I know everyone isn't interested in my hormone experiments, so if you're less than enthralled by tales of T3 and TSH, skip this one. For...Read More
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…
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
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.
– Corti-B Plex
– Cortisol (prescription)
– 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!
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.