Symptom Management: Anxiety

Introduction 

Welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. Miles from home, I went for a run. Trying to clear my head, I felt my heart began to race. I tuned into the sound of my sneakers. The crunching gravel under foot. I slowed my pace. I heaved a breath. But thoughts intruded. The house we just bought. Moving the kids away from mom. My mom.  Circular thoughts. Without end. Lord, please protect me. I knew this was a panic attack, thanks to a friend’s experience. 

Anxiety and thyroid disease

Many thyroid warriors know what anxiety feels like, but let’s define it. Anxiety is “a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.” or “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” The latter definition felt like locking eyes with myself in a mirror. And I am not the only one, 63% of thyroid patients report having anxiety. Though symptoms very, common symptoms of anxiety are: 

  1. Depression 
  2. Tummy troubles 
  3. Tension 
  4. Fears 
  5. Autonomic symptoms 
  6. Muscle tension

Doctors Advice 

The clinical recommendations sound oh so… clinical. Not to demean them, they are merely limited. Most studies conclude that any patient whose anxiety remains after treatment with thyroid hormone should be tested for anxiety disorders. From there, psychotherapy and medication are recommended… fortunately there’s more to this blog.

What Works for me

As stated above, God is a very present help in time of need. I have learned to manage my anxiety, so I no longer have panic attacks. Preventatively, I take Epsom Salt Baths, CBD oil, cut or lower my caffeine on bad days and get the best sleep and food I can.  If I already feel anxious, I try to Vulcan my way out of it by studying my thoughts. Asking: Are they good? noble? true? If not, reject them. This is where writing helps.  I also try Chamomile tea. I find, many small attacks against anxiety has brought down this giant.

Conclusion

Those with hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease are more likely than most to have anxiety. While those of us with thyroid disease are all too aware of the symptoms, we need a plan to tackle this beast. I am thankful to have good resources to handle my anxiety, so it’s no longer a major problem in my life. 

Symptom Management: Depression

Introduction 

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. I’m sorry we missed a week. I was sick with a cold. But also, I may have opened a box… belonging to Pandora. Depression is a complex and deep topic, so I won’t be able to talk about it fully. I hope to shed some light on why thyroid disease can cause depression and some treatment options.  Okay, let’s unmask these two bandits.

Depression and thyroid disease

One of the first things I learned about my birth family was that my grandmother had Hashimoto’s disease. For years she struggled to find the right medication. Turns out, what was thought to be depression, was untreated Hashimoto’s disease. This is a common case. Depression and Thyroid disease mimic each other so well, it’s hard to determine who the real culprit is. To make matters more murky, those with Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism are 31-69% more likely to have depression* Fortunately, Thyroid disease has been associated with depression since 1873, so there’s a ton of research about it

Bandit #1: Thyroid disease

This slippery sucker seems like an easy catch. Every study I read, said depression should improve once thyroid pills are taken. But you know I give major side-eye to the “Magic Little Pill Theory”. Pills aren’t magic, but they can be one of the steps to treating depression. Some depression treatments work for improving your thyroid health as well. Lifestyle and diet changes, physiotherapy and exercise are all weapons against both baddies.   

The hormones involved in thyroid disease (Thyroxine (T4),  Triiodothyronine (T3) and Triiodothyronine (rT3) and Thyroid antibodies etc.) are abnormal in those with depression, even if they do not have thyroid disease. Doctors have been using thyroid hormones to aid anti-depression therapy since the 1960’s. So these two bad bandits are also best friends. Your T4 and T3 levels are the two that seem to be linked to depression. So I recommended desiccated medication in Fundamentals of Medication. I talked to my doctor, and am making the switch myself. Wish me luck, reviews to come. Doctors are also using neuroimaging to track down the exact location of these masked mad men. If you want to read about it, see “Sources” below.

Bandit #2: Depression

If your thyroid hormones optimized, but depression continues, we may have another bad guy to catch. (okay, I’ll stop with the crime fighting) Depression is a diagnosis, not a mood. Your doctor will  test to evaluate if you have it and which type. Then make a treatment plan. As per life, it takes time and trying. Typical treatment options are:

  1. Psychotherapy: It can be what works for you: group therapy, online, workbook or in a group.  
  2. Lifestyle changes: 30 mins walking has been proven to help reduce depression, dietary changes, alcohol and drug management, and  journaling 
  3. Medications: There are many out there. Talk to your doctor about side-effects, length of time you expect to be on them, and the risks in stopping the medications. 
  4. More information

Killing my Bandits

All this studying and struggling with depression led to two conclusions. One, it’s not just “all in my head.” There are legitimate physiological reasons thyroid warriors fight depression. Two, what works for some, may not work for me- for now. While I try to be open, there are steps I am not ready to take. One may obsessively write *blushes awkwardly,* another may exercise improves their depression. Either way, we take up the sword. That’s why we have this community. So we can exchange ideas and take up arms together. 

