Almost two years ago, I was working out consistently, as I had during my pregnancies and after each baby. I was in a workout group at the gym strength training and doing metabolic work three times a week and doing a little cardio on my own to times a week. This time, after my third baby, I knew it was our last and I was extremely focused on gaining muscle mass while getting lean. By eating extremely clean, low carb, lots of protein, and was documenting my daily food intake on the Myfitness pal app. I was focused on getting at least 30 grams of protein pre-workouts, with the correct(or what I thought at least) post workout meals. With eating every 3 hours, my body began to really tell me automatically that it was needing some fuel. I wasn’t really losing weight perse’, but was gaining muscle, after all,my goal wasn’t about how much I weighed, but leaning out and gaining muscle mass.
In my workout class, we measured our body composition each month and weighed ourselves. It wasn’t until I stepped on the scale before class one day and noticed I had lost about 8 pounds since the month before and really just chalked it up to things finally reaching fat burning stage instead of the sugar burner stage. I still didn’t pay too much attention to the scale, but then began noticing things like shortness of breath during a simple conversation, my heartbeat much faster than normal, after one set of an exercise, I would have to bend over and be completely out of breath. I then started noticing that instead of getting stronger, I was in fact getting weaker! At home, I remember my husband telling me that I was beginning to get really thin and started noticing my shoulder bones sticking out and again, I was just thinking that my clean eating and working out had made my body a fat burning powerhouse. I even began noticing that I was more irritated with the kids than normal, and was having what I call “cardiac attacks”, where for about 10 seconds my heart would beat insanely fast! I would about 1 or 2 of these daily. A few weeks later in class I was trying to do a single tricep press and couldn’t even do 7.5lbs! About this time frame, I also began eating like a horse, I seriously ate more than my husband, but seemed hungry all of the time.
Cervical spine issues
About this same time, I was having neck pain and started seeing my chiropractor for weekly adjustment visits. There was one visit I recall that during the adjustment I felt a sharp pain/twinge go down my left arm and into my fingertips. I then began having severe shoulder pain, and even numbness in 3 of my fingers, and even more muscle weakness. I knew I couldn’t live with this much longer. After all, I had 3 young children I was taking care of all day/everyday, and they needed constant attention, lifting, fixing food, cleaned up, etc. I decided to visit an Orthopedic Dr. specializing in the cervical spine. They ordered an MRI and the results showed a 2 level disc rupture/pinched nerve. What was even scarier was seeing one of those ruptures pressing into my spinal column, that the Dr said could eventually cause mobility issues. The only fix was a 2 level discectomy. To shorten the story, I was scheduled for surgery for a month later and filled out on the form, that I was having some heart issues, and would probably be seeing my cardiologist. The Orthopedist said to just let them know the outcome and that yes, I needed to get that figured out before I could have surgery. With not just having the stress of having to have surgery on my cervical spine, but dealing with what I thought was my heart, and also say goodbye to my days of heavy weight training. If you know me, this was like a punch to the gut, hearing that. I am one of those freak people who loves to exercise! I’ve done it my entire life and its my calm, its my therapy, it just makes me happy!
My visit to the cardiologist came and they ran an EKG, and ECG and that came back with being normal, so they decided to do a blood work panel on me and would call me once that came in. The cardiologist said he wanted to check my thyroid levels. The worst thing in a time like this, when you are having serious health issues, is having to wait. Sure enough, Monday morning I received a call saying my thyroid levels were extremely high and I would need to have further testing, but had diagnosed me with hyperthyroidism. In the meantime, the Cardiologist started me on beta blocker medicine to lower my heart rate(of which never worked). Being the research queen that I am, I began to read up on everything about the thyroid. Causes, treatment options, etc. It then made sense of most of my symptoms that I was having was related back to hyperthyroidism. After having a few more scheduled tests, a thyroid scan, I was then referred to an Endocrinologist to discuss a treatment plan and more details.
