23 And Me Test- A Tool for Thyroid Patients

I'm a member of several thyroid groups on Facebook and I've learned a great deal from those, who are further along in the healing process. At the beginning of the year, I learned about a revolutionary tool that many thyroid and other chronically ill patients were using to assess their health risks, and some of them also used it to virtually rule out questionable diseases. So, did you know that a simple and inexpensive DNA test can provide you with a list of literally thousands of genes and genetic mutations that you carry? If someone told you that they could create a wellness plan for you, using your genes, would your be interested? Are you interested in learning if you carry the BRCA genetic mutations, a common cause of breast cancer? Does your family have a history autoimmune diseases or Alzheimer's disease? Are you trying to plan a family and worry about passing inherited conditions or genes to your future children? Do you want to know what other diseases you're at risk for developing in your life time? Do you know what your ancestry make-up is? If any of these questions arouse your interest, 23 And Me may be a test that can give you a multitude of returns on your investment.

23 And Me is a $99 DNA test that will analyze your genetics and provide you with comprehensive health risk profile and ancestry information. The company has been around since 2007 and was co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, who is the wife of Sergey Brin, the Co-Founder of Google. This fashion-forward test looks for some 960,000 SNP's, which stand for Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism. SNP's are essentially copying errors from the creation of cells. 23 And Me compares SNP's to that of typos. 23 And Me notes, "These typos lead to variations in the DNA sequence at particular locations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced "snips")." So, for the purpose of this post, just know that SNP's are a result of the DNA that you inherit from your parents. Since no two people are alike, SNP's vary from person to person. This subject can be overwhelming at first and extremely confusing to learn about at first, so I'm going to keep my relation of information to a level that's basic enough to get my point across to you. I believe that this test is the wave of the future in the medical world and can be paramount in how people go about their health and wellness goals. CBS News actually just aired a piece on 23 And Me. Check it out HERE.

So, why should thyroid patients get the test? For starters, autoimmune patients are more susceptible to developing other autoimmune diseases. We are also more likely to carry a genetic mutation called MTHFR, which is linked to everything from miscarriages to Alzheimer's. Thyroid disease is notorious for contributing and even being a definitive cause of heart disease. I believe that my great grandma's death was ultimately caused by mistreated thyroid disease. She died of a massive heart attack in her mid 50's. She developed heart disease and had a thyroid condition. If you look at the cause of deaths among your family members, pay attention to patterns, such as heart disease and cancers, and be aware of any autoimmune diseases that run in your family. If you have Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disease, and your sister, cousin, aunt, etc. has Rheumatoid Athritis, know that those two diseases, as well as other autoimmune conditions can actually be linked together by a single gene.

Here is one screenshot showing some diseases that I am personally at an 'elevated risk' for developing, meaning they are my highest risk conditions:

As you can see, the 'Your Risk' category lists percentages, and compare them to the 'Avg. Risk.' Each of these diseases have detailed descriptions and explanations, which the user can read upon clicking on the diseases. This DNA test provided me with results for some 400 diseases, and provided me with detailed data, proof, and descriptions on each one. The program also provides a 'raw data' section, which is essentially a very large list of SNP's and allows a more seasoned user to utilize for research purposes.

