As the Grateful Dead so aptly put it, what a long, strange trip it has been. As I look back on this health journey of mine, I almost don't even know where to start as it has so many moving parts. However, I'm going to do my best to retell my story in case any of you are reading and struggling with similar symptoms and are looking for answers.
Okay let’s jump into it - I remember things really started to get bad in April of 2020. We just got our cute puppy, Juniper, and I was extremely tired. And not just like, a little tired, like debilitatingly exhausted. I was at the point where I would have to take 2-3 naps a day just to merely survive and go through all the motions of life. It got to the point where I had no time for anything else in the day but sleep. I didn’t have the energy to work out, to create new merchandise for work, to socialize, I just slept for hours on end. When I was actually awake, I was experiencing extreme guilt for sleeping so much, for cancelling plans, and for getting angry at my sweet puppy for needing too much from me, when I couldn’t give her the love and care I had so eagerly planned to do so.
It wasn't until a few months later (I think in July or early August) after getting a few scans done at my Chiropractor that I realized my body was starting to show the effects of this new lifestyle of mine. My HRV (heart rate variability) had been consistently dropping over the last few months, and my poor nervous system was absolutely shot. My Chiropractor recommended I go to a Natural Medicine Center in hopes of getting some answers and supplements to support my body.
By September I was eagerly working with a holistic nutritionist at a Natural Medicine Center. My symptoms list had started to grow as I was experiencing extreme lethargy, irregular periods, weight gain, and anxiety/depression. I am no newbie to anxiety, as many of you know I unabashedly share about my anxiety and medication whenever I can, however the combination of the COVID-19 chaos, new puppy schedule and my extreme health struggles, my poor body was in a state of fight or flight with no way out. I desperately needed help, and latched on to whatever guidance and little piece of hope I could get.
My holistic nutritionist started me on a simple regimen of a few supplements here and there, and eliminated certain inflammatory foods from my diet in hopes to recalibrate my body. I slowly said goodbye to peanut butter, rice, oats, gluten, cheese, grain, and sugar. While there were some small wins with food elimination, my supplement count started getting higher and higher each visit, as I was soon taking about 35+ pills a day and neurotically tracking what I was eating in a food journal to turn into my nutritionist at the next session.
My life was no joke centered around supplements, and healthy eating. I put so much pressure on myself to eat "perfectly", that I started to dread meal prepping and eating in general. I became so fearful of eating something "bad" and ruining all my "progress" that it became unbearable. After many meltdowns in front of my husband, I realized that my eating had become severely disordered. When I say my days consisted of healthy eating and supplements, I mean it. I had to take supplements 6x throughout the day, and log every single thing I ate in a journal. The pressure I had put on myself to be "perfect", took its toll on me and again just stressed my poor body out even further than before.
By January (or maybe even February- it’s all a blur now) my nutritionist quickly advised me to stop doing food journals, as it was clear that they were harming my mental health. Not to mention, even with all this neuroticism regarding food, I still was managing to gain weight.
During my time at the wellness center I was diagnosed, and re-diagnosed, with insulin resistance, liver issues, adrenal fatigue, gall bladder problems, parasites, thyroid complications and problematic bacteria living in my gut. Every time I left an appointment, I had a new problem. Or at least that is how it felt.
The worst part about this 9-month stint of “wellness”, is that I had zero blood tests done. All of these diagnoses were based off of something called muscle testing. If you haven't heard of it, google it, it's some pretty crazy stuff. I believe muscle testing is an amazing practice, and has a time and place for its magic, however it did not serve me at this time in my life. No matter what new supplements I was on my symptoms kept getting worse - still tired, still irregular periods, still gaining weight, still anxious AF and becoming more and more depressed each passing month. Plus, with each additional supplement I got put on, my body would go through a 2-4 week detox phase of headaches, even more lethargy, and flu-like symptoms. I remember the first time I got on these supplements I had a headache for 21 days straight. When I told my practitioner about it, I was told “just push through...sometimes it gets worse before it get’s better.”
I carried on this supplement journey for about 9 months, until I realized I had hit a wall both physically and mentally, as I was experiencing supplement fatigue and severe anxiety & depression. When I look back at this phase, I can't believe I put my body and mental health through all of that for as long as I did. There were many moments when going through that protocol that my intuition told me, “this doesn't feel right.” However, I kept white knuckling my way through it as I believed I was being helped and guided to health. It wasn't until many sessions with my sweet therapist, and many breakdowns with my patient husband, that I gained enough courage to listen to my body, and research other options.
I had lowkey been stalking McCall McPherson and her thyroid practice (Modern Thyroid Clinic) from a far from many years, thanks to her interview on the Green Juice & Tequila podcast in 2019. I knew she was (and obviously still is) a thyroid guru that had helped many people transform their lives from merely surviving to absolutely thriving in a matter of months. I had looked at her website many times over, however was apprehensive to book an appointment with her as I just didn't feel like my symptoms were severe enough to warrant an appointment with her majesty. Plus, she doesn’t accept insurance, and after 9 months of paying out of pocket with no real results, I was nervous to invest in another doctor.