Hyperthyroid treatment options
I met with the Endocrinologist,and upon her asking my family history of thyroid problems I was just assuming it was hereditary, since both my parents had to have part of their thyroid or parathyroid removed due to complications. I chalked it up to having a good long run of a healthy thyroid, but that it was my time to begin having issues with mine. The Endocrinologist basically gave me 3 options, none of which I was pleased to hear. 1) Take medication for the rest of my life, every single day to keep my thyroid levels steady, 2) have a thyroidectomy(take it completely out), or 3) take a medication that would basically kill the thyroid. She mentioned that hyperthyroidism could be caused from having a baby even up to 18 months post par-tum, which put me in that time-frame, because our third child was within that. I explained to her that I ate extremely clean, worked out, etc. and had wondered if I could have caused this, myself, from eating too low carb? She wavered a little bit and simply gave me a maybe,but not likely. So she told me to think about my options and we set up a follow-up appointment. I then casually asked if I was still OK to have cervical spine surgery in a couple of weeks, and she immediately said absolutely not. She said that the anesthetic I would have for the surgery, could easily counteract with me and cause a heart attack right there in surgery! OK, so next thing I knew I was cancelling my spinal surgery asap. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I not of asked the Endocrinologist if it was OK to have spinal surgery. Was becoming hyperthyroid a way of telling me that I wasn’t supposed to have spine surgery?
After this time frame I had lost about 20lbs within about 2-3 months, I had tremors in my hands, I was noticing I just couldn’t concentrate and remember like I used to, and all of my clothes looked loose and baggy and none of them were fitting. I was also starting to see my temples sinking in from such extreme weight loss and my hair thinning . At 5’8 weighing 118 lbs is not good at all,plus all of my muscle was just about depleted! I would be laying in bed trying to sleep and my hr was running about 180 bpm(beats per minute). I had so much energy it was crazy, I couldn’t hardly sleep because of my hr, & I was eating like a maniac and still losing weight! People were telling me that I was way too thin and I just didn’t look well, and think I was taking dieting to an extreme. I will be the first person to tell you that I can’t stand the word diet, I don’t believe in them, and if you want to lose weight you do it the smart way and make it a lifestyle change. So, I didn’t like any of the 3 options the Endocrinologist gave me so I pretty much decided I was going to try to cure myself, I was going to give it a shot and if try everything I could on my own, and if It didn’t work then I would cross that bridge when I got there. I cant stand that a Dr’s first instinct is to put you on medication and treat the symptom vs find out the cause and go from there. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking a medication everyday, the rest of my life!
From there, I decided to give my neck a break from my weekly chiropractic visits and just see if that possibly was causing inflammation, and pressing on my thyroid. After all, the thyroid and cervical spine and very close together. I gradually kept adding more carbs into my daily food intake, & stopped counting macros. I really stepped back from weight training and would just do low impact cardio, and was really giving my body a break. Then, after about a month, something began to happen. My neck was slowly getting better and I started getting the feeling back in my fingertips, the pain in my shoulder was dissipating, and the symptoms of my hyperthyroidism were diminishing. I even stopped taking the beta blockers(even though I know you’re not advised to without Dr’s orders). I began gaining weight back on after a few months and feeling like my old self again. Approximately six months later I decided to get a thyroid panel done from my O.B. and the tests all came back normal. So my inevitable question is: Did frequent visits to the chiropractor cause a pinched nerve which in result inflamed my thyroid, or did my brief stint of hyperthyroidism cause inflammation in a nerve that compressed onto my spine, creating the pain in my left shoulder and numbness in my fingers? That’s the million dollar question. Do you think hyperthyroidism is curable? Has it ever gone away on its own? I’d love to hear your feedback on this.
Here I am almost 2 years later at a healthy weight, no thyroid problems whatsoever, and no spine issues right now either(that’s not to say I wont inevitably have to have a double disc replacement), I’ve gained my lost muscle back and gained a lot more as well, and all of my symptoms are gone. I honestly feel great, and I am so happy I never went on medication that I would have been taking the rest of my life, if I didn’t necessarily need to. Do your research, trust your instincts. Dr’s aren’t always 100% right on everything. I’m not saying, however, not to listen to your Dr. and these 3 treatment options aren’t right for you. There are certain cases of hyperthyroidism that are different from mine, most definitely.
I wanted to reference this article I found on “The Hormonal Nightmare” about a spinal misalignment and the thyroid gland. I think this may be spot on and speculating that this is what happened to me.