I mentioned that my great grandma died of heart disease in her 50's. In fact, she died of none other than coronary heart disease. Many of my relatives on her side of my family have had heart surgery and attacks all before the age of 60. In addition, my grandpa on my dad's side died of lung cancer in his 50's, as did several of his family members. Of course, lifestyle plays a huge role in many diseases. Even though lung cancer is a common cause if death, genetics still play a roll in the likelihood that you'll fall victim to it. My grandpa developed mesothelioma, due to his work environment, but he probably carried a gene that made him more susceptible and sensitive to lung cancer. Aaron's grandpa smoked from a very young age and smoked 'cowboy killers' until he died virtually of old age. 
23 And Me did not ask me for information about my family history in order to process my results. When I first saw the results, I was admittedly somewhat humbled and shocked at the results, but I was blown away by the fact that my top two disease risks were the very cause of deaths for much of my family members.
See the autoimmune diseases listed? One major take-away from this test was that I carry the quite rare genes for celiac disease, which my doctor used to confirm my diagnosis. It's common for celiacs to test negative on the antibodies test and even the biopsy because the damage is not always deep enough to reveal the disease during lab testing. It is common knowledge in the integrative and alternative medical worlds that celiac and gluten sensitivity are linked to Hashimoto's and other autoimmune diseases. My elevated risks were largely autoimmune related, which is not a surprise, considering my current state.
Two results were locked upon logging in to the program; Alzheimer's and the BRCA gene. Most of us now know that the BRCA gene is a major cause of breast cancer. You may have heard about Angelina Jolie's recent decision to undergo a double mastectomy because she tested positive for the BRCA gene, which ultimately killed both her mother and aunt. After I agreed to open the more sensitive material, I was relieved to learn that I tested negative for both the Alzheimer's gene and BRCA. This doesn't mean that I will  never get breast cancer because there are multiple types, but the absence of the gene greatly reduces my chance of developing it during my lifetime. I did test positive for multiple MTHFR mutations, which I wholeheartedly believe is what contributed to many of the pregnancy complication and health problems on my mom's side, which is where I inherited these mutations.

So, what were some ot my other takeaways from the 23 And Me testing? Aside from knowing where I stand with additional autoimmune diseases that I'm more likely to get due to my current health state, I'm very aware of what my risks are for common causes of death, and I'm taking supplements that will hopefully mitigate my chances of developing the conditions and diseases that I'm at risk of developing, and I have a huge piece of mind that I do not carry many inherited genes, which I could pass along to my offspring. In the future, Aaron's going to complete the test, so we will know detailed information about how our genes can effect our future children, should we have any.

In regards to the inherited conditions, I learned that the only one that I carry is a Hemochromatosis gene, which I'm not likely to develop, but I could pass it along to my future child. Here is a short list of some serious inherited conditions that 23 And me tests for:
Sickle Cell Anemia
Cystic Fibrosis
Tay Sachs Disease
Factor XI Deficiency
TTR-Related Cardiac AmyloidosisGaucher Disease
Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy
Familial Dysautonomia
Zellweger Syndrome Spectrum
Canavan Disease
Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease
Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1a & Type 1b

23 And Me will also provide you with a list of your genetic traits, from estimating your eye color to the type of earwax (there are two types) that you have, if you're likely to be tolerant to lactose (which I am), etc. A few things that I learned and found interesting from this section included that I am sensitive to caffeine, I likely have red hair (humours because I was a red head until my early 20's, when my hair turned dirty blonde), I have typical odds of going in to early menopause, I carry a gene that was found in individuals with higher reading scores {so, you can call me a genius now...kidding}, I'm not likely to thrive on a Mediterranean style diet versus a typical diet, I don't carry the alcohol flush reaction gene (meaning I'm not sensitive to alcohol, which is known to cause flushing of the skin), and I carry a gene that was discovered in many world-class athletes and Olympians.

The test also looked for genetic variances that are associated with various drug reactions. This is a powerful tool and one reason why I gave Aaron my login and password to access to the results. If I were ever to be hospitalized, the list of drugs that I'm sensitive too or may not have success with may be beneficial for doctors. Warfarin is a common blood thinner that is prescribed to about 2 million people per year, and I carry a gene variance that makes me likely to have a typical response to the drug, however, some people carry a gene that 23 And Me notes may have, "Substantially increased warfarin sensitivity." And it "May require greatly decreased warfarin dose." I do have lower odds of having a positive outcome to the use of Metformin, which is a drug commonly given to diabetics.

