photoIt’s been a whirlwind of activity since returning from vacation, which explains my absence here for the past 2 weeks. After several doctor’s appointments over the past few months though, including some pivotal ones last week, I’m glad to say that I finally have a bit of an answer for what’s been going on with me for the past year. On Thursday, after my endocrinologist reviewed my most recent blood-work, which was an extensive thyroid panel including testing the T3, T4, TSI and anti-TPO levels, she came back with a diagnosis of Hashimotos, an auto-immune disease where the immune system basically sees the thyroid gland as a foreign object and attacks it. While it was disheartening to receive such crappy news, it was also a huge relief that I finally new what was causing my persistent symptoms that have been with me for the past year. I discussed this diagnosis on my GMMDI IG account, and I’ve had quite a few people leave comments and email me, wondering how I was able to get such a diagnosis, mainly because they have similar symptoms, and feel confused and frustrated, not knowing where to start. It’s not necessarily easy to walk into your doctor’s office and tell them you’re feeling tired, so can you order some blood work? Certainly many doctors would react positively to your complaints, but all too often they would simply order a basic CBC and check for anemia or vitamin deficiencies. So how did I get down to the nitty gritty, which led to this diagnosis? Well, thankfully, it all started with recurrent strep.

As I had discussed back when I did my cleanse a few weeks ago, I’ve had persistent strep throat for the past 18 months. While we greatly hoped that Syd’s tonsillectomy would help me, after I continued to get strep, I finally went in to see Syd’s ENT, who luckily treats both children and adults. At first glance, it would have been simple enough for her to just recommend getting my tonsils removed, and she initially did, but I pushed back and upon explaining my recurrent symptoms over the past year, she ordered a fairly thorough CBC panel, which included a basic thyroid test (TSH). My symptoms over the past year include:

Brain fog; general fogginess which often affected mental clarity and ability to do my job. Posts that previously would have taken me an hour to write took 3-4 painstaking hours, and I was often hit with intense bouts of writer’s block. While us moms can generally feel like we’re in a fog as we go throughout our day, trying to juggle it all, it’s usually when working that we notice the biggest dips in productivity. Writing for the past year has been a huge struggle for me, hence why I took a break from sponsored posts for the time being.

Chronic fatigue going beyond “mom tired.” We’re all a bit tired, especially us moms caring for kids and juggling it all, but this went beyond the regular end of day fatigue; this was constant fatigue from the moment I woke, never feeling like I had a good night’s sleep, to the end of the day where I was struggling greatly to get through bed time. Whereas I used to be very productive after the kids went to bed, tidying up, working on projects and blogging, it was all I could do to clean up the kitchen and make it to 9 pm.

Insomnia. Once I hit my pillow, usually before 10 pm, I was fast asleep but have had a very hard time staying asleep, often waking between 3-4 am and never being able to fall back asleep. It’s often like I wake with a jolt, and I feel wide awake, but too tired to even move and get out of bed. At this rate, I sleep through the night 2-3 nights a week, and the rest of the time I start my day at 4 am. This definitely does not help with the chronic fatigue, but that plagues me whether I sleep all night or not.

Body aches, most often in the lower back area, but some days all over. While many thyroid websites cite hip and joint pain as a symptom of a thyroid disorder, never really discussing the back, body aches in those with thyroid conditions can often manifest themselves in different places, as it affects everyone differently. I have never had chronic back pain in my entire life, until this past year, and most days, even with consistent yoga practice, I have trouble moving and sleeping at night, finding relief only in Advil.

Moodiness. No real explanation here, but just moodier than usual.

Highly anxious and easily overwhelmed. Nothing to the levels of sparking panic attacks, but more so, I just feel overwhelmed a lot. Small tasks seem much bigger than they are, and I subsequently fail to do little things, which turn into bigger problems. I discussed this a bit a while back, but I thought it had more to do with just being too busy and having too much on my plate, but really, more than anything I now think I am just experiencing some mild anxiety.

Based on these symptoms, my ENT had some theories, one of which included a very simple explanation. Being that I had been fighting off infection consistently for the past 18 months, she thought my body was just run down and tired from working so hard. That would have made a lot of sense, and I did seem to rebound slower and slower each time I got strep throat, taking days to feel better and get some energy back, but it just felt like it was more to me.

