The thyroid gland – for me, it’s truly the gland that governs my life.  

As I mentioned in another article, “Should I Eat Health Products?”, I’ve struggled with weakness and illness since childhood, experiencing many symptoms of hypothyroidism.

From a young age, I’ve always been more sensitive to cold than others. My hands and feet are constantly cold, particularly during winter.  Layering on clothes became the norm, and chilblains were frequent visitors. 

My skin lacked color, appearing pale and devoid of any vibrancy.  My hair suffered as well, becoming sparse, dry, and brittle.

Food became a source of frustration.  Picky eating and a poor appetite were constant companions, often leading to stomach aches and acid reflux.  Neutralizing gastric acid with medications like Weisupin and managing spasms with Prubenzene were a regular part of my routine.

Stomachaches and diarrhea were frequent occurrences. My weakened immune system made me susceptible to colds, fevers, and other illnesses.  Of course, back then, I had no idea about thyroid issues.

Later, during my graduate studies and subsequent career as a dermatologist, skipping breakfast became a habit.  Lack of appetite and neglecting proper nutrition were the culprits.  

Being young, I naively believed I could power through.  However, after giving birth to my eldest son, my health took a serious nosedive.  Thin and weak, my energy levels plummeted, leaving me easily fatigued and overwhelmed. Constipation added to my woes, and a poor diet fueled a cycle of bronchitis and diarrhea, leading to frequent antibiotic injections.

Little did I know, these struggles were all connected to a hidden culprit – my thyroid.  

My journey towards understanding and managing this condition, along with the wealth of knowledge I gained as a dermatologist, are what I hope to share with you in this blog series.  

Let’s delve deeper into the world of the thyroid and explore how to optimize your health and well-being.

Battling Fatigue Due to Low Thyroid Function

Back then, I suspected I might have hypothyroidism or even adrenal insufficiency. A doctor at the health department ordered some blood tests, though I don’t recall the exact details. In my memory, the results were borderline. I had mild anemia, low white blood cell count, and thyroid and adrenal hormone levels at the lower end of the normal range. These findings weren’t enough to definitively diagnose either condition, so treatment wasn’t discussed.

Several doctors, teachers, and friends suggested taking a small oral dose of adrenal hormones for a while to improve my energy and physical strength. However, the potential side effects of hormone therapy scared me off.  Cautiously, I opted to fight through it on my own.

Fast forward to moving abroad.  

My work exposed me to numerous radioactive substances and chemicals, plus the intense pressure of life and work, and I developed severe insomnia and anxiety.  

Sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications became my reluctant companions. Frequent migraines led me down the path of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which unfortunately damaged my liver function, elevating my liver enzymes.

Despite my persistent feelings of being cold, which always led me to suspect hypothyroidism, blood tests consistently showed my thyroid hormone levels within the “normal” range, albeit at the lower end.  No doctor seemed willing to prescribe hormone replacement therapy.

This blog chronicles my ongoing journey.  It details the complexities of low thyroid function from my personal experiences, and I hope to empower you to advocate for your own health.

Spiraling Downwards With Chronic Health Issues

In my late thirties, I was struck by a debilitating condition – severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Attacks came on suddenly, leaving me doubled over in excruciating stomach cramps. My face would turn pale, cold sweat erupting on my skin, the pain so intense it threatened to steal my consciousness at times.  

After a few agonizing minutes, the pain would subside, only to be followed by severe diarrhea, and sometimes even nausea and vomiting.

This wasn’t a new battle for me.

For years, I’d grappled with frequent stomach aches and a burning sensation in my esophagus. Doctors would prescribe antacids, a solution that offered temporary relief at best.  Indigestion, bloating, and discomfort became unwelcome companions after most meals. Back then, concepts like leaky gut and gut flora imbalance were unfamiliar territory.  My understanding was limited – weak spleen and stomach, compromised digestive function.  The less I digested, the less I dared to eat.  With each episode of diarrhea, anxieties grew, fueling a cycle of suspicion and fear around food.

As a result, my diet dwindled, becoming increasingly devoid of the nutrients my body craved.  Balance became a distant memory. My physical health continued to decline, a vicious cycle with no apparent escape.

Menopause brought another wave of challenges. Estrogen and progesterone levels plummeted, leading to a period of immense suffering. Sleep became a luxury, forcing me to rely on sleeping pills for an extended period.  Mornings were met with grogginess, leaving me dependent on coffee just to function.

Fearful of triggering diarrhea, I restricted my diet further, shunning raw and cold foods.  Stews, stir-fried vegetables, and fried foods became my safe haven – misguided choices with detrimental consequences.  Limited food intake led me to sugary drinks for a quick energy boost.  The result?  Bloating, a problem I wrongly attributed to excess stomach acid, leading back to the cycle of antacids.

