Some days it seems like so much is going on that I can’t say anything because my tongue gets tied just trying to figure out what’ s the most important, and what doesn’t need talking about at all. That’s a little how I’m feeling this week with a fairly intense workload, a paper to finish, and my new found commitment to exercise and some investigation into whether or not I have a thyroid condition (by which I mean, reading on the Internet).
At the moment I’m feeling a little torn about what to do about my health stuff – and so I’m thinking a three-month person experiment might be all I can do.
Here’s the situation… In the last two years, I have:
- had a painful sinus infection the entire time (and occasionally very mild asthma)
- had three biopsies for thyroid nodules, none of which turned up cancer
- had increasing joint stiffness and lower back pain – especially in the mornings
- gained about twelve pounds – I think that started the minute I went back to school and stopped focusing on physical activity as a regular part of my life.
On all fronts, my medical doctors have been a bit of a wash (other than telling me I didn’t have cancer – that was pretty good). My regular doc keeps sending me away with steroid sprays for the sinus infection and encouraging my daily use of ibuprofen (I couldn’t help it, so painful). My throat specialist told me there is nothing to be done about the nodules but if they become obstructive he will just remove my thyroid (and I will forever be on synthetic thyroid hormone). He also said that because my TSH is normal, my thyroid is functioning fine. The stand-in doc (replacing my doctor on maternity leave) made some rather insulting suggestions about my age and weight loss (like it’s kind of hopeless so the best I can aim for is getting enough activity). And despite all sorts of expensive vitamin supplements, my naturopath wasn’t much help either.
I feel like I’ve had this low-grade health decline going on for about two years, maybe even a bit longer, and it’s making me feel old! (And unattractive and a bit bleak about the future).
But I can only really talk about this now because in the last month I’ve started to take some action and I am positive about the possibility to turn all of the above around.
It started with a talk I went to at my gym where the speaker (a naturopath) told me that I had many symptoms of an under-active thyroid, despite my TSH levels coming back normal. She explained to me that there are other tests – stand-alone blood tests for T3 and T4 that I could get done in addition to the TSH test. Thyroid problems (in particular hypothyroidism) runs strongly on my maternal side, and auto-immune problems run on both sides of my family – so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I was developing a thyroid immune-disorder at this point in my life. And I’m a premature grey-er which apparently is linked to hypothyroidism. The nodules aren’t necessarily linked to this condition, but they also don’t know what causes nodules – so I’m willing to believe that a malfunctioning thyroid gland or hormonal reaction is at least part of the reason.
Anyhow. I am increasingly suspicious that even though my TSH levels are in the normal range, my body is in the process of developing hypothyroidsm and I am at risk for having my thyroid removed in any case. This would account for joint stiffness, feeling tired despite good sleeps, memory problems, tendency towards depression, and some aspects of my appearance.
I’ve increased my activity level in the last month as part of my initial feeling of “I’ve got to do something about this,” and since then I’ve been reading nutritional blogs and (more recently) online advice about thyroid conditions because I’m feeling a bit abandoned by traditional medicine. It’s as though crossing the magic line of forty means my health problems no longer matter all that much because this is “just what happens to women in perimenopause.” (My doctor considers all women past forty in perimenopause ).
So I’ve eased into a few things recently and I’m thinking that I’m going to treat the next three months as a bit of an experiment in the following:
- lots of physical activity: 2 or 3 long walks/hikes per week (min six km), 2-3 intense cardio sessions per week (min 30 minutes), 3-4 Pilates sessions per week
- following a no wheat, no gluten, low grain-intake course of eating (I’d like to mostly go to “primal” eating, but I like cheese too much)
- vitamins/supplements: fish oil (helps T4 convert to T3 in the liver), Vitamin D, Vitamin B
- immediate cessation of daily ibuprofen (as of 2 days ago).
My goals are: increased thyroid function, weight loss, cleaner eating, greater fitness and keeping medical intervention in my health to a minimum.
Now, I have been off wheat for eleven days and I have so far noticed the following:
- less inflammation in my sinuses – which is why I’ve been able to go off the ibuprofen without experiencing serious agony for the first time in two years (I’ve tried before, it hasn’t been a good idea)
- at first an increase and then a decrease in the acrid mucus that comes with my sinus problem – a horrible burning sensation
- way less stiffness in my ankles in the morning
I also have less stiffness in my lower back which I think that is actually due to regular Pilates more than anything else.
Now, I have no idea how much of this is psychosomatic or coincidental or what (and frankly, I don’t care, being able to manage my sinuses without pain killers is a blessing no matter what the cause) – but I’m committing to the above plan of action for three months and at the end of that time I’ll tell you how it worked (if it worked) to kick my body back on track. I’m feeling the momentum right now because of our planned hiking trip in July – which will be some measure of how far I’ve come. Right?
If at the end of three months, no change – I think I’ll have to go back to harassing my doctor about more extensive thyroid testing, or go see this naturopath who specializes in that area. Or some such thing. I’d like to start with fundamental lifestyle changes first. The basics – what I eat, and how much I run around. I’m ready to get put my head up and fact this for the first time in awhile.