Dr. Sebring and Zombie Radio

Let me start by saying that whatever might be implied by the title of this post, Dr. Sebring is neither a zombie nor zombie-like. He is a lovely human: vibrant, smart, kind, and very much alive. I cannot comment on his desire to eat brains, but I suspect that if he does, they are only of the lamb or calf variety. (That’s him, fourth from the left in the photo above, looking somewhat (to my delight) like a Bond villain. I cannot comment on whether or not there’s a secret, sharks-under-the-floorboards compound beneath the Sebring Clinic. This photo is from Ancestralize Me; if you don’t read her blog, you should.)

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Dr. Sebring

When I visited Dr. Sebring for the first time last week, he endeared himself to me by slowly reading many of the documents in my Thyroid Experiment folder. It’s a collection of lab reports, prescriptions, magazine articles, charts of measurements and training schedules, and a slew of “before and after” photos. It’s essentially my health, nutrition, and training records, collected on bits of paper since this big adventure started in 2008. It looks like this — note that the expression on the bulldog’s face is how I feel everytime I need another blood test.

Anyway, Dr. Sebring read everything and then shared his theories about what might be going on with me. The potential problematic hormones were identified as testosterone (potentially too low) and Reverse T3 (potentially too high). He ordered blood tests for DHEA and Reverse T3, then sent me home to wait for the results. This week, I went back to learn the results and get my new plan.

Before I get into my details, I think it’s worth repeating that all of this is about my situation. I’m glad to share my experiences with you, but we’re all different, especially regarding hormones and how our bodies behave. Remember: you are a special, special snowflake. If you think you’re experiencing something similar to me, or you’re curious about what you read here, please consult an expert. The only things on which I’m an expert are myself and how to pet Smudge’s belly without waking her up.

What I Know About My DHEA

What’s DHEA?
This is what I learned through some cursory research: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone controlled by the adrenal gland. Hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and our old friend cortisol depend on our bodies’ production of DHEA. Low DHEA means low production of these hormones, which can lead to all kinds of lame sh*t like lack of energy, low libido, and fat gain. DHEA supplementation can help with adrenal function and is used to treat lupus, HIV, obesity, depression, menopause, and osteoporosis.

Dr. Sebring was right; my DHEA, and therefore, my testosterone levels, are low. Very low. So low, in fact, that they barely registered on my blood test. The expected range for DHEA is 27-206, and my came in at a whoppingly unimpressive 30.


What I Know About My Reverse T3

What’s Reverse T3?
This is kind of a lengthy explanation, so bear with me and my sort of oversimplification. For a very thorough examination of these issues, visit Stop The Thyroid Madness.

There are three major thyroid hormones:
T4: storage hormone, most abundant, converts to T3
T3: converted from T4, most active thyroid hormone
Reverse T3 (RT3): converted from 4

If I understand it all correctly, RT3 is a disposable by-product of the conversion of T4 to T3. When things are working properly about 40% of T4 becomes T3, and the rest is chucked out as RT3. But… when emotional, physical, and biological stress enter the picture, those percentages can be disrupted and T3 — the active form of thyroid hormone we need — goes down. This is bad.

Too much RT3 decreases cellular reception of T3, which means cells aren’t getting the T3 they need. When cells don’t get T3, the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism appear: lowered body temp, fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, hair loss… all that super (not at all) fun stuff. And this is important: these symptoms appear even when TSH and T4 levels look “good” on paper.

This thyroid dysfunction then starts a chain reaction with the adrenal glands, which are desperately trying to help by pumping out cortisol. The excess cortisol inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3, which means more RT3… which means the T3 problem explained above.

You can see the viciousness of this cycle, no?

Eventually, the adrenal glands become fatigued and can’t deliver the right levels of cortisol at the right times — which means there can be an excess of T4 in the blood, so the body responds by making more RT3.

Again, with the viciousness.

Here is what the offender looks like; be on alert.

My Reverse T3

When looking at RT3, the raw number is informative, but even more telling is the ratio of free T3 to RT3. As explained above, when the proportions of those two hormones get out of whack, mayhem ensues. So, let’s take a look at my numbers.

At my last blood test, my free T3 was 2.1 — not so great. The “expected range” is 2.3 to 4.2, so I’m outside the low end. Fail.

My RT3 last week was 523 — also not so great. The “expected range” is 90-350. I’m way off that chart to the right. Boo.

