If you missed Part I of this story, I went to my doctor with what I believed was a hypo-thyroid problem. My energy level was decreasing and I had other classic symptoms, plus a family history. My doctor ordered a full panel of tests and I also had a CT heart scan (which showed NO heart disease and 0% plaque). When my lab results came in a week later, instead of focusing on my thyroid symptoms, my doctor ignored my chief complaints and instead focused on my cholesterol numbers. My total cholesterol was pretty high: 355! She strongly urged me to start taking a statin drug, or predicted I'd have a heart attack in 5 years.
The rest of the story...
I am so grateful for having taken the time read about nutrition and to listen to many podcasts by Jimmy Moore and others, because I knew not to freak out.
I already knew several important facts:
The only items concerning to me (that truly mattered) were my LDL-P number and Lp(a). Both were high and true risk factors for heart disease. Both have strong genetic components. However, Spoiler Alert: LDL-P can be elevated due to hypothyroidism.
So, I refused a prescription for a statin drug. I also went away feeling very disappointed in my doctor. She is an osteopath, who has the extra training to treat patients with a more holistic/integrated approach, but she treated me according to my labs, like a conventional doctor, who is influenced by big pharmaceutical companies. Even though I pointed out all of my good lab test results, she said, "Well, those could change". I knew I was doing everything right for my health: a great diet, low stress, lots of sleep, etc. So why would they??? I was not listened to, and my symptoms were never even addressed!
It still makes me MAD!!!!
Still confident my thyroid was under-performing, I decided to do even further homework. This is what I discovered:
Back to my thyroid...
With another large hypothyroid symptom (elevated cholesterol), I went to visit my other healthcare provider who prescribes me my bio-identical hormones. Barbara is a family Nurse Practitioner. I LOVE her, because my visits with her are thorough, and she listens to me, treats me as a person (not as a lab test report), and she is very holistic in nature.
I explained my whole story to Barbara. She wasn't concerned about my cholesterol AT ALL!! Rarely does she see a heart scan of 0% plaque, which impressed her. Barbara knows that I am pro-active when it comes to my health. She knows I do my research and come to her armed with knowledge. She agreed that thyroid medication might help me. Barbara understood I was experiencing these symptoms in spite of the fact that I eat a nutrient rich diet, managing my hormones and sleep, and understand the importance of controlling my stress.
Since my free T3 levels were low, I researched the treatment for that. I concluded I wanted to try a natural thyroid medication, like Armour, because it contains both T4 and T3. (T4 converts to T3, but I felt I must not be converting it well.) My mom takes it, too. Barbara usually prescribes Synthroid, which is all T4, but she trusted me and gave me a prescription for a low dose of Armour. Yay!
Three weeks after starting the Armour I started to feel like myself again. Thanks be to God! My energy was rising and I was thinking clearer (I hadn't even realized I was in a little brain fog). I was performing on the tennis court and getting more schoolwork done.
I went back for my 3 month follow-up. My thyroid markers were very good, but my Free T4 was a little low, so we increased my dose slightly. I am already feeling the benefit. But, the dramatic change was my cholesterol: my Total Cholesterol plummeted 113 points, down to 242! Most of the drop was LDL, which is now 135 and is still Pattern A. My HDL is 88 and Triglycerides are 62 (both fantastic). My CRP for inflammation is still very low at 0.4. Best of all, the genetic components of the lipid panel even dropped!!! My LDL-P dropped 31%, from the high to moderate range, and my Lp(a) dropped 24%, which is fantastic! All because my under-active thyroid was now, with help, functioning properly.
My cholesterol still may be high according to the out-dated, conventional guidelines (which is still based on the misguided "lipid hypothesis" of heart disease), but I know with certainty that it's downright awesome! As a woman, it's ideal. In fact, I feel like framing my lab test, but that would be a little silly. ;-) I also feel like waving it in my osteopath's face and saying, "I told ya so!!!"
In conclusion, I think my poor diet habits in the past caught up with me and took a toll on my thyroid. But, I'm glad I now know how to live to support my overall health, including my thyroid. (The thyroid needs constant nutritional support.) There is also a difference between "normal" lab test values for thyroid and OPTIMAL thyroid levels (according to Amy Myers, MD). I'm glad I listened to my instincts, trusted myself, sought out the best treatment, and didn't give up!
The bottom line is: Be your own best health advocate. While doctors certainly do want you to be healthy, it's okay to question them and do your own research about any health condition and any drugs they want to prescribe. Lastly, I always consider a doing dietary intervention before taking prescription drugs, especially for any type of chronic condition related to the effects a poor diet.
This is my personal story. What happened to me may not apply to you.
To educate yourself further about cholesterol, I highly recommend the books Cholesterol Clarity and The Great Cholesterol Myth.
Update (April 2015): I"m proud to say that with very good care for my thyroid, in addition to adding in some Synthroid (because my free T4 was still low on Armor alone), I'm feeling fantastic! I've also added even more healthy carbs into my diet, because I feel sluggish without them (especially as an athlete) & my body needs them in order for the thyroid to work! Plus, I just had a simple cholesterol test done. The total was 189 and the ratios were awesome!
Jenny Yelle, MHNE Holistic Wellness Educator
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