The following is the first of a two-part interview with long-term LBC client, Ileen Natic, who I’ve just recently posted some inspiring before and after pictures of, which you can find here.
EL: Ileen, why don’t you start off by giving us a little background on yourself and then we’ll focus in on the primary topic of the interview. Particularly, how and why you’ve come to be quite knowledgeable in this area.
IN: In February of 2002 It was time to focus on myself after having five boys. I embarked on my fat-loss journey as my 40th birthday was nearing; turning 40 scares a lot of people into health. I’d tried a few diets like “Somersizing,” and I did see some weight loss; but I wanted something more and began”Body for Life” online. In October 2003. I met my training partner Cindy online and together we’d also done “BFFM”, working with a local trainer. For the la st two-and-a-half years I’ve been working with you.
My progress was extremely slow (until May 2005) and I was constantly suffering from unexplainable ailments that disrupted my life in all areas from teaching my preschool class, handling my children, my relationship with my husband and my overall mental and physical health. I felt like crap and I was in pain but I couldn’t explain why. My doctors did test my thyroid but said nothing was wrong; the results ‘normal’. The only answer I’d get is “you have a large family, you work, weight train (early a m) and you’re depressed.” Their cure was to offer me an antidepressant which I flat out refused each time. That really angered me because I wasn’t depressed at all, but rather, hurting, tired and very frustrated. I felt like something was sitting on me holding me down, what I’ve coined “SURpressed” and my life was slowly slipping away.
So I kept on doing what I was doing, getting worse and nearly had to give up my teaching job. My family life was a mess and I felt like I was going to crack up. In 2005 I met a gal who used to post in our weight-training thread and she offered some advice. Pam (NonstickPam) recognized my symptoms and complaints to be consistent with hypothyroid disease. As a thyroid-patient advocate she suggested I go see an endocrinologist and advised me through the process. I’d gone to a few doctors with many complai nts in common with hypothyroidism, but none of them would see my complaints as anything serious because my lab ranges were supposedly ‘normal’.
I was actually thrilled when Pam said there was something actually really wrong with me.
In May of 2005 I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid Disease. Though my lab ranges fell in ‘normal’ range, this endocrinologist knew to test the antibodies and that was what finally sealed the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s and placed me on medication.
I should note that many years earlier, after the birth of my third son, I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, which seemed to go into remission. I now know that was the wrong diagnosis as my current diagnosis is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid Disease, which is often in the early stages confused with Grave’s Disease.
EL: What are some of the tell-tale signs of hypothyroidism?
IN: There are a lot of symptoms of hypothyroid disease that can also be attributed to other issues but these are the ones most often experienced. I had all of them and more. Here’s a short list:
- Less energy and stamina then most
- Tired/nodding off, needing to nap
- Low-grade depression
- Brain fog/memory issues
- Cold hands/feet or extremities
- Loss of hair, thinning hair
- Outer edges of eyebrow missing
- Dry/cracking skin and nails
- Menstrual cycle issues
- Achy bones, muscles and/or joints
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Inability to loss weight or easily gain weight
EL: What are the ‘standard’ tests a doctor will do when requesting a thyroid panel and why aren’t these all encompassing, or accurate enough to give a clear indication of the real health and function of your thyroid?
IN: Standard tests doctors often order are TSH and sometimes Total T3 and Total T4. Unfortunately, they don’t give a clear picture on how the thyroid is functioning on a cellular level. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is actually not a test of the thyroid, but rather, one of the pituitary’s influence on the thyroid. Going by “total” testing doesn’t tell your body how well it is taking up the hormones on a usable level.
EL: What tests should people ask their doctor for if their symptoms are causing them to suspect something might not be right with their thyroid production?
IN: Free T3 and Free T4, and TSH at a minimum. Additional helpful tests are the Antibodies Testing, called TPO and AB. Those rule out/or in autoimmune disorders of the thyroid. Also, a ferretin test, which tests your iron storage.
If your doctor refuses to perform these tests you can either look for another doctor or self-test through an online site like www.healthcheckusa.com.
EL: Generally speaking, should people expect to encounter some resistance when asking for these additional tests? If so, what do you suggest?
IN: Unfortunately I have to say a BIG yes. Most doctors feel it is adequate to test the thyroid using just TSH. Often they will proclaim a patient normal if the test results fall into ‘normal’ range. Sadly, many people are overlooked and left untreated. Many doctors don’t like when you challenge their standard protocol or show that you’ve been educating yourself.
If it wasn’t for my friend Pam, advocating for me and teaching me to self-educate myself, I can’t even imagine where I’d be now. After going through everything I went through, I find it my responsibility to pass the favor and help others in the same area so that no one should ever suffer for years like I did. The most important thing a patient can do is research and self-educate themselves. A great website for some easy to understand information relating to thyroid disease is www.stopthethyroidmadness.com
EL: What are the ranges that doctors consider normal for TSH, T4, Free T3 and Free T4?
IN: Normal is basically anything that falls in ‘normal’ range Even if it’s one point above the bottom and about to fall out of range. The reference ranges are simply far too broad.
EL: Do you know the ranges that are considered ‘normal’?
IN: Every test/lab has their own lab range; that is how the ranges go. For example, Quest and Labcorp, the major labs here have different ranges. That’s why I cant give you a definitive answer. If it falls IN that range xx (xx-xx) doctors call that ‘normal’. Naturally, that isn’t necessarily optimal.
EL: Given the reference range for normal is far too broad, below what levels of these hormones should people be doing more investigative work or looking for more help?
IN: On the low side would be TSH levels of about 2-2.5. Fee T3 should be a minimum of midrange and the same applies to Free T4 levels. TSH ideally under 1.0. I’d look for further help if a person’s labs fell in these investigative ranges.
EL: Solid information Ileen. Thanks very much.
Again, check out Ileen’s awesome before and after pictures, which show that being hypothyroid isn’t a permanent barrier to getting in awesome shape.