Finally, let’s check out my ratio. Stop The Thyroid Madness has a handy tool to do the calculation. Generally speaking, when comparing free T3 to RT3, a healthy ratio is 10. When I plugged in my numbers, I got a 4. Lame.

What I’m Doing Now

So that’s my situation: DHEA too low. Free T3 too low. Reverse T3 too high. From now until my follow-up appointment with Dr. Sebring, this is my plan. (Unless my testosterone kicks into high gear, and I start growing a goatee. Then I’m visiting Dr. Sebring immediately.)

Dr. Sebring has prescribed the following for me. It’s a lot of pills and powders, but — as it should be with all supplementation — it’s short term. We’ll re-assess how I’m doing in three months.
– Adreset
– Corti-B Plex
– Cortisol (prescription)
– Melatonin
– I’m also still taking Synthroid, Cytomel, Vitamin D, and Natural Calm

Loving Reminder: I’m sharing this treatment list for informational purposes only. If you’re curious about using any of these supplements, I urge you to see a doctor like Dr. Sebring to help you. If you are a doctor like Dr. Sebring, please post to comments so readers can find you for guidance.

Dr. Sebring is, thankfully, a big fan of heavy lifting, so that’s still on my training menu. I’m sticking with my twice-a-week strength training, twice-a-week mini-metcons (10 minutes max), and one or two runs from the zombies every week. Additionally, I’m working really hard to build a 15- to 30-minute walk into each day. I’m struggling with the commitment because I don’t enjoy it very much, but from everything I’ve read, it would be very beneficial.

Meditation & Yoga
I’ve learned that both meditation and yoga are essential to my mental well-being, and given my physical challenges right now, the stress reduction is essential to my physical body, too. I’m now on a schedule that includes either yoga or meditation every day, and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, what’s more fun than twisting like a human pretzel and chanting in Sanskrit?!

The 12-hour eating window with no snacks has been working very well for me, so I’m keeping that habit. My macronutrients are about 40% fat, 30% protein, 30% carbohydrates these days, and I’m keeping track on FitDay most days of the week. Now that I’ve figured out how to cook according to those macronutrient ratios, my food has become stress free again — and I like keeping the food log because if I know what I’m doing, I can easily re-adjust as necessary.

And that, friends, is where the experiment stands right now. Let’s talk zombies!

Zombie Radio

The app Zombies, Run! is built around Missions, and when the electronic voice says, “Mission completed,” it also intones, “Begin radio mode.” At that point, I usually hit the “Stop Mission” button and just listen to my playlist. But a few days ago, Dave asked if I’d ever listened to Zombie Radio. Turns out, when the mission is complete, the story keeps going! Some of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse have started a radio station, so between the songs on my playlist, they joke around like morning DJs, and — as I learned this morning – runners are still vulnerable to zombie attacks!

I had to outrun three suprise attacks by zombs today! One was on an uphill – lungs bursting, all I could think was, Keep going! Must… not… get… eaten… my… zombies! The second was just when I’d given myself the OK to take a walking break, and the third… the third was the biggest zombie insult of all. I’d completed my mission and was strolling, STROLLING along the hike and bike path. Hey, there’s the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. What up, Stevie?! Oh! That’s a cute dog. Hi, doggie.

Suddenly, the ominous beeping that is the harbinger of a zombie attack began. Then the electronic warning voice: Zombies detected. I went from stroll to sprint in a heartbeat and thankfully evaded the zombies with my mad running skillz.

Until next time.

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  • Lady A says:

    Best of luck to you! You got it going on, girl.

  • Melissa says:

    Thanks for sharing in this post! As a “sister” thyca survivor, I’m interested in your test results and approach. I’ve been wondering on and off for years if my adrenals are whacked (if they are, as you’ve noted, it messes w/ your ability to deal w/ thy issues – also ref the STOP the Madness site) I’ve gotten DHEA tested and it was way low tho cortisol wasn’t as off and probably didn’t, in my FP’s opinion, warrant supplementation. RT3 wasn’t as far off tho. Took v small dose of DHEA – felt great and energized the first day, so much it actually scared me b/c it was SO different than how I usually feel (how sad is that?!). Skipped a day, took again next day – no effect (problem I have sometimes). Haven’t taken since. Can’t get my T3 up into range no matter what dose I take. Maybe I’ll get re-tested. Have other stuff that may be affecting absorption. And then there’s the ever-loving perimenopause thrashing hormones around. Ugh.

