This update marks just over six months since I was diagnosed with profound hypothyroidism and began medication and nutritional treatment. It is written from a subjective perspective and thus is categorized as part of my personal story.
At the beginning of June 2022, our family was in Tofino (Vancouver Island) for the marriage of my youngest son. The groom’s eldest brother assumed that my inability to walk on the sand for family photos, up the path to the hotel, or to get up out of a chair was a result of me having “aged.” He had no idea that I was hiking in North Vancouver and Golden Ears Provincial Park for several hours at a time just the summer prior.
I knew something was wrong, and for several months, I assumed my feeling exhausted and having joint and muscle pain was a carry-over effect from having had Covid. But a cell phone picture of myself taken just before the wedding told me it had to be something else. Gradually, over several months, I went from looking as I had been the previous two years after losing 55 pounds to looking like I had regained everything. I later found out, it wasn’t fat but an accumulation of mucin in the skin that is one of the hallmark signs of myxedema. You can read more about myxedema and the skin changes associated with hypothyroidism here.
Since it was a special occasion, I didn’t say anything to my family about how sick I felt, but I was beginning to think that I had become significantly hypothyroid since I last saw my doctor in person (due to Covid protocols). My plan was to contact him when I returned to the mainland, which I did.
Two weeks later, my doctor confirmed that my symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. In fact, I was surprised when he mentioned that it was not unexpected in light of my lab work over the previous nine years, my past thyroid surgery several decades ago, and my having experienced periodic hypothyroid symptoms since that time. Nevertheless, it took almost a decade for me to get diagnosed because of the limitations placed on doctors regarding which tests they can requisition under what circumstances (more about the challenges of getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism here).
In addition to the clinical challenges of getting diagnosed, there is also the reality that the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are often assumed to be “just aging.” For example, many people believe it is normal for ‘older adults’ to have body aches, joint pain, fatigue, feel chilled when others do not, experience constipation, have dry skin or hair loss, be forgetful, or to even experience depression. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that these are not typical signs of aging but ARE common symptoms of hypothyroidism. What compounds the challenge of getting diagnosed is that the symptoms of hypothyroidism are so non-specific that many would not give them a second thought. An older person limited to a “one-issue-ten-minute remote doctor’s appointment” would be unlikely even to bring them up.
For those who have been following this story, my diagnosis was not the end but the beginning of my journey. Three months later, I lost half my hair due to telogen effluvium, the most common form of diffuse hair loss that can occur after a profound stress, shock or traumatic event including childbirth, a thyroid disorder, or rapid weight loss. You can read more about that here.
When my hair loss continued due to androgenic alopecia (also common in hypothyroidism), I began to research which nutrients of importance had evidence for helping restore hair loss, and wrote this article. Knowing I had a second son’s wedding mid-February, I incorporated both nutritional supplements (oral and topical) to support me in my recovery from what my doctor called “profound hypothyroidism.”
This weekend was my second son’s wedding, and the difference between how I felt in June and now is incredible! Instead of wearing medical compression stockings and orthopedic shoes so I could walk, I wore regular nylons and dress pumps.
While my doctor said it would still take another six months or longer for the mucin to resolve in my legs and trunk of my body, I was SO pleased that my legs didn’t look like water-logged tree stumps, as they did in June! In addition, my face was no longer swollen beyond recognition. I looked like “me” rather than like I had been “inflated” with an air pump. I felt human and presentable and unlike I did in June, I wasn’t self-conscious being in the family photos.
Looking at the two wedding pictures side-by-side (see below), it is evident that being on the correct dose and mix of thyroid hormones (thanks to the excellent support of my doctor) has made a significant difference! In addition to thyroid medication, I have also been supplementing with nutrients of importance in hypothyroidism, as well as nutritional supplements with evidence to restore hair loss in androgenic alopecia which I developed secondary to my diagnosis. My hair is gradually growing back in, and where once there was a bald shiny scalp, I have hair an inch or two long. I also have eyelashes again, and the outer thirds of my eyebrows are also coming back in.
It is my hope that when the most recent newlyweds celebrate their first anniversary, that the residual symptoms of hypothyroidism will be behind me.
If you have wondered if you have symptoms that may be consistent with hypothyroidism, you can download a checklist of common hypothyroid symptoms here to help you have an informed discussion with your doctor to determine whether thyroid hormone testing is warranted.
If you would like more information about how I could support you from a nutritional perspective, please send me a note through the Contact Me form at the top of this page.
To your good health!
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