Friday, May 6, 2011

My Story Part Three...

Today's writing comes with a caveat.  I seem to have fallen into a "flare-up".  I woke up this morning with a bit of a backache, and by noon I was in bed.  I rarely go to bed during the day.  Not that I don't want too...but I try not to do anything that will endanger my precious sleep at night.

So today was not a good day.  My mind is not at its best either, but I will try to be coherent!

My friend the former nursing student had been dealing with health issues of her own for pretty much the entire time I'd known her.  By the time I was ready to start seriously figuring out what was wrong with myself, she had her condition under good control.  She had done this pretty much on her own and had a lot of very good information and, dare I say, advice to offer.

We had discussed low-carbohydrate diets at length.  This had done her a world of good.  Although I had never been as strict as she is, I did lose weight while eating low-carb.   So maybe that was something...but then she suggested I look into low-dose naltrexone. 

At its full dosage, naltrexone is a drug used to treat substance addiction.  At lower dosages, usually 4.5 mg taken at night, it causes suppression of endorphins, which are usually produced by the brain in the early hours of the morning.  Because of the suppression, the body reacts by producing more of those precious endorphins, which can result in an increased  sense of well-being, reduction in pain and other good things like regulation of the immune system.  It has also been used by people with MS and cancer with good effect.  For my friend, after the initial settling in period, it improved her sleep.

Naltrexone is a prescription drug, but the low-dose usage is considered "off label" so it can be hard to get a prescription for it.  I went to my doctor's appointment armed with information and a meek attitude.  I saw a brand-new doctor who said she'd look into it.  That was more than I'd hoped.  When she called me back the next day to tell me a prescription was waiting for me, I was ecstatic. 

So, what did I notice?  It did make my sleep a bit more restful.  I did not have to deal with sleep disturbance which is common in the first week of use.  I was still on sleep meds.  If my sleep was disturbed by the ldn (low dose naltrexone) I wouldn't likely have noticed.  I did have some interesting dreams for a couple of days!

My depression lifted a bit, and energy got a little better but over-all I did not notice a great benefit.  But I persisted.

Something else I picked up in the process of reading.  The antidepressant I was on had the side effect of disturbing sleep, and causing dry eyes and mouth.  With doc's permission, I reduced the dosage by half.  My mood did not deteriorate.  My sleep improved a touch more, and my mouth no longer felt like I had cotton in it.

Researching ldn led me down another rabbit trail...iodine.  What really caught my interest here was the connection between iodine and thyroid...and nearly everything else.  I had been using non-iodized salt, and less of that, for a long time.  We don't eat a lot of fish, so being iodine deficient was a good possibility.  And I now had good evidence (namely many iodine eaters!) that iodine was quite safe and very necessary.  So last December, I started taking Lugol's 5% iodine solution as part of a protocol.  I am currently taking about 100mg/day (and yes, that is milligrams) and am happy to be doing so.  I definitely feel better on it than off!

However, iodine had now led me to another rabbit trail...thyroid and adrenals.  Notice how thyroid keeps resurfacing?

Iodine is critical in proper thyroid functioning.  If one's thyroid has not been functioning well, eventually other things suffer.  The body is under stress because thyroid hormone is used by most parts of the body.  Without that hormone, the  body tries to compensate.  This involved the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex feedback loop that I picture as being like the body's transmission.  I won't get into the details too much.  There is a common name...Adrenal Fatigue.  Flash back to my not handling stress?  Well now I was getting the picture as to why.

My latest doctor, a first-year resident, was encouraging.  When I first saw him, he asked me to come back to him (as opposed to the other doctors in the clinic) as he wanted to help me "figure this out".  THAT was music to my ears.  My first request from him was a refill on my ldn prescription.  I also asked to get the prescription for the 50mg tablets so I could dissolve them myself to make up the 4.5mg dosage.  I got the prescription.  He also ordered a serum cortisol bloodtest (which I later found was not very accurate, but I sure appreciated the cooperation).  When I asked for a more detailed saliva cortisol test, he said he'd do whatever he could to see that I got it.  Turns out that he couldn''t help. Our medical system doesn't do saliva cortisol testing.  So I ordered it myself.  Also, he didn't blanch when I told him I was taking iodine supplements.

In the process of getting ready to take the cortisol test, I was counselled to stop the anti-depressant, sleeping pill, and ldn, which I did.  To my surprise, my sleep was not as horrendous as I'd expected.  Perhaps it was because I'd also completely stopped the anti-depressant?  Who knows?

My test results showed that I had high cortisol.  This was indicative of early adrenal fatigue.  This was a surprise as I expected I`d have low cortisol.  Perhaps my adrenals were not as `shot` as I`d thought.  Mind you I`d also been taking unrefined sea salt and large amounts of vitamin C daily, as part of the iodine protocol.  Both of these are also known to assist in adrenal health.  It did not take too long for rhodiola, an adaptogen, to make my daily average temperatures stable.  But they were still low.

Eventually I asked for another TSH test, along with Free T3 and Free T4.  The "frees" measure the amount of thyroid hormone available to be used by the thyroid gland, as opposed to the total amount in the body which may be bound and unavailable.

So begins part four...

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