Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thyroid Update: Desiccated Thyroid and Iodine

By Diana Hsieh

After months of being lethargic, confused, fat, pained, and cold from my hypothyroidism, I'm finally on the mend! Although I'm not yet 100%, the turn-around was remarkable. Within just a few days, my worst symptoms of mental fog and lethargy were alleviated by rejecting the conventional treatment of synthetic T4 (e.g. Synthroid, levothyroxine) in favor of desiccated porcine thyroid plus high-dose iodine.

(Desiccated thyroid is dried pig thyroid; it contains the full range of natural hormones produced by the thyroid, not just T4. High-dose iodine means supplementing with 12.5 to 50 milligrams per day.)

When I was diagnosed as hypothyroid in early November, my TSH was only 3.23. That's barely abnormal, but I was suffering from most of the standard symptoms of hypothyroidism. (TSH above 2.5 suggests hypothyroidism.) My doctor put me on 50 micrograms of Synthroid, a synthetic version of the T4 hormone. Two months later, in early January, my TSH was down to 2.28, but my symptoms were somewhat worse. Also, my Free T3 and Free T4 were the same, still on the low end of the middle range.

Undoubtedly, I could have increased my Synthroid, eventually reducing my TSH to my doctor's target of around 1.0. Would I have felt any better at that point? Based on my experience on the drug for those two months -- when my lab values improved but my symptoms worsened -- I strongly suspect not. Instead, if I'd stayed on Synthroid, I likely would have been mentally and physically disabled for the rest of my life.

I'm not exaggerating. During those two months, I was unable to work, travel, or pursue any substantive projects. My weekly trip to the grocery store exhausted me, and I often couldn't muster the energy to slowly walk around the pastures with Conrad. My IQ felt about 20 points lower; I could only think at a very surface level. I was most definitely not flourishing. My mind and body seemed to be slowly shutting down.

Sadly, that's not an uncommon response to the standard regimen of T4-only medication. TSH might fall to normal levels, but the many debilitating symptoms of hypothyroidism remain. From what I've read in countless forums, too many doctors seem concerned only to treat the problem of high TSH, not the underlying problem of hypothyroidism. In particular, many doctors seem to ignore the fact that the body might not effectively convert the storage hormone T4 into the active hormone T3 -- or that tissues might not effectively use T3. Many patients on synthetic T4 medication complain to their doctor about their persistently raging hypothyroid symptoms, only to be summarily dismissed. After all, if the TSH is normal, all those classic hypothyroid symptoms simply must be due to something other than a poorly functioning thyroid -- like aging or poor diet or even hysteria. Or so they claim. (Such doctors equate hypothyroidism with elevated TSH, just as analytic philosophers equate concepts with definitions.)

The consequences of that mis-treatment are tragic. People suffer the degradation of living as a quasi-corpse for years and decades, unless they discover desiccated thyroid. (Or, in some cases, they suffer unless they find a way to return to desiccated thyroid, after some new doctor switched them from it to synthetic T4, often against their express wishes.) It's heartbreaking to read these stories. I know that, without dedicated and tenacious people like Janie Bowthorpe of Stop the Thyroid Madness, I could have suffered the same fate. Instead, I got off pretty easy with only two months of living as a semi-corpse on Synthroid.

At the time of my diagnosis of hypothyroidism in early November, I was aware that Synthroid might not work for me. However, given that I developed my hypothyroidism at the very height of a government-induced shortage of desiccated thyroid, I was willing to try it. Well, I got my answer by early January: Synthroid didn't do squat for me, except lower my TSH.

Happily, my excellent family practice doctor, Dr. Heble, was willing to switch me to one grain of desiccated thyroid, to see whether that might help. (One grain is the standard starting dose for desiccated thyroid, but it was an increase for me, based on this conversion chart.) By that time, I'd found a local source: Wise Compounding Pharmacy.

Just as I was making that switch from Synthroid to desiccated thyroid, I also began taking high-dose iodine, plus selenium. As I indicated in my first post on my hypothyroidism, I suspected that I might be deficient in iodine for three reasons.

  1. Seafood is the primary natural dietary source of iodine, but I hated it until my mid-20s, and even now, I don't eat more than a serving per week.

