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.
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:
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 tomatoes – The 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.