Wellness Chat–Looking for possible answers to ongoing fatigue. Could it be thyroid dysfunction?
Awhile back I wrote a little bit about some trouble that I have been having with fatigue, migraines and possible blood sugar level issues. Today I wanted to give you a little update as to what I have discovered lately through a visit with my doctor as well as having a couple of rounds of bloodwork completed. In a nutshell I have been feeling overly fatigued this year and have been experiencing migraines at a higher rate of frequency than in the past so I decided that it was time to visit with my doctor at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). I wanted to get my iron levels checked, my Vitamin D levels and my thyroid checked as well. Female athletes can struggle with iron deficiency which can cause fatigue and poor performance. I had never had issues with my iron levels before but this is one of the things that your doctor can easily have checked. The next question was whether or not I was Vitamin D deficient. Living in Northern New Hampshire where we often do not see much sun in the winter doctors are finding higher rates of people suffering from Vitamin D deficiency which can also cause fatigue.
The other major focus was on my thyroid as Hashimoto’s disease runs in my family. Hashimoto’s Disease can bring about hypothyroidism. It is an auto-immune disease where your immune system begins to attack your thyroid gland (SOURCE Mayo Clinic). Here are the symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight gain — occurring infrequently and rarely exceeding 10 to 20 pounds, most of which is fluid
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
- Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
- Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
Being an athlete and also approaching the age of 40 (eek!), it is hard to tell if some of the things that I am experiencing could be due to thyroid dysfunction or due to heavy training loads and just getting older (boo!). While I am not experiencing all of this laundry list of symptoms I have been feeling very fatigued and just not myself (which is why I got tested in the first place). When I wake up in the morning I am still tired and could sleep all day. I have also been having more than normal stiffness and achiness in my joints, and of course if you have followed my blog for awhile you know that I have had struggles with depression (Perhaps this is the cause????).
My vitamin D level returned as normal but in the low range (perhaps I need supplements and more time outside?). My iron levels are completely normal which was not a surprise. However, the initial TSH test which measures the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood came back with less clear results and outside of the range of what is deemed to be optimal. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid gland to make and release thyroid hormones into the blood. With this result in my hands I did a little reading online about thyroid testing and Hashimoto’s and requested that we do a full Thyroid panel. The one test that came back with a red flag was the test for thyroid peroxidase. This test shows the presence of thyroid anti-bodies showing that the immune system is attacking the thyroid for some reason.
Hashimoto’s disease if untreated can also have implications for athletes. This can cause,
“muscle weakness and cramping, impairs cardiac function and blood flow, and hampers the ability of muscles to use fatty acids for energy, thus limiting endurance.” (SOURCE: Dr. K, News)
It will be interesting to see if I feel any different training if I begin to receive treatment for a thyroid disorder.
After conferencing with my doctor and talking about my family history they decided to refer me to the Endocrinologist for further examination and discussion about my thyroid to see if this is the start of Hashimoto’s Disease. My next appointment is coming up in June and I am looking forward to discussing what is going on and to see if there will be any steps that I will need to take such as a new medication or dietary changes.
I have learned through this process that it is very important to be an advocate for your own health. You are the one who knows yourself and your body the best so if there is something that doesn’t feel right there is nothing wrong with going to get it checked out. While I wait to see the Endocrinologist I am still going to be checking in with my counselor as a part of my depression therapy. I am curious to see though if my thyroid function has anything to do with the depression that I have dealt with for years as that would be a great aha! moment! I am also hoping that we can get to the bottom of the everyday fatigue that I have been feeling. Hopefully I am on track to finding an answer.
What do you struggle with the most as an athlete? Have you encountered any issues with your own health that have impacted your training?