Sunday, January 12, 2020

Too Much NDT!

Even with lab tests, it's hard to tell if you're dosing yourself right on NDT (natural desiccated thyroid) and adrenals cortex. Palpitations, being hot or cold, aches and pains, fatigue and nervousness are symptoms of high and low levels of both. They can be symptoms of other things, too.

Changing only one variable at a time helps; so does changing doses a little at a time. Turns out I've been taking too much NDT and got symptoms of headache, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and a bit of diarrhea. I wasn't hot, but didn't get cold even when going out in 44 degree weather with no coat.

I've stopped taking it for the time being and will start again at a lower dose. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Intermittent Fasting FAIL? You're Not Alone!

Several years ago, I tried intermittent fasting when it first became all the rage. Result? I was hungry all day and ended up binge eating that night. I'd been on a low-carb diet for quite a while.

I now know that the problem was likely low cortisol. I've had symptoms of low cortisol all my life: allergies, wonky blood sugar, sinus infections, and recently, my three-month bout with bronchitis--in the summer. And I'm hypothyroid, a condition that tends to go hand-in-hand with low cortisol.

Cortisol helps regulate blood sugar. Without enough cortisol you can get hypoglycemia; your liver won't make enough blood sugar. In other words, I need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I had a more stressful job, I also needed some snacks in between.

Since about half of people with thyroid problems also have adrenal problems(1), and Syncrap (levothyroxine, a thyroid medication) is the second-most prescribed medication in the US(2), low cortisol must be a pretty common condition. Yet I rarely read about any caveats with regard to intermittent fasting. When Chris Kresser published an article saying he didn't recommend fasting for his patients with wonky blood sugar (that is, most of his patients), some Jason Fung fanboys chimed in with suggestions to drink enough water, eat enough fat, and of course exercise. Water and fat are necessary nutrients, but they don't fix endocrine problems. Further, drinking water without any salt can make you feel worse if you have low cortisol. (In fairness to Fung, he wrote that people with too much cortisol shouldn't fast, but doesn't say anything about low cortisol.) Kresser writes that fasting raises cortisol levels (and therefore blood sugar), but for someone who doesn't make enough cortisol, it seems to me that fasting would cause hypoglycemia.

Obviously, intermittent fasting isn't on my to-do list for 2020. I'll eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with plenty of fat and salt and few carbohydrates. I'll take my adrenal and thyroid medicine and my supplements. Nassim Taleb defines rationality as what leads to survival, which often means ignoring some of the experts.

  1. Stop the Thyroid Madness Updated Revised Edition by Janie Bowthorpe, page 47. Laughing Grape Publishing, 2019.
  2. Prescriber Checkup By Ryann Grochowski Jones, Lena V. Groeger, Charles Ornstein, ProPublica, Updated February 2019. Accessed January 1, 2020.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Ten-Year Anniversary of this Blog

Merry Christmas!

First, I'm happy to say my cold got nuked out of orbit before it had a chance to set in. Hydrocortisone and Mucinex FTW!

Second, my health is much improved from a year ago. The scary palpitations are now infrequent and only mildly concerning and I'm starting to slowly lose weight after upping my thyroid supplements again. (My latest test showed free T3 in the lower half of the reference range.) My digestion is better, probably thanks to lots of Pepto-Bismol early this year, peppermint lattes (LC, of course), L. reuteri yogurt, and adrenal supplements. I don't have all my energy back, but I've lost the neurotic fear of trying things like making a slipcover and no longer have the feeling of being in la-la land. Next year I'd like to try tuck-and-point the masonry on my house--I think I could now handle a tuckpoint grinder.

Third, I'm thrilled to see the complete turnaround in dietary ideas. When I started low carb almost ten years ago, people looked at me like I had two heads when I told them I limited carbs. Now it's become so mainstream that some people thought Tom Naughton was making it up when he posted my photo of a high-carb hospital menu on Twitter. How quickly people forget!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Dollars for Doctors; Getting a T3 Prescription

Propublica says, "Doctors who received payments from the pharmaceutical industry prescribed drugs differently than their colleagues who didn’t. And the more money those doctors received, on average, the more brand-name medications they prescribed."That's the result of their investigation using a large database of doctors and the prescriptions they write.

Good news, though: you can use ProPublica's database to find a doctor in your area (in the US) who prescribes T3. Many patients have a hard time finding a doctor who'll write a prescription for T3. T3's official name is Liothyronine. Go to the site, click on your state, sort by drug (click on "drug"), and scroll down to liothyronine, and click on it. You'll see some of the doctors in your state who prescribe T3. 

Sad to say that the the most common prescriptions in the database are atorvastatin (a statin drug) and levothyroxine (syncrap). 

In happier news, I'm fighting a cold--and winning. Thursday I was too tired at the end of the day to get up and go home. Half an hour after using some hydrocortisone cream, I was able to drive myself home. Friday, my head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton. But between hydrocortisone and a little aspirin and guaifenesin, I've felt tired but not sick. No coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or aches and pains except when I first get up. Yay!

