How To Treat Hypothyroidism: Is it your thyroid? Part 3

This is Tracie’s third and final part on hypothyroidism and knowing if you have it and how to deal with it.  Today Tracie gets personal and shares her story of her struggle with her weight and her thyroid.  I want to thank Tracie for taking the time to share this valuable information with us!  I highly recommend you seek her counsel for any nutritional guidance.  You won’t be disappointed!  You can check out her website at http://www.itsyourplate.com

If you missed either of her first two articles or want to read the comments that she wrote to answer some of your questions, click the links below!

Click here to read part 1

Click here to read part 2

“There is nothing wrong with you.  Your lab tests are normal.”  Does this statement sound familiar to you? Many of my clients have reported to me that they go to their doctor feeling tired, depressed, constipated, bloated, anxious, and overall just not themselves.  The doctor will run some lab test that come back normal and tell the patient they can’t find anything wrong with them. This is a terrible place to be….knowing something is not right and feeling as if there is no where to turn.

Tracie Before

Tracie Before

I was talking with Joy (Dustin’s mom) the other day. She encouraged me to share my experience so you can see the transformation that can take place when you get to the bottom of your health issues.  I am not going to waste a lot of space giving you my health history. If you are interested in the details, please visit my website.  To make a long story short, I had severe endometriosis when I was in my early twenties.  This diagnosis led to surgery and drug treatment that had many side effects (having 15 hot flashes a day at 20 years of age is not fun).  After that, I was on a quest to get my health back without drugs. Over the next 4 years, I made some progress with the help of a Naturopath doctor that I was seeing for treatment. I was still experiencing fatigue, bloating, and constipation. I also had 20 pounds that I could not get rid of, no matter what I tried.

Tracie After

Tracie After

I had taken many alternative lab tests (food allergy, metabolic profiles, and gut function tests) and spent thousands of dollars in supplements. In the end, it really did not get me the results I was seeking.  I was baffled, because I was eating a so-called “healthy diet” and was not feeling better.

One day, I was reading online about hypothyroidism and realized that many of my symptoms, including endometriosis, was related to it (click here for an online thyroid questionnaire). I decided to go to my doctor and request a thyroid test.  The doctor tested my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone – put out by your pituitary gland) and my numbers came back normal.  I thought that this was interesting since I had 20 signs of hypothyroidism after taking the quiz. Over time, I was not getting any better.  I started to take my basal body temperature and found out that they were between 96.6°F and 97.0°F.  In my mind, this was not adding up; I had low body temperatures and multiple symptoms for hypothyroidism, yet my doctor told me I was fine.

This is when I met a M.D. that had a more holistic approach. She told me that I needed to have my FULL thyroid panel taken.  She explained that just testing the TSH does not tell the whole story.  The active form of the hormones (Free T3) needs to be measured along with the Free T4 (is converted to T3 in your liver) and TSH.  My full panel indicated that even though my TSH was normal, my T3 was low.  At that point my doctor prescribed a bio-identical (desiccated) thyroid hormone called Armour (Naturethroid and Westhroid are other brand names).  Desiccated thyroid hormones have been used for over 100 years around the world. It was the number one drug used to treat hypothyroidism until the 1960’s when pharmaceutical companies developed and marketed the inexpensive synthetic version.  The difference between desiccated thyroid and synthetic thyroid drugs (Synthyroid and Levoxyl) is desiccated thyroid contains both T3 and T4 where Synthyoid and Levoxyl contain only synthetic T4. One of the main problems with using just T4 is that many individuals have a problem converting the T4 into active T3 in the liver.

There is a huge debate in the medical community about the use of synthetic vs. desiccated thyroid medications.  You can read about both sides of the issue on the internet.  Remember, a lot of the research you read is influenced and funded by pharmaceutical companies. For this reason, most mainstream doctors will only prescribe synthetic medications.  This is unfortunate because many of my clients have fully recovered after switching to bio-identical hormones.

Hypothyroidism Type 2, by Dr. Mark Starr, is a fantastic book that goes into great depth on this topic.  He scientifically explains why synthetic drugs do not work for most people and what you can do about it.  He also addresses why current lab tests are not accurate. Dr. Starr also explains that you might be hypothyroid, even if your thyroid full panel comes back normal.

I want to leave you with a couple of last thoughts:

  • If you are currently on a synthetic medication and you are not getting better, do your own research on this topic and talk to your doctor as an informed patient (resources below).
  • Ask your doctor to run a full thyroid panel (Free T3, Free T4, TSH)
  • If you are symptomatic with low body temperatures, find a doctor that will treat you with a holistic approach.

