Onto the Next (autoimmune disease that is): Handling Hypothyroidism

83299444-5713-4973-a5e0-7ea5879e5511Hi everyone! Thanks again for reading The Peaks & The Valleys. My focus thus far has primarily been on my struggles with Crohn’s Disease, due to it’s bad behavior the past few months. However, Crohn’s Disease loves company! For me, that company came in the form of a thyroid problem. Hypothyroidism is one of a few thyroid disorders, mainly characterized by decreased thyroid function. Like many people, I had associated thyroid conditions with either increased weight gain and weight loss, however, it is so much more than that.

It all started two years ago, when I was still struggling with unreasonable fatigue while my flare was under control, unclear vision, continued hair loss and weight gain, really dark acne, and irritability from not being able to recall things I once did with ease. Anytime I wasn’t feeling well I attributed it to a flare or the medication I was taking, never really thinking there could be something else influencing my body’s functions besides Crohn’s Disease.

I was stumped on what was going on with my vision and memory, so I went to my general physician, who then ordered the Boston Heart Test for me. He also has Crohn’s and has to hear all my crazy stories, but somehow makes me still feel sane. This test gives a comprehensive study of your heart health (and many other things, thankfully) by analyzing your blood work and assessing factors not commonly ordered on the standard blood test. My doctor found that my T3 and T4 levels were somewhat low while my TSH was high, indicating an issue with my thyroid gland. Note: if you have a doctor who listens to you and you vibe with, hold onto them for dear life.

Enter More Autoimmune Problems. There are roughly 80 different autoimmune diseases, some of which include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, as well as thyroid disease. While it varies depending on what is measured, according to one study available on Medica, the rate of patients developing an additional autoimmune disease after already having one is 25% higher than those without an existing autoimmune disease. e5ca2dba-7ba7-4cc4-8532-cd09d3d983c6Doctors are not sure whether this is set off by environmental triggers or genetic susceptibility, however, how it has been explained to me is that because your immune system is weakened at times, another autoimmune condition can sit dormant in your body for a long time. Then, during a period of susceptibility,  the dormant disease expresses itself like a perfect storm.

It Does What? I never realized everything that your thyroid does and regulates. Not only does it regulate your metabolism, but it also influences your muscle control, brain development, digestive function and moods (from what I have read, definitely not a doctor over here). When your T3 and T4 levels are decreased, it can make you sluggish, sensitive to light, cause your hair and nails to become brittle, dry out your skin, decrease your appetite, and cause fatigue, weight gain or loss, increase cholesterol, slow heart rate, impair memory and cause muscle aches. It made sense when I thought about how I had been experiencing these issues, however, it is easy to blame Crohn’s for a number of symptoms, namely fatigue.

When I began learning more about hypothyroidism, I wondered what difference could not producing enough of these hormones really make compared to what I was already going through? Then I came across one study that found that those with Crohn’s Disease had a higher risk for thyroid cancer, which, taken with a grain of salt, opened my eyes to the need to adequately address my thyroid function. 

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Clearly looking for where all my hair went over the past decade

So, what do I do now? I currently struggle with consistency of thyroid medication amongst the ongoing Crohn’s issues. Trying to remember to take my Tirosint (medication for the thyroid issue) 30 minutes before eating every morning so that I can take my iron and other vitamins after dinner gets confusing. Lack of memory recall doesn’t help. So many things need to be isolated that it makes me feel defeated by these illnesses at times. Although my thyroid has been controlled for the better part of a year and a half, it is always something to consider. I am especially mindful of my weight during a flare, as I can go between 20 pounds in a few months, something my thyroid plays a big role in too. It can be really frustrating how often people comment about weight. I like myself best when I feel strong and have energy, not when I am in a specific weight class.

Question for you – Have you guys experienced the same co-occurring autoimmune problems? If so, what else have you developed and what do you do to manage both? How far into your first autoimmune journey did you discover another? Really hope to continue hearing all the thoughtful things you guys have shared so far!

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