“What’s wrong with your neck?!” My friends had not seen me in a year and when I went to visit them last April, they were appalled at a growth in the front of my neck and rushed me to urgent care. My thyroid gland was swollen and I began what would be over a month of tests including ultra sound, biopsy, and blood work. I learned that one in eight women in North America will develop some type of thyroid condition and while more women than men are affected, 60% of people who have thyroid conditions are unaware of their condition. My endocrinologist said, “You’ll need surgery.” The thyroid gland controls the rate at which the human body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen. Think of it like the gas pedal on your car. Don’t press on the pedal and there’s no gas for the car to burn, floor it and you’ve got way too much! When the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroxin, the condition is called hypothyroidism and some common symptoms include weakness, weight gain, cold hands and feet, joint pain, heavy menstrual cycles and in advanced cases, confusion and depression. Your system is processing at too slow a rate! Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxin, the condition is called hyperthyroidism and some common symptoms are anxiety, shaky hands, sweating, diarrhea, bulging eyes, weight loss, and light menstrual flow. Your system is burning too hot. Graves’ disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my early twenties and took a low dosage of synthroid until my endocrinologist retired and my new doctor prescribed something which made me sick, so I simply stopped taking it. After being told I would have to have surgery, I sought a second opinion. The new endocrinologist determined that I did NOT have thyroid cancer, nor an autoimmune disease, but still she urged me to have surgery for cosmetic reasons. Because the thyroid gland is so close to the vocal cords there is always the risk of them being nicked or slit. I teach for a living so I needed my voice intact! For me, nutrition and exercise were the answers – NOT SURGERY! My primary care doctor recommended the Paleo diet and exercise. Since beginning in June, I’ve lost 20 pounds and the swelling in my thyroid gland has completely disappeared. What amazes me is that I feel better than I have in years– without thyroid medication and without thyroid gland surgery. November is national Hyperthyroidism Awareness Month, so I thought it timely and appropriate to start this blog with the condition that prompted me to change my lifestyle for the better. The universal frustration with thyroid issues is that they can be easily misdiagnosed or the symptoms ignored because we unfortunately equate weight gain, achiness, forgetfulness, weariness with just growing old. On the other hand, if you are jumpy, restless, having difficulty with temperature control and sleep, many a doctor or same-age friend will tell you, “It’s just perimenopause, nothing to do but live with it.” Only a little over a century ago, a woman displaying these symptoms would be labeled, “hysterical” and her problem treated as a mental disorder. Let’s stop the madness and put the brakes on the surgery factory assembly line. That little gland at the base of your throat influences every cell, tissue and organ in your body! If you don’t feel well, the tests for thyroid diseases are simple. If you don’t have an actual thyroid disease, then consider treating the hormone imbalances with diet and exercise before letting a surgeon take “the easy fix.” My sources were Right Diagnosis, the American Thyroid Association and Stop the Madness. A 3.5 min. video that explains the thyroid functions: How does the thyroid manage your metabolism – by Emma Bryce In my next entry to Mulligan Musings, I’ll give you the skinny on the Paleo Diet and what it has meant to me.