Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Happy Hypothyroid

OK, so maybe I'm not so happy, but I'm definitely Hypothyroid. For those of you scratching your head, that basically means that my thyroid gland isn't working properly and explains a lot of the things which have left me such a depressed and sluggish mess in recent times.

If you're like I was until two weeks ago, I'd vaguely heard of my thyroid, but could no more easily locate it on my body than I could find Timbuktu on a map. I also had no idea what it did. Turns out it's a critical part of the body's metabolism, and it can either be underperforming (hypo-) or overperforming (hyper-). Either way, it's not good, and something that needs to be addressed.

I found out about it by accident - I was constantly tired, overweight, kept forgetting basic words (like "kettle" when I was making a cup of tea), feeling depressed and anxious (to the point I'd been put on anti-depressants) and my body temperature was running lower than usual. I went to my doctor to ask for a panel of blood-work after I'd read "Fat Chance" (see my earlier post) as I thought I might have been glucose or leptin intolerant. Turns out my doctor is a smartie, and threw in a thyroid test for good measure.

What I didn't realise was that she'd checked my thyroid levels last year when I first started seeing her, and called me to say that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) had jumped from a slightly above average 2.2, to an unacceptable 5.7. Apparently it should be in the 1-2 range. Troubles with your thyroid can be triggered by stress and a sedentary lifestyle apparently, so three foot surgeries and six months in a wheelchair might have done it! Either way, I have more blood tests in my future to determine exactly which bit of the thyroid system isn't happy, and I've already started on hormone replacement meds. It makes me sound like my mum after menopause!!!

Signs of hypothyroidism include (and here I am shamelessly copying from the Mayo website, which has way more helpful information):
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory

So basically, my life for the past year. It also explains the carb cravings, which I'm still having. They slowly start you on the medication and then ramp it up over time, so at the moment I still feel like crap, but fingers crossed it will improve in future.

If any of these sound like you, there's an easy indicative test you can do to see whether you might have a problem. The Barnes basal temperature test can be a first step - your body temperature should be between 97.8 and 98.2. If you're lower (like me, I'm usually in the low 96's) you're possibly hypo, and if it's higher you may be hyper. The definitive test is a blood panel, and definitely to talk with your doctor.

So moving forward at least I know what's going on. I'm slightly bummed that this is the case, but at least now I know what's happening to my body I can take steps to get better. I've unfortunately fallen off the no-sugar bandwagon, but everything I've read says that a gluten/sugar/processed food free diet is essential to managing hypothyroidism properly, so I'm trying to pysch myself up for it again. Urghh.

These past 18 months have been properly crap, but hopefully now I have a diagnosis I can really start on the road to recovery! If you have experience with thyroid issues, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!