Miracles or Just Plain Hard Work?
Many of you have read my past articles know that I once suffered with a number of medical problems, including migraine headaches, hypothyroidism, obesity, allergies, and female problems.
Finding out how to become well was a miracle in my life. I had seen many specialists without success; one more drug was not the answer. In the process of discovery, I learned there is more than one way to approach a patient and I took that valuable lesson with me into my own practice.
It feels like a miracle to patients who have struggled or suffered, often for a long period, when they finally find an effective way to regain their health and vitality. As they become well, they can reach for important goals in their lives. For some, that means finally really enjoying retirement. Becoming pregnant was a dream fulfilled for some of 8my patients. Being able to work full-time was a major step forward for another.
“Valerie,” a 51-year-old retired teacher, came to see me and frankly said she hoped it would be worth the two-hour drive. Prior to the past two years, she had always been healthy and energetic. Now she had a variety of symptoms including muscle aches in her back and arms, headaches, ringing in her ears, as well as fatigue, burning sensations in her stomach, insomnia due to body jerking as she was falling asleep, pounding in her ears, sinus congestion, inability to focus or concentrate, and a feeling of overall apathy. Life was certainly not fun for this woman.
She had been taking thyroid medication (Unithroid and then Synthroid, both T4 preparations) without relief of her fatigue or other symptoms. Actually, on thyroid medication she had symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism! Symptoms of low thyroid include weakness, fatigue, hair loss, feeling cold, constipation, weight gain, and puffy face, hands and feet.
People with hyperthyroidism are often jittery, nervous, weak, and often experience heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, and shakiness.
This patient’s tests showed her to be low in thyroid, but whenever her doctor increased her dosage of thyroid she would immediately have symptoms of severe hyperthyroidism! She never felt well. I questioned her closely and found that she did not tolerate medications well in general. Blood tests revealed that Valerie had high levels of antibodies to her own thyroid: she had a very active case of Hashimoto’s or Autoimmune Thyroiditis. This posed two potential problems when dealing with her hypothyroidism: she could be periodically sending out some of her own thyroid hormone when the Autoimmune Thyroiditis was active; or she might have problems with eliminating T4 from her body through the liver. It became clear in her case that she could not eliminate the T4, so when giving her thyroid replacement initially she was given more T3, which is easier to eliminate than T4.
After a number of months of treatment, where all of her problems were addressed and improved, she stabilized on a standard, more balanced combination of T4 and T3. The important issue was to address the underlying problems that caused the Autoimmune Thryoiditis (an autoimmune disease) in the first place and strive for the health of the whole system. A year later, all of her symptoms are resolved and she has decided she feels so well she is going back to work!
“Bethany” is a 33-year-old nurse who had been trying to become pregnant for over three years. Her one pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage. She suffered from endometriosis, short cycles, 7-10 days of PMS, allergies, burning of skin on her arms and thighs, cold hands, cold feet, and symptoms of hypoglycemia. Her diet was high in sugar and other refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and white rice products.
She sought the advice of a fertility expert and had surgery for the endometriosis. Her fallopian tubes were clear, but fertility medication was unsuccessful. The stress of her infertility, she said, was putting a strain on her marriage.
Her laboratory tests showed she had low levels of antibodies that are sometimes seen in the autoimmune disease lupus (SLE). However the levels of antibody were low and did not confirm a true diagnosis of this disease.
It is well known among fertility specialists that autoimmune disorders and even sub-clinical (not the full disease) autoimmune disease can lead to difficulty in achieving and maintaining a pregnancy. The important consideration is eliminating the cause of the autoimmune disease and helping the body repair itself. In Bethany’s case, we found a number of food and chemical allergies and a blood test, which showed inflammation. I emphasized to her that the key to becoming pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy was to become healthy. Bethany was placed on a healthy diet, high in vegetables and fresh fruits, absent sugars, and she started on nutritional supplements and natural progesterone. I asked her to hold off on attempts to get pregnant until these autoimmune markers (blood tests) became negative-advice she did not take. Two months later, a pregnant Bethany came in beaming and happy. She had not used birth control methods, she said, because she did not believe she could get pregnant so quickly! Her blood tests are improved and she is committed to continuing a healthy diet throughout her pregnancy.
These are patients who chose to become healthy by changing their life styles and truly working on their health. When wellness was achieved, for each of them it seemed like a miracle-even though they had done the work themselves!