False Start in 2017

January 1, 2017. After a very tough 2016, full of a variety of mysterious health issues that turned out to be related to Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease, I resolved to get back on the running track again. I wanted to be driven to a goal, so with lofty exuberance, I signed up for the Bryce 50K in June and the Tushars Half in July. I dusted off an old training plan and, with new hope, I starting running again. Then I got my tests back.

Getting the thyroid balance right is not easy. Doctors raise your levels very slowly so as not to overdose you. Apparently, too much thyroid hormone can cause heart issues or even strokes. So you spend way too long being under-dosed. For most of 2016, I was tired, cold, foggy, and fat (10lbs up). It sucked but I was willing to be optimistic that I was on the path to getting better. Other people with Hashimoto’s seemed to be able to live active, normal lives so there was no reason I couldn’t.

In the fall of 2016, I was definitely better than I had been, but still not great. My running had slowed to just a couple days a week at a frustratingly slow pace. But, my thyroid results showed everything was fine! I will never forget my endocrinologist looking directly at me and saying, “I really don’t know what else I can do for you!” I was devastated. Was this my new life? Will I be low-energy and achy forever? This must be what it’s like when you get old. I should just accept it. But I can’t and didn’t.

Fortunately, I was listening to a podcast one day about functional medicine. It had always been in the back of my mind, but it isn’t covered by my insurance and I wasn’t yet fully convinced that Western medicine couldn’t fix me. Well, I was all over it now. I listened to the same podcast twice. Then I made the decision to give it a try. I pulled $2000 out of my savings and decided I would commit to at least 6 months to see how it goes. I made an appointment that same day.

Our first meeting was all about history. There was a lot I could say no to. But in a way, that made it harder. If there was something obvious in my past, the treatment path would be more clear. So, we started with two tests to see where I was at. The first is called a GI Map. It’s a test for virus, bacteria, and parasites in your intestines. They check for things like candida, norovirus, h. pylori, c.diff, e.coli, etc. The second test was a hormone test called the DUTCH test. It looks at your various hormone levels 4 times over the course of 24 hours.

The GI Map tests your poop. Collecting and prepping the sample is kinda gross. The DUTCH test looks at hormones in your pee. You pee on the paper and let it dry to send off. Then I waited and waited. It took over three weeks to get the results. And, the results were quite interesting! I don’t know why Western medicine does not run these as a matter of course. It turns out I tested positive for salmonella, staph, and giardia. What? I never drink unfiltered stream water. Oh, but my dog does… and he likes to lick faces. Crap. (no pun intended)

The hormone test was a bit more complicated. It showed overly high free cortisol on waking that then plummets all day. Additionally, my other hormones (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone) were all under range too. Turns out to be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Sounds easy – just let it rest. Unfortunately, it needs to rest a long time. Average recovery is 9 months. I also tested high for gluten antibodies and low for gut health. This means my intestines are as porous as can be, letting in all the bad stuff. Plus, now I have to be serious about no gluten. That really sucks.

All of this news really took the wind out of my sails. A few weeks after the results, I jogged about 7 miles on Saturday and hiked 8 miles on Sunday. Nothing hard and nothing at all compared to what I used to do. But, I paid for it for three days after. I had what is called “wired and tired” where I was anxious but couldn’t sleep, as if I had too much caffeine too late at night. Apparently, your body just does not have any reserves at all.

I am on a large handful of supplements three times a day, in addition to the normal vitamins and supplements. I have sworn off gluten, as hard as that may be. I am eating and sleeping well. I even started yoga. The supplements will treat safely and slowly versus the quick and dangerous of pharma drugs, especially the anti-parasite drugs. I’ve since gone way over my $2000 budget, but after being on these meds for nearly two months now, my need for thyroid meds has been cut in half and the nodules I have, that so many experience, have shrunk 25%!

I am ready to give running a try again.