The ancestry side of 23 And Me is also included in the test, and is really just an added bonus. I've read some amazing stories of adoptees, who found their blood relatives using the tool and other similar stories.
There's so many benefits to the 23 And Me test. For me, it's largely a tool that I'm using as part of an overall wellness plan. Think of your exercise and diet plan.  What if you're concentrating more on avoiding a heart attack because it's the number one killer in America, but you're at high risk for developing pancreatic cancer like me? I am now taking pancreatic enzymes and ensure that my diet consists of foods, such as garlic, spinach, and sweet potatoes, which are all good for the pancreas. Since pancreatic cancer usually doesn't cause noticeable symptoms until it's in the progressive stages, it's a very good idea for me to get periodic screening for this cancer during my lifetime.

With the mapping of the Human Genome Project , we now have the power to obtain information about our own genetics and take action to improve our overall chances of longevity, and gain understanding of what we may pass on to our future generations. Of course, we will never be able to predict or control everything, but we already strive to better ourselves everyday in many areas of our lives, why not use breakthroughs in science to take measures to change what we can, manage what we can't change, and reestablish goals for our overall health?

I'm interested to know your opinion about genetic testing. Is this something that your interested in having done?

For more information about 23 And Me and to learn more about how it works- About 23 And Me

A few personal success stories-
23 And Me Helps Man find Family
23 And Me And Planning for a Healthy Future Together
Empowering Your Health with 23 And Me

Symptoms and Related Conditions Common in Thyroid Disease - It's Not Only About Weight Gain and Depression!

Thanks to Oprah (who I'm  usually a HUGE fan of, but she didn't help the stigma) and people like Dr. Oz, society contributes thyroid disease largely to weight gain and depression, which is actually just one out of the dozens (probably about a hundred) of symptoms that one can experience, and it manifests itself differently in the individual.  In fact, my own mom questioned me when I told her that I suspected that I had thyroid disease. "But people normally gain weight with it," she said.  I didn't blame her for asking that question because that's probably what she had heard about the disease, even dealing it with it herself, weight-gain was the only symptom that stood out to her, because she actually gained over 80 pounds with Grave's disease. Weight gain is also possible with Grave's. Don't ever assume that your symptoms are the same as someone else's. One of my thyroid friends has completely different symptoms than her sister. There's so much more to this disease than weight gain, but I'll briefly discuss some of my own struggles with my weight and metabolism.

I am not usually very open about my own weight struggles because frankly, I'm not overweight and don't want to sound like another one of those girls who ask, "Do I look fat in these jeans?!?" I've always been petite. My mom's side of the family was blessed with curves and breasts, and my dad's side was blessed with fast metabolisms and long, lean, frames. I was much curvier in my early teenage years. In fact, I hit puberty before what seemed like anyone else did in my entire fourth grade class (yes, FOURTH grade). In middle school, my bra size was a 34 C. I was so self conscious about it that I begged my mom to buy me 'minimizer' bras. And, I never left the house without one on for several years. At around the age of 14, I lost all of what I call 'puberty fat' and evened out in my weight. I've stayed about the same physical size for the most part, give or take about 10-15 pounds that I had for a few years during my mid-twenties, which was likely due to undiagnosed Hashimoto's.
 I assure you that I do battle my own weight demons and deal with unsightly cellulite, which I did not have until my late 20's. The puffiness and bloating are daunting at times, especially when they're inconsistent.  I feel like I need to have two different sizes of clothes in my closet. Unlike so many other women, I have not gained a significant amount of weight, though my metabolism has made it's mark on my body, both internally and externally. Aaron thinks I'm crazy and I am not about to prove him wrong by revealing my troublesome spots to him in the brightest of sunlight (yes, I am self conscious about it!), so take my word when I tell you that I have the creepy bumpy, dents just sitting on places that I KNOW should never have cellulite, especially for someone who eats a perfect diet and exercises to her physical limit.  I've lost a lot of muscle in the last few years, and my body has morphed in to something that I'm not accustomed to seeing on my body. There's a difference between weight gain and fat cell accumulation. Some people are more genetically predisposed to gaining fat, which causes an increase in clothing size, and some of us have more fat accumulation in the form of cellulite. I'm currently the latter. I no longer make appearances in swimsuits! My body no longer depicts a healthy and lean look or feel. I may fluctuate about 5-10 pounds on a given day. It all begins when I eat (of course). Sometimes I feel like this disease makes me retain the Pacific ocean. Water retention is common in thyroid disease and it contributes to inconsistent numbers on the scale.  It's upsetting. I blame most of it on poor absorption and leaky gut, which I've been trying to heal for over a year now.
I guess you could call me a health nut and I strive to stay in shape. I majored in dietetics in college, though decided it was not the best route for me, mainly because of the restricted ability that I'd have in practicing Eastern and alternative theories. So, I switched to business, but my heart was always in the world of health and nutrition. Ironic, that I got sick, huh? It just goes to show how much our genetics play a roll in our lives.
I do not accept the typical aging excuse that doctors are so quick to give women, who complain about the sudden and unexpected body changes, especially when they exercise more than they did in their younger years. Lots of women (who either don't have thyroid disease or it is properly managed) work hard to stay fit well over the age of 30, and they are quite successful at it.  But, just because you haven't gained 20+ pounds doesn't mean that you don't have a thyroid problem.
So, we undoubtedly know that weight gain is a symptom of thyroid disease. Let's look at some other hallmark and even surprising symptoms of thyroid disease. Keep in mind that everyone will have their own signature symptoms, meaning that you may have a select few of the symptoms daily, and never experience any others, or you may have every last one, but the thing with autoimmune diseases is that there's always a roller coaster involved. Try 'journaling' your symptoms and pay attention to any patterns, such as time of the month, if they're waxing and waning (as this disease is know to do), or if they coincide with certain foods that you're eating.
Remember, Hashimoto's can cause periods of both hypo and hyper-thyroid episodes. Some symptoms sound contradictory, but you can experience symptoms from both sides of the spectrum, depending on whether or not you're hyper or hypo at the time.

