I’m extremely conscious about not letting myself become defined by my illnesses. My hypothyroidism has always been something that simply lingered far in the background. Perhaps this was unwise, as I’ve never been tuned in to how much my birth defect may have affected my life. Or perhaps it’s smart – getting the most out of life by refusing to be sick and never putting any limitations on myself. Time will tell how much I have been affected by my condition and how things will progress.

little girl with arms up

I want to put MTHFR aside for a short while for this post and talk a little about my hypothyroidism. Perhaps some of the readers of this site will also have issues with hypothyroidism, as the two are somewhat linked. This is a disease that can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, especially when you are trying to get your hormone levels to optimal (as everyone should). I am currently in a place where I am experimenting with medications and doctor shopping, trying to get my thyroid under control after what may be years of under-medication.

The funny thing about me and my thyroid is that I never really noticed any issues that I would attribute to it until I started trying to conceive. Now, I’ve never spent any time inside anyone else’s shoes, so I don’t know what it feels like to be inside a “normal” body. I’ve always just felt okay, never really struggled with massive weight gain or some of the more severe hypothyroid symptoms that you see listed on websites. My hands and feet were always a little cold, which I thought meant I had poor circulation. I have a bit of a feisty personality, which isn’t really uncommon if you survey the population. Otherwise I really wouldn’t call myself “hypo.”

But since I started taking my basal body temperature daily over a year and a half ago, I can now look back over my charts and note that my body runs a little cold, with low temperatures. And as I mentioned in my last post, my menstrual cycle’s luteal phase is on the shorter side of normal. So I began to investigate my thyroid levels and have become obsessed with getting them optimal, especially before I get pregnant because things can quickly get out of hand in that situation. And the one thing more important to me than optimizing my own health is doing everything I can to ensure that my problems don’t adversely affect my baby.

Earlier this year I began incorporating T3 medication into my regimen. It started with small amounts of Cynomel (the European version of Cytomel) added to my T4 drugs. I was on one called Levaxin at the time but many people take Synthroid. These are synthetic drugs that I was on for most of my life. I now take Nature-Throid, though I am not at this time confident that I am on the appropriate dosage. So much has been written on optimal levels of Free T3 and Free T4 that it would be redundant for me to replicate the discussion here. I recommend a read of the Stop The Thyroid Madness website as a good starting point. I’ll be continually updating the Resources page of this site as well to help you find information about thyroid problems.

I was born with part of my thyroid missing. So I still get a decent amount of thyroxine from my own body. I have luckily been spared (for now) the difficulties of Hashimoto’s or Graves disease and I can’t speak to the special needs of people with those disorders. The best advice I have in dealing with thyroid problems is to find a good doctor who can partner with you in achieving optimal health. And that’s the sad difficulty of the thyroid epidemic facing patients across the world: good doctors are hard to find. I have yet to find my perfect doctor match. Some might say there is no perfect doctor, though I am aware of several specialists in the area of thyroid who are getting magnificent results with their patients. I have an appointment with an endocrinologist at the end of August who I hope will be able to do that for me and I will keep thyroid issues as a priority on this website as I share my journey.

Being hypothyroid is definitely something that I’m aware of in my life, even more so over the last couple of years as I’ve begun to pay more attention to my health and began trying to conceive. Since the start of the year, my condition has caused me to make different lifestyle choices. For example, I actively avoid (as much as possible) the following:

Hormones and antibiotics in food – I’m already predisposed to cancer so why would I want to ingest hormones that further promote this disease?

Plastics and petrochemicals – This one is extremely difficult for me and I will cover it more in a separate post. People with thyroid problems should avoid plastic because it interferes with your T3. Considering the amount of packaging and exposure to car fumes that are a given unless you live out in the country, this is easier said than done.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (and its cousins – found in toothpaste, shampoo and other personal care products) – This one seems to be heavily debated with apparently false information out there claiming that its contaminants can be cancer-causing. Others say it’s no big deal. SLS, however, does seem to be irritating and that’s not something that I want on my skin where it is easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Be sure to check the labels of SLS-free products though: the materials used in its place may also be problematic for you.

Herbicides and pesticides – These can be particularly harmful to those with reduced thyroid function.

MSG and nitrates – I avoid all additives if I can…

Fluoride – I’m surprised everyone doesn’t know about Fluoride by now and that it’s still in our water supply.

Canned tomatoesThe lining in the cans is the main problem here. I always seek out tomato products in other types of packaging. Any canned food with linings, especially those high in fat content, can pose a problem.

Soy – As explained in this article and study on thyroid and soy consumption, avoiding soy is not a given. It can interfere with thyroid hormones but this issue can be mitigated in a number of ways as explained by the article. I don’t absolutely reject soy altogether, but I try to avoid having too much of it. A primary reason being that 90% of the soy in the United States is from genetically modified organisms (GMO).

These are just some of the hormonal disruptors and chemicals that can cause problems for people like me. There are many other toxic substances that I also must avoid, especially with my MTHFR. Sometimes it is easier than others.

But what about the ways my life has been affected by my hypothyroidism? I find the constant reliance on medication to be a burden. I have dealt with anxiety issues throughout my life that I only recently got control over. I have a tendency towards depression, though I have never had a full-blown bout of it. I work constantly at maintaining optimism and trying to keep myself balanced. I have moments of bad temper, where I feel upset with myself afterwards because of my behavior. Re-reading this paragraph, however, I wonder how different I am from everyone else on the planet. Today’s lifestyle is maddening…who can blame us for unburdening ourselves now and again or feeling fearful or anxious about big steps in our lives? All kinds of articles have been written about the connection between thyroid and mental health so it is impossible to ignore the ways that being even sub-clinically hypothyroid can affect our minds.

