*Disclaimer* I am NOT a doctor (shocker). Please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.
I've written about my health problems in various blog posts, and to be honest it never gets easier to disclose my private health issues. I see myself as a strong, confident, and capable woman - so to admit publicly that I often struggle with my health is very hard. Not to mention, people have so many different ideas about what "healthy" truly is. And really, that's ok. For example, most nutritionists agree that grassfed bone broth is healthy and gut-healing. For me, bone broth triggers a reaction of hives and digestive issues (glamorous) due to the histamines. What I'm saying is, health and nutrition is not a one-size fits all.
Even if this post helps just one person struggling to find answers, I will feel good knowing that baring my uncomfortable vulnerable side will be worth it. I wish very badly that I had found these answers years ago.
Most people (read: 99.9%) in high school didn't realize that I was struggling with hypothyroidism, a goiter (enlarged thyroid), and PMDD (low estrogen/progesterone). Feel free to read my previous posts about how my doctors were concerned about the possibility of me having thyroid cancer. My ill-functioning thyroid caused a whole host of issues including extreme fatigue, weight gain, and a general sense of detachment. It wasn't that I was unhappy, I simply didn't feel anything. I was put on synthroid and progesterone and it helped - for a while.
In college, I "couldn't afford" my thyroid medication (but somehow found money to partake in social endeavors, another shocker). My roommates always joked and complained that I napped every. single. day. from around 2-4pm. I even planned my class/work schedule around my fits of exhaustion.
My messed up hormones effected more than just how I felt. I've recently come to realize that many of my acquaintances in high school and college saw me as "stand-offish", or worse, "unfriendly" . The RBF was real, but it wasn't because I didn't like everyone. I was simply exhausted all of the time and didn't know that I wasn't supposed to feel that way. So, PSA : I am sorry if I ever made anyone feel unwelcome.
After college, I took better care of myself. I worked out, I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, changed my diet dramatically (ie cut out gluten and most dairy) and I took my synthroid regularly.
However, about a year ago I knew something was still "off". A friend suggested I make an appointment with her physician that deals with bio-identical hormone replacement. She told me about all of her symptoms and they sounded EXACTLY like mine. She too had taken synthroid for years and had seen only small amounts of improvement.
I regularly took my synthroid, but I was still tired, struggled to put on muscle / lose weight regardless of how often I worked out, had difficulty sleeping, etc. I decided to give it a shot and get some blood work done.
Sure enough, my T4 was too high (synthroid only supplements T4, but oftentimes our bodies don't convert T4 into essential T3 hormones), my T3 was way too low, and my testosterone was UNDETECTABLE. Did you hear that? Zero. Zilch. I had precisely ZERO testosterone running throughout my body.
There's a common misconception that only men need testosterone. It's true that men need much more testosterone than women do, but women still have testosterone and desperately need it too. Typically, doctors won't test women for "low T" if they're under 40 or if they haven't had kids yet. Unfortunately, I flew under the radar for many years while struggling with totally messed up hormones.
Since switching to a bio-identical thyroid medicine and getting testosterone replacement about 9 months ago, I can honestly say it has been life-changing. My blood work shows perfectly balanced estrogen, progesterone, T3, T4, and testosterone.
I've never felt better! I don't have to nap during the day anymore, I have extra energy throughout the day (and have even switched to decaf), I sleep better, and my workouts are stronger. My husband finally admitted to me that he didn't always enjoy going on runs with me because I was pretty slow (read: VERY slow) - but he noticed a huge change in my pace and strength and has been so proud and happy for me.
Now for the downside : you HAVE to be patient with your body. While many of my symptoms of fatigue, lack of strength, etc. went away rather quickly, I actually GAINED weight for the first 6 months. Unfortunately, this is a normal and common side effect for about 10-15% of women. In some women, testosterone converts into estrogen and increases water weight. Needless to say it was very frustrating to finally have answers, but to have to wait even longer for them to "work".
Ultimately I decided that the dissipation of my other symptoms was way more important than gaining a few temporary pounds. Who knows how long my body hasn't had the proper hormones. It makes sense that it could take some time for my body to recognize these hormones and respond accordingly. It has been 9 months and I am just now starting to see some of the extra weight come off. There is no magic pill or supplement, you still have to put in the hard work and eat right. A DIM supplement has helped too - ask your doctor if you should supplement with DIM while replacing your testosterone.
There was another huge (albeit temporary) change : I was weepy. Remember how I mentioned earlier that I used to not *feel* very much? I was QUITE comfortable not having all of those *unnecessary feelings*. But all of a sudden, I became a crier! Like almost overnight. Everyone that truly knows me was concerned. Most had never seen me cry in their whole lives. My poor husband was SO supportive, but I'm sure he was confused and worried. After all, this was very different from the girl he married.
I finally got the courage to (weepily) call my doctor and ask if "sensitivity" is a normal symptom. She let me know that my body was simply adjusting to hormones it probably hadn't had in a decade or more, and that it was totally normal to feel a wide range of emotions. She let me know that my *emotions* should stabilize at the second round of treatment. Sure enough, by the 4th month I felt much more clearheaded and less prone to unprovoked crying.
I wanted to be as clear and honest as possible with my experience with hormone replacement, which is why I waited 9 months before writing this post. I wanted to give it time to "work" and to be able to give a more thorough review of my experience. I would 100% do it all over again, but it is a commitment and has come with some difficult and annoying obstacles. One day, I would love to get to the "root" of what is causing all of my hormone imbalances. But for now, I am thankful that these hormone replacements exist.
I know hormone replacement therapy isn't for everyone - hopefully most people don't need it. But I am so thankful to have found a doctor that listened to me and believed my symptoms enough to test me. More than anything, I hope that women (and men) listen to their bodies and push back if they know something isn't right. I was not the "typical" case for someone with low T, yet all of my symptoms pointed to hormone imbalance.
Take care of yourself and find a doctor that listens to you and believes you.
Kat - Wander Life