28 February 2020

When Your Health Turns On You: #Hypothyroidism –– 5: Functional Medicine and YouTube

The backstory for those just joining me: 

During 2017 I was suffering lots of weird health symptoms, the most concerning being that my brain refused to function properly – hardly a useful trait in a novelist. April 2018 a lump developed on my neck: a swelling on my thyroid. A GP’s blood tests indicated I might develop Hypothyroidism, whereas symptoms and antibodies emphasised that I was suffering Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disorder. I’m writing this series of posts because if you don’t recognise the signs your health could turn on you. I don’t recommend it. Read Post-1, Post-2, Post-3 and Post-4.

Note: I’m British and live in the UK. We have a National Health Service, free at the point of access, paid for via our taxes. Your mileage may differ, even if you live in the UK.

February 2020. Having joined a Vitamin D Deficiency support group, and deciding to follow its protocol of co-factors in an effort to raise my levels, there is now a 3-4 month wait before paying for a blood test to check both the Vitamin D and the Hypothyroid markers. I’ve also learned that raising Vitamin D to an optimal reading (75-150 nmol/L) may well pull up B12 levels, which wouldn’t go amiss.

Time to return to the outstanding:
    • lowish level of Zinc (less than a quarter up the range).
    • as I am eating the recommended good balanced diet why am I missing any nutrients?

During my research I’d come across quite a few articles calling for more nutritional education to be included in the training of UK doctors. Depending on the medical school (why isn’t there a UK standard?) it can be anywhere between 10-24 hours over five or six years training. No wonder my GP shrugged when I asked if I might have a vitamin insufficiency or an absorption problem. Add in the fact that local Clinical Commissioning Groups may refuse to fund the necessary blood tests to check, and a GP can be on a hiding to nothing even if well-read on the subject.

From my own reading it’s not much better in the United States. Except the US seems to have something which are very thin on the ground over here, Functional Medicine practitioners. These can be fully trained medical doctors, or nutritionalists, or quite often both. Their priority is not to relieve symptoms or cure, but to do this and discover the root of the problem so it can be adjusted in an effort to stop a recurrence. Many of them support YouTube channels.

Now, I’m the first to cast a wary eye over information gleaned from the Internet. After all, it’s part and parcel of being a historical novelist, never mind protecting my health. I’m particularly wary of content produced by people trying to sell me something, but when brain fog makes reading, never mind comprehending, an academic medical paper impossible, it’s less strain to assimilate information conveyed in layman's language from a scattering of sources, YouTube being one.

I’ve already recommended York Cardiology, the channel of British heart specialist Dr Sanjay Gupta. One I found fairly early in my research was American Dr Peter Osbourne, not a medical doctor, but a functional nutritionalist whose dietary specialism is gluten-free. His ten minute video Nutrition And Your Thyroid was a bit of an eye-popper, underlining much of what I was reading from UK Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield’s book (see Post-2). If you are interested, and if you are reading this you should be, Dr Osbourne also has easy to comprehend explanations on Magnesium and Vitamin B12 Deficiency.

The other YouTube channel I now subscribe to is Dr Ken Berry, an American medical doctor with a nutritional leaning, a dry wit, and a no-nonsense approach. He also practices what he espouses. If you are looking for a diet regime he has road-tested several over the years, from Low Carb to Carnivore; currently it’s Keto. For me there are two playlists I was particularly interested in: Vitamins & Minerals and Thyroid Issues, each covering various aspects over a number of videos.

Also worth mentioning is the Vitamin D Wiki, a website founded by Henry Lahore on which he indexes articles and papers relating to Vitamin D. It’s been going ten years, looks a bit clunky, but its content is mind-boggling.

So what did I discover about that normal balanced diet that’s constantly been emphasised? For me it equates to a mainly low fat, high fibre, whole-grain, mostly white meat, fresh fish, fruit & vegetables diet. I’ve been eating it for years, but where’s the Vitamin B12 coming from? The Vitamin D? And I’m now suspecting optimal amounts of Magnesium and a host of others? I used to have regular cravings for dark chocolate and sweet stuff, which cut drastically after three months on a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. Mmm.

