04 March 2011 ~ 8 Comments

Doubting Thomas

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the fluctuation of my thyroid levels. Since going off the pill, my thyroid levels have plummeted and I was told it would take three to six months for my hormones to adjust. Because I have been continuously on the pill for 15 years, I seriously doubt tapering off it would have helped because I would still have had the active ingredients in my body and it takes months to get rid of these.

As a result of my plummeting thyroid hormones, my doctor raised my Armour Thyroid to 2(!) grains about a month ago and saw me again today to talk about my blood levels. As I have never been on what is for me such a high dose, I assumed that if anything I was hyperthyroid when I continued to be confronted by those oh so familiar symptoms of tiredness (see yesterday’s poem). Furthermore, my appetite had increased, which usually goes hands in hand with an increase in thyroid levels. Sadly, I thought I had carte blanche to enjoy eating more and yet my metabolism may have been f***** the whole time. Oh cruel world!;-) Luckily for me, I tend to gain weight rather slowly, so there is still time for my metabolism to become more balanced before I have to worry too much about weight gain.

I’m familiar with hyper symptoms and the fact that they can strongly resemble hypo ones. Not once did I dream that my thyroid hormones would be at practically the lowest they have ever been! As a result, my doctor is raising my NDT by yet another ½ a grain! When will this end? Thankfully, I have heard from people going through (peri)menopause that they have serious problems with their thyroid – at least initially – because their oestrogen levels plummet. Naturally, this occurred to me too. My theory was confirmed by our doctor: when on high doses of synthetic oestrogen, your body slows down its own production (much the same as it does when you are taking thyroid hormone – think feedback loop). It recognises that the synthetic oestrogen is providing it with sufficient oestrogen, so no longer feels the need to produce as much of its own. Now that I’ve gone off the pill, my body still needs to figure out what the hell happened and realise that it needs to rev up its oestrogen production again – ultimately, our hormones work together and one imbalance often begets another (in this case, I suspect the sex hormones are messing with my thyroid – how dare they!). I guess it takes time for this balance to be attained.

I was actually under the impression that when I go off the pill I would eventually need less thyroid hormone because oestrogen binds thyroid hormone. However, my doctor explained that the progesterone contained in the pill I was taking enabled the thyroid hormone to work better. Now my oestrogen has most probably plummeted along with my progesterone, which the thyroid needs and there the fun begins. I think right now it is a matter of watching and waiting. Sadly, my bitchin’ insurance doesn’t regard NDT to be a real medicine – according to them I am just “imagining” that it’s actually helping me (you’d think blood tests would be enough proof!), so right now they are refusing to pay for it until my doctor writes yet another letter. Luckily, Corey’s insurance is more amenable and as we are on the same thyroid hormones, our doc can just prescribe them to him. We tend to order our stock together anyway. Frustrating and scary when you are on what seems like such a high dose and your thyroid is still misbehaving. But right now it’s a case of watch and wait.

On the plus side, since going off the pill it’s welcome back libido! I honestly thought that all that bullshit I was going through when on the pill was due to hypothyroidism, but it never improved and that was just one of the many reasons I wanted to go off the pill. I was scared I’d never get my libido back and I’m only 33! I had no desire whatsoever to be intimate with my fiancé and being dry down there and even more prone to candida (the birth control pill does that to you!) sex was all too often extremely painful, which further reduced my libido. I should mention that the painful sex also had an anatomical reason, which is why my gyno at the time performed an operation on me down there. All in all, it worked, but it didn’t bring back my libido.

I don’t plan to ever go back on the pill if I can help it, but I sure hope my hormones buck up really soon! Strangely, even though my thyroid hormones are currently horribly imbalanced, I am still able to function somewhat – I dread to think how I’d be feeling if I was still on the synthetic hormones. Since being on NDT, I find that I am much more able to tolerate being hypo – I remember times when I was hypo on the synthetic hormones when I couldn’t even get out of bed, let alone sit down to write something like this. My doctor is confident that in the medium- to long-term my sex hormones will balance (he hopes that it will take less than six months since I went off the pill, which was in December) and then I will be able to enjoy the benefits of a more balanced thyroid and less oestrogen to bind my thyroid hormones. I was doing so well before I went off the pill, but I still don’t regret my decision because I was sick and tired of taking those synthetic hormones, which I no longer needed for contraception.