  2. Nearby oceans supply the soil of the east and west costs with iodine, but I've lived in the "goiter belt" for the last decade.

  3. Then, perhaps tipping me over the edge, I switched from iodized salt to (low-iodine) sea salt when I began eating paleo in the summer of 2009.
(I'll say more on what I suspect about the origins of my hypothyroidism in another post, including its relationship to my lacto-paleo diet.) Back in early December, I began cautiously supplementing with 150 micrograms of "Liqui-Kelp," gradually increasing that to 600 micrograms over the next month. (150 micrograms is the government's recommended daily allowance.) I never felt any positive results from doing that. However, during that time, I was reading about much, much higher doses of iodine -- between 12.5 and 50 milligrams -- as sometimes necessary for whole-body health, including improving thyroid function. I was intrigued by that, but also very wary. Most doctors will say that milligram doses of iodine are dangerous. However, the claims of danger seem to be sketchy, seemingly based on poor-quality epidemiological studies. Plus, most people seem to be able to handle those milligram doses just fine, and many people see remarkable improvement on them. Also, from what I read in some standard medical sources, a person with a physically intact thyroid can handle that much iodine, but a person with a damaged thyroid (e.g. partly removed in surgery) will be unable to tolerate it. Also, some people with Hashimoto's do great on iodine, but others don't tolerate it well. So, with much trepidation, I decided to try milligram doses of iodine. On Monday, January 11th, I began taking Iosol and Lugol's, working my way up to about 16 milligrams by the end of the week -- over 100 times the government's RDA. I also began supplementing with 100 to 200 micrograms of selenium each day. (Selenium is essential for thyroid health, you probably don't want to take iodine without it, and you definitely don't want to take more than 400 micrograms per day. That upper limit seems well-established.) (Note: I don't have any special reason for doing both types of iodine, except my own confusion. Lugol's -- or the tablet form Iodoral -- seems to be the preferred form, as it contains both iodine and potassium iodide. From what I've read, different tissues prefer those different forms. Iosol contains only iodine. The milligrams of iodine per drop for J.Crowe's Lugol's Solution is here.) On Tuesday of that week, I began feeling better: I was able to run some errands, then attend Ari Armstrong's "Liberty in the Books" economics discussion group. That amazed me, as doing both would have been impossible just a week before. Then, on Wednesday, I switched to the desiccated thyroid. Over the next few days, I felt amazingly better. My brain fog lifted, and my lethargy disappeared. I could think again! I could concentrate! I danced around the house, singing silly songs! I wanted to exercise again! I had energy to burn! Life was good again! Most amazingly, within just a few days on the milligram doses of iodine, a 16-month bout of totally mysterious amenorrhea came to an end. (Sorry, TMI, I know... but it's important.) I was totally floored; I never expected that kind of result, not so fast! By way of background, the problem started after I went off the birth control pill in October of 2008. My doctor did a battery of tests over the summer, but nothing seemed wrong, except that my estrogen levels were very low -- like menopausal. Initially, we thought the problem was just that my reproductive system went dormant with the shock of going off the pill after about fifteen years of nearly continuous use. Once the hypothyroidism cropped up, my doctor wondered whether there might be some connection. Hypothyroidism is known to cause menstrual problems, albeit usually causing too-heavy periods. Now I wonder what my iodine deficiency did to my estrogen levels, if that's what happened. (Oh, and I'm not the only one.) Never in my life have I experienced such a dramatic turn-around in my health, mind, and mood as I experienced that week on iodine and desiccated thyroid. If I weren't a intransigent atheist, I would describe it as a miracle. That's what it felt like: I got my life back -- I got myself back -- in the span of just a few days. However, I had an epistemic problem. Although I knew that the improvement began before I switched to desiccated thyroid, I wanted to sort out how much was due to the iodine supplementation versus the desiccated thyroid. So after three days on desiccated thyroid, I switched back to my old 50 microgram dose of Synthroid. I stayed on that for about five days -- enough time to allow the T3 of the desiccated thyroid to fully clear from my system. During that time on iodine plus Synthroid, I definitely felt a decline in my energy and mental function, although I was still significantly better than when on Synthroid alone. I was eager to get back to the desiccated thyroid, and I perked up again when I switched back to it. Interestingly, I'm going without iodine today and tomorrow, to prepare for an iodine loading test on Monday. I'm definitely feeling a fuzzy-headed today, perhaps due to that lack of iodine intake. Overall, I would say that I was functioning at about 50% while Synthroid, at about 75% while on Synthroid plus iodine, and now I'm at about 90% with desiccated thyroid plus iodine. Oddly, my symptoms are not all better. Instead, my body's response has been somewhat mixed. My brain fog is gone, and my powers of memory and concentration are much better. I have tons more energy, such that I'm able to put in a day's work. Overall, my mental function and energy levels should be about 10% better, I think. I've