New Supplement Regimen

The roll of diet and nutrition are both extremely important in the quest to manage Hashimoto's disease. Most medical students spend about 23.9 hours total on nutrition during the course of their college career, and most of those hours are obtained outside of a dedicated nutrition course. So, the odds are against patients with chronic diseases, unless they seek help from a certified a nutritionist, dietitian, or conduct research on their own. Going gluten free is the first step in addressing autoimmune diseases. We also must ensure that we are obtaining a sufficient supply of vitamins and minerals. 

I haven't been taking many supplements lately because I've been juicing a few times every week. Apparently, juicing alone has not been enough to increase my vitamin levels and it shows in my blood work. It's possible that I'm not absorbing many of the nutrients, likely due to my chronic digestive problems. I've also had notoriously low vitamin D, which is very common in people with thyroid problems. I've been taking 5000 mg. of vitamin D for a few months. I just had it retested and it was 34 ng/ml, which was low-normal on the general lab range, but it needs to be at least 55 ng/ml, which is the minimum on the functional range (I explain more in this Post ). My magnesium was low even on standard lab ranges, and I've been taking 250 mg. per day for about a month. As a result of my lower than expected vitamin levels, and the recent increase in my Anti-TPO antibodies, I've decided to focus on addressing my actual immune system's decision to go haywire, as well as my stubborn digestive problems. The later likely arises from my random bouts with a sluggish gallbladder that I refuse to give up on because despite popular belief, we actually do need our gallbladders. I don't have any stones either. 

So, I just received a shipment of goodies (oh how I wish they were shoes) from Vitacost, and I'm armed and ready to see what kind of a difference I can make on my own. 

This all started with a book. I'm currently in the process of reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal, by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, who is known as an expert on Hashimoto's, other autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. So far, this doc has had my undivided attention. Dr. Kharrazian treats his patients not only from a functional perspective, but he looks at Hashimoto's as a disease of the immune system, rather than a thyroid disease. He believes that most cases of thyroid disease can be reversed and claims that many of his patients have gone on to have healthy thyroids without desiccated thyroid or synthetic thyroid replacement. He is quite forthcoming in the book because he provides an extensive outline as to how he manages the disease in his patients. He treats the root of the problem. He offers thorough details about everything from thyroid hormones, to T-helper cells, to how insulin and gluten work inside the body of a person with Hashimoto's. The only complaint that I have thus far, is that many of his treatment options and recommendations, such as non-traditional testing can be rather costly (though important)  and not covered by insurance, yet he still provided a feasibly affordable plan for treating and basically reversing the immune system response by identifying what part of the system has gone awry. The doc basically laid out a how-to kick Hashimoto's rear end in a step-by-step process.
In chapter three of the book, Dr. Kharrazian discusses how the immune system is in in control of the Hashimoto's crazy train. He explains the two types of scenarios that occur during the autoimmune attack. My goal is to give you the high-level overview of his approach to hamper the immune system, using compounded supplements. I definitely recommend this book to all thyroid patients, especially if their goal is to save their thyroid and get off the medication, though not all people will be able to stop taking thyroid replacement.

The immune system comprises of two unique sides that fight diseases and foreigners. Think of one being the right side and one being the left side of a see-saw. When one side goes up, the other goes down. One part is the T-helper one (TH-1) side and the other is the T-helper two (TH-2). One medical theory about how autoimmune conditions occur is that one side of the immune system becomes dominant over the other side, which is caused by a few different situations in the body. Dr. Kharrazian focuses on stimulating the side that is not the one that running the show, which will dampen the side that is overactive. He does this with various compounds, such as Echinacea to dull the TH-1 side, and Green Tea Extract to dull the TH-2 side. Here's the kicker; the only way to precisely find out which side is dominant is to conduct a blood test that can be expensive and only a few companies offer it (here's one-TH-1 TH2 Test ). The thing about this theory that makes me 90% confident that I'm TH-1 dominant is that Dr. Kharrazian noted in his book that an estimated 90% of his patients are TH-1 dominant. 

I've decided to start taking some the supplements that are supposed to dampen the TH-1 dominance.  I am obviously quite aware that my frugal attempt is not the same as paying a doctor the thousands of dollars that the doctor's entire system may cost, but I ordered high-quality supplements from a very reputable store, that guarantees the potency of their products. I spent about $100 on the supplements. If I'm actually TH-2 dominant, I'll know within due time because taking the compounds that stimulate the wrong one will exacerbate my symptoms. Caffeine is also on the list that hampers the TH-1 dominance, so I've been drinking more coffee and black tea. Of course, caffeine can cause jitters and other typical symptoms. If the supplements worsen my symptoms, it's possible that I'm TH-2 dominant. Here's what I have to look forward to ingesting daily. These will make up my supplement cocktail for the next few months-

These are the supplements that I'll be taking that are based on Dr. Kharrazian's recommendation for TH-1 dominance (the goal is to stimulate the TH-2 side). Please note that he did not provide the exact dosages in his book, likely because it varies among patients:

To Stimulate the TH-1:
White Willow Bark-800 mg. 
Resveratrol Green Tea & Grape Extract. He listed both Resveratrol and Geen Tea Extract, and I found one supplement that contain both items. 
Pycnogenol/Pine Bark Extract- 100 mg.

