January 23, 2013

My Story

In mid-January 2012, I did something that changed my life. I switched from Levothyroxine, a synthetic T4-only medication (like Synthroid), to Natural Dessicated Thyroid (NDT).

I had been on thyroxine for over 10 years, but
something wasn't right. 

I was experiencing 76 symptoms, including long-term depression and weight gain, irritability, flu-like aches, foggy-thinking, and chronic fatigue. It took me four hours to feel awake in the mornings. By 1 or 2 in the afternoons, I was sluggish and felt the need to consume caffeine and sugar to get through the afternoon. I was impatient and irritable with my family, especially my kids.  My hair was falling out; my skin had aged quickly.  In general, I had a foreboding feeling, as if a dark cloud was hanging overhead.

Three months after switching to NDT and one month after starting the Circadian T3 Method (CT3M), every single one of those 76 symptoms was significantly better than they were in January.  Eight months later, my list of symptoms was down to 12.  (Read my post comparing those symptoms here.)

The symptoms I was experiencing were the direct result of being on T4-only medication - a medication which is widely prescribed for large body of people - and doctors who are trained to use the TSH lab test to assess thyroid health.

T4-Only Thyroid Meds Don't Work.  

If my story resonates with you, if you experience any of the symptoms listed here, or if you are on a synthetic T-4 only medication, read the Stop the Thyroid Madness website.

There are thousands of patients reporting that natural dessicated thyroid has given them better quality of life than Synthroid.

Further background:

My mom's pregnancy with me was a high-risk complete placenta previa, involving three massive hemorrhages, the last of which resulted in an emergency cesarean and my birth at 32 weeks gestation.  I spent time in the NICU.  So cortisol issues were naturally present for me even before my birth. 

Then at age 6, I was diagnosed with type I diabetes, an autoimmune disease.  I did shots for ten years and I have had an insulin pump since 2000.  We suspect that it was around this time that I developed Hashimoto's Thyroiditis as well, but I did not find out I had that until I was tested for those antibodies at age 29.

Heavy, painful periods with low back pain have been my "norm" since I was 12. 

In hindsight, I can see signs of adrenal dysfunction going back to my premature birth at 32 weeks gestation.  But it was during my senior year of high school, when I was incredibly busy and stressed, that I began to show serious signs of hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue.  

My freshman year of college was no easier.  I had only had my insulin pump for about six months before I left home, so I didn't have a comfortable grasp of how to manage my new lifestyle.  Still, I can say with confidence that I would not have been able to hack college life without my pump! 

I can't help but add that the cafeteria food at my college was downright treacherous.  Loads of white flour and sugar; extremely limited vegetables and fruits; vegetable oil on or in everything!

I finished my freshman year of college exhausted.  After a month of summer break, I had not recuperated, despite good food and lots of sleep.  I was falling asleep mid-morning

I requested to be tested for mono and was full of disbelief when the results came back negative. Then, with the TSH lab test,
my endocrinologist diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and she prescribed T4-only thyroid medication Levoxyl.

Shortly before summer break was over, I decided not to go back to the college I had attended, but rather to stay at home and attend a local university.  But a few weeks into school, I had a nervous breakdown.  I could not handle any stress whatsoever.  Deciding what to wear and eat - even the thought of organizing a to-do list - sent me into a tailspin.
My parents pulled me out of school and I took the rest of the semester off, recuperated and spent time with my family.    

It was at this time that my endocrinologist prescribed me Prozac for my depression and anxiety. I stayed on Prozac for ten years.  At no time did Prozac help me; it merely dulled my senses, lowering my highs and heightening my lows. 

In January I returned to the college where I had spent my freshman year.  I rapidly gained weight, despite being off the college's meal plan and cooking my own food.  Despite my efforts, no amount of dieting and exercise led to weight lose. 

This was when I began to experience facial swelling and tightness in my neck and throat.  I thought I had a peanut allergy!  

By my junior year of college, I had gained over 50 pounds.  For the first time in my life, I experienced suicidal ideation.   

Reproductive Issues:  

During college, I began to learn the Creighton Model NaproTechnology, formulated by Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute, for my reproductive issues.

During the summer of 2004 that Dr. Hilgers informed me of his assessment that I had endometriosis and Poly-Cystic Ovarian Disease, abbreviated PCOD or PCOS.

In December 2004, I finished my college degree then immediately traveled to Omaha, NE where Dr. Hilgers and his associate performed an ultrasound, laparoscopy, luna procedure, and lasered my endometriosis.  PCOS and endometriosis were confirmed.

(A luna procedure involves the severing of a ligament that runs down the back of the uterine wall.  Part of this severing is permanent, while another part regrows.  I was told that the procedure was formerly used by surgeons in the 1980's, but fell out of practice.  It has since been improved by Dr. Hilgers and his staff.)     

More Surgery, Starting a Family, and more Bad Advice from Endos:

In July 2005, I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist.