When my blood work came back, we did in fact find that my white blood cell count and platelet count was quite low, and my TSH levels were off. She recommended I see an endocrinologist and hematologist for both of these issues, and long story short, I ended up with the Hashimoto’s diagnosis.

None of the three specialists I’ve seen have been able to successfully connect the dots on the three consistent problems I’ve had; strep throat, off blood levels, and the thyroid disorder, but I have my theories. Thyroid issues can often be triggered by stress or even infections and viruses, therefore it’s possible the strep throat may have triggered the thyroid disorder. Or the strep could keep coming back because of my body’s inability to fight off the infections due to a low white blood cell count. Neither the hematologist or endocrinologist wants to link the low wbc count with the thyroid disorder, but in reading and talking to many people who have thyroid conditions, they often have wacky blood count levels. My wbc has continued to dip lower over the past few weeks, so much so that my hematologist is monitoring me closely for the next month, and if we see consistent drops, he’s ordering a bone marrow test to see what’s going on. At this point, a full blood panel which included 13 tests resulted in nothing wrong, including vitamin deficiencies, mono, and even hepatitis. My gut tells me it’s somehow connected to the hashimotos and there’s nothing to really worry about, but what do I know?

The endocrinologist does not want to treat me at this point because even though the antibodies are clearly present and fall within the “high” treatable range, my overall TSH levels are not elevated enough; meaning the Hashimoto’s hasn’t harmed enough of the thyroid gland to warrant treatment. It is messing with my levels enough thought that I clearly feel off, and it’s affecting my day to day life. I was kicked out of a great blogging program last week because I failed to complete a project on time. I’m truly bummed that some days, I just can’t seem to get it together. I hate more than anything, this feeling of being unproductive and unmotivated. I can’t remember the last time I even wanted to touch a supply in my craft cabinet, and I spent all of 10 minutes yesterday throwing up some Halloween decorations to please the kids, a holiday I’ve come to love but feel completely uninspired to rally for.

While a thyroid condition is rarely life-threatening, it is one of those things that can wreak general havoc in your day to day life. The thyroid gland has a whole host of important functions, including regulating metabolism, and is one of many glands in the endocrine system in the body that regulate the function, growth and development of virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body, and influences the function of many important organs in your body including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. When it’s out of whack, you can experience many of the symptoms I listed above, as well as weight gain, dry skin and extreme hormonal imbalances causing depression and anxiety. I know myself better than anyone else, and while I could have certainly received much scarier news, I can first hand confirm that my thyroid being out of whack has negatively impacted my day to day life over the past year. With that said, I don’t want to just sit around and wait for my thyroid to become so damaged that I need treatment, but would rather seek some help in the meantime.

Fortunately, autoimmune conditions like hashi’s, seem to respond positively to dietary restrictions and adhering to strict diets, including quitting sugar or following a diet along the lines of Paleo or GAPS. I visit an integrative doctor tomorrow to seek out some answers, and hopefully get some tools and information to be proactive, and start feeling better. I’m hopeful that I can help manage the Hashimoto’s with an autoimmune protocol diet, but have no qualms about trying medication if my symptoms and lab work continues to progress negatively. Of course, some of the things I’ve said in the past, mocking the “Paleo heads” and lambasting the gluten-free trend, are starting to come back and bite me in the ass. If anything, I have learned once again, to have a heart for empathy and not to judge, especially when it comes to food and health.

If you have been feeling not so normal and suspect  you may have a thyroid condition, it is very important you push beyond a simple TSH test, which is where most doctor’s start. While it’s certainly a place to start, often times, like with the case of Hashimoto’s, your doctor will not find irregularities unless they order a full thyroid screening. You can read about the complete list of thyroid tests to ask for here.

While I’m certainly not suggesting that every woman who experiences fatigue has a thyroid condition, I am suggesting that we as women take the time to slow down and pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. It was a combination of the recurrent illnesses, after I’ve been a beyond healthy woman for years, rarely getting sick, and the chronic fatigue that persisted even after I continued to let go of more and more work, that I knew something was really off with me. Perhaps a good rest and reduction of stress will help you feel better, but if not, please seek out a good doctor and push for some answers. About 200 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder, and they are 4-7 times more common in women than in men.

