Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Butterfly in my Throat : The Search for a Natural Cure

Living on the edge.
I hated my options. I hated the idea that I had to get rid of my thyroid to be healthy. I didn't understand how destroying something in my body would make me feel healthier. I hated the idea of needing to be on replacement thyroid hormone pills for the rest of my life. Taking pills daily was already a chore that frustrated me greatly. It's nothing compared to the treatment of other diseases, but it drove me crazy. 

Every checkup with my doctor was met with scare tactics, that I now realize were all serious possibilities. My endocrinologist was concerned about atrial fibrillation and worried about thyroid storm. He mentioned that there was a small possibility that my thyroid could just burn out and stop producing so much hormone. I secretly hoped that this would happen, but it would take years, and now I know it would cause irreversible damage to my body. 

A New Specialist. 
My insurance changed and I switched endocrinologists again. This time, it was a scornful woman with a thick accent, who walked into my exam room for the first time and immediately started spouting off everything wrong with me. She started at the top of my head, pointing, "Your hair is thinning, you're missing 1/3 of your eyebrows, your skin is dry and broken out, your eyes are too bulgy, your lips are chapped, your neck is swollen, your heart is pounding, your blood pressure is high, you're not a healthy weight, your digestion probably is terrible right? Frequent bathroom trips I'm assuming? You're legs are red, and your ankles are really swollen."

She refused to prescribe medication, (not that I would take it anyway), and told me that I needed to choose between surgery or radioactive iodine. I ended the exam the same way I always did, "I'll think about it." I left the appointment and cried in the car the whole way home. I always cried after an appointment. I was always left with a sense of dread and failure. "I'm not getting better, and the future is bleak." 

These are the results from a blood test after that appointment:

Despite it all, I still fought to find my healthy body. A tiny bit of hope still lingered below the surface. 

The Search for a Natural Cure.
I had heard of other autoimmune diseases being cured naturally. Heck, I heard of cancer being healed naturally too. Why would a thyroid disease be beyond natural healing? I gathered so much information on autoimmunity, Graves’ Disease, and thyroid problems. I spent hours at my computer and in books trying to find the answer, praying always for a cure. 

With every story read about natural therapy healing a disease, my disdain for doctors grew. 'Money-hungry thieves,' I thought. I began to distrust them completely. I began to question the field of endocrinology completely: A patient with hyperthyroidism is treated by removing the thyroid or destroying the thyroid radioactively, leaving them to the mercy of synthetic thyroid pills for the rest of their life. A patient with hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic thyroid pills for the rest of their life. So to me, an endocrinologist was nothing more than a pill pusher. Each of my endocrinologists were unwilling to give me any other options or work with anything other than pills, looked down on me for even considering other options, and threatened to dismiss me from their care because of my views. 'This is my body,' I thought, 'and I'm not allowed to have any say in what happens to it.'

After I had found a decent amount of information, I sent it to my endocrinologist with a letter dismissing me from her care. She was infuriated by this, to say the least. I don't blame her. 

Becoming my own Doctor. 