Conclusion

Depression and thyroid disease have long been associated. The shame of past generations is slowly raising its head and staring these illnesses in the eye. While getting the proper dose of thyroid medication has been proven to improve depression, the battle doesn’t stop there. If you feel you need more help, chat with your doctor about your options. Choosing to switch to desiccated pills may help, along with lifestyle changes and other medications. Whichever way you fight, continue to be your own thyroid advocate.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246784/

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/83/9/3194/2865402

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/thy.1998.8.951

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022399905000875

https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/127099

*Trzepacz PT, McCue M, Klein I, Levey GS, Greenhouse J. A psychiatric and neuropsychological study of patients with untreated Graves’ disease. General Hospital Psychiatry. 1988;10(1):49–55. 

Symptom Management: Muscle Weakness

Introduction

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. I had no idea muscle weakness, myopathy, affects 79% of thyroid patients – that’s a ton of people! I’m thankful we live in a time and place in which it’s treatable, though I have my skepticism. However you may want to start treatment before I did. But don’t worry, I made it out alive.

Repelling and Hair untamed 

Contrary to the meek stereotypes of being female, and a christian, I used to love adventure sports. In the summer of 2005, I set out on my Australian outdoor adventure. After a half day hiking, we came to the twenty-five foot falls. I confidently backed off the cliff.  I didn’t know Hashimoto’s disease was stealing my strength. Weak hands shaking. Hoping to hold on as the rope slowly slipped through my hands. I made it. And brushed off my weakness, though I never repelled again. Weakness in my hands was a subtle sign of thyroid disease taking hold of my body. Myopathy can progress, making everyday events such as stairs and doing your hair difficult. It can even be life threatening if not treated. But I think I’ll just use it as an excuse for my untamed tresses. 


The science behind it

Muscle weakness is a vague symptom of thyroid disease. It can be caused by Hypothyroid Myopathy or anemia. All thyroid diseases can cause muscle weakness, aches and cramping. It is typically centralized, in your thighs and shoulders. You may need to bring it up with your doctor, as myopathy can be overlooked or confused with fatigue. Rarely, other complications arise.  As with most thyroid symptoms, we don’t know why thyroid disease causes muscle issues. 

How to not fall down a twenty-five foot waterfall

From the studies I read, myopathy is treated by addressing the thyroid disease with medication. However, T4 levels seem to be affected, so dessicate thyroid pills are the best option. Even on the correct medication, at the appropriate dosage, treatment can take up to a year to take effect. Thyroid disease makes healing into a marathon sport! Along with your pills, physical activity is recommended. However, if you suspect your muscle weakness is due to anemia, a simple iron supplement will have you Hulking in no time. 

Conclusion 

I am always skeptical when thyroid medication is seen as a comprehensive treatment for thyroid symptoms, they seem to linger. Iron pills and optimizing my dosage has lessened my muscle weakness to a liveable level. However, I don’t see anymore waterfalls in my future. 

Symptom Management: Restless Leg Syndrome

Introduction 

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe – we are discussing Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) this week, so maybe I’ll switch to decaf for this blog? For years I suffered every night. Fighting the urge to move my legs, though I didn’t give it much thought. After ignoring this symptom, I finally did my research. The many solutions and even prescriptions available were a pleasant surprise.

My experience and symptoms 

I lay in my exhaustion. I self-medicated thyroid disease with a dozen cups of coffee, yet my eyes screamed for sleep. Yet my legs marched on. I would rub them together until wounds wore on my feet. Occurring at night or lying down, my symptoms were by the book. RLS is defined as restlessness only revived by moving your legs.  It is common in those with chronic illnesses and those with a genetic predisposition to it. So my legs wiggled with the energy I’d wished to contain for the next day. 

At Home Solutions 

After asking my online friends for at home solutions and doing my research, the response overwhelmed me. Happily, there are many solutions to RLS. Vitamin D, Iron and Magnesium are the most common dietary solutions to RLS. Magnesium can be taken as a pill or rubbed in. For me, this was the solution to RLS. The ever taxing Epsom salt bath is another popular solution and one of my favorites. I also take CBD oil. It calms both mental and physical restlessness.  If your legs are still defiant, massage and stretching may calm them, along with exercise. I had to laugh at the suggestion that RLS could be solved by getting more sleep, hello vicious cycle. Lastly, the Relaxis pad and weighted blankets were recommended. I haven’t tried either, but would love to know if they work. 