stopped gaining weight, but I've not yet lost any weight. My digestion is definitely better: I'm not chronically bloated, and I'm able to skip a meal without disaster. My carpal tunnel is somewhat better, but still bothering me somewhat. However, my body temperatures are still quite low, averaging about 96.5 F. My skin is still terribly dry. I'm also able to exercise -- but wowee, I am so out of shape! I'd been increasing sedentary for the last few months, such that I barely moved in December. Now I can exercise, but my muscles are shaky and then sore from even mild weightlifting. Also, I used to be unable to exert enough energy to get winded, but now my wind is the major limiting factor when I row on our rowing machine. That's good! Also, my goiter -- the nodule in my thyroid -- seems to have shrunk considerably. Before, I could feel a squishy spot on my neck, and I could see a slight bulge in the mirror. Now that's all gone. I'll have an ultrasound recheck in late March, and I expect good results from that. I'm going to have another thyroid lab panel done in early March, and I expect that I'll be increasing my desiccated thyroid dose to 1.5 grains then. Also, as I mentioned, I'm taking an iodine loading test on Monday. I'll be very curious to see my results; I expect that I'm still iodine deficient, and that I can and ought to increase my daily dose, perhaps up to 50 milligrams per day for a few months. Paul -- who has been supplementing with just the RDA of 150 micrograms for the past few weeks -- will be taking his test when he can, likely next weekend. I'll be very curious to compare my results with his. I've come to wonder whether iodine might be like Vitamin D -- in the sense that the miniscule amounts recommended by the government might be sufficient to ward off obvious illness -- rickets, in the case of Vitamin D and goiter, in the case of iodine. Yet a much higher dose might be optimal. I'm definitely not recommending everyone start taking large doses of iodine. However, if you're suffering from the symptoms of hypothyroidism, you might investigate iodine. And for everyone else, I recommend that you make sure that you obtain the recommended 150 micrograms per day. Mostly though, I'd like to see some solid research and writing on the subject. While I've learned a great deal from the sources I've read, I've been frustrated by the inconsistent quality thereof. I'm not competent to dig up and read the primary sources in the medical literature: I'm purely a consumer of secondary sources. That makes me exceedingly nervous, as I know just how inaccurate secondary sources can be! I have serious reservations about the scientific judgment of some of the sources I've read on iodine and hypothyroidism -- even though I often found them fascinating and helpful. For example, Dr. David Brownstein wrote a fascinating little book on iodine -- Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It. (He's also the author of Overcoming Thyroid Disorders.) His collection of articles on iodine (often co-authored) looked good too... until I got to the belligerent argument for young-earth creationism. Seriously. I don't think that Brownstein is lying about the tests he's done and the results he's gotten, particularly given that others have reported similar results. Yet I simply cannot trust the medical judgment of someone who appeals to the Flood (!!) and Satan (!!) to explain why the soils of some inland areas are deficient in iodine. Similarly, while I was super-intrigued by what I read in Dr. Mark Starr's book Hypothyroidism Type 2, I was dismayed to read on his web site that he practices homeopathy and "energetic medicine." I just can't regard that as anything better than mystical quackery. The only bright side is that nothing in the book seems to depend on -- or even hint at -- those views, so perhaps that's all separate from his views on hypothyroidism. However, once again, I simply can't trust his medical judgment. My basic approach is to take whatever seems grounded in good empirical science from these folks, then then integrate it with my own experience and reliable reports from others. Happily, I can strongly recommend one very practical book on hypothyroidism, namely Janie Bowthorpe's Stop the Thyroid Madness. Mary Shomon's book Living Well with Hypothyroidism also has some helpful suggestions, particularly for dealing with doctors unwilling to prescribe desiccated thyroid. And I've often found myself searching the archives of various Yahoo Groups, particularly Coalition for Natural Desiccated Thyroid, Natural Thyroid Hormones, and Iodine. Also, I have some hope for Dr. Broda Barnes' 1976 book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, but I'll reserve judgment until that arrives from Amazon. Mostly, I'm just desperate for a good, juicy blog post from Dr. Eades on the subject of hypothyroidism, desiccated thyroid, and iodine supplementation. He's probably the only doctor (along with his excellent wife, MD) whose judgment I can fully trust on this topic. He's got the deep knowledge of the relevant biology; he's got the years of experience treating patients with hypothyroidism; and he's got a good working epistemology. Happily, Dr. Eades dropped some useful hints in the comments of a blog post on Oprah's weight gain. He recommends an iodine loading test, plus Iodoral (12.5 to 50 milligrams) for people who are deficient. And he always used desiccated thyroid for his patients, not synthetic T4. I was so relieved to read that, as I felt like I was leaping about in the dark, particularly on the iodine. So ... Dr. Eades ... will you write that blog post on iodine that you promised in those comments? Pretty please... with a deliciously tender sous vide meatball on top?