Remember that no one else is going to fight for your health but you.  To wrap this up…here is an update on my situation.  Since last October, I have overhauled my diet to include foods that support the metabolism (what these foods are will surprise you) and have been taking bio-identical thyroid for the last three months. I have lost 12 pounds by changing my diet to the recommendations that I give my clients.  My body temperatures have risen from 96.6°F to 98.2°F.  Since I started taking thyroid medication, I have lost an additional 8 pounds.  I feel better than I have in years.  I hope my story encourages you to do your own research and continue to dig until you find an answer and start to feel better. More often than not…proper thyroid function is a key to the equation.

Visit www.itsyourplate.com for more information about my services and available programs. You can download a temperature and pulse chart on my website to track your progress.

Tracie Hittman Nutrition, LLC

Resources for further study:

Barnes, Broda and Lawrence Galton. Hypo-thyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. NY: Harpers & Row Publishers, 1976.

Peat, Ray. “TSH, Temperature, Pulse Rate, and Other Indicators in Hypothyroidism.” Ray Peat.com 2007. 9 Sept. 2009. <http://raypeat.com/articles/articles /hypothyroidism.shtm>.

Shomon, Mary. Living Well with Hypothyroidism. NY: HarperCollins, 2000.

Starr, Mark. Hypothyroidism Type 2. Columbia, MO: Mark Starr Trust, 2009.

Websites/articles:

http://thyroid.about.com/

http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/thyroid.shtml

http://www.brodabarnes.org/

http://www.longnaturalhealth.com/library2.asp?A=59

http://www.longnaturalhealth.com/library2.asp?A=105

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/

Tracie Hittman, MS, is a Nutritional Consultant and, as such, the nutritional consulting services provided are for information and education purposes only. Information provided is not to be substituted for a physician’s medical attention and professional judgment for diagnosis and hands-on treatment. Tracie Hittman MS, of Tracie Hittman Nutrition doesn’t provide medical advice or medical and/or diagnostic services. Follow suggestions as your own risk.

Comments

  1. Jessica Ford Kelly says

    Tracie Hittmann is fantastic. I am a former client of hers and feel 100% better with regard to my thyroid issues. I was treated unsuccessfully with Synthroid for my thyroid issues for 5 years before I met Tracie…the list of symptoms I was having are too long to mention.

    Yay, Tracie! Glad to see you posting on this board!

  2. Hi Tracie,
    Do you have a recommendation for an MD in Madison with a holistic approach? I am currently taking levothroid (12+ years) and still have many “hypo” symptoms. My current doctor is not willing to try bio-identical thyroid hormones. On a side note, I have had to increase my dose since beginning the boot camps in May.
    Thanks for all your great advice!
    -RObin

  3. It’s too bad that there has to be such a debate over which thyroid medication people should use. It seems like different people have different experiences with synthetic vs. desiccated. I personally had better success with levothyroxine (generic for Synthroid). After reading up on the subject, I went to a holistic doctor who prescribed Armour thryroid — but instead of feeling better, I ended up with heart palpitations and flashes of anger even after trying to adjust the dosage downward. When things didn’t work out and the holistic doctor wasn’t understanding my issues, I went to a “regular” doctor a year later who switched me to levothyroxine. He said that he had patients who had success with Armour thryoid, but that it obviously wasn’t working for me and I should try something else. After a little while on the levothyroxine, I felt much better while also resolving my thryroid issues. My point is not that synthetic is better than desiccated thyroid, but that you need to find what works for you and also that you need to find a doctor who listens to your needs.

  4. Louise Brown says

    Elle, I would agree with you that we are all different. There is no “one size fits all” approach. It is very important to make sure that your adrenals are working properly when make the switch to Armour. Your reaction to Armour sounds like an issue with your adrenal system. Are you still having hypo symptoms?

