March 07, 2006

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Important Health FYI

You'll recall that several issues back I wrote about Seasonal Affective Disorder, a problem I have dealt with for many years. This year, however, it seemed particularly vicious. I found myself having trouble dragging myself out of bed before noon. I caught two colds in six weeks time. I couldn't think clearly or concentrate. I was tired all time. The slightest exercise made me ache to the point of needing muscle relaxants. I gained weight - enough so my jeans were tight - even though I wasn't eating any more than usual. I had constant headaches that were unmoved by aspirin or ibuprofen. I was depressed to the point of weeping frequently, when anyone who knows me can tell you I'm not a weepy person. My sex drive dried up - this, when I'm married to a man I adore, and who inspires other women to sidle up to me at parties and murmur, "Your husband is cute!"

I began to wonder if there was something more wrong with me. I wondered about a systemic yeast infection, since I'd taken two rounds of antibiotics in the past year. I worried I might have fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue, or even Epstein-Barr virus. Finally I saw my doctor. (I would have gone sooner, but she was on vacation.)

Bless her, she took me seriously. All too often, doctors look at a middle-aged woman with my symptoms and simply label her "neurotic." But Dr. Florini listened, agreed there was a genuine problem, and said, "Even though you may feel better when April rolls around, that's eight weeks. I don't like to leave you like this. We could try a low dose of an anti-depressant, or we could bump up your thyroid medication a little." When we discovered my body temperature was 97.1, it became clear that thyroid was the thing to try.

So she increased my dose of Armour Thyroid (natural desiccated thyroid,) and sure enough, I quickly started feeling more like myself.

As a result, I've been reading a lot about thyroid problems, and I thought it vital I give you a heads-up. After all, if your thyroid is low, all your attempts to lose weight and become healthy and energetic will be in vain. Here, from Mary Shomon's excellent site at About.com, is a list of hypothyroid symptoms:

____I am gaining weight inappropriately

____ I'm unable to lose weight with diet/exercise

____ I am constipated, sometimes severely

____ I have hypothermia/low body temperature (I feel cold when others feel hot, I need extra sweaters, etc.)

____ I feel fatigued, exhausted

____ Feeling run down, sluggish, lethargic

____ My hair is coarse and dry, breaking, brittle, falling out

____ My skin is coarse, dry, scaly, and thick

____ I have a hoarse or gravely voice

____ I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes and face

____ I have pains, aches in joints, hands and feet

____ I have developed carpal-tunnel syndrome, or it's getting worse

____ I am having irregular menstrual cycles (longer, or heavier, or more frequent)

____ I am having trouble conceiving a baby

____ I feel depressed

____ I feel restless

____ My moods change easily

____ I have feelings of worthlessness

____ I have difficulty concentrating

____ I have more feelings of sadness

____ I seem to be losing interest in normal daily activities

____ I'm more forgetful lately

Mary also lists the following additional symptoms, which have been reported more frequently in people with hypothyroidism:

____ My hair is falling out

____ I can't seem to remember things

____ I have no sex drive

____ I am getting more frequent infections, that last longer

____ I'm snoring more lately

____ I have/may have sleep apnea

____ I feel shortness of breath and tightness in the chest

____ I feel the need to yawn to get oxygen

____ My eyes feel gritty and dry

____ My eyes feel sensitive to light

____ My eyes get jumpy/tics in eyes, which makes me dizzy/vertigo and have headaches

____ I have strange feelings in neck or throat

____ I have tinnitus (ringing in ears)

____ I get recurrent sinus infections

____ I have vertigo

____ I feel some lightheadedness

____ I have severe menstrual cramps

Add to this one more symptom: Low body temperature. Mine sometimes ran as low as 96.4 during the day. Think about that: That's 2.4 degrees below normal. If my temperature were 2.4 degrees above normal, I'd have a fever of 101, and any doctor on the planet would take it seriously. I can tell you from unpleasant experience that a swing in the other direction can make you feel just as wretched, whether it alarms your doctor or not.

Be aware that it is estimated that millions of people in the US alone suffer from undiagnosed thyroid problems, and that possibly as much as 15% of those who have been diagnosed with depression are actually hypothyroid. Know, too, that thyroid tests are notoriously inaccurate, and that medical opinions on the meanings of those tests, and what constitutes a "normal" range, are changing. For example, just this year the "normal" value of the commonly used TSH test was changed from 0.5-5, to 0.3-3. Since higher values indicated hypothyroidism, that means that everyone who had a TSH between 3 and 5 and was told they were "normal" is now officially hypothyroid!

If you have a number of these symptoms, I urge you to visit Mary's websites and learn more:

http://thyroid.about.com/blthyroid.htm

http://www.thyroid-info.com/

In particular, if your doctor refuses to take the possibility of thyroid problems seriously, avail yourself of Mary's "Top Thyroid Doctors" list. It's the only list of its kind on the internet, and you can access it free. (Dr. Florini is on it, though I didn't know that till after she'd increased my dosage.)

I also highly recommend Mary Shomon's wonderful book Living Well With Hypothyroidism

Take a look, too, at The Thyroid Diet - Mary's hip to carb control, and agrees with me that there's no one dietary approach that's right for everyone - you have to try things and see what works for you.

Mary and I spent a good hour and a half on the phone recently. I liked her very much, and I hope to work with her on a joint project of some kind in the future. Please, take advantage of her knowledge and experience.

Posted by HoldTheToast at March 7, 2006 10:48 PM