My Terrible, Terrible Secret: Recovering from Hypothyroidism – Update!

workoutclothes1 So it’s now been quite awhile since I opened up on this blog about my hypothyroidism and issues stemming from it (including a sudden weight gain of 15 lbs). I wanted to share with all of you where I am now – almost 4 months later.

Not long after posting on my blog about the health struggles I’d been going through, I went in to see my Naturopath to go over my full blood panel results. (Funnily enough, even though I’d been seen by 3 separate doctors for my thyroid issues, no one had EVER ordered a full blood panel despite my insisting that I didn’t feel much better and something was definitely still wrong.) The blood panel reflected that my cortisol levels were extremely high (indicating adrenal fatigue), and despite my 3x per day thyroid medication regimen, I was STILL hypothyroid and my thyroid hormones were staggeringly low.

dailysupplementsSo first my Naturopath consolidated all the supplements I’d been taking (some for hair loss, some for general health), into just a natural Multivitamin (EPD Basic) (who knew Centrum was packed with colors, preservatives, and GMO soy??!), Vitamin D, and Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health Capsules. Both my iron and B12 levels were on the high side (from the iron and B12 supplements I’d been told to take by a different doctor 2 years ago for my hair loss), so they were nixed altogether. (The proscribed multivitamin had B12 and iron in it anyway). But it was the adrenal supplement that made the biggest difference: within about a week I started to feel more energetic, less stressed, less lethargic. Though I was wary at first of these strange herbs I’d never heard of (Siberian Rhodola Root Extract? Holy Basil Leaf?) and the large capsules with this sticky black liquid floating in them, they made a huge difference and so I took them diligently.

workoutclothes_stretchingFrom Sept 4 onwards I began taking classes at a local health club after dropping LiL Tot off in the mornings at school. 5 days a week – a 1-hour class each day. Though each week varied, usually I did Spinning 2x per week, Yoga 1x, a Core workout (with weights) 1x, and Zumba 1x, sometimes switching it out for a strength workout with weights.Then on Saturdays, I would head to the gym to do an hour of pedaling on a stationary bike, or go on a hike with my family, ride bikes around the neighborhood, take a couple-hour stroll at the mall or at a park, or run on the treadmill.

So, my exercise routine went from exercising once in awhile to basically:
Working out 6x per week, 1 hour each day.

In addition, I limited sweets and junk to just one day: Saturday, where I allowed myself a cheat meal + a dessert. The other days of the week my dessert after dinner was some fruit, or some Greek yogurt with jam mixed in (140 cal).

armourthyroidAfter a month of the new supplemental regimen, my Naturopath put my on Armour Thyroid, which is a mix of thyroid hormones extracted from pigs (and thus likely a product of factory farming – YUK!) My endocrinologist (my previous doctor) had, for more than a year and a half, scared me about Armour, telling me that it was the only alternative to the synthetic thyroid hormones she was prescribing me, but she knew “countless people who’d had bad experiences on Armour and really messed up their thyroid function and later were upset with me for not warning them of the dangers of this medication.” So I was worried about trying it, but my Naturopath said she’d never heard of anyone having a bad reaction to Armour – instead, it either worked for people or it didn’t, and if it didn’t, they just went back onto their synthetic regimen again.

(If anyone is interested, here is a lot of information about thyroid hormones in the human body in order to explain all this stuff.)

Armour (or another Natural Thyroid medication) is extracted from the thyroids of pigs – and thus has thyroid hormones T4, T3, T2, T1, and calcitonin (hormones that are not available in the synthetic medications). What is different in pigs is the ratio of hormones – which is what causes some people to not respond to this medication well – because the ratio of thyroid hormones is so critical (and there’s so many of them), that sometimes the human body can’t compensate for the difference and just doesn’t respond.

Anyway, my Naturopath switched me onto Armour, eliminating the 3 pills I had to take throughout the day, splitting one pill twice a day and splitting the other pill 4 times a week (utterly confusing and restrictive to have to time my medication 2 hours after eating but half an hour before imbibing any calories…staying away from soy consumption at the same time…ugh). I now took a single pill 30 minutes before breakfast and that was it. No taking a pill splitter with me whenever I left the house. No pills shattering in the splitter and raining down inside my purse. No offending relatives or people I was visiting by not being able to eat with them since it fell outside of the medication schedule. It was sooooo much easier.

And within days I started to feel A LOT better. Like so significantly better I thought it was a fluke at first. But the feeling just improved. My mind began to sharpen again. I could remember things. I could keep to-do lists in my head. I could plan, not only for the rest of the day, but for the rest of the week. I started to be able to see things long-term again. I could execute thoughts to their logical conclusion and not get confused along the way. I could remember what my husband said 10 minutes ago. I could start to plan multiple projects, keeping deadlines and to-do’s, juggling and multi-tasking again. I gradually started needing less sleep – from 13+ hours it dropped to 9 or 8.5 some days – and I still felt fine and awake when I woke up. My brain actually woke up. And the weirdest thing was feeling like no time had passed since I first had gotten sick – like those 3 years had never even happened, like I’d been asleep and suddenly I woke up again. I was very quickly back to my old self. I had energy, I was working out in the morning, running errands, keeping up with the blog, sending people’s birthday presents early, planning for the future. It was FANTASTIC.