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Food-O-Rama

By Diana Hsieh

  • A handy flow chart for figuring out whether to eat the food that you just dropped on the floor.

  • Just because you're slender doesn't mean that you're healthy. People who are "skinny-fat" might be at greater risk of heart disease. Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades discuss the problem of such visceral fat -- and what to do about it -- in their excellent recent podcast interview with Jimmy Moore.

  • Gretchen's postprandial diet experiment reports on a fascinating 24-hour test of blood glucose and triglycerides on a high-carb/low-fat diet versus a high-fat/low-carb diet. The Heart Scan Doc has more on why these kinds of tests suggest that the hunter-gatherer mode of infrequent eating is healthier than the "grazing" that many people advocate.

    I've got a big thyroid update post to write, so look for that later today!

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  • Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Food-O-Rama

    By Diana Hsieh

  • Some young scientists discovered that the DNA of food doesn't always match its label. I've mentioned the huge problem with fraud in olive oil before, but I wonder how widespread this kind of fraud is. I suspect that -- just as with other regulations -- food labels induce complacency in consumers, such that people suppose that food is whatever the label says, nothing more and nothing less. That might be even more misguided than I thought -- perhaps with disastrous consequences to people with food allergies. (Via Dr. Eades)

  • Only vegans need support groups. Heh.

  • For many years, my favorite way to make cabbage has been using this super-simple Frizzled Cabbage recipe. I make a whole head at a time, in a small stock pot, with plenty of butter. It takes about 30 minutes to cook. Be careful not to burn it!

  • Raw milk herdshares win a victory in Canada. Hooray!

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  • Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Cheese and Butter, Oh My

    By Diana Hsieh

    Some notes on cheese and butter:

    • A few days ago, Paul and I taste-tested Kerrygold butter (w/ salt) against Organic Pastures' pasture butter. Kerrygold won hands-down. It had a much stronger -- and perfectly buttery -- flavor. (Kerrygold cows are kept on pasture, so their butter would have more CLA et al than conventional butter.)

    • If you've not tried Kerrygold's cheeses, I highly recommend them. They are made from pasteurized rather than raw milk, but they're delicious. "Dubliner" is a favorite chez Hsieh; I buy it in huge blocks for cheap from Costco.

    • That same morning, I also taste-tested two kinds of mascarpone cheese: Crave Brothers and Bel Gioioso. Crave Brothers won by a wide margin. It was smoother, with a sweeter and more delicate taste. (I bought Crave Brothers at Whole Foods, whereas I got Bel Gioioso at my regular grocery store.) Crave Brothers cows are not pastured, unfortunately. The web site reports that they're fed a mix of "corn, alfalfa and soybeans." So I might see if I can find marscapone from pastured cows. Any suggestions?

