Thyroid Update

As you may remember, a few months ago I decided to blame pretty much every problem I’ve ever had on my non functional thyroid. At the time I was pretty pleased with that decision. Here’s the post to jog your dull memory. But now that I’ve had months of rest and plenty of time for the meds to fully kick in, how have I been feeling? Am I ready to start not calling it a comeback yet? (Man do I hate that saying). My training to date has pretty much been shit.

I spent December attempting to get back in the groove of things and was fairly successful with that, despite really shitty weather, getting the flu, and then a cold. I mainly focused on swimming and building up to some longer practices now that I don’t get so cold in the water and also since my shoulder strength has gone up marginally. December wasn’t too bad. I’d hoped to be doing about 15 hours a week but I think I averaged 11. My goal was to really start my trainings in the beginning of January.

The first couple days of that first week of training (last week) went well and I was on track for 22 hours. Instead I ended up doing 11 because I got sick again. In fact I’m still sick almost a week later, hence the head-whacking video. But all complaints aside, I’m feeling a lot better after being on thyroid medication and once this cold is finally kicked I’ll restart again.

I’ve wanted to write about my thyroid observations, symptoms, and medications so that everyone else out there who stumbles across this blog, and who were recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, know that they don’t necessarily have to kiss their athletic career goodbye. When I first found out I had Hashimoto’s, I came across a ton of comments sections on various websites with people describing how, even while on meds for years, they no longer had the same kind of energy that they used to and that they’re unable to “train” like they once were. I put train in quotation marks because not once did I come across anyone who competed at what sounded like even a modest level. Most people who have real hypothyroidism (not Galen Rupp and his doping Nike cohorts) are older women or older people in general, since hypothyroidism tends to start up later in life. Also, most of the people I’m talking about weren’t athletes to begin with, because, percentage-wise, most people aren’t athletes.

I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find any younger people who wrote about being hypothyroid and who competed on a semi professional or professional level. Anyways, I got pretty worried that I would never be even close to as fast as I was before my hypothyroidism became full blown. Although it’s too soon to tell since I haven’t started training hard yet, I’m pretty confident that with the proper medication and dosage, there will be no difference between pre and post hypothyroid me.

Signs of Healing

My first medication and dosage was 50mcg of levothyroxine, which I did not believe was enough since my TSH had been greater than 150. After two weeks, I started self-prescribing between 50 and 100mcg extra every other couple days, which I know I’m not supposed to do. After five weeks my TSH was still high and I also wanted to try a different medication, so my doctor prescribed 30mg of Armour thyroid, which is actually equivalent to half of the dose of the Levo I was originally prescribed. With a quick google search I found out about the dosage error a few days later and quickly self-prescribed 90mg of Armour as opposed to 30mg. I took 90 for an additional five weeks before getting tested again, and my TSH was still too high. I told my doctor that I’d been taking 90mg of Armour since 30mg was less than the 50mcg of Levo, and that 50 or even 75mcg of Levo wasn’t enough. So my doctor agreed to increase the dosage to 120mg of Armour. I’ve been on that for a little over five weeks now and just got re-tested today. When I learn of my results I’ll post them on here*. Anyways, here’s a rundown of my medication and how long I was on it:

Started out with a TSH of ‘greater than’ 150, since the test only went to 150.
Two weeks: 50 micrograms of Levothyroxine
Two and a half weeks: 50-150 micrograms of Levothyroxine (average per day was about 75mcg) TSH was just over 10 afterwards
Three days: 30 milligrams of Armour thyroid
Five weeks: 90 milligrams of Armour   TSH was +5 afterwards
Five weeks: 120 milligrams of Armour

*Updated August 2016. My next test results were still off. I was upped to 150 milligrams of Armour and have been on that for over half a year now, with the latest test showing a TSH of 0.13 (which is very low), T4 at 1.0, and T3 at 3.6. I am more inclined to look at T4 and T3 than TSH, and since both of those are within the range of healthy, I have decided to stay at 150mg.

After being on meds, I noticed things changing. New feeling and hair growing where before it did not. Wait, no that was puberty. After being on meds I did notice some things going back to normal. Some of them immediately, some more slowly:

  • Within a day or two my sex drive went up. This may have been psychosomatic at first, although it has lasted;
  • A couple weeks in I noticed that I started laughing more–uncontrollable laughing while watching stupid videos like the one above. I realized I had not experienced that sort of real laughter in a long time. My laughter increased over the following couple months;
  • After a little over a month or so I realized that my hearing was starting to improve;
  • After roughly a month and a half I noticed that I was able to carry a conversation with someone when another conversation was taking place in the same room. This was a big one as any hypothyroid sufferer will know. Before, I simply did not have the mental capacity to do this for very long or without concentrating like mad. Over the next few months my cognitive abilities continued to improve. Now I genuinely think faster, I don’t take long pauses mid sentence to say, “uhhhhhhh,” I remember things more accurately, and I find myself not having to re-read pages of books nearly as often;
  • A month and a half or two months in I noticed that my mood was changing. I was less depressed even though I wasn’t training or competing at a high level;
  • I noticed that my skin was less dry about two months after taking meds and didn’t have to put on lotion as often. I hadn’t even been aware of this problem so I didn’t really care too much about it when it went away;
  • Also, sometime around two months in I stopped being so cold all the damn time, despite it being November instead of summer. I wasn’t getting cold in the pool and I could be comfortable sitting around at home in shorts and a T shirt when it was below 75 degrees. Not being cold all the time was one of the more noticeable and drastic changes;
  • My sleep very slowly started getting better. This started a few weeks in but didn’t really stay consistent until about two months. My sleep still sucks at times but it is much better than before and still seems to be slowly improving; and
  • I started doing some training rides three months in and felt amazing. I felt so much better than I had before being medicated. I was way out of shape, and still am, but I was finally able to put some power into the pedals. That summer when I was at my worst before meds it was difficult to pedal over 270 watts for even a few minutes. I was averaging 180 or 200 watts for a two or three hour rides, which is not like me at all. About three and a half months after starting medication I averaged 263 for three hours, which is nothing I would have bragged about a few years ago or even last spring, but it was a huge turnaround from the summer.

Dear god that last one is pretty much the only one that matters. While I did that ride three weeks ago and have only done a handful of solid rides since then (due to the weather, being sick, and my promise to not start real training until January), I still think back on it and it gives me a hope. If you have been diagnosed with a bad case of hypothyroidism, find a good doctor in town and give it some time. A lot of time unfortunately. I started seeing a specialist (Sasha Fluss of Naturemed) about two months ago. You need someone who specifically know a lot about hypothyroidism. A general practitioner may not be enough since they will likely only care about testing your TSH and will end up prescribing levothyroxine (synthetic T4). Levo works for some people, but it’s smart to try out other medications. Don’t expect a general practitioner to experiment with other options, order all the necessary tests, and really do everything in their power to fix the problem without pressure from you. Whoever you end up seeing, ask for all the tests: TSH, T4, free T3, Reverse T3, antibodies, a full CBC blood test to make sure you aren’t anemic (hypothyroidism induces anemia), vitamin D, and an adrenal fatigue saliva test. There may be hope yet. But probably not for you.