I had always been an active person throughout my prime years; I worked a full-time job as a computer technician with a perfect attendance record, volunteered at the local animal shelter once a week, and vowed upon entering my golden years that I would be the perfect trophy wife by regularly attending an array of fitness classes at the local YMCA. I preferred the natural approach to health by eating a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, fish, dairy, soy, whole wheat, meat on an occasion, and didn’t believe in taking any type of vitamin supplements because of my natural healthy lifestyle. I believed I was the healthiest person alive and I felt great.
I did realize that at times my eyes became dry and itchy, but working in front of a computer screen all day long is a known common challenge in my line of work. Then at times my eyes would become itchy and after I rubbed them I felt like sand was scratching my eyes and then they would profusely water, swell and become sensitive to the light. After over the counter eye drops did not alleviate the problem, so I made an appointment with an optometrist and was diagnosed with keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) also known as dry eye syndrome and was given the prescription Restasis. It seemed to work at times and then at times I started to become agitated with frustrated because the medication quit working and my alternating bouts of dry, watery, itchy eyes had returned and I felt miserable again. I returned to the physician and then I was diagnosed with an eye infection and given a liquid antibiotic to administer twice a day, and after three weeks my eye problem had not changed at all and felt increasing miserable and was starting to become restless and stressed because my eyes were making me miserable and nothing had helped.
I became depressed but reasoned this was a life event that would pass and lived with my misery and began taking over the counter antihistamines in case I had an allergy to something. I continued my regimen of exercising which always made me feel better, and thought exercise would be the best thing to alleviate the nervousness due to being frustrated due to my unresolved eye dilemma. During my classes I became so exhausted that I could not stay the entire hour, and used every bit of energy I had just to get home and go directly to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I had to force myself out of bed and felt like I had not slept or had any rest. One of my co-workers always took an afternoon “power nap” to give her an extra energy boost, so I thought I would also try her remedy, which always seemed to help her. When I woke up ½ hour later, I was more tired than I had been before I took the short nap and felt more nervous than the day before because now besides my eyes hurting, I was depressed, tired, I was also cold (which I self-diagnosed to be due to depression), felt miserable and hopeless about something, but I had no idea of what that something was. I felt totally miserable.
I then realized in the last month I had lost some weight even though I was not dieting, but reasoned that since I was having a multitude of other problems, even though I was eating correctly, I was stressed and stress can do funny things to a woman’s body, so I thought something good had happened to me. Then I realized my clothes were baggy on me and I had lost way too much weight and my ribs were showing. I got scared and for the first time I realized I needed to go see a medical physician. I felt like my life was spinning in circles and I had no control over anything and was totally miserable inside and out.
The physician first performed a physical exam and said my eyes were not swollen that they were protruding and when he palpated my thyroid I was told there was swelling. He wanted to do some blood work to check my T4 and T3 hormone levels to see if they were within normal range. When I was told the results of the blood work, my jaw dropped to hear that my thyroid hormones were out of a normal range and I had all the symptoms and signs of Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder, and there is no effective way to treat the root cause of this disease. I could have a thyroidectomy to remove the thyroid or have to be put on medication to lower the high levels, but he suggested the most common form of therapy called Radioactive Iodine (RAI) Therapy.
I certainly did not want to have any surgeries, nor did I want to be on medication for the rest of my life and I didn’t want the toxic isotope iodine 131 introduced into my body for treatment. I decided to do some research on my own to determine if there was some other type of alternative treatments for my disease, as well as additional information about the thyroid gland.
The thyroid looks like a butterfly located in front of the windpipe (trachea) just above the midline bony notch at the top of the breastbone (sternal notch). Both of its right and left “wings” the right and left thyroid lobes wrap backwards around the trachea and are attached to the upper front of the trachea and the lower part of the voice box (larynx). Each lobe is around 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) from the top to bottom and weighs about 15 to 20 grams (0.5 to 0.75 ounces). The middle part of the gland connects the two lobes and corresponding to the body of the butterfly, is the isthmus. Often a pencil-thin bit of thyroid known as the pyramidal lobe comes from the middle of the isthmus. When you swallow the entire thyroid gland moves upwards and back.
Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder which means self-attacking. When an invading virus or bacterial cell enters the body your body produces antibodies, which attack the foreign intruders called antigens. Antibodies are made by white blood cells (lymphocytes) and each antibody is designed for a specific antigen. In Graves Disease an abnormal antibody is produced called TSI (thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin). TSI stimulates the thyroid gland to vastly overproduce thyroid hormone. Normally controlled by the pituitary gland, the thyroid’s triggers are tricked into being stimulated by abnormal antibodies. This particular trigger is the thyroid follicular cells’s receptor for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), stimulated by TSI instead of TSH. The result is hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland).
Through research I found a Naturopathic physician not too far from my house and at this point I thought I would first try the holistic method to control my disease and if this did not work, I would then surrender to medical treatment. After my initial consultation consisting of questioners of life style and eating habits I was then told my diet would be healthy for anybody who did not have Graves Disease, but it was the worse diet for my condition. The diet I was given was one to regulate the thyroid and boost the immune system. I had to stop eating fish because it contained iodine and start eating more chicken. Avoid gluten, wheat, barley millet, and artificial sweeteners had to be strictly eliminated. Avoid vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, and corn. I had to limit my amount of dairy products containing milk, soy, eggs, and closely watch my blood sugar levels. Food supplements had to be taken so I did not become deficient, which consisted of fat soluble vitamins of A, D, and E to boost the immune system. It was also suggested to use leaves of Melissa (Mothers Balm), which has a soothing lemon scent, to rub on my skin for nervous problems that have arisen from long-standing stress and for anxiety accompanied by headache, sluggishness, confusion, depression, exhaustion, and lowers blood pressure. To help an overactive thyroid Mothers Wort was suggested for decreasing the contributing antibodies found in my body which causes Graves Disease. Lycope was also recommended as a sleep aid.
After around 3 months of rigorously changing my diet and faithfully taking all natural supplements, I feel as though I have reclaimed my life again. I am free of nervousness, stress, sleep disorders, and I lead a very healthy life again without being dependent on the use of harsh medicine which is very costly. I am exercising again on a regular basis and am happy, healthy, and on my way to journey down my life’s path, where ever it may lead.