Something I hope to explore on this site is the ways that our physical illnesses manifest in our working and social lives and the ways that having a chronic illness can change us for better or worse. To get the ball rolling, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)

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I’ve always been a little different. Born with congenital hypothyroidism, I was burdened with the daily dose of necessary thyroid medication from only a few weeks of age. Affectionately dubbed my “smart pill” by family members, it would be something I would have to remember for the rest of my life. As long as I took that pill and had regular blood tests, they told me, my life would be “normal.” So off I went, taking my Synthroid and having my annual blood tests, never questioning anything or really thinking twice about my condition.

running in the woods

So what does this have to do with MTHFR? Well, in my case, knowledge about the way that my thyroid problem could impact my health actually led to my discovery that I have MTHFR gene mutations. It all began at the start of my pregnancy journey, which I am still on with my husband and partner of almost nine years. We decided to start trying for our first child in 2012, excited and, like most couples, thinking that things would happen right away. They didn’t. We only tried for a few months before putting things on hold due to some changes in my husband’s employment. In the meantime I had noticed that my menstrual cycles were a little on the short side of normal in the luteal phase. Cue lots of internet “research” on the controversy over luteal phase deficiency and the first stages of my working myself into a complete panic that something was wrong with me. I began to take B6 supplements and acupuncture. It never occurred to me that my thyroid might be causing problems.

When I went to the doctor at the end of the year to get a refill on my thyroid medication, I asked the doctor to check my Free T3 and Free T4 levels. I’d just discovered Janie Bowthorpe’s excellent Stop The Thyroid Madness (STTM) website and also the work of Mary Shomon, both working tirelessly to educate the masses about the issues facing thyroid patients around the world. I knew that thyroid would impact pregnancy, but I didn’t realize the importance of your levels being optimized prior to becoming pregnant. We were living in Norway at the time and my doctor said they didn’t normally test for Free T3 but she agreed to do it when I pushed. My TSH was already a bit high, with high Free T4 and when the test came back it showed that my body was a poor converter of T4 into T3.

While this is common among thyroid patients, my anxiety went into overdrive. How long had I been this way? What irreversible damage had been done to my health not knowing about it? Why was this happening? What could I do? I quickly discovered that a public health system general practitioner was not the person to see for my thyroid problems and sought out a specialist. He was actually a private oncologist, which, he assured me, meant that he had to know how all of the body’s systems work. A thousand dollars later, testing me for everything under the sun, I learned very simply that I needed T3 medication in addition to the T4 medication I was already taking. We were already poised to move back to the United States, so I took a little synthetic T3 in the meantime and awaited the next doctor in our new city.

In the midst of all of this, I’d been communicating with others online in thyroid and parenting groups. Here people often post their lab test results for others to interpret, a sort of virtual second opinion on what their doctors are telling them. One gracious woman was kind enough to take a look at all of my lab results and pointed out that my folate levels were high and suggested that I get tested for something called MTHFR. At my first appointment with my new doctor, I mentioned this to her and she gave me a funny look, told me “that’s a deficiency” and dismissed my query quickly. I debated a bit about spending $195 to test myself for MTHFR but, as my father always says, “trust but verify.” Why should I put all my faith in this doctor who I’ve only seen once? The dangers of not knowing that I have mutated genes seemed to outweigh those of knowing, so I completed the test and waited.

As my husband and I waited to exit our plane, ready for a weekend of fun with close friends on a trip we’d been planning for months, I noticed an email with my lab results had come in on my phone. Never one to be able to resist information temptation, I quickly opened it to find the news: I am compound heterozygous, meaning the lab found one copy of the MTHFR C677T mutation and one copy of the A1298C mutation. My mind raced as I quickly did some initial reading in the taxi…this was going to require something drastic. I reviewed some of the increased health risks in people who have these mutations and gave some thought to the various health problems faced by many of the relatives in my family. That trip became my last hurrah in terms of food and drink.

I am just beginning to learn about MTHFR. So if you aren’t already familiar with it, I don’t think I’m the best person to explain it to you. Not when so many others have done the job so much better. The two sentence summary, as I understand it, is that my body doesn’t detoxify as effectively as that of a person who does not have MTHFR mutations. My body also can’t break down some of the important B vitamins that we ingest and my production of glutathione is inhibited, which can lead to very serious health problems. For a more detailed explanation than that, I recommend beginning with Dr. Ben Lynch’s website on MTHFR, or at least reading this post on the STTM website, which explains the MTHFR genetic defect and how it can affect you. I already have high homocysteine levels at just 33, which could lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and a host of other nasties if I don’t nip this in the bud now. Welcome to my world.

I have started this blog to chronicle my journey to health after discovering that I have MTHFR gene mutations. Writing has always helped me to process information and share knowledge with others, so when faced with a huge health challenge, my first thought was to document it. Whether you also have one or more mutations, or if you are just interested in healthy living, I think you will find something beneficial on this website. Please be sure to check out my About page and some of the other posts to learn more about who I am (and who I’m not). And please share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments. I look forward to meeting others who care about optimal health.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Seeking Health and will receive a small commission from the proceeds of any sale made via the link for MTHFR testing in this post. Be assured that any income goes to maintaining the free information I provide on this website.

If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)

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