It wasn’t until I hit a rock bottom that I finally stopped and looked back.  The question haunted me – “How could I, surrounded by a family of doctors (including myself!), be in this state of utter misery?”

This blog series is my journey towards reclaiming my health.  We’ll explore the challenges I faced, the lessons learned, and most importantly, empower you to advocate for your own well-being.  Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the root causes of chronic health issues and explore strategies to achieve optimal health.

A Paradigm Shift: Embracing Functional Medicine

Functional medicine fundamentally changed my perspective on health. It emphasizes the body’s inherent ability to repair, regenerate, and heal itself. The key lies in providing it with the right tools – rich and balanced nutrients – to facilitate its own healing process. 

This approach minimizes reliance on harsh chemical substances, especially pharmaceutical drugs and their side effects.  Functional medicine focuses on improving lifestyle and dietary habits, and avoiding aggressive interventions that can damage the body’s organs, tissues, and immune system.

This shift in thinking transformed my life.  Looking back at my long history of health struggles, I began to view them through a nutritional lens for the first time.  It became clear that many issues stemmed from my own habits, combined with the way I was raised (though my parents were always supportive and loving).  

Unfortunately, most doctors I encountered lacked a scientific understanding of my health challenges. It wasn’t a matter of their dedication or work ethic, but a limitation of the medical system itself.  Our vision is often obstructed by a framework confined to hospitals, medical institutions, and textbooks.

Perhaps you’ve noticed parallels between my past health issues and the causes and consequences of hypothyroidism discussed in the previous chapters. Many of these problems originate from poor lifestyles and dietary choices.  

Of course, some subjective factors played a role: my pickiness with food, my sensitive and easily swayed personality, and my low-stress tolerance. Additionally, I previously held a strong skepticism towards alternative healthcare options, believing solely in the efficacy of Western medicine. Other objective factors also contributed. Many doctors, both domestically and abroad, throughout the years, have focused on prescribing medications to treat symptoms rather than addressing the root cause.

Unfortunately, this is a common reality – a pattern that repeats itself in our everyday lives. Both patients and medical professionals often rely on medication as the primary solution for illness.

Real-life and conventional medical approaches ultimately disappointed me when my health hit rock bottom. Only then, when I felt utterly lost, did I entertain the possibility of alternative options.  

That’s when the search for a new path truly began.

This blog is an important part of my journey with functional medicine.  The challenges I faced, the lessons learned, and most importantly, my mission to empower you to take charge of your own health and well-being. 

Embracing Functional Medicine as a Solution

Thankfully, during my time in the United States, I stumbled upon functional medicine.  These pioneering doctors, with their innovative and investigative approach, helped me gain a profound understanding of my underlying issue – a decline in the function of various organs and tissues due to chronic malnutrition and imbalance.  

The biggest culprit, of course, was my thyroid, the crucial metabolic control center.

Looking back, focusing solely on clinical symptoms and treating each symptom with a laundry list of drugs – one, two, or even three – seems ludicrous now.  These medications only addressed symptoms, offering temporary relief at best. 

The reality was, years of this approach did nothing to solve my health problems. Instead, the side effects of these medications left me feeling helpless and uncomfortable, yet trapped within the confines of conventional medical treatment. There had to be a better way. Functional medicine opened my eyes to the possibility that many of my struggles could be addressed simply by shifting perspectives.

Long-term nutritional imbalances left my body unable to repair itself, maintain normal functions, or fight off the damage caused by external environmental pollutants, chemicals, and even medications.  As the saying goes, “A clever wife can’t cook without rice.”  My body lacked the essential building blocks to function optimally.

The seeds of my health journey were likely sown when I was just five years old.  A major family upheaval occurred – my father fell ill with Keshan disease, a heart condition triggered by a lack of essential minerals and trace elements. 

My sensitive nature and the seriousness of my father’s illness likely triggered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition can impact a person’s lifestyle and overall health due to mood fluctuations. Perhaps because of my young age, the initial manifestations weren’t primarily psychological. Instead, they manifested in my eating habits. Looking back at old photos, I see an innocent girl before that incident. While I was a bit lean before the age of two, photos from three to five years old show a healthy, chubby child.  

Also Read: My Journey From Stress to Strength & Health

However, this “mental shock” caused me to lose my appetite and become a picky eater.  This unbalanced nutrition set me on a path of compromised health.  With so many issues at a young age, adults simply labeled me as “naturally weak.”  

Naively, I accepted this narrative. But I truly hope that my readers learn something from my mistakes.