I feel like Doubting Thomas
When I doubt I’ll ever get well
As soon as my hope is restored
My thyroid goes to hell
Hormones are unpredictable
And if they don’t cooperate
Your thyroid levels will plummet
And you’ll end up in quite a state

Despairing, frustrating and sometimes elating
Never knowing what’s coming.
Not wanting to know
The doctor’s is a place I don’t always want to go

Fighting for progress
Hoping you won’t regress
Worrying about insurance
Needing reassurance

Going off the pill is a treacherous venture
But welcome back libido
And enjoy the adventure;-)

Patience is a virtue
One I don’t possess
My bloody f-ing hormones are in a right old mess

But I know it’s not forever
So I’m playing the waiting game
Knowing that sooner or later
I won’t be feeling so lame

8 Responses to “Doubting Thomas”

  1. Alana 4 March 2011 at 7:39 pm Permalink

    I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, including a lot of the symptoms you have mentioned. I think you may well still be hypothyroid because you may be on too small dose of Armour (unless you thyroid is dumping thyroid hormone at the moment as a result of the hashi’s).

    I have heard that most people need between 3 and 6 grains of natural desiccated thyroid to feel significant improvement in their symptoms (for many this takes them out of the normal range with lab test results and for most, this is what they need to be well). I have also heard that some people are able to stop the hashi’s attack on the thyroid by increasing their medication high enough as to completely suppress their own thyroid from creating it’s own thyroid hormones.

    Often staying in the ‘normal range’ with lab tests results will not allow you to get well. I got all of this information from the http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com website – this information has changed my life for the better.

    I differ in the fact that I always had trouble when I went on the pill and went on and off it for years – eventually I settled with the ‘Implanon’ implant which I seemed to tolerate the best – despite the symptoms I had on that, I remained on that for 6 years. I went off all hormonal contraception in about april 2010 and felt better for it but things did not improve significantly for me until I had my thyroid condition treated properly (hypothyroidism caused by thyroid hormone resistance caused by the conversion of T4 to too much reverse T3).

    I will never go back on hormonal contraception again… I think it mucks around with my hormones and adrenal and thyroid function too much.

    I am sure the pill made my thyroid symptoms worse and some pills have been highly suspected of causing adrenal fatigue in some women taking them, such as yasmin (which I had an extreme reaction to when I was on it for just 1 month in early 2007 that I never recovered properly from until having my thyroid condition treated properly in 2010). I believe there is a law suit being taken out against the makers or Yasmin at the moment as it apparently caused life threatening conditions in some women taking it long term.

    Anyway – thyroid, adrenals (cortisol, aldosterone etc), female hormones, testosterone and what not are all closely related – have one out of wack and it can definitely affect others. I don’t think it’s the pill making you better or worse – I think it’s likely your thyroid condition and related issues (if applicable) causing the problem.

    I think the Stop the thyroid madness website explains it all well… I learned a lot from this website and it’s testing and treatment suggestions have helped me tremendously. The only hard thing is finding a doctor willing to run the tests and treat you ‘outside the box’ so to speak.

    • Sarah Downing 4 March 2011 at 8:11 pm Permalink

      Hey Alana,

      Thank you very much for all your suggestions. As it happens, I’m already very familiar with Stop The Thyroid Madness, as well as the other issues you mentioned. I don’t have active Hashimoto’s at the moment and haven’t had antibodies present ever since I was put on thyroid hormones. My thyroid was doing VERY well up until I went off the pill when I quite literally crashed. As far as the Armour goes, I’m on an extremely high dose for what I am used to. Let me tell you that usually I can feel VERY well and symptom free on 1 – 1 1/2 grains and in fact my free T3 and free T4 are then at the very top of the range, sometimes slightly over – which is a good point you mentioned. Many people do need these kind of levels in order to experience the optimum benefits. I have heard lots of people being on similar doses to me and feeling quite well and I really think that 3 to 6 grains would be overkill for me most of the time, although I know that some people need much more. My doctor thinks that the 2 and a half grains I am now on is a temporary thing during my body’s transition period and knowing my body as well as I do I would definitely agree.

