My Thyroid Story
Some of you may know my story or have seen me write about this before but for those who haven’t I will start at the beginning.
Around the time I was going through my separation, I saw a doctor because I wasn’t feeling great, I was tired and wired (any wonder), so I got a check-up. They found a lump or nodule on my thyroid. Now this is not uncommon, and it was checked out and found to be a bit suspect. Now for anyone with thyroid issues, you would know they can’t really say for sure until they biopsy it. So, my first of many fine needle aspirations (FNA) was performed.
At the time I was sent to a general surgeon, who told me that he would just take the whole thyroid out, because I had a cold nodule (meaning suspect) on one side and a goitre on the other, so hey lets just rip the whole thing out. Even without my current training I thought this a bit extreme. So, I sought a second opinion and this time an endocrinologist (thyroid specialist).
This specialist performed another 4-5 FNA’s and concluded that although it was a cold nodule it wasn’t cancerous. He believed that keeping your thyroid was the best option although he explained this would be something I would need to monitor my entire life.
So, our journey started and went over many years. I would go back to get check ups and have many more FNA’s when things seemed a bit different. I challenged him on many occasions about weight and mood being linked to thyroid function, he disagreed with me. I became a bit disillusioned and stopped seeing him for a while.
Forward a few years and its now 9 years past discovering the nodule. At this time, I was on the back of a nasty retrenchment, which meant I was extremely stressed. Needless to say, I was not in a great space and guess what? Yep, my thyroid started playing up. The nodules were expanding, and the doctors were really worried. I also needed to find a new Endocrinologist, as my old one had passed away. This new doctor was certain it was cancerous and wanted it out asap. Luckily though as thyroid specialists they know to try and keep what they can, so a partial thyroidectomy (left side) was performed, saving my right gland and all my parathyroids as well. This meant if I kept my half thyroid healthy, I may not need to take medication.
The operation happened around late 2013 and it was a year later that I started studying Naturopathy. This taught me a great deal about my thyroid, including the genetics involved (yep you often find a family link). How stress is a big part of thyroid health, that its possible to switch between hyper and hypo thyroid, although I am yet to find a specialist who agrees with me on this one. And still even now I am not medicated. I do still have thyroid issues and another nodule has grown on the right gland. I can not say I will not lose the right gland at some point in my life as this is a continuing story.
What I can say though is that there is a lot you can do to help your thyroid health. Stress plays a major part in the function of your thyroid. When we are stressed, we release cortisol, and this can increase our rates of inflammation. This inflammation impacts on the function of the thyroid which can cause it to become dysfunctional.
You may get your TSH tested and they tell you all is ok. But TSH tells you nothing really, and even the testing levels are not fantastic. Most TSH tests say that if you are in the range of 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L all is fine. But as a Naturopath we know anything over 2.0 mIU/L is showing signs of a dysfunctional thyroid. You really need to look at T3 and T4 levels and if it is a chronic condition, auto-antibodies, reverse T3 and cortisol to gain a whole picture. This kind of testing can be tricky, some GP’s are great with it like my sisters doctor and she will test, mine isn’t. Even though I only have half a thyroid, they won’t test my T3 or T4, and I have to push for autoantibodies. Luckily, I have access to these tests and can do it myself.
As I said this is an ongoing story, and currently I am needing an ultra-sound of the thyroid to see where the current nodule status is at. My blood tests prior to Christmas showed an elevated TSH (for me) which I was not surprised by as I was feeling the fatigue that comes along with hypo thyroid.
But this is interesting because I have auto-antibodies that tell me I am a hyper-thyroid sufferer, and so is my sister, but my Mum is hypo (although she has no thyroid and is controlled via her thyroxine).
If you know about thyroid symptoms you will know the classic hyper-thyroid person is usually skinny, more anxious, can have palpitations, can be sweaty, on edge, while the classic hypo-thyroid person, gains weight, can have depression, menstrual problems, unmotivated. These are generalised symptoms as there are many more. So, what happens if you gain weight, are more on the depression scale versus anxious and they call you hyper-thyroid????? How can this be? But this is me.
I believe you can switch between hyper and hypo. Not many doctors accept this, but there is plenty of evidence based research to back this up. And I know I do this; I can physically feel the difference between switching from feeling like a dead blob to being super-efficient and completing so many tasks in a short time. Do I lose weight when this happens? Nope I still have the weight issues, but I can feel more anxious versus depressed and I can feel myself being driven by adrenaline.
Now maybe this could be a mood disorder because what I have just described can also be described for a bipolar episode of mania and depression. The thyroid does play a part in your mental health. And a distinction and diagnosis would be needed for this.
But how can you improve your thyroid health to have optimal health (and mental health)? This is an always changing area. I tell clients you will never just fix it and it stays that way forever. The thyroid is a hormone driven organ so it is always changeable, but you can find a treatment that brings you back to optimal health. My program will happen when I feel my thyroid changing. This can happen in times of extra stress, when you have a lot going on or sometimes you have just lapsed in your own self care and need a reset.
That is where I am currently at, I need a reset. I am focusing on self-care and optimal health to help reset my thyroid. This looks different for everyone, because the reasons you have the thyroid condition will also be different. Take myself and my sister, we both have the genetics and the same condition, but how it is expressed is different for both of us. So how we work on the treatment is also different.
Last year was stressful for me, as it was for most of us. I started a new business in the middle of the pandemic, had to make changes to my Naturopathic business. I was unable to help my family when they were stressed, due to distance. I ate and drank far more than I should and made poorer food choices. So it’s no surprise my thyroid went “Hey there I cannot cope with all of this”. My inflammation levels increased which I can also see on my test results and it is showing in other areas, of health.
Inflammation is a key driver in thyroid health, and this is usually the first place to start if trying to improve thyroid function. I recently had DNA test done, which showed I have and issue dealing with inflammation. My results showed multiple genetic variants in my inflammatory pathways. This means my body will struggle to reduce inflammation and when I add in extra stress those pathways get overwhelmed hence why I am seeing these inflammatory drive health issues. So, I need to change this to improve my bodies capacity to reduce inflammation.
This is my current goal, to reduce my drivers of inflammation and improve my thyroid health. This includes self-care, weight reduction, better food choices, less alcohol and more movement. General stuff really.
If any of this story resonates with you and you would like to talk about it, then book in for a chat.