Note - this post should not be considered medical advice. Please consult a qualified physician with any questions or concerns you have about your health.
Today’s article isn’t going to be about the normal topics of finance and startups.
It’s going to be personal.
Because I’m hoping what I’m about to share helps someone else who is in a similar position and is confused or frustrated.
There is a saying that “health is wealth.”
It’s hard to get people to recognize just how important your health is to your overall quality of life until its not so good.
For the past two years, I’ve struggled with some fairly serious health issues. I won’t pretend they were life-threatening, that is unless I had left them untreated.
Let me share how things started, just in case you are having similar issues.
How it all began
A few years ago I started to notice that my stomach would bloat pretty quickly after eating. I’m talking, I would look like I was carrying twins kind of bloating. For context, I’m 6”2’ and about 185 pounds. I’m not super fit, but I’m fit. So, any significant change in how my stomach looks is easily noticeable.
At first, I assumed that the reactions were food allergies. Of which, I do have quite a few. So, I stopped eating the things I was allergic to eating. Stuff like cucumbers, tomatoes, coconut. When an elimination diet didn’t change the symptoms I decided to look elsewhere.
By the way, I should share I’ve been on a reflux drug for 20+ years now. So, well prior to these bloating symptoms. I’ve tried multiple times to come off of my reflux meds, but the best I’ve been able to do, without those symptoms flaring up, is to reduce how often I take it to every other day.
Things continued this way, with the bloating after eating, for a few years. Within the last year, new symptoms started showing up. Including my appetite skyrocketing and my level of fatigue increasing. I attributed the increase in appetite to the fact that I had started weight-lifting more.
Finally, I decided I needed answers.
So, I told my general practitioner doctor what was going on. I started with him because I trusted him. When I had another health issue about ten years ago, he was the only doctor who could figure out that I had a rare form of shingles called Ramsey Hunt. Not even the ER, infectious disease, or ear-nose-throat doctors had an answer. But, my old Navy doctor did.
To get us some answers he ordered blood work. Everything looked fantastic except one number. My TSH.
TSH is the thyroid-stimulating hormone. Your thyroid is extremely important. It’s basically the power engine for your entire body.
What the blood work found was that my thyroid wasn’t working, at all. The upper end of the acceptable range was 4.5, I had a 31. That may read counterintuitively. But, the TSH number is inverse to what you’d think. When it’s that high you have hypothyroidism, not hyperthyroidism, where your thyroid isn’t producing enough.
Unfortunately, after putting me on a low dosage of thyroid medicine, things didn’t change much beyond my fatigue being more manageable.
So, I gave into the idea of attacking these issues at all levels. I booked consults with an endocrinologist and a new gastro doctor.
After lots of blood work and invasive scoping, we found…nothing. Other than a thyroid that, in the words of my endocrinologist, was failing. I can’t tell you exactly what happened that my thyroid started failing. It’s not genetic, because it doesn’t run in my family.
We have since upped my dosage to just two steps shy of the max dosage. While my levels are better, they struggle to stay in line with what my endocrinologist would like to see.
What about my stomach?
What’s a thyroid got to do with gut issues?
It turns out, everything.
The problems I am having, specifically the bloating, are a known, proven symptom of a bad thyroid.
To manage the symptoms, my gastro doctor recommended what is called a Low FODMAP diet. Feel free to Google it. But, basically, I have to act like I’m celiac (can’t eat gluten) and need to avoid most, if not all, dairy.
How are things today?
If you are having similar symptoms, you might consider talking to a doctor about having your TSH levels checked. They can do that with a simple blood pull.
As for me, things are better. But, they do fluctuate. One day can be pretty good and the next I’m having issues.
It does seem cyclical for some reason. For example, I’m in about a two-week period of feeling not so great. Prior to that though I had a month or so of doing pretty good. It’s possible that this higher dosage of medicine is causing some side effects.
But, there is one more important note I want to leave you with today.
The reality is that none of my doctors have been able to “fix” things. From everyone I have talked to, you just have to learn to live with symptoms. They never go away entirely. Eating “clean” helps, but it's not a cure-all.
There is, however, one thing that you can do to really help reduce symptoms. It’s something you should do even if you don’t have thyroid issues.
That’s to manage your stress.
There is no doubt in my mind that my stress levels have played a critical role in allowing my health to get to this point. After months and months of taking notes of my symptoms, it is clear that I do better when my stress levels are low.
Which doesn’t bode well right now, because my professional career is in one of its most stressful seasons.
If your health is suffering, do me a favor and examine how much stress you have in your life.
I know it’s hard to eliminate or reduce some types of stress.
Things such as careers, money, and relationships are great places to examine how the decisions you are making are impacting your stress and therefore your health.
I know not everyone is in a position to make quick changes to these areas of your life. I know it won’t be easy.
But, health is wealth.
If you’ve found this information helpful, I hope you’ll do two things for me.
1) Subscribe to this newsletter. That way, new copies are delivered directly to your inbox.
2) Share this newsletter with one other person that you think might benefit from the information I share.