Many of you know that I (Ashley) discovered last year that I have some "dirty genes," which could potentially impact my health outlook. My MTHFR gene mutation (from both parents), in particular, was something that I knew I could not simply ignore. So, because I knew that my body was only capable of detoxifying at about 30% efficacy, I began taking glutathione daily and increased my dose of a methylated b-complex supplement. I also returned to a very strict version of a grain free, dairy free, sugar free diet after getting my genetics report. Things were going fairly well. The scary heart racing episodes, hand tremors, erratic blood pressure problems, and temperature regulation issues I experienced throughout the Fall of 2017 had gone away and I wasn't noticing a swollen feeling over my thyroid nearly as often as I had previously. I had cut down my workload a bit, I was being intentional about getting to bed at an earlier time each night, and I was doing my deep breathing regularly. I had even started a very, very simple exercise routine that seemed to be working for me. And (as I mentioned at the start of 2019) I had decided to avoid starting anything new for 4 months. I was actually feeling fairly stress-free.
March 30th was a very normal day for me. I worked at Simply Nourished in the morning as I do most Saturdays, and then I headed home to clean up a bit for our BE WELLness company gathering, which was scheduled for 6:30 that evening after our quarterly sales training that I was going to be leading around 4:00. Shea had taken the kids to his studio so the house would be quiet for me to get organized for the training. I washed my hands at the kitchen sink much like I do every day, using the handmade soap I always use. I dried them on the cloth towel hanging next to the sink, and made my way to the family room to fold a fleece blanket that was spread out across the sofa. I picked up with blanket with both hands, gave it a big shake to get the wrinkles to fall out, and suddenly sharp, shooting pains drove into the palms of both of my hands. It was a sensation much like I had picked up fiberglass insulation with my bare hands. Instinctually, I threw the blanket to the floor and ran to the bathroom to wash my hands. Any touch sent stinging pains into my skin, as if shards of glass were being driven in deeper at each point of contact. I quickly called Shea to ask if he or the kids had had the blanket outside in our garage where we have construction supplies including insulation. He assured me the blanket was fine, and said he and the kids had used it earlier that morning on the sofa. At that point I was very freaked out. My brain was obviously communicating improperly with my nerves, sending incorrect signals.
I began taking a homeopathic remedy known to help the body address stinging pain, and after two doses the pain was decreased to more of a tingling/numb sensation. Knowing I had to finish getting ready for the training at 4:00, and that I had 20 people coming to my house that evening for a potluck, I decided to just ignore the symptoms for the remainder of the day. By suppertime, the symptoms in my hands were pretty much gone, and by the time I went to bed my hands felt 100% normal. Around midnight, unfortunately, I woke up in a cold sweat and had trouble falling back to sleep due to tightness in my chest and a pressure feeling pushing down. If this had been the first time I'd experienced chest pain and pressure I certainly would have gone in to the ER. However, previously when my thyroid has gone into hyper mode these same symptoms were present, so I assumed that was what was going on. The next night the same thing happened.
Although my thyroid symptoms are definitely manageable when I'm very intentional about diet, lifestyle and supplements, I've been perplexed the last year and half because there is a distinct pattern in the timing of my chest pressure symptoms. It is undoubtedly connected to my monthly hormonal cycle. While I certainly know that many women regularly experience PMS symptoms, I do not personally believe those symptoms to be "normal." I am most certainly not willing to accept chest tightness and pressure, fatigue and brain fog, and nervous system symptoms like peripheral numbness and tingling as normal PMS symptoms for my body. So, although I do not typically go to the doctor, I decided it would be wise and helpful to go in and share my symptoms with a licensed professional and have some labs done.
I saw a conventional practitioner here in town, and although he was a perfectly lovely man, I was so discouraged by my appointment. The stinging pain in my hands was diagnosed as some random long word that essentially he chalked up to a symptom of a panic attack. He also diagnosed me as being under normal stress per my age and lifestyle and told me to simply ignore my symptoms. And, if I was unable to simply ignore them, he prescribed Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). I am 100% a fan of (CBT). In fact, I already incorporate it into my regular routine. Mindfulness. Meditation. Truth speaking. I get it. I believe in it. It does work. But then sometimes it doesn't because our physical body is trying to communicate something to us. When I got my lab results a couple days later I saw that my Free T3 was elevated, suggesting hyperthyroid activity. Yet, in the letter from my practitioner I was once again told to ignore because the conventional approach does not do anything for elevated free T3 if the TSH and T4 are normal. While that may be appropriate in some cases, I know my body and I know that I ALWAYS have normal TSH per the conventional range. Furthermore, I know from functional practitioners like Dr. Amy Myers that elevated Free T3 is not normal and should be explored further.
Previously I've been content just accepting hyperthyroid or thyroiditis as my final diagnosis/root cause. However, the more I learn about the functional approach to health, the more I realize that the thyroid disfunction is just another symptom, and conventional medicine does not care to dig any deeper or even address abnormal thyroid labs at all. So, what's an uninsured gal to do? Today I'm going to be calling my health share team to see if I would be able to go get a second opinion with a functional medicine doctor to see if we can get to the bottom of this. I want to know what might be causing my thyroid to be imbalanced and why it may have been linked to my monthly cycle the last 18+ months. I want to figure out why my brain is sending wrong messages to my nerves before that becomes full-blown dis-ease. I want to practice preventative care and learn how to support my body as I age so I don't become another statistic of an American with chronic health issues.
If this is relatable to you, but you haven't really scratched the surface of what there is to know about functional medicine, reducing inflammation, understanding the role of genetics in our health and supporting your body's unique make up, I highly encourage the docu-series Broken Brain 2, facilitated by Functional Medicine Doctor, Mark Hyman, from the Cleveland Clinic. It is currently free to view, and you can access it using this link:
Personally I'm looking forward to getting the missing pieces put into place for my own health puzzle. I'd encourage you all to be your own health advocates as well. Trust your instincts when you know something is not right in your body. Listen to the signals your body is sending you to communicate problems. Don't take "just ignore it" for an answer if you know that something is off. Find a practitioner who will work with you and order the labs you might need to get to the root of your body's problems. Don't give up. There is always hope, and someone who will listen. If a listening ear is what you need most right now, stop in to Simply Nourished and one of our caring Team members will be there to listen and help connect you to resources that can help support your health journey. Simply Nourished is open Monday through Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-4.