Monday, July 18, 2011

Thyroid Update: The Bliss of Three Grains and Adrenal Supplements

By Diana Hsieh

As I discussed in my "cookie cutter" medicine video...



... I've been frustrated by my persistent hypothyroid symptoms over the past few months. I experienced serious carpal tunnel pain every time I tried to work on the computer. The skin on my hands was like sandpaper. My menstrual cycle was too long by weeks. I felt lethargic and sleepy all day, even after a full night of sleep.

Alas, my doctor declined to increase my dose of desiccated thyroid beyond two grains, given that my TSH was too low on that dose. Hence, I decided to see Dr. Juetersonke of Colorado Springs, because his approach is to treat based on the full range of labs (i.e. not just TSH, but Free T3 and Free T4) plus symptoms.

Happily, he increased my dose of dessicated thyroid to three grains. The difference has been phenomenal. My carpal tunnel pain is negligible. Yay! The skin on my hands is soft and supple -- for the first time in years. Yay! The length of my menstrual cycle is basically normal. Yay! I've not gained any more weight, and I've been able to lose a few of the 30 pounds I've gained due to hypothyroidism. Yay!

To my surprise, my lethargy remained basically the same, however. After the busy fun of ATLOSCon at the end of May, I had that "just-got-back-from-vacation" exhaustion not just for a day, as is normal for me, but for two full weeks. It was miserable! A saliva cortisol test showed seriously low levels of cortisol, but a follow-up blood test showed normal levels, so Dr. Juetersonke didn't recommend doing anything.

By mid-June, I felt that I had to try some kind of adrenal supplement, so I ordered Natural Sources: Raw Adrenal. Much to my amazement, that very day I noticed a substantial uptick in my energy levels -- and even better, my sex drive returned with a vengeance. YAY!

So clearly, adrenal insufficiency has been part of the picture, probably for a long time. I'm too prone to stuffing myself into a pressure cooker with work and other projects... and that just has to stop. It's not so much that I need to work less, I think, but rather that I need to be okay with all the stuff that I'm not able to do in a given day. Also, I've found that activities away from home and/or with people exhaust me quickly, so I'm trying to limit those as much as possible.

Notably, unlike with the desiccated thyroid, I expect to be able to wean myself off the adrenal supplement in a few weeks. Also, I don't think that I would have seriously pursued the adrenal angle if I'd not done the saliva cortisol test (and some others) with our own Christian Wernstedt of Vital Objectives. Our discussion in light of the test results was very enlightening and thorough -- far more so than with any doctor that I've ever had.

Also, I had blood drawn for a new set of thyroid labs a few days ago. I'm not sure whether my doctor will want to raise me to 3.5 grains or not. I still have a slight touch of symptoms, so I think that I'd like to try that small increase. But if my Free T3 and Free T4 look good, I'll be pretty happy to stay where I am.

Overall, after nearly two years of battling my hypothyroidism, I can't express just how happy I am to be doing pretty darn well... finally. It has been a rocky road, mostly thanks to a medical establishment that ignores everything except TSH and prescribes only Synthroid. My every step toward health has been an uphill battle for me. I've had to reject the standard analyses and protocols in favor of treatments that most doctors would regard as quackery, namely desiccated thyroid, high dose iodine, and now adrenal supplements. It's getting ridiculous!

As a result of my experiences, when I hear people say that we should leave medicine to the experts, I feel like a small nuclear bomb explodes in my chest. If I'd done that, I would still be disabled by impenetrable brain fog, lethargy, and pain. Many, many people are suffering in that state today, not knowing of the alternatives. Hopefully, they can learn something from my experiences.

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