The additional compounds that he recommends are Caffeine and Lycopene. I will be consuming caffeine daily. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes, so I choose not to take the supplement 

Additional supplements that I have just started taking:
Emulsified Vitamin D with Vitamin K2- I am trying the emulsified version because I suspect that my digestive problems were causing poor absorption of the pill form. It is crucial that we also get enough Vitamin K2 and it is required for proper synthesis of Vitamin D.

Liquid Multi-Vitamin- I am also taking a multi-vitamin via liquid form because of my poor absorption and due to my problems in digesting fats.

Chelated Magnesium, 250 mg.- My magnesium level recently tested in the low range, despite that fact that I had been consuming 250 mg. daily via supplementation.  I've also been getting an adequate supply in my diet. Chelated Magnesium is supposedly easier to digest, thus improving absorption rates.

Milk Thistle, 600 mg.- You may already know that studies have shown that Milk Thistle is a liver and gallbladder aid. I will be taking 3600 mg. daily. The suggested amount listed on the bottle is three pills, twice daily.

Fiber Supplement: I try to consume enough fiber through my diet, however I currently take a supplement. Some experts suggest ingesting fiber supplements in the morning. 

Probiotics: I now consume a minute amount of dairy because I may be allergic to the lecithin in it.  I currently take a non-dairy chewable tablet three times per day.

Omega-3-120 mg. Omega is an essential fatty acid and plays an important role in reducing inflammation. 

Digestive Aids:
Due to my sluggish gallbladder, I have been taking 500 mg. of Ox Bile after each mean, as well as Betaine HCI (hydrochloric acid), and digestive enzymes. Based on my research, people without gallbladders should take digestive aids and Ox Bile for the rest of their lives. Low hydrochloric acid is common in thyroid patients. Symptoms of low stomach acid are similar to that of too much of it. If you were to drink apple cider vinegar mixed with water and you felt better, it's a good sign that you'd benefit from taking a Betaine HCI supplement. 

Many doctors and thyroid experts recommend taking both Zinc and Selenium. In fact, I've read a few blogs that are centered on healing Hashimoto's with a supplement regimen, which includes both. I currently own bottles of each supplement, however it is easy to overdose on both because they are metals, and I definitely noticed a metal taste in my mouth after I began taking both products.  It is actually best to obtain selenium through the diet. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. As recommended by a recent conversation that I had with a thyroid expert, I started eating one Brazil nut per day. Other sources of selenium, include eggs, sunflower seeds, tuna, salmon, shellfish, poultry, etc. Sources of zinc also include some nuts and seeds, oysters, beef (I recommend grass fed), etc. 

One can determine which vitamins and minerals they should take simply by having those levels check via blood tests.  If you are considering adopting a supplement plan, I recommend purchasing them from a reputable supplier, such as Vitacost because they carry more brands that ensure potency of their products. 

I'm just hoping to see a decrease in my antibodies. Wish me luck. 

"A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools."
-Spanish Proverb

Expect the Unexpected with Hashimoto's

Did you know that more than 27 million Americans have a thyroid condition and about half of those people don't even know it?

It's National Thyroid Awareness month. I've been sharing facts and information with my friends and family via Facebook. I am amazed at how many personal messages I receive from women, all of who are struggling with what they feel are thyroid problems. A few of my friends have shared their personal experiences with me and those stories make me want to help people even more. If my efforts can lead even one woman to answers, then battling this disease is worth it.

Now, for an update; I finally completed about 90% of my candida supplements. And the verdict? It's not good news.  However, I have not retested my candida levels, so I can't truthfully say that it's bad news either. I understand that candida overgrowth is quite common in Hashimoto's likely due to poor digestive health, which is another commonality with the disease. So, while I can't detest the treatment, I don't have any clinical evidence or test results to share with anyone either. In the end, I can't report that I saw any effects from the candida supplements. My bloating decided to creep its dreary head again and my gallbladder has seemingly returned to its abnormal ways. I'd say that the Armour worked decently for about a month, but it also never addressed my fatigue. Even when I felt half-way decent, I still had the lagging fatigue and typical hypo symptoms.