As to my lowish Zinc and white blood count readings, it looks as if they go hand in hand. Zinc is a co-factor in numerous biochemical reactions, including Vitamin D and Essential Fatty Acid Omega-3 metabolism. It will be interesting to see if its level, and my white blood count levels, rise alongside Vitamin D.

So there I go. Or am going.

Yet the proof of the pudding is... how do I feel? A hellova lot better than I did. I get the occasional sore throat, the lumps on my neck make themselves felt occasionally and I suspect both have an input from the adrenals (stress) as I can feel very tired at the time this happens. Again, it will be interesting to see if this abates with a rise in my Vitamin D. If not I shall look elsewhere. There's still a lot of research to go at.

Do I mentally feel able to pick up a pen and write again? Well, I’ve written this series of articles, though if you think they’ve been written in the five days you’ve read them, let’s all have a little chuckle over that. Writing non-fiction doesn’t use the same mental muscles as writing fiction, but yes, I feel ready to roll. Except…

...except I’ve just had a pre-operative assessment for a replacement hip, due early March. Oh dear, what a shame, but does this have a bearing on anything? Aren’t hips, and knees for that matter, replaced due to “wear & tear”? 

That’s what we are always told but I’ve become suspicious of such pat answers. My mother died aged 89; she never needed a hip replacing, neither did her sisters. I’m only in my late 60s and this will be my second. Unlucky my orthopaedic surgeon suggested. And no, he wasn’t interested in hearing about my sub-clinical Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, but did perk up when I told him about my insufficient Vitamin D, and therefore a probability of osteoporosis, or at least its precursor osteopenia. Don’t worry, he said expansively, if your femur cracks when we do the operation we’ll put you on non weight-bearing until it’s mended. Thanks. I think.

More to the point, like a lot of people I’ve had lower back problems since my mid thirties. Perhaps I’m just reaping the warnings I, and my succession of GPs, dismissed as “pulled muscles”. Perhaps I should have continued that foul-tasting Cod Liver Oil of my 1950s childhood: Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Omega-3 anyone?


I’ll add in the occasional update post, but don’t expect one for a few months. Following the blog by email (see top of the column) will have updates delivered to your Inbox. If you found these posts informative, drop me a line in the Comments, or hit the Share buttons below. Helping spread the word may just save someone undertaking my journey. Thanks. And let's all take an interest in our own health. It may save tears later.


When Your Health Turns On You #Hypothyroidism series:

1: Symptoms
2: Vitamins & Minerals
3: Blood Tests
4: Vitamin Co-Factors & the Microbiome
5: Functional Medicine & YouTube
6: Covid-19 Coronavirus

2 comments :

  1. Hi Linda. You are certainly very dogged in your research, very unlike me. It was in the early 2000s when I started experiencing an odd collection of symptoms. No lumps on the neck, but tiredness, being cold all the time (my reynauds got worse), constipation, dandruff, brain fog, putting on weight despite no change in diet. It took a long time before the doctor twigged what was going on - probably because I never presented to her ALL the symptoms at any one time. When I did, she did the blood test, which was very quick. I didn't know what she was testing me for. When I walked back into the surgery she was surprised I was still vertical and functioning given the results of the test. There's a marker in the blood (can't recall what it's called) which points up the level of natural thyroxin in the body. The normal range of this marker is somewhere between .05 and 7 I seem to recall. Mine was at 41! I went on thyroxine immediately and have been ever since (now taking 150, but has been up as high as 200). Almost immediate return to health. As for vitamins, I have taken high strength cod liver oil capsules, evening primrose, multi-vitamins + full range of minerals since forever. I NEVER research health worries on the internet as I don't want to terrify myself. We are all different.

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    1. Hello Gilli, thanks for calling by with your own experience. My stance came from taking exception to being dismissed by a medic. My pre-digital patient notes were so slim they could be slid under a door, so when I made an appointment feeling terribly ill I expected to be taken seriously. The research began so as to learn which questions to ask, but the more I read the more incensed I became. But also the more fascinated. The human being is an unbelievably complex organism tuned to a surprisingly fine balance.

      I wish you well with your own health, Gilli.

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