This product was recommended by fellow thyroid warrior, though I haven’t tried it myself.

More than an apple a day: Help from the Doctor 

Despite my foolish pride and overly ambitious online endeavors, one must seek help when needed. From a less invasive perspective, chiropractic care can provide relief. I fear recommending medication because of the side effects. However Ropinirole is commonly and effectively used. Ask your doctor for help if at-home remedies are not working for you. 

Conclusion: 

There are active solutions to our active legs. Through at-home and medical intervention, RLS can be one of the most manageable thyroid symptoms. For me, vitamin supplements and Epsom salt baths were the solutions. A few pills in the morning and a relaxing bath is the kind of symptom management I can handle. 

Symptom Management: Weight

Introduction

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. You’ve heard it. A million times. “Diet and exercise would help you lose weight.” But what if there’s more? Holding to this advice alone can leave you frustrated and dejected. But know for thyroid warriors, weight issues is more dynamic than that. We are not crazy or lazy. We are working double time towards a healthier body. Fortunately, weight can be regulated, even with our disease, but it’s a fight. 

Round One: Meds

You’re cruising the highway. The wind blows and the scenery flies by you. But you slow. You push the pedal down, but sputter to a stop. A little orange light glares and you know, you’re going nowhere without gas. Expecting weight loss without getting your thyroid hormones optimal, is as effective as running a car without gas. Because thyroid hormone regulates weight, no amount of diet and exercise can compensate for uncontrolled hormone levels. So medication optimization is first on my list for a reason; it’s the cornerstone to weight loss. 

Round Two: Listening 

A yawn is not a silent scream for coffee, as much as I hate to admit it. It’s your body asking for a need, sleep. Listening to your body isn’t some mystical concept. It’s giving weight (pun intended) to your body’s basic needs. Tracking my diet is one way I learned to listed to my body’s needs. (See “Round Three” below for common problem foods.)  Second, and to my great pleasure, listen to stress levels. When we’re stressed, our bodies increase cortisol levels, which lowers thyroid levels, causing us to gain weight. This is part of the reason extreme calorie restrictions don’t work for thyroid patients. Our bodies are already taxed, adding the stress of excessive calorie restrictions doesn’t help. And if you’re like me, stress leads to gobbling cookies like Shaggy and Scooby. So soak in that bath. See that old friend. Walk in that park. There are many needs we can be attentive to, such as thirst, indigestion, sensitivity to cold, etc. study your body, to understand its needs.

Round Three: Food and water

While “don’t eat fast food or binge drink soda” remains universally good advice, there’s more to diet for thyroid warriors. For us, food can cause weight gain through inflammation. After having kids, I was puffy Marshmallow Meghan. Pictures made me shutter until I read about inflammation. The table below outlines some foods that commonly cause inflammation. I would recommend removing as many as reasonable from your diet, then adding them back in, one at a time. I allowed a few weeks between introductions, to mark how they affected me.  I post a lot of my meals on our Instagram account. They are all easy, family meals.

Foods that cause me inflammationFoods I eat like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka
Refined carbs, ie: “white” bread, rice etc  Sugar, Has many listed names, Trans fats, Gluten, dairy, Processed meats oils, alcoholWhole, high healthy fat, plant based proteins, fish, gluten-free food,  fruit and veggies

Another helpful tip for weight loss is to drink plenty of water. No only does this keep the body happily hydrated, it fills the stomach. Diet is a broad topic, which I hope to chat about again at the Thyroidcafe. 

Round Four: Exercise 

I subconsciously took a deep breath before writing this. If you struggle with weight caused by thyroid disease, it is likely your thyroid hormone is on the lower side. If so, you may feel exhausted by the normal events of life. I don’t want to apply undue pressure to people already suffering. Regarding exercise, do what you can, when you can. Gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming and biking are a place to start, once you feel healthy enough to do so. 

Conclusion 

I desperately want to take the burden of this disease from my fellow sufferers. The exhaustion, depression, sensitivity to cold – all of it. But the worst for me was the preconceived notions of others. Maybe it was my age, but I spent years crushed by worry that others would think I was “just lazy and fat.” But ten years on, this previously “lazy, fat” woman just wants to be healthy. I wish we could change the narrative from weight loss, to healthy weight. Because excess weight is a symptom of a larger medical issue. Prescription optimization, diet, and exercise will help you lose weight. But the bigger reward is gaining back our health. 

