Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hypothyroidism and the Athlete - A Personal Story - Part One

I am going to break this into 2 parts simply because its a long story to tell and no one likes to read a novel on a blog.  :)

What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs. Without enough thyroid hormone, many of the body’s functions slow down. About 5 percent of the U.S. population has hypothyroidism.   
Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism. The disease is also more common among people older than age 60. The American Thyroid Association recommends that adults, particularly women, have a blood test to detect thyroid problems every 5 years starting at age 35.

Hypothyroidism in women is most likely to occur in females who are in their late 40s or early 50s. This is usually the time when women experience menopause. Hypothyroidism does have symptoms that mimic those of menopause, and as a result, these symptoms are confused with those of regular menopause, thus leading to a lot of confusion. This is mainly because women suffering from hypothyroidism also experience mood swings, anxiety, sluggishness, and others symptoms that are common in menopause.

Up until 2004 I never experienced any sort of weight gain (or other symptoms) other than what was brought on by myself.  A couple of years after high school I gained a lot of weight (was up to 140 on my 5'1 frame) and was in size 10.  I lost the weight by doing Atkins and joining aerobics.  You know the old fashioned kind.  I even taught for a brief time, and for years and years I didn't gain the weight back.  Mostly because of my lifestyle, but as I have mentioned I was always 'healthy' even when I wasn't.  I was a gym rat and I could lose 5 lbs by just not eating much for a couple of days.  When I moved to Vegas of course I was always at my high school skinny of 100-113 lbs and was a size 0 or a 1.  Not exactly healthy to be clear.

Certain factors can increase a person's chances of developing thyroid disorders, although nothing in my past suggested this was my issue other than when thinking back and reflecting, it clearly ran in the family of women on my dad's side which is the side of the family I took after.  Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, which is the way the body uses energy, and affect nearly every organ in the body.  I was shocked at all the symptoms that hit me other than the weight gain which shot me up from a size 4 to a size 10 in a matter of a couple of months.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism has many symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are
·         fatigue  - yep
·         weight gain  - yep
·         puffy face  - yep
·         cold intolerance  - yep (still have this to some degree)
·         joint and muscle pain
·         constipation
·         dry, thinning hair  - yep
·         decreased sweating
·         heavy or irregular menstrual periods and impaired fertility
·         depression  - yep
·         slowed heart rate  - yep
Athletes with this condition can easily experience reduced exercise tolerance, or suffer with impaired cardiac function and problems with blood flow. Hypothyroidism studies demonstrate up to 50 per cent less free fatty acid plasma concentration, resulting in a diminished use of fat for muscle energy during aerobic exercise. This causes more reliance on muscle glycogen for fuel, which increases lactate formation and consequently, less endurance and stamina.  

Now while I was not what I would call an athlete back in 2004 (I was not working out at this time, I was still thin leading up to it).  My exercise was pretty much not eating a lot, drinking a lot, smoking a lot, on the road a lot covering the State promoting music and bands.  I had lost my job back in September 2003, took several months off because I had the money from the sale of the house and then could not find a job back at Stewart in the home office which was where I was wanting to be (I had been working at a subsidiary since 2000).  I began bartending to bring in extra money, and my lifestyle continued although because money was running out, I started to fall into a depression and was covering that up by increasing the drug use.  It was sometime during this time that I quit cold turkey on the drugs.  The first 'symptom' outside of the weight gain was my low tolerance for alcohol all of a sudden.  I literally would have 1-2 drinks, and then would 'black out'.  Not remembering anything from that point on, getting extremely sick because of it.  Later I would find out that due to the hypothyroidism, my body was not able to metabolize anything, and that included alcohol.  The only other symptom that I had that was blatantly obvious was my need for sleep.  I slept a lot.  About 13-15 hours out of 24 to be honest with you.  And when I wasn't sleeping I wanted to be sleeping.

I had a friend that was a runner, and I had gotten her into the gym during the previous year and always made fun of her for running.  I thought it was ridiculous and that cardio was not even important.  So when I began the weight gain I was desperate and she suggested cardio might help.  Well I tried the elliptical and could barely last 5 minutes on it and it was boring.  There was also a treadmill in the gym where I lived.  So one day I hopped up on it, and tried to run.  I think I ran 3 minutes before I had to walk.  So began my affair with run/walk.  I can remember that making it to 30 minutes of that and I was ecstatic.  I was running something like 12:30's or something.  I dont remember how long this went on for but it was helping to keep things at bay.  Because I wasnt working I didnt have insurance so I self diagnosed myself on the internet and tried all the ways they suggest, but nothing was working.  I went back to work at Stewart in August 2004 and I had insurance and thats when I began searching professionally for answers.  It took 3 doctors before I found my way to specialist and I was diagnosed with severe hypothyroidism.  And began the rounds of medications to figure out my levels and what would work and what wouldn't.

During this time, I continued my run/walking and at some point, transferred from the treadmill to the street most of the time and had worked myself up to 5 miles.  I used to figure out how far I was going on different routes around where I lived.  I felt like a badass.  :)

And it was at this time that I considered myself a runner and that I was officially addicted to it.  As someone with an addictive personality already, this was definitely a step in the right direction.

To be continued... 


Mel said...

You have no idea how timely this is. Bless you JuneBug. I've been meaning to email you about it.

I exhibit all but one of those symptoms. In fact, I didn't blog or tell anyone about it, but I had more bloodwork done, and then that neck ultrasound. They both turned something up. Endrocrinologist appt next week to determine if this may be my problem.

I can't believe in the last year, no one other than my current Dr even considered this being it or did bloodwork or other tests. It's not for sure, will know next week, but I am praying I will find out what is wrong.

Dan and his mom and sister are all hypo but haven't exhibited symptoms. My symptoms keep getting progressively worse :-(

Sorry I blogged you a response to your blog. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it.

Jade said...

Porcine tablet is an all natural supplement that works with the body's system to help the thyroid gland produce a sufficient amount of hormones. In this regard, it could aid with the body's daily needs.