Gena Lee Nolin on Thyroid Disease: “I Always Knew Something Was Wrong”
[Originally posted on Yahoo! Shine on May 31, 2013]
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease in 2009, I was relieved to learn that I finally had a diagnosis. However, I admit that it sounded more like a Japanese restaurant than a thyroid disorder.
I suffered greatly and silently for several years, going from one dead end to another. When you have a silent disease, it’s difficult to get the attention you normally would with a more visual ailment, such as a broken leg. When you see someone limping around on crutches you automatically feel sympathy for them, or you’re at least curious to know what happened.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with thyroid disease. I always knew something was wrong. I had symptoms for years: Exhaustion, weight gain, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, memory loss, ‘brain fog,’ body aches, thinning hair, and horrid headaches! Yet, it appeared no doctor on the planet could give me a proper diagnosis.
I was hospitalized twice during my third pregnancy with a heart disorder called atrial fibrillation. When I was 29 weeks along, they had to pump my body full of a drug called Digoxin to get my heart back into sinus rhythm. It’s a class C drug and there’s really no telling what affect it may have on an unborn baby. You can only imagine my devastation.
My new book Beautiful Inside & Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease With a Healthy, Happy, “Thyroid Sexy” Life (available for pre-order on Amazon; in stores October 2013), brings you on my personal journey with struggles that I’ve never shared—including photos of me at my heaviest. It’s definitely a curl-up-on-the-couch-with-a-glass-of-wine kind of book!
Six months after my hospital scare, I had a routine physical. I was told my TSH level was just below 7.0 but my doctor didn’t want to medicate me because I’d have to take thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. But wait doc, I feel like I’m dying! My parting gift was a business card to see a psychiatrist because clearly, this was “all in my head.”
Thyroid patients hear this all the time. For those of you who suffer from thyroid disease, you’re probably jumping out of your seats right now! Frustrated is an understatement, which is why I started my Facebook page “Thyroid Sexy.” It’s growing in leaps and bounds and is a community that genuinely cares and offers amazing support to fellow members. It’s not only informed by some of the best doctors in the world, but there’s a sense of home about us “Sexies.” We inspire others to become their own advocates. That, in a nutshell, is what got me on the road to health and wellness again.
Eventually, my endocrinologist put me on a drug called Synthroid, which didn’t help at all. I became more debilitated with each passing day for the entire year that I was on it. I had severe thyroiditis flare-ups, fevers, an enlarged thyroid, lymph nodes, thyroid nodules, hair loss, depression, and anxiety. It seemed like the nightmare would never stop.
Enough was enough. I started doing my own research online, reading everything I could find on this disease and I quickly learned that I had more than one option. I discovered that many folks do much better on a T3-T4 medication combo than a T4 med alone. That’s when I asked (okay I begged, which I should not have had to do) my doctor to put me on a desiccated thyroid drug called Armour. She gave in and within a few days, I could feel my body slowly start to come alive again. Keep in mind, some people do very well on synthetic drugs—my best friend loves her Synthroid. But what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Always keep that in mind and know that there may be a trial and error period until you find the right medication for you. Now, I’m taking “Nature-Throid” and I’ve never felt better! Clear and stable.
I’m an English muffin-in-the-morning kind of gal and giving up gluten wasn’t initially in the cards for me. However, after reading countless studies, it became evident that gluten and Hashimoto’s disease have a strong connection, so I had a change of heart. Interestingly, gluten has similar properties to the thyroid gland, which can make it an enemy to a Hashimoto’s sufferer, especially if that individual is predisposed to gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. I tested negative for Celiac, but regardless, decided to go gluten-free (For the record, you can have a gluten sensitivity without having full-blown Celiac disease). Now, I can’t imagine ever going back to gluten. I’ve also cut out most dairy and I’m working on the sugar. Rome wasn’t built in a day! But I eat clean. Lots of salads, low glycemic fruits, smoothies, organic meats and I seriously must drink 10 gallons of water a day! Hydration is very important for folks with this disease.
Hashimoto’s disease patients also have vitamin and supplement needs that can vary greatly. I take a multivitamin, vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, iron, evening primrose oil, pure aloe, CoQ10, fish oil, and probiotics.
My best advice: If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t! Always go with your gut, it will never steer you wrong. You know your body better than anyone. You’re not alone, there’s always someone who can match your misery with this disease or even trump it. Find a doctor who will listen to you and is open to different treatment modalities. That’s so important and it’s the key to getting well. And most importantly, this disease doesn’t define you!