    Louise

  5. I, too, was tested repeatedly by my PCP and told that “everything was normal.” For 10 years (!) I have complained of depression, anxiety, extreme fatigue, thinning hair, cold hands and feet and “the last ten pounds” that won’t budge. I finally consulted Dr. Nicole Fenske in Middleton whose comprehensive testing showed my TSH level to be 3 times higher than she “likes to see”…despite the fact that it was still in the “normal range.” I have been taking multiple supplements since Spring (specifically a 12.5 mg Iodine Complex twice a day) and have seem some improvements. However, I am still not where I want to be energy and mood wise. I have started exercising regularly (thanks to the DVDs, Dustin!) and eat fairly healthfully (based on Weight Watchers guidelines). I guess what I want to know, Tracie, is…what are your thoughts on Iodine for treating Hypothyroid? (BTW, you used to work with my husband, David, at Whole Foods!) Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. Hi Tracie-
    Thanks for sharing your story. I too have been tested after my second pregnancy as I just didn’t feel myself and had a lot of the symptoms you list. Everything came back fine to my surprise so it was left at that with my doctor. I currently am at an ‘OK’ weight but feel I have to work extra hard to stay here through both diet and exercise. Is it possible that my thyroid is still ‘off’ even though my weight is at an OK level? You also mention foods that support your metabolim will surprise you. Do you have a list of those foods that you could share?
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Louise Brown says

    I am on my second doctor trying to work out my hypothyroidism. (Many people go through far more) My levels are “normal”. In fact they are referred to as sub-clinical hypothyroidism. But I have many of the symptoms of hypo. And they are unpleasant. In a little over a year I gained between 10 to 15 lbs. Depending on how much water my body kept. I could not lose this weight regardless of excellent diet/exercise. In fact I had been following the no-cardio exercise for quite some time and it worked wonders. Then, when I gained weight due to my thyroid (unknown to me), I went back to cardio. This of course did not help. I drastically reduced my caloric intake. My symptoms worsened and I was on synthetic thyroid meds. I finally found info on Armour close to the time I found Dustin’s website. I went back to no-cardio and found a doctor who, with a fight, gave me Armour. I am about 65-70% to where I should be; I need to have the doc change my dosage–another fight. But my point for the long post: the Armour gave me back my life. I was not a good mother or a wife. I would fight for each and every mother/wife out there to look into this with their doctor or find one who will help them. No person should go through these symptoms. Once you know it is not your nutrition–which needs to be at the high end and its not your exercise. You have to find a doctor that will work with you. YOU have to have find the information and give it to your doctor. Very, very few doctors know how to successfully treat thyroid patients.

    I am very grateful to Dustin’s information because it is accurate and helpful. The websites listed after the article are extremely helpful. They are the sites that gave me the information to find the right help.

  8. Hi Robin,

    Please email at tracie@itsyourplate.com and I can send you the names of the doctors that I recommend for thyroid.

    Thanks,
    Tracie

  9. Hi Elle,

    Thanks for your email. Yes, sometimes people get heart palpitations from dessicated thyroid and also synthetic depending on the person. Louise was exactly right in saying that it is an adrenal response. Many people start with a dose that is to high and get that response. If you body temperatures are still low you know it is an adrenal response. I would encourage someone in that situation to ask their doctor about backing down on their dose, and then increasing gradually. ALWAYS ASK YOUR DOCTOR!!! I was personally on 15mcg for months before moving up to 30mcg. Many of my clients ramp up and then have to decrease as their bodies adjust…always with permission of their doctor. It really takes patience.

    Here is a interview with Ray Peat that dicusses this topic:http://www.thyroid-info.com/articles/ray-peat.htm

    If your symptoms have abated then you might be doing just fine on the synthetics and that is great!

  10. Hi Vanessa,

    I just saw David at Whole Foods yesterday. Great question about iodine. Again, I have had many clients that never really get better on high dose iodine therapy. There are experts out there warning people about taking high dose because in some instances it can suppress the thyroid. Again, a big controversy. Here is an article from the Townsend Newsletter for Doctors and Paients: http://www.townsendletter.com/AugSept2005/gabyiodine0805.htm

    Some individuals need the actual glandular to feel better because their bodies have a hard time converting T4 to T3 in the liver. If you are still not feeling right I would dig deeper.

    I would also encourage you to watch out for low fat products that are filled with polyunsaturated fats and additives….they are often recommend by WW but do not support the thyroid.

  11. Hi Louise,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am so glad that you have gotten to bottom of your problems. For some many it can be such a battle but I am glad that you did not give up. I always tell people that they have to be their own health advocate. I do want to mention that nutrition and thyroid function have a huge connection!!! It is the missing link for individuals who are still not where they want to be. If someone is constantly in-taking foods that are not supporting energy production it makes it challenging to ever fully heal.

