Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which the body does not have enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that can be found in your neck by your adams apple. The thyroid is known to run your metabolism as well as other functions within your body. It works with your hypothalamus and pituitary gland to send hormones throughout your body, into your liver and many other places. When your body isn’t producing enough of these hormones it can wreak havoc all throughout your body. It’s estimated that over 10 million people in America have an underactive thyroid. Strangely enough, this condition primarily affects women (supposedly more so over the age of 60) and is quite uncommon in men.
I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 16.
My mother brought me to the doctor because I had become a vegetarian a few years earlier and she was concerned that I was anemic. I was sleeping all the time and had no motivation. My grades in school were plummeting – I was once in Advanced Placement and by the time I was diagnosed I could barely get through a test in a regular class. I was always cold – my mom still jokes I’m the only person who could wear a sweater in 40 degree weather (104F) – and I just wasn’t functioning normally. These are many of the telltale signs of a thyroid disorder, but it doesn’t run in my family, and I was only 16.
But, when the blood tests came back, sure enough, they more than confirmed that my thyroid was quite literally not functioning at all. I’ve been on thyroid hormones ever since.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The most common symptoms include:
- intolerance to cold
- brittle nails
- dry hair/scalp/skin
- weight gain/cannot lose weight regardless of diet and activity level
- foggy brain/impaired memory
- red, puffy face
As you can see, the thyroid regulates SO MANY functions in the body.
I remember when I got diagnosed that it didn’t seem like too big of a deal. My doctor told me that it’s a common thing, and that it is super easy to manage. And the other good thing – medication is inexpensive. So for the past 10 years I haven’t put much thought to it. Yup, I have a common health condition, whatever. EXCEPT the odd time I would get weird symptoms that I couldn’t attribute to anything. So I would Google them. And 9 times out of 10 Google would tell me it could be any number of these colds, sicknesses, diseases OR it could be my hypothyroidism. I have struggled so long with this. How can my thyroid be causing all these weird symptoms? And how can I distinguish between a different, potentially serious, condition and what could just be my “easy to manage” thyroid?
Not to mention, I have been tired for TEN YEARS! Sure the thyroid hormone replacement brings my blood work back in to the normal range, but I don’t think I’ve felt refreshed and awake for 10 years.
How can you find out if you have a thyroid problem?
If you feel like any of the above symptoms describe you and you want to get checked – it’s simple! Just go to your doctor and let them know and they just take some blood work. They will check your TSH and T4 count (hormones sent from your thyroid) and based on those levels they can tell if you are under, over or in the normal range. Simple right? If only. Just because these numbers can tell you your levels – prepare to never feel the same again (wise words from my doctor “you will never feel normal again”)
I’m not sure what has taken me 10 years to decide to do something about my thyroid. I suppose I figured since it is so common and that taking a small pill every morning is so simple, whats the point. I always feel so tired that every time I go for a check up and get blood work I would cross my fingers that the levels were changing and that my dosage would increase. Forget the fact that it means my body is attacking my thyroid even more and the gland itself is being destroyed, I just wanted the higher dosage so that I could finally wake up.
Well, coincidentally, I have finally “woken up”. I have been really interested in nutrition and the idea of healing foods but I’ve been trying to use it to heal others thus far. My parents have arthritis and I would love to help them feel better. I figured that no food choices can change my thyroid, it is what it is. Until this week.
I’m not sure what I read or did that aligned my life at this moment but I stumbled on some new and valuable nutritional and medical information that could change my life entirely. So for the next few weeks and months I will be documenting my journey on starting to heal myself.