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Monday, May 24, 2010

My Battle with Thyroidism

May 25 to 31, as most of you would know, is International Thyroid Awareness Week. I'm posting this because through my experiences with the disease, I know how important it is that the symptoms are recognized and treated as early as possible.

I started feeling unwell when I was in my early twenties. I didn't know then that I was suffering from hyperthyroidism - a condition when your body produces an excess of the thyroid hormone. I was nervous, irritable and imsoniac. My hands were trembling and I was always feeling hot. I ate like a horse but was losing weight and my heart was beating at an alarming rate. I felt like a time-bomb and my colleagues thought I was volatile and quarrelsome.
A visit from Mom ended with her dragging me to a clinic for a medical check-up. Mom was a nurse and she recognized the symptoms immediately. As usual, she was always right. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

To bring my thyroid hormone levels under control, I was treated with a high dosage of carbimazole tablets which would inevitably lead to hypothyroidism - the complete opposite of hyperthyroidism.
As expected, I developed hypothyroidism - my face puffed up with the weight gain and my lush hair was falling out and I felt like a zombie - weak, lethargic, intolerant to cold and depressed. My life was on a 'slow-forward'. I also suffered memory and appetite loss and muscular weakness. My wedding was just a few months away and no matter what I ate, my weight escalated. In a desperate attempt to lose weight, I resorted to drinking some kind of slimming tea that nearly cost me my kidneys.
The medication gradually tapered and I was back to my normal self but not for long. My hyperthyroidism returned and it was back to the whole cycle all over again - hyper and then hypo and hyper again..... It was all very frustrating and I totally hated living my life like a pendulum that was swinging in opposite extremes.
The last straw was when I suffered 3 miscarriages. I then decided to have part of my thyroid gland surgically removed and 20 years and 2 boys later, I've achieved 'Euthyroid' status (the state of having normal thyroid gland function). I've never felt better except for my intolerance to cold.
Although my symptoms are now under control, I have a legacy of stretch marks (due to my weight fluctuations), a scarred neck (the surgery) and a right eye that's slightly bigger than the left (exophthalmos - an abnormal protrusion of the eyeball from the eye socket/orbit, which can be associated with Graves' thyroidtoxicosis disease).

Here are some interesting facts I learned about the disease.

Foods that depress thyroid activity are broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soy, beans, and mustard greens. These foods should be included in the diet for hyperthyroid conditions and avoided for people with hypothyroidism.

Studies have suggested a link between Germans and hypothyroidism due to their high intake of sauerkraut (finely shredded fermented cabbage). Cabbage may also act as a goitrogen. It blocks organification in thyroid cells, thus inhibiting the production of the thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). The result is an increased secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) due to low thyroid hormone levels. This increase in TSH results in an enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter). Salad lovers, beware!

Some experts have suggested that autoimmune thyroid disease develops as a result of iodine overconsumption. Both the U.S. and Japan have high levels of iodine consumption and of autoimmune thyroid disease. Japanese people consume iodine because of their traditional diet that is rich in seafood and seaweed and Americans do because salt is iodinated and the food industry uses iodine as a machine wash.
You might want to go easy on the sushi if you have an overactive thyroid.

I wish I had known these facts earlier.


  1. That's so interesting. I never knew the difference between the two. I would've been very frustrated as well but good thing it is now under control.

  2. My manager has hyperthyroidism and she goes through the same thing you listed. One day as we were going over reports, there was something about her that I felt and I told her she didn't look well. She said she hadn't didn't slept for a few days. I was alarmed and told her to go see a doctor. She refused. Talk about tough love. Her manager stepped in and told her he would not allow her to come to work without a doctor's note. She finally gave in and went to see her doc. She was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and from then on, she's been on medication.

  3. I've seen a good friend go through this - she ultimately was diagnosed with graves and has had a host of other issues ... it is hard to watch someone so strong go through something so debilitating. I'm glad that you are wll again.

  4. Good to know the facts.Thanks for sharing. Glad to know you're euthyroid now.

  5. V - thanks for sharing your story. I have a couple of friends that suffer with thyroidism, and I know how difficult it can be. So glad you are well!


  6. Thanks for sharing your experience and for increasing awareness of never know who you have touched through this post and maybe they will find help today. So glad that you are better.

  7. Oh my gosh, you really did go through so much! I can imagine all the emotions you went through during that time. My sister in-law has the over active thyroid, and was always shaky.

  8. Awesome post sweetie, I had no idea. I always hear people talk about Hypothyroidism so it's nice to read and get more information about the other side of the coin. So glad to hear you're Euthyroid now :)

  9. Hi from MBC!

    Love your blog! Hope you can follow me too!


  10. Very interesting info. So sorry you had to go through all of that. I am hypo, and there are times when I am so sluggish. Most days I am ok, but I have a terrible time losing weight. I do see a doctor every 6 months and have had my medicine adjusted so many times!

  11. OH! I am so sorry I had no clue you went through all that when you were little. I am glad you are fine now and I am your truly blog friend and am really glad you are okay. Sending You Some LOVE!!! :)


  12. Another kind of natural thyroid treatment is natural porcine capsules which are usually comprised of only natural things that hardly ever cause unforeseen or complicated negative effects.

  13. Broccoli, cabbage are good foods for thyroid. Add these foods in your diet and also take thyroid supplements. It helps to reduce thyroid gland and also increases energy