    • Speaking of raw cheese, the spreadable raw cheddar from Fayette Creamery is wonderful! I've only tried the plain version, but I eat it by the spoonful! (I buy that at Whole Foods.)

    • Oh, and I bought Bravo Farms' raw chipolte cheddar at Costco this week. While I normally like a sharper cheddar, it's quite wonderful!
    Any other butter and cheese recommendations?

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    Restaurant Menu Psychology

    By Diana Hsieh

    I was fascinated by this NY Times article on the psychology of restaurant menus. I can see the subtle sense in many of their recommendations, such as eliminating dollar signs and highlighting special dishes. Then there's the classification of diners:

    Susan Franck, vice president of marketing for the chain, said she was intrigued about the four types of diners Mr. Rapp had identified. The customers he calls "Entrees" do not want a lot of description, just the bottom line on what the dish is and how much it is going to cost. "Recipes," on the other hand, ask many questions and want to know as much as they can about the ingredients. "Barbecues" share food and like chatty servers who wear name tags. "Desserts" are trendy people who want to order trendy things.
    I'm very much an "entree." In fact, I just can't imagine being anything else! What are you?

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    Brussels Sprouts, Two Ways

    By Diana Hsieh

    Kelly Valenzuela posted the following recipe for "Browned Brussels Sprouts" on OEvolve a few days ago:

    Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts (trimmed and halved) 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, cook one minute.
    I've not tried that yet, but it sounds yummy. (I would probably substitute coconut oil for the olive oil, as I prefer not to cook with olive oil. Also, I don't use nonstick, so I'd just be sure to use lots of that fat.)

    My standard method of cooking brussels sprouts, which I used just last night, is based on Cook's Illustrated's Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream.
    I wash and trim the brussels sprouts, but leave them whole. Then I simmer them in about a cup of cream on the stove for about 20 minutes, until tender by a toothpick test. I stir them periodically, and I'll often take off the lid for the last few minutes to get a thicker cream sauce. (Sometimes I boil the sauce down so much that the brussels spouts caramelize a bit. Yummy!) You do need to watch the pot carefully, particularly as the cream comes to a simmer, because it can easily boil over and make a terrible mess. Oh, and I often forget that I should add a dash of nutmeg at the end, in addition to the salt and pepper.
    Amazingly, I used to hate brussels sprouts, but now they're one of my favorite vegetables!

    Update: The reason that I don't use olive oil for cooking is that I've read that it oxides at fairly low temperatures, based on its smoke point. (Apparently, its smoke point is a matter of some dispute.) So I tend to use rendered lard (in the form of bacon grease), butter, or oil for cooking. However, my knowledge of such matters is very sketchy, so feel free to chime in in the comments with any good sources.

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    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Mayor Bloomberg: The Gun-Toting Nanny

    By Diana Hsieh

    You might be surprised to learn that New York City doesn't have a mayor. Yet it's true! New York City is governed by an armed nanny, Michael Bloomberg. He is determined to coerce adults into his vision of healthy living, without regard to their rights or the relevant science. His latest proposal concerns salt. The New York Times reports:

    First New York City required restaurants to cut out trans fat. Then it made restaurant chains post calorie counts on their menus. Now it wants to protect people from another health scourge: salt.

    On Monday, the Bloomberg administration plans to unveil a broad new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and restaurant chains across the country to curtail the amount of salt in their products.

    ...

    The city's campaign against salt resembles its push to cut trans fat from restaurant foods, which began with a call for voluntary compliance. When that did not work, the city passed a law to force restaurants to eliminate trans fat.

    But city officials said it would be difficult to legislate sodium reduction.

    "There's not an easy regulatory fix," said Geoffrey Cowley, an associate health commissioner. "You would have to micromanage so many targets for so many different products."
    Oh, don't worry about those pesky details! Nanny Bloomberg will do his very best to mandate salt reduction at the point of a gun when his "voluntary" scheme fails.