  12. Hi Jennifer,

    Yes, you can be of a normal weight and still be hypo. I actually know many people that are underweight and have hypo. I would recommend taking your body temperatures, to see if they are low. In a previous article I mentioned foods that impact thyroid production (PUFAS, soy, low protein…etc). That is a start, if you make some of those changes. There is a lot more that goes into it but that is why I have developed a program to teach individuals all the science behind eating foods to support energy production and thyroid function. If you are interested in learning more please email me: tracie@itayourplate.com.

  13. I’ve been looking all over the net trying to find some place I could ask questions about this problem. My problem is a little different then the problems I’ve read here so far but here goes. For about 2 yrs I was losing weight slowly for no reason. Then for the past 2 yrs I’ve been steadly gaining weight also for no reason. I had the simple blood tests for my thyroid which would always come back normal, but I knew something was wrong.

    After all those years of losing, then gaining, I ended up getting a tumor on my thyroid which we just found out is benign. But my endro wants me to start taking Levothyroid meds, he is starting me out at a dose of 150 mcgs =(0.15 mgs)a day. I’m scared to take such a high dose but this doctor is very set in his ways and told me I have to take this immediately. That was almost two weeks ago and I have not dared to start taking them. He also told me if I stop taking them after I start that my tumor will grow very fast. I’m just very scared to start taking it at this high of a dose. I’m very afraid I might have a bad reaction.

    Also, over the past month or so I’ve been noticing signs of hyperthyroid. I’ve been sweating alot and feel very over heated almost all the time. I feel extreme exhaustion and started losing weight for no reason again. I also have had palpatations and have been seeing a cardo doc for the past year or so. All these reasons make me very scared to start taking this medicine. I know I need them but at such a high dose, when the endro doctor says my levels all came back fine doesn’t set well with me.

    I guess I’m just looking for some reasurance that I should start taking the meds and they won’t cause me even worse symptoms then I already have. I want to feel normal again and not tired all the time and feeling under the weather and stop gaining weight but I’m just very scared to start taking it. I had also asked my doctor about the natural hormones and he said they are not regulated enough and my levels need to be the same everyday so my tumor doesn’t grow. Any advice would be very appreciated.

  14. HI Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you have been through a lot. I unfortunately am not a medical doctor so I can not make suggestions or comments on your prescription or dosing. I can however let you know that Armour is USP grade and standardized. Below is the quality control information from the Armour website.

    Quality Control
    The amount of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland may vary from animal to animal. To ensure that Armour Thyroid tablets are the same from tablet to tablet and lot to lot, the amount of T4 and T3 is measured in both the raw material and in the actual tablets.

    If you are feeling uncomfortable with your current recommendations I would get a second option. Please email me if you interested in a referral (tracie@itsyourplate.com). Sorry that I can not of more help but I would start there.

    Best Wishes!
    Tracie

  15. Thanks Tracie, after doing a little more research and talking to other family members I have that are on Levothyroid medicines too I finally desided to start taking it on Sunday. So far I’m doing fine, I haven’t noticed any difference but from what I’ve read and heard I probably won’t see any benefit from it for a couple of weeks. By then I should know if it’s helping or making me feel worse. Hopefully it will work great and I’ll only have to go see the doctor every 3 months to keep a eye on my tumor.

    I’ve heard alot of good things about Armour and really wish I could give it a try but with the insurance we have we don’t have as many options when it comes to what doctors we are able to see and most Military doctors stick to what they are told to use. So they are not as flexable when it comes to things like this. I guess all I can do is keep taking this medicine and see if it helps. If it doesn’t help, or makes my symptoms worse I’ll diffinately push to give Armour a try.

    I just can’t wait to feel back to normal again. It is pretty scarey to know that alot of people with this problem never develop tumors and even though I kept telling the doctors I’ve been sent to that something wasn’t right with the weight loss then weight gain and how I was feeling, they still had no idea that anything was wrong because the tests they test you with apparently don’t show even major problems going on with a thyroid. Maybe they should have other tests if someone has symptoms and feels something isn’t right.

    Obviously the tests they use now don’t show when there are serious problems. That’s a shame. Hopefully things will change and it will be manditory to send people for more detailed tests or maybe someone will come up with other tests to see when serious problems are going on so they can be fixed before something worse happens.

    Again, thanks for the reply.

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  1. […] from awhile back regarding what you’d like to see here, including the new recipe ideas, etc.  But ever since Tracy, Dustin’s nutritionist, did those articles on soy products, the thyroid,… some of my basic dietary understandings have been upended big time–anybody with me on that […]

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