I tried everything that I could think of and could afford. 
  • I tried to avoid toxic chemicals, found in face washes and cleaners for example, choosing to make my own out of natural ingredients. 
  • I sat outside in the direct morning sunlight for 15 minutes a day. 
  • I tried to regulate my sleep cycle, but failed miserably. 
  • I tried to take a vitamin B complex, but despite all of the different doses and brands, they all equally made me sick and lose my appetite. I instead opted for a whey protein that was loaded with vitamin B, but it was $65 for a small container. 
  • I started exercising more frequently and got a gym membership. I kept my workouts very low-impact, walked on a treadmill, and did Pilates. I lost quite a bit of weight, but mostly from being in a hyperthyroid state. I remember checking my heart rate at the gym one day. An outrageous 200bpm. 
  • I watched my diet, eating high in protein, researching paleolithic diets, avoiding caffeine, and making sure to eat many cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, cabbage) as I had read that they contained compound called 'isothiocyanates' which block an enzyme in the thyroid called 'TPO' (thyroid peroxidase). TPO attaches iodine to thyroid hormones to make them active. The thyroid is fueled by the iodine found in food. I started taking a cruciferous vegetable supplement as well, hoping it could potentially work as an antithyroid drug replacement. *NOTE: There has been no evidence to support that cruciferous vegetables decrease thyroid function.
  • I had read of the benefits of iodine therapy, even for hyperthyroidism. After consulting with a naturopathic pharmacist, I started taking Prolamine Iodine. The first few times I took it, I felt temporarily drunk, but once I got used to it, I felt amazing. After a month however, I was feeling awful and almost toxic. The iodine was stimulating my thyroid so much, that it was probably producing more hormone than it was able to store.
  • I took Thyrocsin, a complex that supports thyroid health. It contains ashwaganhda root, which I had read was beneficial to autoimmune disorders. Taking this supplement always made me feel faint and very foggy, however.
  • I bought Vita-Fresh Life Greens, a green drink powder, which I tried so hard to drink but had to talk myself out of vomiting every time. It left me feeling very nauseous. 
  • A friend bought me glyconutrient powder: a combination of fenugreek, turmeric, shiitake mushroom, kelp, whey protein, psyllium, lecithin, and bovine cartilage, said to help autoimmune disorders. It also made me sick to my stomach. 
  • I took bovine colostrum supplements, a nutrient found in the first milking of cows that stimulate and support the immune system with disease fighting antibodies, proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Colostrum was the only natural supplement that improved my blood work (specifically my ANA- antinuclear antibodies). *Read more about colostrum: The Colostrum Miracle: The Anti-Aging Super Food
*This post is not meant to discourage the use of any of these supplements. They are simply my experiences. 

Nothing was working.
My general practitioner was treating me, giving me options to try to beat the disease naturally: allowing me to try my supplements, recommending a vegetarian diet, and even acupuncture treatment (I did not try the latter for financial reasons). I was excited to be given options and to be listened to by a doctor. I'm grateful to her for this. Yes, I was happy, but my body felt so sensitive to every new supplement. Everything made me feel sick. My doctor was uncomfortable with my blood work which was still very abnormal. My heart rate was very high. I had an EKG again, and was put on aspirin to try and keep my heart safe. 

I was becoming very physically weak. Exercise was less and less of an option and I was prone to injuries more often. I developed hip problems and exacerbated a pre-existing knee problem. Walking up stairs became more and more difficult, to the point where I avoided going downstairs in my house. I could no longer push myself up off the floor, and I avoided sitting in some chairs for fear I wouldn't be able to get up. 

My stress level was uncontainable, which made coping all the worse. Between personal issues, my health, helping my best friend plan her wedding, having no money, and being unable to work, I was a ball of chaotic stress. I suffered with intense, powerful migraines and panic attacks. I was plagued with anxiety and depression. I remember the day my family sat me down and intervention-style asked me what was going on. I barely had any motivation to shower, I barely left my bedroom, I never made myself up, lived in my pjs most of the time, my bedroom was filthy and I stopped cleaning it. (Everyone who knows me knows well - Im a neat freak!) I stopped caring about everything. I also developed a stomach ulcer on top of everything else. 

I eventually made it back to the emergency room with an intense, terrifying migraine and panic attack. I was put on a beta-blocker (metoprolol) at the hospital and once I saw my doctor again, I was put back on methimazole and thankfully did not have the same reaction as I did last time (itchy all over). My doctor felt uncomfortable treating my disease and referred me to another endocrinologist.  

More than feeling old and exhausted, I felt like I failed. I was a girl in her mid-20s trapped in the body of an 80 year old woman. It was a miserable existence. I just wanted something good to happen. Something good to hang onto. I was always grasping at straws. I knew I needed medication and probably treatment, but I hoped for better things. I figured I'd make the best of it, and hope I would go back into remission, like it did before. I had a game plan. I could get back into remission and try to keep myself there naturally. Spoiler alert: it didn't work.

November 2012
Be blessed and be well,

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