    Back in April, John Tierney wrote an excellent op-ed for the New York Times about this proposal, likening it to an ill-founded experiment using the whole city as unwitting subjects. That's clearly immoral, particularly given that the case against salt -- not just for healthy people but even for people with heart disease -- is weak at best. Tierney writes:
    First, a reduced-salt diet doesn't lower everyone's blood pressure. Some individuals' blood pressure can actually rise in response to less salt, and most people aren't affected much either way. The more notable drop in blood pressure tends to occur in some -- but by no means all -- people with hypertension, a condition that affects more than a quarter of American adults.

    Second, even though lower blood pressure correlates with less heart disease, scientists haven't demonstrated that eating less salt leads to better health and longer life. The results from observational studies have too often been inconclusive and contradictory. After reviewing the literature for the Cochrane Collaboration in 2003, researchers from Copenhagen University concluded that "there is little evidence for long-term benefit from reducing salt intake."
    Even worse, salt-reduction might kill people with heart disease:
    In the past year, researchers led by Salvatore Paterna of the University of Palermo have reported one of the most rigorous experiments so far: a randomized clinical trial of heart patients who were put on different diets. Those on a low-sodium diet were more likely to be rehospitalized and to die, results that prompted the researchers to ask, "Is sodium an old enemy or a new friend?"
    Moreover, salt might be the only source of iodine for many people. Of course, iodized salt isn't a great source of iodine, and much salt isn't iodized. Nonetheless, further salt reduction would likely only exacerbate the all-too-common iodine deficiency in America today. Such iodine deficiency can be a source of major health problems -- such as hypothyroidism, retardation in children, goiter, and possibly breast disease. Moreover -- surprise, surprise! -- hypothyroidism dramatically increases risk of heart disease -- the very condition that the Nanny of NYC seeks to reduce by limiting salt.

    No, I won't call that an unintended consequence. Like the politicians determined to worsen the mortgage crisis with their good intentions, Nanny Statists like Bloomberg ought to know better. They deserve to be morally condemned in the strongest possible terms for the suffering and death they cause by their negligent exercise of force.

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    Saturday, January 09, 2010

    Jesus Versus Paleo Eating

    By Diana Hsieh

    Some weeks ago, Monica Hughes pointed me some Christians discussing the proper response to paleo-diet advocate Mark Sisson's Definitive Guide to Grains. Here's the best, from "Barlow":

    As a Christian, I have further trouble with this kind of advice. Think of the eucharist. How are we to know what kind of bread to use in the eucharist if we do not become skilled at baking bread, bake better and better bread, pass on the art of baking bread, etc? Are Christians only supposed to think that the world was set up so that grain will only be grown for the eucharist, and bread only be baked for the eucharist? That all the loaves of bread to be baked should be tasted, notes should be made about what worked or didn't, and then the loaves cast away? It makes no sense. The eucharistic meal is a real meal. It shouldn't be the only place we or our children encounter bread. The eucharist is an overflowing of what culture should be like. We should be a bread-loving, wine-loving culture, with artisans getting as good at baking bread as they are at making wine. Finally, Jesus describes himself as the "bread from heaven" - connecting himself with the whole flow of redemptive history from the manna in the wilderness to bread baked in haste to the grain sack that never ran out after being blessed by the prophet. I don't want to raise my children to wonder why Jesus connected his life-giving body with something "so unhealthy."
    Then, in a separate comment by the same author:
    To clarify, I'm not saying that we need to eat what Jesus ate. I'm just saying that, as a Christian, if Jesus ate it, I can't very well say that eating it is evil or inherently bad for me. Otherwise I'd have to conclude that Jesus was damaging his health and encouraging others to do the same.
    Well, Barlow, I'll make a modest proposal. I propose that you eliminate the symbolic cannibalism of the Eucharist from your diet. Even apart from the absurdly mystical mumbo-jumbo of transubstantiation, eating your man-god is just plain gross.

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    Saturday, January 02, 2010

    Another Thyroid Update

    By Diana Hsieh

    Blah. I suppose that it's time for another update on my hypothyroidism.

    It's not going terribly well. For the moment, I'm doing somewhat better only because I've learned how to best limit my activities, so that I don't completely exhaust myself. That means doing very little, unfortunately. If I'm feeling well, I can work for about three hours each day -- maybe. Yet even then I'm pretty fuzzy-headed all the time. My powers of concentration and memory are pretty pathetic. I routinely forget what I'm supposed to be doing unless I write it down and keep it in sight. I wake up from eight hours of deep sleep like I just got four. That's how I feel all day.