Some Commonly Reported Symptoms of Thyroid Disease (Hashimoto's and Grave's- though there are many more symptoms!) 
Unusual and consistent fatigue (despite adequate sleep), sleepiness, falling asleep easily
Feeling unusually cold or hot, cold or clammy skin
Night Sweats
Swelling & puffiness- face, around the eyes, legs, etc.
Hair Loss and/or it's dry, coarse, or brittle,
Increased speed of hair and nail growth
Brain Fog, forgetfulness, memory loss, poor concentration, slowed thinking
Moodiness, emotional disturbances, crying easily, aggressiveness, irritability
Constipation and/or periods of diarrhea
Hoarseness, throat feels full, choking sensation
Plantar Fasciitis and painful feet
Dry, scaly, flaky, itchy skin, acne, and other skin conditions
Brittle, thin nails, ridges
Low blood pressure and high blood pressure
Rapid pulse or slowed pulse
Exercise Intolerance
Low libido
Poor vision, blurred vision, double vision, dry eyes
Hairloss of the eyebrows- particularly of the outer parts of the brows
Muscle cramps or joint pain
Sudden weight gain or weight loss
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mania, and other mental health changes
Painful, inconsistent, heavy periods,
Dizziness or vertigo
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations, Angina
Presence of goiter (NOT always present, as in my case)
Sensitivity to sounds
Sinus infections and/or an overall pressure in the sinuses
Food allergies, bloating, sensitivity to foods, alcohol intolerance

Some Conditions that Are Common with Thyroid Disease:
Diabetes (Type I and II) and Metabolic Syndrome
High cholesterol (low cholesterol can occur too)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (my mom actually had this)
Anemia (Iron deficiency)
Hemochromatosis (Excessive Iron)
Addison's Disease
Cushing's Disease
Adrenal Fatigue
Fibromyalgia (some experts believe this condition is directly related to thyroid disease)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
Celiac Disease
Gluten Intolerance
Other Autoimmune diseases are commonly found in thyroid patients, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
Gallbladder disease
Post Partum Depression
Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)

In regards to the last condition, MVP, I was recently diagnosed with this heart condition. I will be discussing more about MVP in a future post.
Since thyroid disease is typically caused by a malfunctioning immune system, it often leaves patients more susceptible to contracting colds, viruses, and parasites. This was only the case for me when I worked in an office environment. I've rarely had colds in my lifetime, knock on wood. If you have Hashimoto's or Grave's disease, please don't take your doctor's advice if they tell you that you can safely receive a flu vaccination. A lot of thyroid experts recommend that patients do their own research on the controversy surrounding whether or not autoimmune patients should get vaccines, especially if they don't fall in to the 'high-risk' category. I personally decline flu shots.