Dr. Maxwell switched me from the Armour to Nature-Throid mainly because my hypo symptoms returned. Keep in mind that one should not compare their reactions to Armour with mine. There are several desiccated thyroid replacements (AKA natural thyroid) that are on the market today. Although they are all similar in that they contain a T4/T3 ratio, the fillers vary among brands, therefore it's not uncommon for patients to change brands. It can come down to personal preference too. I know several patients, all of who have the best 'luck' with Armour. With that in mind, my personal experiences with Armour was not what I had hoped, which was partially due to the massive hair loss that I incurred even after being on it for two months. The medicine also made me have spells of unusual fatigue where I would randomly fall asleep. Of course I suffer from extreme fatigue with this disease already, but it's not the kind that prompts me to fall asleep while sitting upright in a chair. It's the type of fatigue that someone likely obtains when they're suffering from the flu, or when they are malnourished. Armour's formula contains cellulose and some people report that it causes poor absorption of the hormone. After Armour reformulated the drug to contain cellulose, many long-term Armour supporters reported the return of hypo symptoms. Some patients chew up the pills, which basically unbinds the cellulose enough to change the way the digestive system absorbs it. Chewing the pills didn't work for me and they were quite chalky, thus often got stuck in my teeth. Since switching to Nature-Throid, my hair loss has decreased and I haven't had any sudden desires to fall asleep. However, let me strongly point out that I have yet to reap major benefits from taking thyroid replacement. In fact, I have recently had some unusually tougher days.

One major expectation that I held on to until recently was that my antibodies would decrease because I cut out gluten, a major thyroid aggressor, and have been taking thyroid replacement for months. I was wrong about that one. I just had my Anti-TPO level checked and it was out of the lab's range. They increased to >1300. As soon as I learned of the increase, I couldn't help but blame it on the reason for me not feeling much better, if at all. I quickly tweeted to thyroid expert and advocate, Mary Shomon, and she replied wondering if I have a pork allergy because, "Some practitioners also have concerns that some Hashi's patients may have autoimmune response to antigens in NDT (meaning Natural Dessicated Thyroid)." Of course, I haven't had any allergy testing completed yet due to the cost of such tests, but I highly recommend it because it is not uncommon for patients with Hashimoto's to have food allergies. In fact, some experts believe that food allergies can onset the disease. She did go on to explain that the antigen theory is somewhat controversial.

The good news in my lab results is that I don't appear to be having a converting issue. Converting of T4 occurs in the liver, and it's conversion process to T3 (immediately available 'energy' for the cells) can be challenging in some patient's body's. Both my T3 and T4 are in a functional range, and they were previously not in functional ranges, so that's a positive result.  My TSH was 0.04, which is obviously hyper. Ironically, I don't typically have hyper symptoms, unless I go out in public, where my adrenal glands start performing better and my legs tend to shake, and I get symptoms of anxiety.  I can understand better now how panic and anxiety 'disorders' can actually be the thyroid gland's own work. I've tried explaining this to my cousin because she suffers from anxiety and is currently taking a medication to alleviate her symptoms.  Hyper-thyroid is not always Grave's disease. Hashi's is all about causing periods of hyper and hypo-thyroid.

I was also gravely disappointed in my vitamin D and magnesium levels. My vitamin D was low again, despite taking 5000 mg. of VD3. Vitamin D is a nutrient that is commonly low in most Americans.  Actually, people may be surprised to learn that the vitamin is actually a steroid hormone. Modern diets are already lacking VD, and doctors report seeing severe deficiencies even in people, who live in primarily sunny climates. According to expert doctors, it is crucial for Hashimoto's patients to keep their level in a functional range (not what your doctor's generic ranges are) of 55-80 (my doctor's lab's range was 30-80). I also take 250 mg. of magnesium daily and my level was quite low. One somewhat surprising contribution to low VD levels is gut inflammation. Bingo. I have my own set of digestive problems, so I am confident that is part of my absorption dilemma. I also have had a suspicion that much of my fatigue is due to poor absorption of nutrients because of my digestive troubles, and seeing the new results only confirmed it. Still, there are other theories that genetics play a role in vitamin D deficiencies. So, in light of the new lab results, I have decided to order an emulsified vitamin D supplement. I'm going to take the emulsified version for a few months before retesting my level again.

Here's a great article by Mary Shomon about the importance of vitamin D for thyroid patients: Why is Vitamin D So Important to Thyroid Patients?

I'm glad that I decided to test my magnesium level because I had not tested it before and I have had several symptoms and clues that it has been lower than desired. I don't know how common it is for magnesium levels to be low in Hashi's patients either. I do know that magnesium deficiencies can be the cause of muscle spasms and many neurological symptoms. Multiple Sclerosis is also linked to low magnesium levels. I've had MS-type symptoms for years now, therefore I just got a brain MRI scan completed, and am awaiting the results of it. I truly believe that it will come back normal, but it's an ugly disease that we must rule out.