    I’m also not a med professional, YMMV, consult your own docs, etc.

    Hope you’ll keep us apprised! Thanks for all the yumminess and encouragement.

    • Mel says:

      My blanket response to all of this is:
      YAY! Being a girl is so fun.


      OK. The mascara and fishnets are fun. The rest? Maybe not so much.

    • Mel says:

      My blanket response to all of this is:
      YAY! Being a girl is so much fun.

      Except when it’s not. Like hormones.

      But the mascara and fishnets are pretty rad.

  • Barb says:

    Awesome, thanks for sharing. My hubby is off to an anti aging dr tomorrow for a full work up. If he likes the doc, then I will be seeing him soon also. My thyroid dr is a weenie and this other dude is supposed to be a rock star. We’ve gotten tons of personal recommendations from friends so I am looking forward to bringing him my health dossier soon! Good luck to you and your thyroid!

  • Dana says:

    So glad you have a good doc and some answers. I really appreciate your explanation of RT3-my doc never really gave me an explanation (but at least he was willing to treat me. Finally.). I hope you notice improvements soon!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you! I didn’t know all that stuff about RT3 either — really interesting. In a way, it makes me feel better because it’s all so complex, it’s amazing it ever works at all 😉

  • Cheryl says:

    So informative! Thank you for sharing! After the birth of my son (he is three) I started doing Crossfit five days a week. I didn’t lose any weight. I asked two different doctors to look at my thyroid, both said it was fine because it was in the normal range, but it was very low normal.

    I recently found a doctor that is helping me! I take Armour thyroid, calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium, fish oil, and weekly Vitamin B12 shots. I also am taking Metformin (I am not diabetic) and Spirolatone. I am hoping I will finally get results and lose the 25 pounds I can’t get rid of!

    Also, I was taking Lybrel birth control and this caused my system to go crazy! Don’t take it!

  • Lori says:

    Mel, your explanations are teh awesome. I have to admit to a certain quiet elation whenever my blood test reveals something out of whack. AHA! GOT YOU! it says – always assuming there is some medication, supplement, or attitudinal adjustment that will help bring it back into whack. Here’s hoping your regimen gets you back on track soon – and goatee-free!

    • Mel says:

      Dr. Sebring said, “This is going to be fun!” because he was glad to find a starting place. I was kinda hoping I was just eating too much and being lazy 🙂

  • Frankie says:

    Thanks, Mel. Your posts on the thyroid stuff give me hope. I was diagnosed in 1995 and I haven’t been NOT tired since. So fed up with being told my results are ‘within normal’ and feeling terrible. Keep up the good work!

  • Summer says:

    Mel, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! for recommending the Zombies, Run app. I love it. I do not like to run at all, but need to get back into it for work. This app has made it fun. Each time I’m done with my run I think about the next time I can go and can’t wait to get back out and do more. Now I’m looking forward to listening to the zombie radio as well. And it’s amazing how those pesky zombies show up right as you decide to take a breather. Damn the luck. Thanks for your awesome blog! Keep up the good work!

    • Mel says:

      YAY! Running from the zombs is so much fun — glad you like it, too! I’m really looking forward to my running time again, which makes me so happy.

      Well done, Runner 5!

  • Hi Mel, I can’t get through to Ancestralise Me via your link – get an error 404 for the page you specify, and the main address seemed to want me to “install” WordPress. Just a heads up!

  • Lydia says:

    So excited (and a little envious) that you’re working with a doctor who subscribes to this wellness protocol! I found one in Kansas City, but since he wasn’t an MD, my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I couldn’t afford treatment and/or the regular 75-mile round trip.

    SOMEDAY I’ll find someone I can afford and work with!

    • Mel says:

      It is a BIG bummer that non-traditional medicine is not often covered by health insurance. When I left my full-time job, Dave and I signed up for our own insurance, and it’s pretty expensive. It SUCKS to be paying for Dr. Sebring and the prescriptions/supplements without insurance support. Makes me very stabby.

  • Lisa T says:

    If anyone in San Francisco is looking for their “Dr. Sebring” you MUST check out the Institute for Health and Healing! They take most insurance, which is so great. I have been so lucky to be working with Dr. Bruce Roberts for my hypothyroid issue:


    I’m on a similar set of supplements, Mel, and just switched from Levothroid and Cytomel to Nature-Throid; hopefully that plus acupuncture and all the other things I’m going will do the trick. Good luck!

