Alternative title: I didn’t think I’d be writing another one of these after my “Anxiety is not a fad diet” post. But, alas, here we go again …
“I want to be Hypothyroid” I heard the voice mutter as the taps started running.
“Oh aye?” came a second voice accompanied by the tearing of paper towels.
“Definitely! Hypothyroidism makes you lose a ton of weight! And I could do with losing a bit of this I’m carrying around … Honestly this diet just isn’t working for me, been trying to lose these last 4 pounds for yonks but if I was Hypothyroid … ”
Mid-pee I knew something needed to be said … Yes right there, in the office bathroom.
“You’ve mixed up the illnesses” I began, voice echoing from the cubicle “Hypothyroidism can make it difficult to lose weight, Hyperthyroidism can result in weight loss. But I’m not sure why -“.
“- Oh … Right …” She cheerily shrilled before “I guess I’d rather be Hyperthyroid then!”
As I tried to say to her … I’m not entirely sure why anyone would wish a Thyroid problem upon their body in order to lose a few stubborn pounds … Especially without taking into account everything else that comes with the illness.
I’ve had a diagnosis of Hypothyroidism for over 3 years now, at the time I was recovering from suspected Meningitis when my GP noticed a lump in my neck which she recognised to be a goitre*. This combined with excessive tiredness, hypersensitivity to the cold, aching of the muscles and foggy thoughts prompted an ultrasound (to rule out any other possible causes for the Thyroid swelling) and a blood test (for Thyroid function).
You see, a Thyroid function test looks at the levels of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and Thyroxine (T4) in the blood. If TSH is high but T4 is low, it signifies Hypothyroidism. If TSH is low but T4 is high, it signifies Hyperthyroidism.
In a nutshell – Your Thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in your neck (it is often described as being a butterfly shape due to the appearance of its lobes) that produces T4 – Thyroxine and T3 – Triiodothyronine which in turn regulates the metabolism of other cells and systems in the body. TSH is a Pituitary hormone released to stimulate the Thyroid into producing hormones (kinda obvious from the name wouldn’t you say). *An increase in Thyroid hormone (and thus over stimulation) can cause the Thyroid to swell (Hyperthyroidism), alternatively if the Thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone it will be stimulated to produce more which in turn makes it swell (Hypothyroidism) – a Goitre can be a sign of other things too (Iodine deficiency, Cancer, certain anti-depressants to name a few – always worth having it checked!).
So in the case of Hypothyroidism, when the Thyroid doesn’t produce hormones you can experience a lovely group of symptoms such as: Depression (which is why I had my yearly bloods early when I started exhibiting symptoms of this to rule Thyroid deterioration out), Constipation (oh yeah, fun times!), brittle hair, brittle nails (sometimes even ridges!), dry skin, fatigue, extreme tiredness (I put Sleeping Beauty to shame before I got diagnosed), sensitivity to the cold (I’ve talked about this before!), cold extremities (think bed socks, slippers, 2 duvets and still you have numb toes), Carpal Tunnel, changes to the menstrual cycle, increased weight gain or difficulty losing weight … Want me to continue because I haven’t started to mention the more serious complications?
I will have to have a yearly blood test, for the rest of my life, to ensure the Thyroid hasn’t deteriorated further. I will have to take a tablet a day, for the rest of my life, to replace the missing hormone. I will be Hypothyroid, every second of every day, until the day I die.
Hypothyroidism isn’t a joke, it isn’t a fad diet … It is not something you should wish on your body. Trust me.
Maybe I should be starting a “chronic illnesses are not…” series! What do you lovely lot think? Any Spoonies out there wanting to contribute to a guest series?