In 2006, I got married and in May 2006 conceived our first child, a girl. She was born in 2007.  Her birth was a traumatic one in  many ways.  She was born six weeks prematurely by cesarean and spent two weeks in the NICU.

For some reason, in April 2007 my endocrinologist told me to stop taking my Levothyroxine and I stupidly listened. 

In late June 2007, we moved half-way across the country to live close to family.  We lived with my parents for a short time.  My husband finally got a job.  That was stressful!

At this time, I weighed about 205 lbs.

In October 2007 (the soonest I could get an appointment with an endocrinologist), my TSH was 36.  I felt horrible!  My doctor put me on Levothyroxine.

In September 2008, I hit a low with my depression.  My cycles were horribly long - sometimes 190 days.  

In December 2008, I went off Prozac.  It wasn't helping and I was mad.  I successfully stayed off Prozac with the help of increasing my levels of Vitamin D3 to 10,000 IU.  I would later increase this to 20,000 IU.
In January 2009, I had a Spectracell Lab Test done, through my new doctor's office.  I started taking lot of vitamins and supplements based on my results.  I was also walking more and making nutritional changes like incorporating raw milk into my diet and cutting out hydrogenated oils. 

In April 2009, I conceived our second daughter.  This pregnancy was a very difficult one, full of stress, anxiety and trepidation.  I now realize that in addition to a poorly treated thyroid, I had extreme adrenal fatigue and low progesterone levels, although I had no signs of possible miscarriage. 

One tell-tale sign of my adrenal fatigue was that every evening, I had extremely sensitive skin, bodily aches, and fatigue.  Afternoons were difficult as well.  I was very short-tempered and irritable.  I didn't know why; I mentioned these things to my doctors, but they just sort of shrugged and looked thoughtful.  So, I chalked it up to pregnancy.   

Shortly before our daughter's birth in January 2012, I had several sinus infections which I was not able to successfully treat with natural methods, so I went on antibiotics.  I was also on antibiotics during labor for being GBS+ (Group B Strep Positive). 

For a number of reasons I will not go into here, our daughter was born by cesarean and weighed a whopping 10 pounds 4 ounces!

A few weeks after surgery, my incision developed an infection and I had to go on a very strong antibiotic.  

Post-Partum Depression

When I was about six weeks post-partum, my Creighton Model Practitioner helped me to realize that I was suffering from post-partum depression as the result of extremely low progesterone. 

It was a very dark time in my life.  Due to the stress my body was under, my milk supply dropped.  I was heartbroken, but determined to put every effort I could into regaining my supply, which I did, so that I could nurse my daughter.      

Thankfully, the PPD was helped immensely by natural, bio-identical progesterone through Dr. Hilgers.  Please, read this and thisLooking back at the labs (TSH, FT4) my doctor was running, it is clear that my thyroid hormones dropped at this time.  

At this time, I weighed about 215 lbs. 

Cyclical Progesterone Treatment, a New Baby, Miscarriage

In May 2011, I began working with Dr. Hilgers at Pope Paul VI Institute on cyclical bio-identical progesterone treatment, as well as Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN), for my infertility issues.  Our primary goal was to regain reproductive health for the overall health of my body.  However, we weren't opposed to having another baby. 

In July 2011, we conceived our third child.

But, at the end of August 2011, my progesterone plummeted despite on bio-identical progesterone and having my levels checked weekly.  There was a mix-up three times in a row at the lab where my blood was drawn, and Dr. Hilgers never received the blood to run my labs at his National Hormone Lab

In September 2011, our baby died at 8 weeks and I passed him or her at 11 weeks. 

It is my belief that my miscarriage was the result of my thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, as well as my low progesterone which is related to those.  I believe that my adrenals were stealing progesterone to make more cortisol - similar to what Dr. Rind writes about here.

October/November 2011, gained 15 pounds, totaling 234 pounds.  With each pregnancy, I lost my own weight during pregnancy but gained significant weight post-partum.  I have wondered if this was thyroid related.

Escalating Health Issues

By the fall and winter 2011, I was experiencing 76 separate symptoms, including moderate-to-severe depression, flu-like aches, foggy-thinking, and chronic fatigue.  

It took me four hours to feel awake in the mornings. By 1 or 2 in the afternoons, I was sluggish and felt the need to have more caffeine and sugar to get through the afternoon.

I was impatient and irritable with my family especially my kids.  Just as it had with my daughter, my progesterone levels were very low post partum, resulting in post-partum depression. 
In general, I had a feeling that a dark cloud was hanging overhead.


In January 2012, I was at an all-time low.  A friend said, "You've got to get on dessicated thyroid."

I saw an alternative MD and the following day I started taking Natural Dessicated Thyroid Hormones (NDT).  
As I mentioned before, my symptoms dropped consistently over time and the difference was dramatic.  You can read about the changes I made here