Sources

Symptom Management: Pain

Introduction

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. It’s 2012. 9:00 pm and I’m in bed. Twisting and rubbing my neck, and shoulders. Attempting to silence snarling muscles. My elbows and knees soon join the cacophony, so I give up and hobble to the kitchen for pain meds. My grandmother and I walk the same way, I’m sixty years her junior. What was I to do? In those days, I popped Tylenol like a desperate starving animal. I had to find a better treatment option. 

The cause of thyroid pain

Thyroiditis could be the cause of your pain. If the front of your neck, jaw or face hurt, a doctor should be seen. Other auto-immune diseases may also be a cause of your pain. For example, arthritis is more likely in thyroid patience than the general population. Thirdly, under treated hypothyroidism is a common cause of joint and muscle pain. But what about this sporadic, systemic dull ache? Diet is the cause I have found through support groups, and personal experience. Dairy was the cause of my pain, but each person must do her own detective work. 

How to treat it 

The simple answer: you can take Neo’s red pill (Tylenol) and go down the rabbit hole of masking your soreness and avoiding the problem. But my pain persisted and I needed an explanation. Around that time, I read about the AIP diet. As I was stumbling and slurping through the diet, I noticed my body pain left. After reintroducing dairy, my pain returned. I am not recommending we put cows permanently out to pasture, but rather that each of us tries an elimination diet, to see what helps.

If you’re having other low thyroid symptoms or your pain is accompanied by swelling of your joints, it’s best to consult a physician and rule out other causes. Keep in mind, even if your blood test comes back in the normal range, it may not be optimal. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and work towards optimization. As always, I recommend being your own Thyroid advocate.

Conclusion

Because thyroid disease has multiple manifestations, I am doing a series on Symptom Management.  Joint and muscle pain can have many causes and it may take time and detective work to find the root cause of your pain, but there are solutions. So now, after dietary changes, I can sit in bed at 9:00 pm and binge watch Netflix like a normal semi-adult. No Tylenol needed. 

“Womans world” and Thyroid Rescue

Introduction

Hi, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. I wanted to review a  “Woman’s world” article today.  Many in the thyroid community find these articles frustrating. I have read they are misleading and harmful to those who have thyroid disease, so I thought I would look for myself. Amist recipes of bright berry cobbler and Meringue cake, is a two page spread, declaring “Thyroid rescue!” It promises to “reactivate your thyroid to melt thirty pounds in thirty days.” I was cautiously curious.

The Good 

A bold red banner declares “Thyroid Rescue” on July’s front cover, putting our disease literally front and center. At 600,000 copies sold a month, I’m thankful to raise awareness about thyroid disease. Inside the article, it “encourages everyone” to try eliminating sugar and gluten from their diet. It’s great to make the dangers of processed foods known. Giving further hope, the author highlights the importance of diet for thyroid patients by giving the testimony of thyroid warrior who gained health and lost weight on her diet. Excellent! To the right of her picture is a small paragraph. It is the only place in which they outline actual thyroid symptoms and advice. 

The Bad 

While the dietary advice is sound, the article isn’t about thyroid disease. It misleads people into thinking diet either causes or cures thyroid disease. The reader may think those who gain weight because of their thyroid disease can loose weight by changing their diet alone. This is not entirely true. For more information, click here. While diet plays a role in thyroid disease; I hate to think of people judging others based on this articles misinformation. 

The Ugly

What was great about this article, is crammed into the bottom corner. Symptoms are a one sentence synopsis, and medical treatments are an afterthought. If the article is about “Thyroid Rescue,” it’s pertinent to explain the disease and other treatments available. This would be of use to us fighting the disease and to promote understanding and sympathy.  The article places too much focus on one symptom, weight gain. Simplifying symptoms to a weight issue, misleads the reader to play on common insecurities of women. This disease has a dynamic and fundamental effect on its sufferers and the article misses that point.

Conclusion

Sadly, the “Woman’s World” article reflects a common ignorance towards our disease. The simplified suggestions of dietary changes and “sleep 7 hours” belittle the disease and treatments thyroid sufferers face. While I recognize this is no medical journal, it is one way the public sees our disease. I wish the author was more diligent in her studies. Despite this, it puts thyroid illness on display; it promotes a healthy diet and it motivates me to keep telling the truth about our disease. 