“Regaining health is more difficult an objective then becoming ill. Becoming ill is a random act of ignorance and regaining health is an intentional effort in frustration.” 
― Richard Diaz

A Second Diagnosis

Remember me?
Yes, I became one of those people, who all but abandoned their blog for a few months. Can I ever be forgiven? Please, let me explain.
First, let me start off by saying that I mean no disrespect by not replying to any of your comments. The blog template that I'm currently using has had a bug in it, and I'm unable to reply to comments. So, I'm in the process of redesigning the blog, as well as the format . It's sort of a longer process because I'm still having 'good days' and 'bad days.' Plus, we've recently made a big leap and have moved away from Ohio, but I'll save that post for another day.
After my last post, things got a bit more complicated for me.  The longer I took the Nature-Throid, the more intense my hypo symptoms got, but I also began experiencing hyper symptoms, such as unnecessary sweating, anxiety, heart palps (and I never had heart issues before), irritability, jittery, etc. Still, I was feeling immense fatigue, hair loss, bloating, puffiness, and many other hypo symptoms all simultaneously with the hyper symptoms. I knew something was egging the aggressive hyper symptoms. Once again, the educated girl in me prevailed over the sick girl. I had a hunch, and I followed it. Thank-God I still have my brain, despite the fog. I contacted my doctor and told him that I thought that I was possibly dealing with the Graves antibodies too. I know what you're thinking- you can have both Hashimoto's and Graves disease? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, though it's uncommon. And the results in my case, were positive. I tested positive for the TSI (Thyroid-Stimulating Immunoglobulin) antibodies. So, I have antibodies attacking my thyroid in two ways. This posed a new challenge for us, and frankly, a newer identity to my overall condition. The roller coaster of symptoms that I was experiencing was indeed one crazy ride, but I was relieved to hear that there was a clinical explanation for my roller coaster ride.  
One night, Aaron and I were listening to blog talk radio (a great source of information and supportive, thyroid experts and doctors- http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mthfrsupport ), and we decided to call in to the show and ask for insight to why my antibodies had increased so drastically upon taking natural dessicated thyroid medications. One of the doctors agreed that there was probably a malfunction with my immune system (no surprise), which was causing my body to also attack the thyroid medication because it couldn't tell the difference between the replacement hormones and my own. This scenario was another uncommon one, and although rare, they suggested that I try a synthetic replacement. The next day, I contacted Dr. Maxwell and he agreed with the other doctor's theory, so I started taking a newer synthetic, which is a Levothyroxine (T4-ONLY) called Tirosint This pill is hypoallergenic and does not contain any fillers or binders. It's also the only thyroid medication that comes in a gelcap that's easier to absorb than the other forms. Genius! You would think that someone would have thought of making gel caps before, since most of us with thyroid disease have digestive woes. In addition to the Tirosint, he added Cytomel, which is a synthetic T3 hormone replacement. 
After a few weeks on the new medications, I noticed that my fatigue had drastically subsided and my brain fog had lifted, but I was still dealing with a lot of hyper symptoms, including heart palps, a rapid pulse, angina (chest pain), particularly severe bloating, and confusion. Symptoms involving the heart are among the scariest I've personally experienced because the first thing that comes to my mind is heart attack. In fact, one night when I was experiencing heart palps and chest pain, my left arm started getting numb and tingly, and I felt a pressure in my jaw. I was also dealing with dizziness upon standing, and my pulse was drastically increasing upon standing. This is known as Orthostatic Hypotension. There are several causes of it, but adrenal fatigue and insufficiency is a common cause of it. Dr. Lam, a leading expert on the adrenals, discuses the link between adrenal fatigue and the heart HERE. After several hours of dealing with these scary symptoms, Aaron and I decided to go to the hospital and get it checked out. Although we had multiple bad experiences with the emergency room, we thought that this time would be different because I clearly had an issue with my heart. So we thought. The time that we spent there was another waste of precious life space. Not only did they dismiss my symptoms, they first failed to run proper tests, until I insisted that they check my electrolytes and thyroid numbers to ensure that I was not dealing with a condition associated with hyperthyroid called a Thyroid Storm. This dangerous complication of Graves disease involves symptoms such as a high heart rate, dehydration, sudden heart failure, confusion, confusion/disorientation, etc. The emergency room staff was quick to point out that "You do know that Hashimoto's and Grave's disease are two different diseases, right." In the state I was in that night, I felt like screaming at them, but I politely replied, "yes, I know the difference, and I have both. You do know that it is possible to have both conditions, right?" Readers, please do your best never to end up at Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Anyway, when the test results came back, they vaguely mentioned that my electrolytes were low, I had dehydration, and literally discharged me without treatment. In truth, it wasn't feasible for me to have dealt with either problem because I actually drank multiple bottles of electrolyte water that evening alone, and had ate multiple healthy meals throughout the day. Now, I was not in the 'right mind' during this time and could not advocate for myself like I can when I'm healthier, so I didn't not argue my case for electrolyte treatment. And bless Aaron, but he's not one to speak up or argue with hospital employees, though I think he's learned to do so going forward. This wasn't the first that I had symptoms that warranted a trip to the emergency room, and ended up being low electrolytes. Never meds with low electrolytes. When they become low enough, they can cause the heart to work harder and also interfere with other electrolytes and minerals. 

