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

Medication Basics

Introduction

Hey, and welcome to the Thyroidcafe. Grab a seat and join me as we discuss the basics of medication. I’m thankful my local pharmacist let me interview her for this blog. She rattled off medication names long enough to dominate a Scrabble board and I grew in my knowledge. She explained each medication, who takes them and the best way to do so. Her information corroborated with the online studies I read. So I combined the information for you; I hope you like it. 

Hormone Basics

As I wrote previously (https://thyroidcafe.com/2019/07/09/diagnosis-story-part-3-getting-the-diagnosis/ ), knowing about your disease empowers you to make better choices for your health. Here is information to help:

  1.  Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) prompts your body to make T4, which in turn produces T3. The prevailing theory on thyroid treatment is that by adding T4, the body will produce T3.  
  1. When doctors take our “Thyroid Levels,” they usually measure Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Here is a table to keep in mind when reading your TSH panel. 
TSH Normal Thyroid Range: 0.4 – 4.0 mU/L TSH At Risk: 2.5 m U/L – 4 mU/L
TSH Ideal Range: 2.5 mU/L 

Who can take thyroid medication 

The medication we are discussing is for people with Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. Restrictions on who can take it depends on allergies. (For example, food colouring.) Also, morality as there are animal products in some pills. 

Medications available

There are two broad categories of thyroid medication, synthetic and desiccated. Synthetic medication has many brands (Lavothyroxine, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint and Unithroid.) All synthetic brands contain solely T4. Desiccated pills are derived from either bovine or swine. Some common brands are Armour Thyroid, Nature-Thyroid, WP Thyroid, NP Thyroid. Because of their source, they contain both T4 and T3. (See below for more information) My pharmacist noted, desiccated pills are almost always on backorder. So talk to your local pharmacist about supply. 

Which medication do I choose?

Most people start with synthetic pills. They are more reliable as T4 levels are lab tested. The pharmacist recommends Synthroid as it comes in small doses increments, giving more accuracy. Desiccated pills, or animal derived pills, contain both T4 and T3. They are controversial because their hormone levels are tested less frequently. However, some studies show that a subgroup of patients improvement in mood and cognitive function on Desiccate pills. Most online articles advocate for Desiccate pills and  I hope to try them. I will report back. To read more studies, click here https://academic.oup.com/labmed/article/41/6/338/2657554. Most studies conclude that if symptoms continue, it is good to try desiccated pills.  

How do I take  medication and missed doses?

Both types of thyroid medication are best taken first thing in the morning; as they must be taken on an empty stomach. Take your medication and then wait a half hour to eat or take other medicine. It is also important to take your pills at a consistent time each day. Missed pill should be taken as soon as possible.  My pharmacist suggested that if over a few hours late, skip that day and resume a normal schedule the next day. Do not double up your pills. 

Conclusion

These are the fundamentals of thyroid medication. It is a broad and deep subject. As we grow in the knowledge of our disease, we empower ourselves to take our health into our own hands. Knowing the medications, opens our options if symptoms reappear. Once we decide, taking our pills as prescribed enables us to benefit fully from them. Now. Can someone please tell me how to wait a half hour for my coffee?

Diagnosis Story: Part 2 Dreams and Doctors


Introduction

Thanks for coming for part two of my diagnosis journey. Read part one in the post entitled “Early Symptoms.” Though writing my story has been difficult, it has been enlightening to reflect on the events leading up to my diagnosis. As I share, I hope to inspire others to tell their thyroid story as well. This helps to create community and awareness about our disease. Thank-you to those who have already shared on our Facebook group. 

A Dream and a Nightmare

After breaking up with my boyfriend, (see previous post) my ambition of doing humanitarian aid was coming true. Arriving in Mexico City, I took a taxi, a four-hour bus ride, and then another taxi to Morelia; a picturesque city in central Mexico. Immediately greeted by the hospitality of the Mexican people, I felt this my destiny. Warm days turned into the rainy season, and my symptoms attacked again. At about one hundred pounds, my almost six-foot frame was skeletal. Exhaustion degraded me from barely walking, to bed bound, so I was taken to hospital. There I got no real answers. Dejected, I return to my bed, hoping my illness would pass. It was a humbling process to have the people I came to serve, help me.

Red Walls and Medication

There was an English speaking caregiver who often visited the orphanage. On one such visit, she suggested I see her doctor.  Driving through a residential area, we arrived at an apartment building. Greeted at the door, we were taken to a small home office. Red walls were covered in a near comical amount of Catholic shrines. A dark wood desk took up most of the room with an exam table pushed into the corner.  After a short exchange, the doctor asked me to lie on the table; I didn’t realize what was coming. A sharp needle in my bottom delivered an anonymous medication. I was sent back to the orphanage with half a dozen prescriptions and the little round doctors’ best intentions. After a week I could walk and eat, so I decided to go back to Canada.

Making it Home

I have no memories of the taxi rides, bus trip or flight home. Except for a brigade of soldiers coming to inspect the bus. They forced me out and I remember thinking I should be scared, but was unable to feel any emotion. Men in uniform asked to open my luggage. Finding the medication, they hotly debated what to do with me. I did somehow end up back on the bus, but how that situation was resolved, I still don’t know. I took great comfort arriving back in Canada. My family doctor ended up diagnosing me with an infection in my stomach lining, Mono and a few other infections. Relieved to have a diagnosis, I assumed all would get better.

It’s Not Your Thyroid

In time, I was well enough to work. Even so, I had memory loss and muscle weakness, so I returned to the doctor. She sent me to an endocrinologist, suspecting a thyroid problem. After blood work, the endocrinologist said my thyroid antibodies were in the two thousands. But continued to say that this in no way indicated a thyroid problem. As I left her office, something felt wrong, but I pushed it aside. Years later, a new family doctor would tell me that the endocrinologist in question was “a quack.” At the time though, I trusted her completely. Months later, I noticed a man at church. He had a loud laugh and a passion for God. My future husband and I started dating and, like happy fools, we rushed in. Our joy was soon halted however, when I had to sit him down and tell him, my dad had terminal cancer. 

Conclusion

Traveling to Mexico, I had chased a dream. Even though it didn’t work out as planned, the people will always have a place in my heart. Through the fog of my medicated mind, I made it back to Canada and even to an endocrinologist. The sadness of my missed diagnosis was butted up against meeting one of the most important people in my life, my husband. By the next flare up, my body had a recognizable pattern of symptoms, but one thing had changed. I had grown to become fiercely determined to find out, for myself, what was going on. (To be told in part three) So, how did you get your diagnosis? Did you fall through the cracks of the medical system? Tell me your story on our social media or comment below. Thank-you for taking the time to join me at the Thyroidcafe. 

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