~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Thyroid and Me Part 1

OK first, the big, obligatory disclaimer: I'm gonna be talking about medical stuff here, so...keep in mind: I'm not a medical professional, and everything I'm saying is from my own experience. What has happened to me has no bearing on what did or will happen to you; Always check with your medical professional; Your mileage may vary....You get the idea.

Now that we've got that out of the way...my story.

Several years ago, I began to suspect that I'm hypothyroid. I don't even remember what first caused me to suspect that; it must have been something I read that really resonated with me. Anyway, at some point I started to research the topic. And the more I read, the more I suspected I had it.

Among others, I read the book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness by the late Dr. Broda O. Barnes. (By the way, the book is old enough that if you're thinking of reading it, just realize that it's a good backgrounder but that there's a lot of more-current information out there.) Anyway, it really helped me understand hypothyroidism and a lot of things I'd experienced for years. Later I learned that the work of Dr. Barnes is now carried on by the foundation bearing his name, and I ordered an educational packet they produce. It had a lot of very pertinent and helpful info. (More on that later.)

The things I'd experienced for years...that also happened to show up on lists of hypothyroidism symptoms, were, in part: thinning hair--noticeable since my mid 20s (huge!); chronically, sometimes severely, dry skin (especially on my hands and feet); weak nails; a general lack of energy and chronic fatigue (especially in the morning/daytime with more energy at night); insomnia and other sleep issues; low body temperature (often feeling cold easily); chronically dry eyes; sometimes an over-sensitivity to bright light; and recurrent sinus infections. Those are the physical symptoms. I also suffered (haha, past tense?!?) from depression; feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and loss of interest in life (by which I mean: loss of interest in thriving, not a loss of interest in surviving!); forgetfulness; and the like...though obviously I have plenty of reasons for all of those!

So one day a few years back I went to my doctor and told him that, while I knew I was just a layperson, I suspected I had hypothyroidism and some of the reasons why. I had with me a list of the symptoms and some of the sheets from the Barnes foundation packet. I told him which symptoms I thought or knew I had and about some of the research I'd done.

Now, I'd feared my doctor might discount my speculation or my research. I don't say this because my doctor's an ass; he's not. In fact, he's a total dear. But--he's a Western doctor, trained in a Western medical school. I think it's fair to say: Not always known for its openness, that. But--he really blew me away by how he responded. He listened to everything I said without judging any of it. And--as soon as I pulled out my Barnes foundation packet, he scooted his chair over next to mine so he could see it; he even had a staff member copy most of it so he could read it between then and my next appointment. SO awesome!

So he decided he'd take my blood and have it tested and we'd review the results in a week. It turns out I wasn't in the critical zone, so if I did have hypothyroidism, it'd be considered subclinical (which basically means your not in the middle of the normal range, but you're not on the extreme end of the spectrum either).

This brings me to an important point: There's disagreement even among endocrinologists (the specialists in this stuff) as to what "normal" thyroid numbers are. Which means: A person could have subclinical hypothyroidism but still be told by their doctor that you're perfectly fine. (More on that in my next post.)

Anyway, even though I was only subclinical, given my symptoms and what he'd read from my packet (yay!), he put me on Armour Thyroid, which is a "natural, porcine-derived thyroid hormone replacement containing both T4 and T3." T3 and T4 are two of the major thyroid hormones. "Porcine," in case you don't know, means it's taken from pigs. (Armour also includes two of the other thyroid hormones, T1 and T2, but they're not considered "active" ingredients.)

What I like the most about Armour is that it's natural, actual thyroid, not one of the many synthetic T3 or T4 drugs that are out there. And plus I get both hormones in one. From what I've gathered, many people still have problems being on just one or the other.

In my next post I'll talk about what happened after I started taking Armour and about how it has affected me. (Hint: It's good. :)

Update: Here's Part 2.

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