  • Mark says:

    Am I being really dim or was the only change the supplements/prescriptions?

    Sounds like you’d got a lot of stuff right already, about as much as you could be expected to figure out on your own.

    • Mel says:

      Yes, you’re right: the only changes to my habits for now is the supplements/prescriptions. I confirmed with Dr. Sebring that it’s OK for me to continue to do the 10-minute metcons as long as I eat adequate protein and carbs to support the activity. I was concerned that I was over-doing the training, but he said no, so whew!

  • dana g says:

    Did you get a testosterone lab test that pointed your doc to supplement with DHEA?

    Hasve you been on cytomel for a while, or have you ever just taken synthroid?

    I’m newly diagnosed w/ hypothyroid, but my doc is seeing me again in 8 weeks to recheck. I’d like to have a little more info. Thanks for the STTM website!

    • Mel says:

      Dr. Sebring did a blood test to measure my DHEA to inform the supplementation. He didn’t measure testosterone directly and so far, I’m not supplementing testosterone, either. Just DHEA.

      I started on just Synthroid (T4) in 2010 and about a year ago, my endocrinologist prescribed Cytomel (T3) because I was not converting T4 to T3 very well. Now, of course, we know I was converting too much T4 to RT3. BOO!

      Good luck with setting up your treatment. It can take a while to sort it all out. I hope things go smoothly for you!

  • De23 says:

    Good luck with the new protocol! It’s nice to have a plan (and hope), eh? They recently found a 3cm nodule on my thyroid, but my specialist appt isn’t until June 13. Apparently my blood work came out “normal” (whatever that means). We do have a good “Dr. Sebring” here but I’m already taking my son to him and that’s all we can afford for now.

    Meanwhile, I had 2 interviews for new jobs Friday, so it’s very possible that the last 2 years of craziness will finally pay off next week!

    • Mel says:

      Good luck to you! My blood work was “normal,” too, so definitely ask to see your blood test results. Often, the numbers fall within the “acceptable” range which means you’re not SICK, but you’re not optimally healthy either. Keep us posted on how you’re doing.

  • nuttmegs17 says:

    Congrats on getting some answers! That must give you a great sense of hope. i too am on a similar journey – just beginning bio-identical hormone replacement…my progesterone is low as is my DHEA and Testosterone and Im estrogen dominant (in addition to having hashimoto’s thyroiditis…ugh) I have low cortisol but so far docs have just perscribe adaptogens. Planning on doing another cortisol saliva test and seeing where i am at. I will push for HC if there is still no improvement. I have a suspicion that low cortisol is what is keeping my thyroid meds from doing their job. What type of cortisol are you on? HC? hopefully he’ll keep you at a low dose – give your adrenals a chance to rest and recharge- and slowly wean you off in a short time.

    I think you know – we all know – that it wasnt what you were eating or a lack of motivation that got you here…super happy to see you are with someone who obviously knows his stuff.

    i recommend switching to natural thyroid hormone like armour or using a compounding pharmacy to get the right ratio of t3 and t4….I have seen improvements in my RT3 ratio but supplementing with Milk thistle (also mentioned on stop the thyroid madness website) as well as yogi tea detox – anything you can do to support the liver helps a ton! it takes a while to clear so be patient. using more T3 also helps.

    and yes – SUCKS that insurance is absolutely NO help…sigh.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the reminder that it’s not my behavior that got me here. It’s pretty easy to slip into thinking I ate too much or was “too lazy.” Grrrrr!

      I’m talking to Dr. Sebring about maybe switching to Armour. He’s a big fan of Armour, but seemed more concerned about getting my other issues sorted out before making thyroid hormone changes. So many moving parts!

  • Rach says:

    I recently found your website and have been devouring your for blog. You are really great and So inspiring. You make me feel like I can tackle anything. I hope you start to feel even more superheroness soon now you have seen Dr sebring.

    BTW I tried Zombies run this morning. Loved it! It really made me run!

    • Mel says:

      Rach, you CAN tackle anything. YAY for you — and I’m glad you found me. Welcome!

      I am SO grateful for that Zombies, Run! app. It’s totally inspired me to run again and to have fun doing it. Glad you like it, too!

  • Jessica says:

    I want to tell you thank you so much for sharing the Zombies! Run app. It has gotten me running again, and I actually enjoy and look forward to running.