I had another blood panel a month later which showed that all of thyroid hormone levels were finally in the normal range again. Yippee! I finally no longer felt “sick,” no longer exhausted physically, no longer drained mentally. Finally, finally, my thyroid/hormones/adrenals were all in balance.

The only thing left were the physical effects from being sluggish for so long. Though I was working out religiously, my body didn’t respond as I had hoped it would.

3 months later and I had lost a grand total of 4.5 lbs, and 0.5% body fat.

Which of course was insanely frustrating. Sure, things are fitting a little better (a tight pencil skirt I couldn’t zip up in September now finally closes), my face is looking a little thinner, but progress is extremely slow. At an early December checkup and blood panel, my Naturopath noted that my thyroid numbers were so good, it looked like I might be swinging the other way, into hyperthyroidism. But we decided to leave the medication at the current level for another 2 months, and reassess after the holidays. I felt so good in general I really didn’t want to change anything (except get rid of all this extra weight I was lugging around). So my doctor suggested eliminating dairy from my diet completely (so no more shaved parmesan on my salad, no more Greek yogurt after dinner). I didn’t drink milk anyway, and just avoided anything with dairy in it (which is a lot harder than one might think as it’s in so many vegetarian meals and products). This proved harder than I thought as I missed my almost-daily yogurt acutely (making a substitute with coconut milk yogurt was not so bad, but still not the same).

Still, my weight did not budge. In mid-December I got sick with the flu for awhile so laid off exercising in order to rest; after that it’s been Christmas and New Year’s so I haven’t gotten back to daily exercising since I’ve just been lazy. Once Lil Tot is back in school I’ll get back to it. Technically, if my thyroid hormones are normal…I should be able to lose weight. Even if my metabolism is low due to the underactive thyroid, I have enough of the hormones in my body to counteract it. Next, I’ll be cleaning up my diet further and not eating anything that’s not on THE PLAN, as well as adding in cold water in the mornings and perhaps cold exposure later on.

workoutclothes2Anyway, we’ll see what the next 3 months bring! Thanks so much for all your support and encouragement, it means so much to me and I feel so blessed to have received it when I first posted :-)

And now back to scheduled programming! 😉

11 Comments on My Terrible, Terrible Secret: Recovering from Hypothyroidism – Update!

  1. Adventures in Dressmaking
    1.03.2014 at 5:34 pm (2 years ago)

    So glad to hear things are getting better!!! Been wondering how you’ve been doing! You look fantastic, and so good that your levels are getting back to normal. My mom’s been on Armour Thyroid for years and likes it a lot. Sorry about the dairy =( –I’ve been off it since 2009 but have found now that, after healing my gut and cutting out other irritating foods, I can tolerate small amounts of it from time to time with no problems (and can eat plenty of butter, since it’s just the fat, no lactose). I don’t know about changes in thyroid over time but if it’s a sensitivity, at least it may not be forever!

    Unfortunately I’ve heard that weight loss resistance story before, many times–working out 5-7 days/week, eating lower calories, and not losing any weight or even gaining. When I did spin class or elliptical 3x/wk for many months in college, my weight didn’t change at all but I was flabby probably because of my cortisol response (storing fat) to the steady-state stress. Too much (steady) exercise can be bad! For fat storage and stress levels. This podcaster guy I’m a big fan of talks about that a lot, that’s his story. He also had thyroid issues; I’m not sure where he talks about it most but here’s his tag for it.

    I realized that I gained 18-20 pounds of fat when I got off Adderal, and have lost a few through ketogenic fasting during the day temporarily, but am now working on finding the right balance of protein/carbs/fat for me. And I’m excited to get back into more intense weight training, gonna go to some more CrossFit and kettlebell classes! We’ve been doing weight rooms stuff which is nice but the classes are fun and hard!

    Best wishes, hope you continue to feel better! Here’s to health!!
    Adventures in Dressmaking recently posted..Navy with teal lace, texture-blocked dress

    • carlyjcais
      1.08.2014 at 7:54 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Suzannah! I was holding off doing a big update because I wanted to share some VISUAL progress as well – you know, like the big reveal on the Biggest Loser or something – but as the weeks went by I realized it wasn’t happening so I just decided to focus on the mental/emotional stuff even if it wasn’t something you could necessarily see.

      My doctor suggested cutting out dairy to see if that helped me lose weight since it has a lot of saturated fat and can cause bloating/inflammation. I only ate yogurt and cheese but loved both of them so it’s been weird not having them. However I haven’t seen any change whatsoever on the scale so I can’t say that it’s really helped.

      I still have to listen to all those podcasts you’ve suggested to me – thank you! It’s always so helpful to hear how other people have dealt with similar issues. I’ve thought about trying intermittent fasting (that 500 cal/2x per week thing), that will probably be next on the list after trying eating really clean, high protein for a little bit.

