It’s Not You; It’s My Thyroid

Let’s play a game. It’s a lot like Jeff Foxworthy’s  “You might be a redneck if…” routine—but not nearly as amusing. This version is called “You might be hypothyroid if…”

  • You have the energy level of a sloth, yet your sleep is restless almost every night.
  • You lose enough hair in the shower each day to clog the drain.
  • When you step on the scale, the number is higher than you wish—and you haven’t even been indulging in the brownie binges you used to get away with in high school. As a matter of fact, you’ve been on a pretty good stretch of regular exercise and salads for lunch. Every. Day.
  • And, my personal favorite, when your loved ones can’t find the peanut butter, you almost jump down their throats.

If you have experienced any one of these scenarios, you might be hypothyroid.

This is where I found myself five years ago. I wanted to know why, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to help me. All of the tests they ran came back the same—I looked perfectly healthy on the surface. Yet I was uneducated and weary. I felt anxious and irritable—and had no idea why. At one point, I sat on the floor in my husband’s home office and confessed that I hadn’t felt like myself in a long time. Total frustration for me; utter powerlessness for him. When the docs latched on to my anxiety, they thought the obvious solution was anti-anxiety medication. To which I told them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

It was this event that sent me on a search for what my body really needed, because I already knew it wasn’t a prescription. As I mentioned in my previous post, my search took me in many different and fascinating directions. Though in the end I found a nutrition lifestyle that made sense to me, inspired by Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. I still didn’t feel as good as I knew I could—and should. By far, the symptoms I still dealt with on almost a daily basis were irritability and anxiousness. Sorry, family!

Flash forward a year and a half. We relocated to Northern Colorado, a hub of forward-thinking, patient-oriented healthcare practitioners—or at least that’s how it feels to me in comparison to our previous locale. It was a revelation to hear my new doctor say, “The blood tests only tell us so much. We think it’s more important to hear how you are feeling.” In that moment, I could hear the angels sing “Hallelujah.” I had found my people.

The blood-work tests ordered by my new practitioner were more in-depth than any I’d had before. Rather than simply testing my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and free T4 levels, which had always come back within normal levels for me, they also did routine tests for Free T3 and Reverse T3. Here are all the tests I had:

  • TSH—though it isn’t a number they really look at.
  • Free T4—the less active hormone.
  • Free T3—the active hormone.
  • Reverse T3—the anti-thyroid hormone.

It was the free T3 and reverse T3 testing that finally gave me the answers I sought. Based on the ratio between these two levels, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (low thyroid). This ratio is a more accurate measure of tissue thyroid levels. I was fortunate to have a practitioner willing to prescribe porcine thyroid—or natural thyroid—and who was also happy to work with my clinical nutritionist to facilitate my healing from the perspective of nutrition.

Being the information gatherer that I am, I also began to read up on my diagnosis. Almost every scenario I came across spoke directly to me, validating what I’d been experiencing for years. I had no idea that butterfly-shaped gland had so much authority over the rest of my body. The relief of finally knowing what I’d been dealing with all this time was immense. I cried tears of joy.

I was beginning to learn that this healing process needed to be dealt with in layers. You add something here, take away something there. My clinical nutritionist was a big help. In working with her, I eliminated dairy, soy, wheat, and coffee from my diet. Then my body started asking for more of other things, such as spinach and properly filtered water. The next piece of the recovery puzzle was to look at nutritional supplements and give my body the support it was desperately calling for. I started with Standard Process Prolamine Iodine and Cataplex D. By adding and subtracting all of these things into my daily routine, I started feeling better very quickly.

Getting, and keeping, my thyroid levels balanced has been an ongoing process. A combination of the porcine thyroid, dietary changes, whole-food nutritional supplement support, and regular exercise keeps my symptoms in check the majority of the time. The funny thing for me is that one of the first signs that things are “off” is when that familiar on-edge feeling sets in. Once I recognize it, I know an adjustment is needed. Early on, this meant increasing my dose of porcine thyroid, iodine, or other supplements. More recently, however, it’s been a matter of reducing them. I’m optimistic that one day I will be completely free from that porcine prescription and my thyroid gland will function perfectly on its own, or with just a little bit of nutritional support.

Luckily, the crabbiness comes in waves. Now that I know what it’s trying to tell me, I can apologize to those on the receiving end and say, “It’s not you; it’s my thyroid.” I’m grateful to be surrounded by forgiving people.

If you’ve been dealing with similar symptoms and are looking for clear answers, do yourself a favor and order Thyroid: Guardian of Health, by Dr. Philip G. Young, MD. In these pages, Dr. Young discusses how he uses a holistic approach to successfully treat his hypothyroid patients. The book includes a questionnaire and physical exam to help you recognize symptoms, and also explains the various functions your thyroid is responsible for and how it affects your overall health.

Has there ever been a time when you questioned a doctor’s recommendation? How did you handle it?

Photo from iStock/OSTILL

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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