Finally, the older I get, the more of a planner I become. The topic of planning and an illness don't exactly compliment each other.  After I finally figured out what I thought was the very condition plaguing me, I thought that all I had to do was find an appropriate doctor, obtain natural thyroid replacement, and then my body would return back to normal. I was so confident that my health would return back to normal quickly, that I started filling my calendar with 'things to-do.' Unfortunately, Hashimoto's doesn't typically disappear, nor is there a magic pill that will revert my health. I have started to research how the immune system itself plays a role in the disease. I have learned that Hashimoto's is more about immune system dysfunction than it is about the thyroid.  I'm going to continue researching how the immune system can be reversed. Since Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease, I have a hunch that my own immune system is currently at war with my body. I hope to learn some valuable information on the topic to share with readers soon. :)

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."  ~World Health Organization, 1948

One of Our Christmas Photos-2012

A Bit of a Disclaimer

I tend to be a realist in life. I don't see a glass of water as half full or half empty. I just see a glass of water. With that in mind, please note that I will never sprinkle glitter on my experiences with this disease. I want to give sufferers of the disease hope, but I'll only offer it in real values. I'm here to give readers an up close and personal look in to my own life with Hashimoto's. My blog is not about how you can heal yourself by doing (insert miracle cure here). Love it or hate it, I'm dedicated to being wholly honest and forthcoming about my symptoms, treatments, reservations, anxieties, etc., and I won't censor my struggles in posts, even if they require me to be utterly vulnerable. I am not going to point out anyone in particular, but I've came across many forums and blogs that are dedicated to fluffing up thyroid problems and the ease in treating Hashimoto's. I will not claim that what works for me will or should be what works for others, though I may suggest things from time to time. Diseases and illnesses always affect patients differently, despite there being standard symptoms, so please know that I'm not surprised if your own struggle is drastically different from mine. I will never compare myself to other women, who have thyroid problems because we all have different scales that we live on, and who am I to say that I am in their shoes? I don't know what it's like to have children and struggle to raise them, hold down a job, and deal with this disease all at once. Believe me, I have nothing but respect and support to give those women. I do, however know what it's like to work 12 hour days and juggle being sick with a marriage, illness, and accomplishing important goals in life. I also know just how often women get this disease postpartum and that I already have it prior to pregnancy. No, the disease hasn't caused me to gain much weight, but I do have my own sufferings with my body and metabolism. I've lost much muscle and have cellulite in places that I know are caused from Hashi's. I also have a hard time digesting fat due to my gallbladder problem, so I haven't gained or lost more than a few pounds.  The bloating is enough to cause me to carry what is an unusual pot belly on my frame, however it may not be noticeable to anyone, who doesn't known me well. 
I have exercised virtually my entire life. I'm a former vegetarian and I studied dietetics in college. My goal was to help both people with weight-loss goals, and people trying to manage conditions or diseases. I've worked in gyms and weight-loss institutions. I guess I fit in to the category as a 'petite' girl, however I do not come from a particularly petite family. I even have very small hands and ears, but I was an early bloomer and I can remember wearing a bra well before my friends, which I hated at the time. I've seen multiple women, including my own mother struggle to lose and maintain their weight. At a young age, I made a pact with myself to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Also, I haven't been through childbirth, so who's to say that I will be able to lose the 'baby weight' or that I won't gain more weight? So, despite the absence of my battles to lose more than about 10-15 pounds at one time, I am not a naturally skinny woman. My genetics and my family history tell me otherwise.  

If a treatment doesn't work for me, it doesn't necessarily mean that it won't work for you either, and the same thought applies if something works for me, then it's possible that it won't work for you. We may have completely different symptoms, or you may find yourself in my posts. I started this blog not just to share the trials and tribulations of my story, but to also share information with women that their healthcare professionals may not mention or know to share with patients for whatever reason.
Also, whether I try synthetic or natural thyroid replacement, supplements, bio-feedback therapies, etc., I'm not here to jump on a bandwagon of specific treatment options. I will never claim to be an expert on any topic at hand either.  

My overall goal is to offer readers my own tale of the disease, combined with my personal opinions, and concepts or ideas that I developed from an abundant amount of medical research. My hope is that readers find comfort and support in knowing that what they have is possibly more tangible than recognized by their doctors, that someone else is listening and understands the complexity of thyroid imbalances from a functional perspective, and I hope that I inspire people to never settle for being told that they have no options in properly managing Hashimoto's. :)

“A further sign of health is that we don't become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it's time to stop struggling and look directly at what's threatening us. ” 
― Pema ChödrönThe Places that Scare You