"Prescriber Checkup" by Ryann Grochowski Jones, Lena V. Groeger and Charles Ornstein, Updated February 2019. ProPublica.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Improvements and Saving Money

Things are continuing to improve. I've stopped taking my adrenal cortex medicine and digestive enzymes because I don't feel I need them. I'm now down to hydrocortisone cream and natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). I got some lab tests done the other day--I'm sure they'll show improvement.

I couldn't take any hydrocortisone that day (and I forgot to take my NDT until that afternoon). I didn't take my vitamins or electrolytes, either. I ended up eating a whole can of chocolate covered nuts. And a small order of fries with my lettuce-wrapped burger. Cortisol helps control blood sugar; maybe it has something to do with controlling cravings, too. I went back to my supplement regimen the next day and felt no desire to eat fries or chocolate--just tacos. I had chicken, salsa, cheddar cheese, guacamole and pork rinds.

Now that I'm feeling better, thinking more clearly and no longer desperate to get well, I took advantage of a slow day at work to look over costs. I found a cheaper lab and saw that 300 mg Thyrogold pills are quite a bit cheaper by the dose than 150 mg pills. That'll save me $150 per year. Between annual thyroid and cortisol tests and thyroid pills, it's going to cost $950 per year. (I'm not counting $5 tubes of hydrocortisone.) Glad I'm such a cheapskate that I built some wiggle room into my finances. Leaving Denver for low cost-of-living Indianapolis was a good move!

I'm not sure it would be any cheaper going the conventional route through doctors and insurance. The word at Stop the Thyroid Madness is that Armour (prescription thyroid medicine) doesn't work like it used to, the price has gone up substantially, and many insurance plans don't cover it. My concern about Thyrogold is that it looks like a small family operation (or single operator) and I'm concerned about successorship.

Other places I found savings: I downgraded my Lifelock membership ($300 per year savings), went to one payment per year on my homeowners insurance (saved whatever the installment fee was), and sent the insurance company a certificate verifying I had a monitored burglar alarm ($20 per year). Every penny counts!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Much to be Thankful For

It's been four years last week since I escaped moved from Denver and ten years ago this month that I started this blog. I have much to be thankful for:

  • My health is a lot better than it was last year. My digestion, energy, palpitations, and mood are better, even if I feel like I still have a ways to go.
  • A nice Thanksgiving meal with good company. My meetup group went to Bob Evans and we talked about Day of the Dead, health care, the economy, and I don't remember what else. I was bad--I had eggs benedict with biscuits since I don't like Thanksgiving fare--but felt fine. I'm not going to make a habit of getting glutened, though. I haven't forgotten how sick I was ten years ago, and how much a gluten-free diet helped. 
  • I live in Indiana, where I can get lab tests without a permission slip from a doctor.
  • I live in Indiana, where raising a vegetable garden is easy.
  • I live in Indiana, where so many beautiful plants grow so well that I'm having a hard time planning my shade garden. (But I miss the lilacs, roses and California poppies I grew in Denver.) I'm going for a Piet Oudolf look, but for under the maple tree

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

L. Reuteri Yogurt Recipe from Coconut Milk

Equipment (pick one):

  1. Pot-style yogurt maker
  2. Cup-style yogurt maker + heating pad and insulated container if you don't have enough cups for the recipe (see #4 below)
  3. Sous vide stick and pot
  4. Heating pad and insulated container (e.g., camping cooler, insulated grocery bag)
Note that your yogurt maker must let you set the temperature at 97 degrees F (36C) for 36 hours. I use this one (a cup-style yogurt maker). Since the yogurt takes a long time to ferment, and I don't like to go without while I'm making a new batch, I make a few extra cups in an insulated container. My heating pad does the job at the medium setting in an insulated grocery bag at room temperature. (My insulated grocery bag is just a paper grocery bag with a bubble wrap liner.) I use 8 oz plastic freezing cups, available where canning and freezing supplies are sold.

3 T powdered plain gelatin
1/2 c water (cold or room temperature)
4 cans regular coconut milk (13.5 oz each)
6 T coconut flour*
5 T garbanzo bean flour*
Starter (EITHER a few spoonfuls of L. reuteri yogurt from a previous batch OR 5 L. reuteri tablets**, placed in a plastic bag and hammered into powder)


Put the water in a large pot and sprinkle the gelatin on it. Stir; mix thoroughly. Heat the gelatin mixture on medium heat until it's dissolved. Remove from heat and add coconut milk, flour and starter. Use beaters to mix thoroughly.

Use your yogurt maker according to the directions. Set it to 97F (36C) for 36 hours. If using a heating pad, set it on medium heat.

  • If using a cup-style yogurt maker, place the lids on the cups, but don't snap them shut. The yogurt expands and will pop off the lids. 
  • If using a heating pad, place the heating pad in the bottom of the container, put the yogurt in cups or jars in a plastic bag so they don't spill on the heating pad, then lower them into the container. Close the container.

Make yogurt in a bag.
After 36 hours, mix or shake the yogurt to homogenize it. Refrigerate. Needs 24 hours to thicken. The initial batch from tablets will be a little gritty; subsequent batches will be smooth.

*Others use potato starch; I haven't tried it with this recipe.
**L. reuteri tablets are available from BioGaia: