Hypothyroid-more impact to my health than I thought

#1

I know this topic has made the rounds many times during my ten years of posting on this site. I received a diagnosis of hypothyroidism all the way back in 1986, just two years after my T1D diagnosis.

The doctor prescribed Synthroid, a one pill/day regimen that seemed ultra-simple compared to my diabetes treatment burden. For one reason or another, diabetes dominated my attention and I never really gave much serious thought to my thyroid health.

Here’s a comment posted to another thread where I raised my thyroid experience.

I didn’t want to continue that discussion in the other thread, so I branched off.

Last fall, when I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, I quickly learned that a low thyroid can play a role in developing heart disease. It’s been over six months since that health awakening and the truth of the importance of my thyroid health is starting to sink in.

So many of the general health complaints I’ve had in the last several years likely stem from a thyroid that is out of whack. Poor sleep is one such symptom. I’ve struggled with getting more than six hours sleep each night. The thyroid also plays a role in body temperature. I often feel cold when ambient temperatures are moderate, like in the summer.

I’ve been battling high cholesterol levels, a condition that freaks out my cardiologist, especially since I don’t buy their alarm about cholesterol and heart disease. Heart docs almost singularly focus their treatment recommendations on taking a statin. I do think statins can lower cholesterol but I think they pale in comparison to lifestyle changes that include daily exercise, thoughtfullness routines like meditation, and adding important nutritional supplements like vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin K2, magnesium, and vitamin C.

During the las six months, I have made significant health gains like lowering my blood pressure and heart rate (even though I still take meds for both), remission of my gastroparesis (still a work in progress), and finally positively impacting my sleep. While I don’t usually get the 7.5 hours of sleep each night, I’ve started to take a 60-90 minute afternoon nap and it’s been some of the soundest sleep I’ve experienced in years.

At the center of my thyroid treatment is seeing a naturopathic physician. This is a doctor who sees food as a medicine and does not mindlessly throw medicine at a symptom without seeking the root cause of poor health. Coming off of a multi-decade long Synthroid regimen, a T4-only thyroid hormone, I’ve recently added the active thyroid hormone T3 to the T4 dose.

My TSH levels are in range but a little low. T4 blood tests show a higher than normal level. My T3 measure, however, is too low. T3 is converted from T4 in the peripheral tissue and for some reason my body does not do that conversion well. My reverse T3 hormone (the inactive and mirror image of T3) is sky-high. This is a thyroid test that my endocrinologist refused to order for me – I had to order and pay for it myself. It’s high and out of range number confirms that I do not convert T4 to T3 easily. My body prefers to convert T4 to reverse T3 (RT3) instead and that’s part of the problem.

I really think that my impaired digestion (stomach acid that’s too low) has starved my thyroid metabolism of needed key nutrients like iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, iodine, and vitamins A, B2, B12, C, D3. This theory says that nutritional deficiencies are the cause of many people’s hypothyroidism. Add the needed nutrients and given enough time, the situation can resolve.

Well, that’s my incomplete understanding of my thyroid situation and I do believe I’m on a positive path toward better overall health.

I’ve been reading a book written by a thyroid patient who, through grit and determination, was able to figure out her Hashimoto thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroid) treatment by dumping ignorant doctors and finding a better treatment path that includes natural desiccated thyroid meds that contain both T3 and T4. Her name is Janie Bowthorpe and her book is Stop the Thyroid Madness.

While learning about hypothyroidism, I discovered that this condition primarily affects women. For every man diagnosed like me, 5-8 women are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, mainly Hashimoto thyroiditis.

I have a lot to learn but things in general are becoming clearer to me. Understanding the biology of thyroid metabolism is a bit more involved than the glucose/insulin dynamic in diabetes but it’s not rocket science. I hope that I can recover better health, heal my thyroid imbalance, and reduce the risk of my coronary artery disease.

I know there are many here who share this struggle. What has worked for you? Have you been satisfied with traditional TSH-measuring, T4-only, prescribing doctors or have you also ventured out to consult with naturopaths and functional medicine doctors?

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#2

My thyroid levels have been balanced for 3 or 4 yrs now. I can’t remember when I was first dx with hypothyroidism, but it was probably 2 or 3 decades ago now that I really think about it. Janie’s book is one of the most marked up books in the medical section of my library. It was a great comfort to me years ago. I called her a couple of times and we chatted for an hr or so. She is a very nice woman and certainly has helped many, many people with their thyroid problems and has taken a lot of criticism for her work. I tend to be really drawn to people who think outside of the box.

I too see naturopathic doctors at times and some were familiar with Janie’s book and had no problem ignoring my TSH levels and just testing my FT3 and FT4. Eventually we got them to levels in the middle of the range. Maybe not quite as high as Janie suggests, but I started feeling really good and also started sleeping better. My GP has no issue with ignoring my extremely low TSH number. I used to take Naturethroid which is a combo of T3 and T4, but it became too hard to get, so changed to Armour Thyroid which is another T3 and T4 combo.These meds make the TSH number read very low. I have to pay a lot more for them than for synthroid, but for me it works much better.

Interesting that hypothyroidism can cause
heart disease. Now I have 5 very strong reasons for my need for 2 stents 9 yrs ago. Funny I usually forget that I have them. I am just feeling too good to worry much about heart disease except when I get my yearly checkup. I feel that I am doing everything possible to reverse my heart disease, so it doesn’t really concern me much anymore. I will be shocked if I die from heart disease, but I was shocked when I found I needed them in the first place. Luckily stents had come a long way by then.

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#3

I have not had the test but I am not converting either. T3 helped me a lot. I take levo too. But I am still symptomatic. My father has hashis too and he was not medicated till recently. We are wondering if it contributed to his afib and sic sinus rhythm.

#4

I do not know about thyroiditis and heart conditions (unlike the diabetes connection). At least I have not worried about it. I have Hashimoto’s (20 years +) and celiac disease. I passed out five years ago from vertebrae fractures (osteoporosis due to celiac disease). ER and cardio thought I had a heart attack. I had a complete work up and my heart is fine as well as my arteries. No signs of cardiovascular disease.

I have always been on Armour and now NP Thyroid. When doctors have suggested a switch to T4 only, I have refused. My thyroid really acted up during menopause causing severe swings from hypo to hyper and back. I think it was due to a severe autoimmune attack triggered by menopause and undiagnosed celiac disease. Within a year of being on a gluten free diet, my enlarged thyroid and nodules disappeared, but my thyroid does not function without help from replacement. I think controlling or managing autoimmune disorders is the best solution. That means focusing on exercise, sleep and a good diet free from processed foods. I take no vitamins or supplements and I have no deficiencies which have been checked because I have celiac disease. My celiac disease is in remission (per repeat biopsies) as is my Autoimmune Gastritis and Hashimoto’s. Occasionally, my thyroiditis or gastritis will flare but I honestly do not know the triggers (unlike celiac disease which gluten is the trigger).

My uneducated guess is that you might have other undiagnosed autoimmune issues going on that could be impacting your heart or it just could be genetics.

There was a tiny study done at Scripps in San Diego with IBD patients. They achieved approximately a 78% remission rate (lab markers) by following an Autoimmune Paleo Type diet in just six weeks. They are now testing Hashimoto’s patients. I am waiting for the results, but I think diet helps tremendously and it needs to be tailored to suit an individual’s needs. The AIP diet happens to be gluten free too.

I hope you are able to figure out what is best for you.

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