My Half Thyroid: On the Fritz

Wouldn’tcha know it?! About two weeks ago, I wished my Frankenneck a happy birthday, and yesterday I got a call from the doctor. My thyroid is on the fritz, and I need to take Synthroid(synthetic thyroid hormones) for two months, when I’ll be tested again.

That’s a fine how-do-you-do.

I had a mini meltdown on the phone with the nurse because she couldn’t answer any of my questions. And I’m a little stunned that the nurse actually believed she could call me out of the blue to announce I had a prescription waiting at the pharmacy, and that I would just mindlessly start taking hormones and call back in two months.

Do people do that?

I had a few questions before I was going to put anything into my body, and after a consultation with the goddess of thryoid info, a.k.a., Erika, I had a few more:

  • What was my number?
  • When would they test me again?
  • Would I gain weight?
  • Should I be worried?
  • Could I continue to eat cruciferous vegetables?

I pouted and picked my way through a coconut milk stir fry (Is this the last broccoli I’ll be eating for… a while? Forever?) and headed to Dr. Lifshen’s office. As always, he took plenty of time to explain what the devil is going on and allayed my fears. Two thumbs up on Dr. Lifshen.

What was my number?
“Normal” thyroid readings end at six. Last year, after my surgery, mine was at 2.3… beautiful! Last week, it was 4.5 – still within the normal range but double what it was last year. My thyroid doc and Dr. L. think it would be best to put me on a low dose of Synthroid for a few months just to see what’s what.

When would they test me again?
They’re testing me again in 6-8 weeks, which Erika thought was very good news. That means they’re not thinking synthetic hormones FOREVER, necessarily.

Would I gain weight?
I will not gain weight from the hormones. In fact, the opposite might be true. There’s a possibility that a wonky thyroid is what’s been making my success with Mission 17 so slow/non-existent. Dr. L. cautioned that I won’t “instantly start losing weight,” but explained that when my hormones are at the right levels – perhaps within this two month window – I could see some progress there. The improvement in my thyroid hormone levels should also help with sleeping better and my Sahara-dry hair and skin.

Should I be worried?
According to Dr. L. there is absolutely no reason for me to be worried about anything. In fact, the rest of my blood work was in the excellent range. Direct quote: “You’re going to live forever.”

Could I continue to eat cruciferous vegetables?
Dr. L. didn’t seem at all concerned about the potential thryoid-suppressing qualities of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips. Observant readers will note that those veggies are in my diet almost every day and contain completely kickass antioxidant properties. I dug around lots of online research last night (here and here and here [this is the best one]), and the general consensus seems to be that cooking the vegetables reduces the goitrogens that monkey with thyroid function. I’ll probably stop my occasional two-cabbage-a-day habit, but I’m not going to cut out these veggies all-together.
So… it’s all actually pretty good news – and I was reminded of two important things:

1. Make time for your annual appointments.
I procrastinate like nobody’s business on my annual GYN and eye exam and dentist appointments. Come on, admit it! You probably say this to yourself, too: “I take such good care of myself. I know I should go to my [insert appointment here]. I’ll go next month/paycheck/after vacation/whatever.”

My thyroid hiccup is a reminder that those annual maintenance check-ins are important because I do take such good care of myself. The foundation of physical training is an accurately functioning body – and it needs to be supported with smart nutrition and those vicious workouts we all love so much.

2. Make your doctor talk
Dr. Lifshen was wonderful once I was in the office. But I think both he and the nurse were off-base when they expected me to just start taking my prescription without a conversation. If I hadn’t gotten my ass into the exam room, I wouldn’t have had the answers to any of my questions.

It’s the worth the time and cost of an office visit to truly understand the situation. I’d never let a tattoo artist start inking me without a lot of discussion first, and think about how much you consulted with your hair stylist before scissors started snipping hair. If you receive news from a nurse or doctor that you don’t understand, insist that they educate you so you can take part in your own healthcare.

Now, my only remaining question: Do you think taking Synthroid every morning will give me Synthroid Rage?! 🙂

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  • Miss B says:

    Although it takes 6-8 weeks for your lab values to change because of the way the endocrine system works, you should start to feel better within a few days/weeks after starting replacement. I remember feeling SO much better within a week. It was like coming out of a heavy fog (mind, body,and soul). Over the years I have found that I feel the best when my TSH is <2. The only food I try to avoid is soy.

  • Mindy says:

    Hey Mel! I think this could definitely explain your struggles with "Mission 17." If you have any questions/concerns, I'm here for ya!! I've done waay too much research on hypo-T and obsessed over what is and isn't okay to eat. What I've come to realize and what my docs have told me, is that we shouldn't adjust our lives for our thyroid, rather, eat the healthy foods you want to eat (i.e., goitrogenic foods (i'm not sayin eat fast food and crap food lol, I know you already don't tho)). The doc will then adjust your medication to fit your healthy lifestyle. Bonita always tells me that she feels 'consistency is key.' I hope they are able to normalize everything for you!! hugs to you!! I also avoid soy and I don't take any vitamins within 4 hrs of my thyroid med. and I don't eat until at least an hour after I take my thyroid med.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Bonita, thanks for the info! It's weird — I wasn't feeling fatigued or anything, so I'll be interested to see if I feel any difference on the Synthroid. I've been avoiding soy since I started paleo, so no biggie there. I can live without tofu and edamame, just don't take away my Brussels sprouts 😉

    Mindy, thanks for the reminder about vitamins! I was just about to take mine, and it hasn't been 4 hours yet.

  • Anna Young says:

    First of all, we have something in common! I too had a left hemithyroidectomy in Jan 2012 for a large left thyroid nodule (turned out to be non-cancerous! Yay!). Only years following my surgery, I learned that my remaining right thyroid “pooped out” and only since November 2016 did my Primary Care physician prescribe Synthroid! I asked for a referral to an Endocrinologist but was denied. She didn’t think I needed to take more Synthroid even if my TSH levels were at 2.98 mU/ml! So for now, I am struggling with hypothyroid symptoms until she increases my dosing to achieve pre-surgical TSH levels less than 2 uM/ml.

    Secondly, my husband and I have gone Paleo 90% of the time and we LOVE your book Well Fed! I initially borrowed a copy from my local library but recently just decided to buy the book! The recipes in it are so delicious and make going Paleo so much easier! Thank you!

    Just signed up for your Blog updates! Congratulations on the move to Prague!