So, what's one cause of unnecessary, chronically low electrolytes, despite proper intake of them? Answer- adrenal issues. Of course, modern medicine hasn't a clue how to diagnose or treat adrenal issues, including adrenal fatigue. 
When we left the hospital, my symptoms were actually worse than before I went in, and that's due to the fact that this hospital did absolutely nothing to treat my low electrolytes. Both sodium and potassium levels have a very short range and even a small decrease of either can be dangerous to the heart. Unable to find a better solution at 3:00 AM, we bought some organic, Non-GMO potato chips (only three ingredients too) at the grocery store and I ate almost half the bag. About an hour later, my symptoms drastically subsided. From that point on, we always made sure that our house was stocked with Kettle Brand potato chips. Potatoes have a large amount of potassium without all the sugar that are in bananas. I also began putting pink Himalayan sea salt on my food. I'd never salted my food much before mainly because I didn't want to endure the health problems associated with too much salt. Most Americans get too much salt and have higher potassium, which can contribute to high blood pressure. So, low electrolytes are uncommon for the majority of the population. 

Now days, I drink adrenal cocktails, which are made with orange juice. If you think that you're suffering from symptoms of adrenal fatigue, taking thyroid medication, and are not dealing with HIGH sodium levels (healthy adrenals are important for thyroid health and vice-versa), try the following recipe 1-2 times/day:

  • 4 Oz. of Orange Juice – fresh squeezed is best, but not essential (the Vit-C helps the liver process the electrolytes for adequate absorption)
  • 1/4 tsp of Cream of Tartar (for potassium)
  • 1/4 tsp of fresh ground Himalayan Sea Salt (great source of sodium)
In the next few posts, I'm going to discuss the most recent changes to my health and treatment plan. I can't believe It's been over a year since my diagnosis. I feel like it was yesterday. 
Are you dealing with heart symptoms or complications of thyroid disease? Heart disease also runs on both sides of my mom's side of the family, and two of my uncles have both recently had heart procedures. I'll fill you all in on my 23 And Me Results soon too. Until then, be kind to your butterflies. 


"A hospital is no place to be sick."-Samual Goldwyn