      Thanks so much for your kind words! Here’s to a more healthy 2014!!

      • Adventures in Dressmaking
        1.08.2014 at 9:11 pm (2 years ago)

        Neat! So true that progress is more than visual/physical appearance. Health is the primary goal!

        Cutting out dairy might help but not because of the saturated fat in full-fat dairy; in fact, saturated fat is an essential nutrient and what our cells and brains are made of, and adding it back in when I stopped being raw vegan is what helped me gain muscle and energy. Dairy can promote weight gain because it contains growth factors that help baby cows (and humans) get bigger, and because of its lactose (natural sugar, carbohydrate) content. Summary here… Best article on saturated fat love here

        The “Bulletproof intermittent fasting” we do is actually the same number of calories we would normally eat, but just condensed into a shorter period of hours. Here’s the article about it: We drink butter/MCT oil coffee (“Bulletproof Coffee”) in the AM, then have regular lunch and big dinner. Sometimes I skip lunch if I’m not feeling hungry, because the butter gives me such great energy and my blood sugar is so stable. Eating high protein, high fat, low carb is so helpful for that! You can try modified ketogenic intermittent fasting just by eating low carb for those hours–eggs and meat for breakfast rather than grains/fruit/sweetened things, for example. Keeps you from releasing much insulin until the time in the day when you eat higher protein/carb. Eat carbs -> convert carbs to glycogen -> release insulin to put glycogen away, in muscles if there’s room (after workout) or in extra fat stores if there’s not. Which is why low carb works.

        Well, oops, another long blog comment. I think this stuff is so fascinating! Isn’t it crazy how much you can learn in such a short time? I’m sure you have, too. I knew nothing about this stuff a year ago. The podcasts are super fun, I love Balanced Bites and several of the other podcasters, so friendly and fun to listen to, and interesting/motivating, too!

        Best wishes in health!
        Adventures in Dressmaking recently posted..Really easy, 7-minute faux fur scarf tutorial

  2. Ariana
    1.03.2014 at 5:40 pm (2 years ago)

    Awesome!! We sometimes take health for granted. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you recover from an illness and you discover how great it is to feel “just fine”. I’m happy to hear (read) that you are feeling great. 😉
    Ariana recently posted..Más zapatillas

    • carlyjcais
      1.06.2014 at 8:28 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Ariana! I TOTALLY took being healthy for granted – and then when I got sick, all I wanted was to feel better again. You are so right. Hopefully things are now looking up and I can concentrate on other things besides my health!! :-)

  3. Pat schwab
    1.03.2014 at 5:45 pm (2 years ago)

    Glad to hear someone has figured out what you need to control your disease. Cheers to a healthier and Happy New Year.

    • carlyjcais
      1.08.2014 at 6:07 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Pat! A Happy and Healthy 2014 to you too! 😀

  4. Xena
    1.05.2014 at 11:55 am (2 years ago)

    Thyroid disease is sneaky and evil. It’s different for everyone, but here are my experiences in case they help you.
    Three years ago I put on 40 pounds in 2 months. By the time I finally reached what doctors consider to be clinical level of hypothyroidism, I was having heart palpitations and was pretty much diabetic. I’ve found that I experience symptoms at a much lower TSH than is standard for clinical.
    Bottom line, you have to manage your own health care. If your medication is not working, push for a new panel. Or ask for an ultrasound of your thyroid, a very teeny tiny non-cancerous tumor can wreak all kinds of havoc.

    Three years later, I’ve lost about 10 or the 40 pounds. I’ve had to adjust what my reality is as far as weight and what healthy means now. Take it easy on yourself, you didn’t ask for this. Focus on not being tired and eating healthfully.

    And you should be getting regular tests for ferritin if you’re on iron supplements. Too much iron can be worse than being anemic and put you at risk for blood clots.

    Finally, I have found that my thyroid medication works better if I work out and work out in the morning close to when I take the pill.
    Also that soy tends to affect my thyroid, as in it makes it work better.

    Best of luck and be nice to yourself.

    • carlyjcais
      1.06.2014 at 8:37 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your story with me, Xena! It makes me feel like I’m not alone with these struggles. You are so right with being proactive with your own health care. For a long time I felt terrible but was thinking that my endocrinologist must know more than me, she’s saying everything’s fine on the labs so it must just be my laziness that is the problem. It was a relief to go to a different doctor, try something different, and feel sooooooo much better – that really woke me up to the fact that nobody actually knows what’s right for me except me (just like how you wrote with your TSH levels).

      We ditched the iron supplements – once I had been put on them after testing low in ferritin the doctor never tested me again but told me to keep taking them…so I did…and 3 years later found that those + a daily Centrum (that had iron in it) + the iron I was getting from food = way too much for me.

      I too found that the medication works best for me taking it in the morning then working out soon after! Much better than in the afternoon!
      Thanks so much for your kind words! Good luck to you too with managing your hypothyroidsim :-)

    • carlyjcais
      1.09.2014 at 5:11 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Samantha :-) Happy New Year to you!


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