Health, Personal
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Adventures in thyroid disease

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I have thyroid disease. More specifically, I was diagnosed with Graves disease (a horribly scary name for something not so fatal) in 2006, which is an autoimmune disease where antibodies one day started attacking my thyroid and causing it to overproduce hormones.

Me in 2006 at my sister’s wedding. Funky camera angle mid-dance, but you can see the goiter forming in my neck and how scrawny I look here.

When it was happening, I thought I had stumbled on the most miraculous diet. I dropped 20 pounds without even trying, which was perfectly timed as I was planning my wedding. Well, it turned out that the weight loss came with other symptoms that made me feel weak, hyper, super-stressed, shaky, panicked and overwhelmed. I couldn’t get my heart to calm down even when resting. It was awful.

Thyroid disease was the reason I started yoga. I had to set volleyball and any cardio activity aside and find a way to calm the chaos in my body. It was exactly what I needed.

I was given a choice by my endocrinologist to have my thyroid zapped with radioactive iodine or try antithyroid medication. Zapping is a permanent solution in that it obliterates thyroid function, and then you take replacement hormones the rest of your life. Managing a slow or non-functioning thyroid is easier than trying to tame an overactive one because once you find the right level of replacement hormone, you’re in maintenance mode.

With antithyroid medication, the hope is to suppress the thyroid until levels get back to normal and then hope that it can stay there on its own. There is always risk that your thyroid will fluctuate, and then you continue to do blood work and adjust medication every few months.

I decided to go with door number 2 and take my chances with antithyroid meds. I knew there was a 50/50 shot of my thyroid going hyper again. So, we did that for the first year, and it leveled out. I had a couple freak outs a year or so later, but my body somehow calmed back down on its own.

My thyroid held steady all through pregnancy without any type of medication. Of course, the cascade of hormones that flooded my system after the baby was born rocked the boat pretty hard. At 4 months postpartum, all of my symptoms came back (including losing all the baby weight and more). I went back on the antithyroid meds so I could continue breastfeeding without interruption.

The meds worked fast. After 3 months, I was getting calls from the doctor’s office to cut my pills in half. Three more months later, I was taking a half pill every other day. I’m down to my last 3 half-pills, and then I can stop all medication and see if it holds steady.

Over these last 6 years, I used yoga as a complement to my medical treatment. I’ve been doing research for poses that help aid thyroid health. I hope to share this information so it may help others. Would I say that yoga “cured” the hyper state of my thyroid? Probably not. But it’s certainly helped calm my nerves and my roller coaster emotions, thanks to all the extra hormones.

I’m really hoping I’ll have the same luck and be in an euthyroid state this coming year. I know very well that if we have more children, I’ll probably go through the same thing again postpartum. But until then, I’m excited to be back to “normal” and know I have a little bit more control of my body in this state versus a hyper state.

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4 Comments

  1. What a joy to find words of encouragement from someone walking the same path.

    I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease a few years ago and have found returning to my yoga practice to be wonderfully helpful in coping with some of the symptoms. While there seem to be a few ‘universal’ pieces of advice out there (certain pranayamas, taking the asanas slowly, corpse and child’s pose..) I’m wondering if you’ve found any others?

    Thanks again for sharing, and Namaste’ to you!

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