Please let me know if you have any questions and if I’ve missed anything. I’ll keep you updated after my appointment tomorrow.

 

  • Amy

    I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis but am glad with you that you now have some answers. This year I also switched to paleo after some health issues (not as severe) and am interested in following your new journey in this not-really-a-fad paleo world 😉 thanks for being real with us and continuing to help us all along this healthier living journey!

  • Paige

    Thank you for sharing this diagnosis journey with your readers! I started following GMMDI this summer when I did my first elimination diet to try to figure out what was causing many of the same issues you are having plus severe digestive issues. Since then, I’ve been hopping around doctors with no other answers than IBS. I’ve given up. I’m curious (and if you don’t mind sharing) if the doctors looked at your lymphocyte and neutrophil numbers. If so, we’re they considered in your diagnosis? I, too, have had continual low WBC and platelet counts in my bloodwork the past few months. Thanks for any info you can share! You are one of my fave IGers!

  • So sorry to hear about your Hashimoto’s diagnosis. I can relate with a lot of what you shared in this post. In April I discovered my TSH was around 7.5 and was placed on Levothyroxine. I felt worse on the meds so 13 days later I went off and got a second opinion. The new doctor diagnosed me with transient Thyroiditis, meaning it was a temporary inflammation of the thyroid gland possibly caused by a virus. I had strep throat about 5 months earlier. Anyway, I haven’t been on any meds and have had a lot of good days and bad days mixed in. I’ve written about my experiences, what’s worked for me, resources that have been informative and helpful, etc. on my website if you want to check it out. Just look through my last 6-10 blog posts on my blog page. I pray you continue to get answers and feel normal again very soon. Oh, one more thing! A friend of mine was not feeling well for a while and her doctor noticed a reducing white blood count so they tested her for leukemia. Thankfully it was negative but what they discovered the problem to be was extremely low iron levels so she has to get iron shots periodically but it fixed the problem. So maybe that’s something to check into if you haven’t already.

  • So apparently I’ve been more productive with my blog lately than I thought. Lol! I just went to find the links to the posts about my thyroid experience for you and saw they are further back then 6-10 posts. So here’s the most recent post, if you’re interested. I don’t know, you might find it helpful. 13 Lifestyle Changes that Helped Me Overcome My Thyroid and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms: http://rosanncunningham.com/13-lifestyle-helped-overcome-hypothyroid-adrenal-fatigue-symptoms/

  • Shawna

    Thank you for sharing! I am battling an autoimmune response in my body, currently undiagnosed, but have noticed that sugar, wheat and dairy really increase my symptoms! But I’ve gotten so much judgment regarding my gluten-free diet and how “trendy” it is. I hate our society’s mindset that drugs and doctors should be the fix for our bodies’ ailments instead of basic, natural remedies.

  • Sarah Wilson writes a blog where she discusses her Hashimoto diagnosis, how she eats to help her thyroid problems, and how she quit sugar (she wrote an entire book called I Quit Sugar). It is SarahWilson.com, it is worth checking out.

  • Sarah Niemitz

    I literally never do this, but I thought since you have shared so much about your health you might enjoy a free summit which I am currently listening to. It is put on my several nutritionists and hosted by Paleo Hacks. It is called For Women Only, the Weight Loss Solution. I realize you aren’t looking to loose weight, but they keep talking about thyroid health and have several sessions on healing Hashimotos and living with autoimmune disorders. I know when you’re researching something you reach a critical mass of information, so of course this may be way too much, but it is going on now and I just thought I’d pass it along. Perhaps you already know about it….I truly hope you are able to find answers.

  • I’m so sorry, Andrea! Health struggles are entirely overwhelming. You are facing it with such grace. My sister was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in the last few years. She’s on an ongoing journey to find what works. Continued prayers for you, friend! ~Nancy

  • I received a huge tip one night and also the next day got a bottle of Coco edt.

  • Jackie

    I was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and remember following your diagnoses on IG. Do you remember what your TPO Antibody number was?

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  • Laurie

    Hi, Thanks so much for sharing. I just discovered your site! Just curious, but did you ever get to the bottom of the low white blood cell count? Did it ever come up? Thanks!