Instead, I settled on booking an appointment with my OB-GYN and asked for some standard blood tests. Very quickly I realized my gyno was not who I wanted to partner with for this new chapter of nourishment and healing, as I just didn’t feel like she was truly listening to me and my all-consuming symptoms. It felt like I was just another patient complaining about being tired and wasting her precious time. However, the appointment did its job as I got my bloodwork back, and quickly realized I had an under functioning thyroid.
Now you may think this is where the story ends...however there are still many twists and turns ahead.
When receiving my bloodwork results back from the OB/GYN, my labs looked “normal” compared to the standard ranges. However, one thing I had learned from McCall’s podcast interviews, is to take my bloodwork results and compare them with her preferred ranges below. Now you may be thinking, why do her ranges differ from the standard lab ranges? Well, it’s a lengthy answer, but I will try to do my best to summarize in a decent manner.
McCall’s practice has the most thyroid patients in all of Texas. She has been doing this work, and research for so many years, that she has been able to put together a set of ranges of what is “normal” according to her clients and the results she sees firsthand. Hopefully I didn’t lose you there, if I did, what I’m trying to get at is…if you get bloodwork done for your thyroid, compare your results to this information below…
- TSH: always less than 2; ideally closer to 1 and sometimes even less than 1.
- Free T4: 0.9 – 1.2
- Free T3: 3.6 - 4.2
- Reverse T3: Ideally less than 12 - 15, but varies depending on the Free T3 value
- TPO Antibodies: Less than 34
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies: Ideally less than 1 - 4
Thanks to this chart, I realized I “qualified” for an appointment with the Thyroid Guru herself.
I had my first appointment with McCall June of this year (2021), and was immediately told I had hypothyroidism. You can bet your bottom dollar I cried during my first (and maybe even second) appointment as it felt nice to finally be seen and validated. That my symptoms weren't just made up in my head (as so many doctors had told me), or stemming out of boredom, but that I actually had a thyroid that was majorly on the struggle bus. Needless to say, McCall prescribed me some medicine and scheduled me for a check-up and blood work in 3 months. (Side note: learn why she doesn’t use synthroid medication, here)
During the first 3 months on new medication, I felt slightly better. On a scale from 1-10 (10 being the best I have ever felt) I went from a 3 to a 4. Still tired, just not as tired as before, still taking naps, still missing a period, still anxious, and also adding a few more exciting symptoms in just for good measure, such as fun chin hairs, tender breasts, oh and even more weight gain...fuuuun! It didn't matter how much I worked out, how healthy I ate, or how many hours I spent meditating, my body was still trying to communicate something to me as it was in dire need of help.
Don't worry, we are getting close to finding out the answer here in just a few!
Since my last appointment, my free-spirited period had still not made an appearance, leaving McCall to order a hormone blood test to figure out what the heck was going on… and thank goodness she did as it finally uncovered the root of it all. Turns out I have a little thing called Estrogen Dominance. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include - irregular periods, stubborn weight gain (especially in your hips, thighs and mid-section), fibroids/endometriosis, insomnia, depression/anxiety/irritability, low libido, fatigue, infertility and PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) And that's when it hit me...
Some of you have been following me since 2015, when I was first diagnosed with PCOS. 2015 also happened to be the year I went through a break up, and started experiencing anxiety for the first time in my life, and was put on an SSRI medication to help with my mental health. Long story short, my anxiety medication helped bring back my period, I found a sweet man who was good to me (aka Maxwell, who is now my husband) and I thought all was well in the PCOS world. Little did I know, my PCOS has been wreaking havoc in my body SINCE 2015! Probably even before 2015, but that's when I started to really notice the first big symptom of irregular periods and painful ovarian cysts.
After years and years of not paying attention to my PCOS (as I thought my hormones had healed themselves), my hormones got so imbalanced that they have not only created period issues, but they have also taken a toll on my liver, my adrenal glands and my thyroid. All things that I am in the process of nourishing now with the help of McCall and some natural supplements and monitoring.
This very long-winded post that probably should have been a podcast episode due to its length, is a way for me to tell you, I have estrogen dominance and it has no joke created absolute hell for me these past few years. If I could give any advice to you all reading this who have similar symptoms it would be GET BLOODWORK DONE AND CHECK YOUR HORMONES OUT!!
*Side Note: If you don’t have insurance or a health care provider to order blood work, there are other options as well at Everly Well or Thorne where you can order a Thyroid Panel, Hormone Panel, and a variety of other tests that could help you find answers. They are less expensive than paying out of pocket, but they do take longer to get the results back.
Yes, I love a good holistic approach as much as anyone, but get some bloodwork done first to find out your numbers and then carry on with whatever approach you please. Also, my other token of advice...listen to your body. Listen to her when she is telling you "I'm tired" or "this doesn't feel right". Listen to her when she is showing symptoms of lethargy, or weight gain. Show her love and kindness during these transitions of unfortunate symptoms, and remind her they are only temporary.
I only got this news of estrogen dominance last week, but I feel strongly about sharing my health story, even though it's not quite finished yet, in case any of you are experiencing similar debilitating issues. I promise to share more along the way of things that are working for me, however I really encourage you to find your own rhythm and care of a doctor that aligns to your healing journey. Best of luck, and thank you for supporting me throughout this wilde ride of life!
Here are some resources that have helped me learn along the way...
Green Juice & Tequila Podcast – "Thyroid Health"