    For example, when preparing dinner last week, I was puzzled by the fact that I didn't seem to have any vegetables. They weren't on our plates, nor on the stove. "Oh well," I thought, "we have enough food." Then I wandered to the stove to stir the turkey stock I was making. I noticed something funny in stirring it, but only when I spooned up a small red potato did I remember that I'd put them in the stock to cook for dinner. (I don't make potatoes often, but they are an occasional treat for Paul.) Paul then joked that I'm like the man in Memento. He asked me not to take his picture and write "enemy" on it. That was damn funny... but not entirely inapt. At times, I've thought to myself, "Oh, so this is what it feels like to go senile."

    Unfortunately, it's all-too-easy for me to overdo it, then render myself completely incapable of doing anything. Any kind of exercise -- even just ten minutes on the rowing machine -- kills me. This week, I was completely unable to muster the energy to work for two full days because I wore myself out on Tuesday. What did I do? I had a friend over for an informal brunch, a guy came to the house to replace my cracked windshield on my car, and then I went into town to run some errands, mostly just buying groceries at Whole Foods and Costco. That killed me for all of Wednesday -- much to my dismay and surprise.

    On the plus side, I've found that instead of my normal feelings of too-exited overload in social gatherings, the company of friends energizes me into feeling pretty normal. So although I'm not keen on doing anything, I'm trying to be a bit more social than usual.

    Also, I'm still gaining weight, even though I'm eating little. I can't fast or even skip a meal. My temperatures are steady around 96.5. And my skin is unbearably dry and itchy. However, I'm happy to report that I haven't had any problems with depression in the past few weeks. I think that limiting my activities has prevented those awful lows. That's huge, I must say. I can tolerate almost anything -- but not that.

    Overall, I'm not really better than when I went on the Synthroid back in November. I might even be somewhat worse.

    I'm hopeful, however. I've found a local compounding pharmacy able to provide me with dessicated thyroid, so I'm going to switch to that as soon as I get my thyroid hormones tested on January 5th.

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    The Unsoap Experiment

    By Diana Hsieh

    Recently, Richard Nikoley reluctantly reported on his six-month experiment without soap or shampoo. It went fabulously well, such that he's now committed.

    Like Richard, I hate to seem like a luddite or primitivist, but honestly, I do want to try "The Unsoap Experiment." Ever since I read about it a few months ago on another blog, I've been unsoap-curious and nopoo-intrigued!

    Of course, the natural reaction is to say, "Oh, but my hair is gross after just a day or two, I couldn't possibly do that!" However, from what I've read elsewhere, the standard day-after greasiness is a side-effect of shampooing. The scalp produces way more oil than it would otherwise, precisely because you're stripping off all the oils by shampooing daily. So you get caught in a vicious cycle.

    You can think of it as similar to the effects of carbohydrate-withdrawal. In the short-term, a person used to the standard American diet might feel tired and foggy unless he eats tons of carbohydrates. Contrary to popular myth, that's not a good reason to reject low-carbohydrate eating. Instead, that result suggests that the person is seriously addicted to carbohydrates, and that he ought to eat far less of them. It's just a vicious-cycle hump to be gotten over, nothing more.

    Of course, that might not be true for all people, but that's why Richard recommends trying soapless for at least a month.

    Originally, I'd planned to wait on my own "Unsoap Experiment" until I got my thyroid problems under better control. However, then I realized that I might as well start now, since I'm basically incapable of doing anything substantial with my days.

    So my Unsoap Experiment is in progress, as of December 31st. I've started by switching to nopoo, as per these instructions. Basically, I wash my hair with a baking soda solution, then condition it with a cider vinegar solution. For now, I'm still using a bit of soap on the critical bits -- just a purely olive-oil-based bar from "Kiss My Face." Also, in an attempt to combat my unbearably dry skin, I've taken to just using pure coconut oil as lotion. So far, the results are encouraging, but I'll post a more detailed report in a few weeks.

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