I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired! I literally said this about 4 months ago before receiving my diagnosis of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. For over a year and a half I blamed feeling like complete crap on Motherhood… I mean… I am new to this parenting role, so I assumed that I just never really understood what tired meant until I became a Mom. It felt like I was living a life that needed full throttle but at best, all I could do was idle. Honestly, I wasn’t that upset when my conventional doctor diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and potentially Hashimoto’s disease, which I explain later in this post. At that point, I was just happy to have validation that I was more than just a tired Mom.
So, you mean that cute little, butterfly -shaped THYROID GLAND was to blame for my extreme fatigue and other nasty symptoms?
THE THYROID GLAND:
An endocrine gland in the neck that secretes thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. In other words, when the thyroid gland is not functioning properly neither is the rest of your body. According to the American Thyroid Association, 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. There are several different diseases associated with the thyroid gland but the most common one is hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid which results in slow metabolism. As a result, you may experience yourself slowing down due to extreme fatigue, gaining weight, feeling cold to the extent where it’s difficult to get warm, have brain fog, as well as anxiety and depression. Your skin may also become dry and your hair may begin to fall out. Your heart rate also begins to slow as well as your gut motility, leading to bloating and constipation. Muscle aches, joint pain, and swelling are also symptoms associated with low thyroid levels. I used to joke that I felt hungover without the alcohol.
Signs and Symptoms of HYPOTHYROIDISM
So why does this happen? There are several potential causes of hypothyroidism, but the most common cause is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis disease.
Is an autoimmune disease in which your own immune system attacks the thyroid gland cells and enzymes. As a result, thyroid secretion is affected and so is every organ system in the body. There are several different potential causes of Hashimoto’s, which I will be sharing in future blog posts.
As a healthcare professional, I am well educated about the thyroid gland and diseases, but what I didn’t know was the high prevalence of Hashimoto’s disease and the poor medical management of the disease. Depending on the source, 90-97% of those with hypothyroidism in the United States also have Hashimoto’s. You would think that if the prevalence is so high then most people would know that they had Hashimoto’s, but that’s not the case.
The conventional medical model does not routinely test for Hashimoto’s. In other words, conventional medicine treats Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disease) the same way they are treating hypothyroidism (thyroid dysfunction), because they don’t test for Hashimoto’s, but assume the diagnosis due to the likelihood of having both diseases. This is alarming considering you can have Hashimoto’s without hypothyroidism. There are people who have lived with signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and have had their thyroid levels come back as “normal,” but were later to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s because the testing was never performed.
I personally have experienced this coupled diagnosis and treatment plan without the objective proof that rules Hashimoto’s disease in or out. I visited my conventional doctor, was told I had hypothyroid and most likely Hashimoto’s and was put on levothyroxine medication. When I asked why I had Hashimoto’s disease, the doctor replied, “we don’t know why!” That doctor gradually increased my dose of levothyroxine. I’m now in the vicious cycle of medication reliance and adaptation. My dose is increased, I feel better for a month, and then I go back to feeling like a slug.
After starting my own research in the quest for answers, I have made many lifestyle changes and am working with a great functional medicine doctor who is now working with me to:
1.) Confirm I do indeed have Hashimoto’s disease, as it was never confirmed through conventional medical testing.
2.) Find the root cause of my hypothyroidism, and if it is Hashimoto’s figure out why my immune system is attacking itself.
3.) Guide me through holistic treatment options instead of just prescribing medication.
With that, I invite you on my journey…my journey of taking control of my health, finding the root cause of my symptoms, treat my thyroid disease holistically, and educate others to advocate for their health.
Take away points:
1. If you have hypothyroidism make sure you have been tested for Hashimoto’s disease.
2. If you have several of the symptoms identified above, but have been told you have normal thyroid levels, request to be tested for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
3. There is a genetic link to Hashimoto’s disease. Individuals may exhibit Hashimoto’s antibodies years before thyroid levels are affected, allowing for people to make lifestyle changes before damage has been done to their thyroid.
4. Follow my personal health journey on this blog to get tips about managing your thyroid disease holistically.
 American Thyroid Association. www.thyroid.org. Accessed August 10, 2018.