    I’ve started following a paleo diet from reading your website, and I’m thrilled to be trying new recipes.

    • Mel says:

      Sounds like you are totally kicking ass. RIGHT ON! Glad you like the app — and congrats on making the switch to paleo. Hope you continue to enjoy both!

  • DeAnna McGrew says:

    Mel, you are just awesome. I love your enthusiasm. I, too, found STTM as a great resource and found my RT3/Ft3 ratio to be 11. I thought that was bad! 4 sounds dreadful. I am grateful for your recipes. I use them all the time and recommend them constantly. Having beem in healthcare myself for 15 yrs, I am always looking for a gd doc, where is Dr Sebring located? Also, as an emergency room RN that is flat out sick and tired of the current healthcare system, I have thought of branching out. I have heard that there is going to be a Paleo nutrition certification. How would you recommend someone like myself branching out? I love health, nutrition, and the idea of preventive medicine. Great respect for Whole Food 9. Any further certs or recommendations so that I can become a pert of this revolution?
    Thank you.

    • Mel says:

      DeAnna, it was kind of shocking to see how bad my numbers were. I mean, no wonder I haven’t been feeling like a superhero. Jeez! I hope the next few months bring an improvement.

      Dr. Sebring is in Wimberley, Texas. http://www.sebringclinic.com — but I think Robb Wolf is working on a directory of docs that support paleo, so you might check his site for someone near you.

      Sadly, I don’t know anything about paleo nutrition certification — the way I’ve learned is by attending seminars with Whole9, Mark Sisson, reading every blog I can, and going to Ancestral Health Symposium, and PaleoFX. But I’m in no way an expert — I just know enough to make compliant recipes 🙂

      If you haven’t been to a Whole9 seminar, that’s my first big recommendation. Read all the books and all the blogs.

  • JaqLew says:

    thank you for the DHEA and RT3 info!! My next appointment I’ll have to inquire about getting tested.

    Don’t know of others are aware… But Synthroid has gluten in it. My endocrinologist took me off the generic levothyroxine that my primary had me on and put me on Tirosint (which is relatively new but is out there as gluten free). I’ve been taking the brand names Tirosint and Cytomel for a couple years now and feel the difference of the brand over generic. (being hashimotos hypothyroid). My pharmacy generics switched manufacturers a bit and I could feel the difference when the switch happened, my doc mention that their could be variations in one generic to the next.

  • Marisa H says:

    I am looking for a doctor like Sebring in the Houston area. What type of doctor is he (endo, nutritionist, etc)? The reason I ask is that I found a gyno and acupuncturist/orientalist on Primal Docs and an endo on Low Carb Doctors and am debating which doctor would be best to see for my hormone problems who would use a paleo approach.

    • Mel says:

      I think he describes himself as “alternative medicine” — and he focuses on anti-aging. A naturopath or endo would probably be a good start!

  • LinD says:

    My thyroid numbers are VERY similar to yours…. I just found out last month. This new doc only has me on 2.5 mcg liothyronine, 2 clicks testosterone, 5mg DHEA, plus an adrenal support capsule. I take on my own 50mg 7-keto, 25mg pregnenolene.

    I am low in progesterone, too, but she said it wasn’t for me….. she was saying something about how bad estrogen is, so maybe she believes progesterone will increase estrogen, IDK. Not sure if I should stay with her and such conservativism. I mean 2.5 mcg??


    • Mel says:

      One of the really annoying things about thyroid issues that they are very individual — so you really can’t compare one persons doses to another. It’s tricky business, but you really have to trust your doctor — or find one you trust, and work with them over a long-ish time to get all the doses right. I’m sorry I don’t have a black and white answer for you!

  • Lynn says:

    Thank you for sharing your health issues. I also have hypothyroidism(garden variety) and high blood pressure. I started feeling like crap again this spring, had my TSH checked, all was good so no changes were made but my vitamin D levels were never checked, EVER, and I didn’t think to request it. I had been taking a supplement during the winter but tapered off once the sun came out.
    After reading your posts I decided to see a naturopath. Vitamin D was one of the first tests she ran, turns out I was severely deficient(7.5)so I’ve been taking mega doses for the past 2 weeks. I’m starting to feel better already. All my thyroid numbers were good, she ran a complete panel and took the time to explain the numbers and how everything is related so hopefully this will solve some of my problems. It’s hard to function when you’re fatigued and ache all the time.
    Again, thanks for sharing your journey!