      As I mentioned in my article (and you also mentioned in your comment), right now with my hormones adjusting one imbalance can indeed cause another. I am pretty damn positive that it is not my thyroid causing this (particularly as a recent ultrasound showed significant improvement and of course because of what I mentioned above), but rather my sex hormones. Rest assured I’ve also looked into all other issues, particularly as our very good doctor does extensive testing anyway – we’re very lucky that he is so thorough. I’m taking an excellent multivitamin by Dr Teitelbaum, as well as extra Vitamin D and I recently ordered Feosol to up my ferritin levels, although the results I got back today showed very balanced ferritin. Furthermore, my blood sugars are very good – I really have done my best to rule out anything else that could be causing tiredness, but I also had a recent attack of borreliosis, so whilst that is gone it may still be taking some months for my body to recover from that too.

      I really appreciate your comment and your suggestions, although I don’t honestly think all of them apply to me – but it is good that you mention all these tips as other readers can learn from them and STTM is indeed a very informative site. Thanks also for sharing your story about going off the pill – it really does mess with a lot of stuff. It’s very interesting what you mention about Yasmin. I had not read that before.

      Cheers and have a great weekend!

      Sarah

  2. lori 14 March 2011 at 7:50 pm Permalink

    I agree I think it’s your sex hormones causing problems at this time from going off the BC pill. I hope your doc is right and it takes less than six months for your sex hormones to wake up and all hormones to become balanced again, but I think you should be optimistic that this will be behind you soon!

    • Sarah Downing 14 March 2011 at 8:35 pm Permalink

      I hope you are right, Lori. It does all seem to point to the sex hormones considering how good I was feeling immediately before I went off the pill. I went off in December, so hopefully the worst will be over by the time June comes around.

      Love,

      Sarah

  3. Sarah Downing 15 March 2011 at 1:19 pm Permalink

    I wanted to write a bit of an update on this article. I saw my brilliant osteopath today and today him about my hormone issues. He studied biology and is a great osteopath, so I trust him to know what he is doing. He also does acupuncture and I asked him about acupuncture for balancing my hormones. Right now I have a few small needles sticking in my ear under some tiny plasters (Band-Aids) that I am to keep there for a week and maybe get more done later on. He did this as part of my osteopath treatment and it will be interesting to see whether it helps. I have in the past heard good things about acupuncture for balancing the hormones and these needles are supposed to specifically balance the sex hormones, which are I believe the source of my hypothyroidism right now – as I mentioned above, I was never this hypo before going off the pill and it came on rather suddenly. It makes sense to me that my sex hormones would be imbalanced as I was on synthetic sex hormones for 15 years, so it takes 3 – 6 months for my body to adjust to being off them and start producing its own hormones again. When I saw my doctor, he once again stressed the importance of the sex hormones for the thyroid and said he has seen this happen to patients in the past who went off the pill. Hopefully, it will be over soon!

    Love,

    Sarah

  4. Sarah Downing 15 March 2011 at 2:28 pm Permalink

    Here’s another interesting link I found on how low progesterone can cause low thyroid levels: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-some-low-progesterone-symptoms.htm.

    Love,

    Sarah

  5. lori 16 March 2011 at 5:21 am Permalink

    Very interesting the needles are left in for a week. I hope it helps you. Is the benefit suppose to happen within a week or is it something that happens over time? Be sure to let us know how you do.

    • Sarah Downing 16 March 2011 at 7:20 am Permalink

      I’m not entirely sure, Lori – apparently it depends on the individual and my osteo may have to put another needle in, but I will be sure to keep you updated on my progress.

      Love,

      Sarah


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