, never mind. There is no real interest in the problem, only income generating solutions.

Here’s my take. Sadness happens where there is a reason. When my cat died last year, I was sad. (Ok, I’m still sad…) There was a reason. When your grandpa dies, you move across country, break up with a friend, all those things are genuine, external reasons to be sad.

We don’t take enough time to be sad. It’s an important emotion, to recognize a loss and a change to your environment. We’re encouraged to ‘cheer up’ much too quickly in my opinion. Some times things are just sad, and we should be ok feeling our feelings. But that isn’t encouraged.

Depression, in my personal lexicon, is something completely different. Depression has no particular ‘reason’. Nothing is interesting, nothing is important, nothing really matters…it’s all just too much trouble for words, but there is no reason. It just is. And if it just is, then the chances are excellent that it is chemical, not situational.

The next question becomes, how to fix it. If you’re sad, then there isn’t really anything to be fixed, and only time will help. If you’re depressed, you can go to the doctor and get the candy-solution of the week. Or, you can look at your diet, and check your thyroid, and look into nutritional deficiencies…

I think we make a big mistake in most of health care by treating the symptom rather than the problem. I’ve spent most of the last 2 years being either or both, sad or depressed. That’s why I made a study of the difference. If you read my post about happiness this spring you’ll note that I mention T1 and T2 as part of the thyroid treatment I’m getting. This week when I started feeling depressed again, I looked at my treatment and thought about what could have changed. This week, I think I haven’t been taking enough cortisol, so I’m not absorbing enough thyroid properly, so I’m not generating the chemicals I need.

I think it’s really, really important to understand the differences here. I truly believe that depression is a huge problem, but it’s a problem that we could actually fix, if only we stopped worrying quite so much about the symptoms and thought through to the cause. Sure, serotonin uptake is the ’cause’, but what causes the trouble with serotonin in the first place? Why aren’t we looking past the broken spot to figure out why it broke in the first place?

Why don’t we think things through any more?