Medical Marijuana

Introduction 

Welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. You may remember the marijuana of the psychedelic sixties, part of the counterculture movement. Or maybe you’re like me and the “War on Drugs” in the 80’s villainized marijuana as a gateway drug. Now in 2019, we are seeing the marijuana plant in a more dynamic way. No longer demonized, but studied. Through this we have learned about the properties of marijuana and its medical uses. But before we move Thyroidcafe to Amsterdam, let’s examine the medical benefits and risks of this controversial plant. 

Plant Parts: Chemicals in Marijauna and What They Do

There are two well understood chemicals in cannabis, THC and CBC, though there are more. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the chemical in marijuana that gives you the “high.” THC benefits are anti-inflammatory properties, has dopamine (pain killer), can ease your mind, and increases appetite. Now I don’t need any help finding the chips and I need my mind firmly inside my body, so the following is my preferred option. CBD (cannabidiol) is the no-high alternative to THC. It is also anti-inflammatory, has dopamine (pain killer) and can ease your mind. I will discuss THC and CBC more blow. Because of the restriction on marijuana, the other chemicals found in marijuana are less studied.  

A Plant by Any Other Name

You go to the store and there’s all the tomatoes. Some are for hamburgers, others for salad and there’s always those Roma’s nobody knows what to do with. Pizza? Fancy pizza?

 

Anyways, like tomatoes, marijuana has many varieties. But I will explore the three most notable . Cannabis Indica is known for its relaxation qualities, both mental and physical. It also decreases nausea, pain, and increases appetite. Another variety is Cannabis Sativa. I use this variety during the day as it is not a sedative. It dulls my pain, increases creativity, focuses me and even gives me energy. This is a picture of the product I use, it’s sold in most health food stores.


 Lastly, Cannabis Ruderalis is naturally high in CBD and low in THC, giving it no “high.” It does a great job treating depression. Each species of cannabis can be made to have more or less CBD and THC. Keeping the species in mind enables you to treat your symptoms specifically. 

What does Medical Marijuana treat? 

With the Opioid Crisis rearing its ugly head, pain management is one of the most sought after characteristics of marijuana. Many people with thyroid problems suffer from anxiety and depression. Personally, I have found relief from both using Cannabis Sativa. Medical marijuana also helps with insomnia. On the other hand, some strains of cannabis can give you more energy and clarity of thought. This is why it’s important to know the variety. Lastly, all varieties helps with inflammation. While this isn’t a miracle drug, there are obvious benefits to be explored. For a list of other diseases cannabis is thought to help, see below the conclusion. 

More than Puff, Puff, Pass: Types of Marijauna products

Before you bless the neighbours with a skunk-like smell, let’s discuss your options for taking medical marijuana. Availability depends on where you are, so please explore. Both CBD and THC oils can be bought online. Oils have a high concentration, so a little drop ‘ill do ya. See below for how much I take (140 lbs)

Half a dropper full is enough for me.

 I use the CBD oil to relieve my pain, anxiety and ease my depression. Next are waxes, or butane hash oil, they can be vaporized. It is potent and is popular for those treating chronic pain. Tinctures sound more exciting than they are. To make tinctures, alcohol is infused with cannabis and take a few drops under the tongue. Taking it this way allows it to take effect faster and last longer (45 mins-ish). Balms take the high out of cannabis. Lotions, sprays and topical oils are rubbed into the skin for pain relief. There are also suppositories and lets just say, I will not be going there. 

Risks of Marijuana

There are some risks to using medical marijuana. Firstly, if you choose to smoke it, there are the respiratory risks inherent to smoking anything. Secondly, short term memory loss is marked in some users. Lastly, prejudice from your employer or school. Even CBD shows up on a drug test, so know the policies in place that may limit your use.

Conclusion 

So let’s let the reputation of marijuana in the sixties pass, most people don’t remember the sixties anyways! And let’s set aside the War on Drugs to look reasonably at a product that could help us. Like opioids, marijuana needs to regulation to prevent misuse. But, that does not negate valid medical characteristics. If you are uneasy about hallucinogenic properties, try CBD. If you prefer not to smoke, try balms or oils. While I won’t be watching reruns of Harold & Kumar and chowing on Cheezies anytime soon, I will use marijuana to manage my symptoms. So what do other thyroid patience think about this taboo subject? Do you use medical marijuana? See our Facebook and Instagram or comment here. 

Other diseases cannabis can help: Glaucoma, arthritis, cancer, migraines, anorexia, depression, anxiety, stress, nausea , PTSD, Insomnia, Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, ADHD, Epilepsy, PMS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease