Depression and TSH levels

I continue to track my thyroid hormone levels and thyroid antibody levels. As my endocrinologist predicted, after a thyroid inflammation event (as indicated by ultrasound test results), and a state of hyperthyroidism, my thyroid hormone levels went the opposite way and now I am hypothyroid. I will say that for me personally the hyperthyroid state did not feel as bad as the current hypothyroid state, though I am hopeful that hypothyroidism can be treated with levothyroxine, which was recently prescribed to me. My antibody levels continue to be high and my endocrinologist stated that with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease in general antibody levels stay chronically elevated. I might be receiving IVIG treatment soon, in April, and hopefully that will reduce the inflammation of the thyroid.

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In terms of emotions, during hyperthyroidism, I did feel jittery and very hungry, but I also experienced a roller coaster of more positive emotions such as more interest in men, infatuation, desire for adventure. I can’t say that my depression went away, but I do remember having moments of making plans to travel to Guatemala to attend a Spanish course, thinking of having an affair, wanting to perform in a band with my violin. Recently with hypothyroidism, as I described in a previous post, what I had been feeling is complete disinterest and grief. As if your life is somehow passing by, the world keeps going without you. There is a feeling of slowness in your movements and speech, a sense of painful emotional weight, inability to fully engage in an activity. Well if you have experienced hypothyroidism, you might know what I’m talking about. It’s feeling lonely and yet having no energy to call someone to make plans. Thinking that in theory I do enjoy playing violin, but today doing that would be just too difficult. Exercising definitely was becoming impossible, my legs have been feeling very heavy, and my whole body in general.

Today I started levothyroxine 0.025mg and I am hopeful that this will lower my TSH and therefore relieve all the symptoms that I am experiencing, at least I am very hopeful that levothyroxine in combination with IVIG will really help. I found an interesting study in which the authors seek a TSH threshold for depression. Two thirds of the study participants were female, as expected. There were 174 hypothyroid patients who were receiving levothyroxine treatment and were considered euthyroid. “Individuals who had developed euthyroid state under treatment with levothyroxine with TSH levels of 0.5–5 MIU/L with no need for dosage change were included in the study. After comprehensive history taking, laboratory tests including TSH, T4 and T3 were performed. Beck depression questionnaire was completed for all patients by trained interviewers. TSH cut-off values based on depression was determined by Roc Curve analysis.” Basically, as I understand, the researchers wanted to find out whether there is correlation between TSH levels and depression for patients who were diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are receiving levothyroxine.

Results were the following: “According to Roc curve analysis, the optimal cut- off value of TSH was 2.5 MIU/L with 89.66% sensitivity. The optimal TSH cut- off based on severe depression was 4 MIU/L. The present study suggests that a clinically helpful TSH cut-off value for hypothyroidism should be based on associated symptoms, not just in population studies. Based on the assessment of depression, our study concludes that a TSH cutofff value of 2.5 MIU/L is optimal.” I think what they are trying to say here is that based on large population studies there was a range for normal TSH levels determined, for example on my lab tests that range is stated as 0.32 – 4.00. Their study shows though that even though my individual TSH could be within this range, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be having any hypothyroidism symptoms, such as depression. Maybe for me personally TSH of 3.80 would be too high and my mood would be influenced and I would be better off at a level of levothyroxine that would bring my TSH below 2.5. Therefore it’s important to consider the symptoms of a specific patient and not just the determined ‘normal’ range.

TSH cut off point based on depression in hypothyroid patients

Also different countries and labs don’t state the same ‘normal’ ranges. In the study the TSH range is indicated as 0.5 – 5 MIU/L, while my lab states 0.32 – 4. So if I went to a doctor in another country, he could have said that my thyroid hormone levels are normal, but based on my lab’s range, my endocrinologist said that I might be becoming hypothyroid, since TSH is out of range, and therefore prescribed me levothyroxine. Also he did take into account the symptoms that I was experiencing, which is what the authors suggest – don’t just look at the TSH, how does the patient feel?

 

Doing something while depression is on

On Sunday I woke up not very late and made pancakes, brewed a thermos with green tea and drove on a highway to a park to build a snow woman. Yes, it was specifically a very shapy lady, not a snowman. Today after I got home from work I felt that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move because of overwhelming emotional pain – it was a sense of grief, a feeling that my personal world has collapsed, that there is nothing to look forward to. I am not going to say that on Sunday I was extremely happy, but it was clearly a more normal and stable day. What has occurred to make today different? I’m sure the answer lies in biochemistry, but at this point we don’t have the tools or knowledge to know what exactly should be measured and when. My last period started on February 15th. (I suggest to record start dates in order to understand whether the cycle affects your mood – at least in the case that you usually feel worse in the first few days before/during your period – you can remind yourself that this is not permanent and it will pass as it did before).

Today it is March 14th, could my serotonin levels be dropping? WebMD suggests that “as many as 90% of women experience unpleasant symptoms before their periods“, it has now been almost a month since my period, therefore today is supposed to be close to the “before period” time.

Estrogen and Women’s Emotions

My thyroid antibodies also continue to be high, Anti-TPO at 250 and Anti-Tg at > 4000. TSH is abnormally high as well. My CT scan also indicated “partially imaged polypoid mucosal thickening in the right maxillary sinus”. What does that mean, does that have anything to do with depression? It seems to mean chronic sinusitis. I don’t know whether this ever has any effect on your mood.

lifelabs_15032019

The information above leads to some guesses about why I started to feel more severe emotions, but I can’t say that I actually know. I believe I have already made the changes to my lifestyle that I could – cutting out gluten and cow dairy because of celiac disease, avoiding processed foods, eating a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I drink a lot of green and black tea, never drink or smoke, I go to sleep a bit before 12am and sleep for 8 hours. I walk to the subway instead of taking the streetcar, on a grey day I use my daylight lamp in the morning. I got an unlimited pass to a yoga studio and go there during lunch. No caffeine after 6pm. I call my mom and my grandmother. I try to avoid scrolling through Facebook. Therefore I would say – I’ve really done it all, what I could.

So what if you feel you’ve been as healthy as you can, you see your psychiatrist regularly, but the depression still sets in? Currently I am waiting for the IVIG procedure which is supposed to be done in April. You might be waiting for your next appointment to talk about switching medications, or you just started an antidepressant and the psychiatrist said that the positive results may take effect only after four to six weeks. I think the only strategy in such a situation is to think of activities to pass the time. Doing something even though feeling depressed. Even if your brain is dissuading you from it, it’s telling you to sit still, to not move, that any action you take will make it worse.

In DBT therapy there is an idea of opposite action and I believe this is a useful technique. “In DBT, the opposite action skill is a deliberate attempt to act OPPOSITE of your emotion urge. If your emotions are doing more harm than good, try acting opposite.” My thoughts are telling me that I am in too much emotional pain to do anything, but doing nothing will prolong the sense of time and I will just suffer more while waiting. For example last Thursday while sitting at work, I felt that I feel too depressed and lethargic to do anything expect stay seated during lunch and that trying to do any activity would make me feel worse. In this case my emotions and thoughts were only harming me because continuing sitting, after already three hours of sitting, would definitely not make me better off. I would be wrapped in my thoughts, prolonged sitting is not good for blood flow and chronic pain, time would also go very slowly. I had to use opposite action and I forced myself to go downstairs, change, and attend a yoga class. The 45 minute class passed quicker than 45 minutes of sitting would be and because the classroom was hot and I had to keep focusing on switching poses, my negative thoughts were less persistent. I am not saying that I went to yoga and felt delighted and blissful for the 45 minutes, I am saying that I was better off by going there instead of following my emotions and doing nothing.

Another example where following my emotions would make me worse off is often when I start feeling lonely I get wrapped in thoughts that I don’t have any close people and not many people to spend time with. Next, I start to think that I am the only one with no plans for the evening/weekend, and therefore it is pointless to ask anyone whether they want to meet. Clearly in this case acting as my thoughts and emotions tell me to would only harm me as I would end up not reaching out to anyone and of course then I will have no plans with certainty. Here opposite action would be texting/calling someone and proposing to make plans. Preferably be specific with an activity, place, and time. Refer to Sheldon’s friendship algorithm for instructions.

Sheldon’s Friendship Algorithm

Suggestions for passing time with depression are listed below. What works for me are simple activities, not trying to follow some life changing goals or saving the world. Depression is a real illness, and if all I was able to do during a bad day is coming out to convenience store to buy plantains, I will say – good for me.

  • See an old friend, talk about your feelings, or talk about nothing in particular – remember a dumb high-school story, laugh about it
  • Talk on the phone to someone you think is a good person, call them even if your brain is telling you that you are better off not speaking to anyone
  • Cook/bake something that you know how to make and enjoy eating, I make crepes because the recipe is simple and this activity passes time as I have to fry each crepe separately
  • Walk to a store nearby to buy something small – tea, eggs, apples, etc.
  • Jump with a skipping rope at home, or on a porch, or outside. Aerobic exercise is healthy
  • Get the lyrics to a song that you know and sign the full song, even if initially you really don’t feel like it. It will help pass the time and singing will not hurt you
  • Walk around the block while listening to a podcast
  • Watch CollegeHumor or Big Bang Theory

 

Green tea vs. infliximab and tracking thyroid antibodies

I continue to track my thyroid antibodies and I will post my results here in case this information will be useful for anyone. Trust me, I know how fluctuating thyroid hormones suck and what it means for you in terms of your mood, energy, sleep. Today is a work day and since my work place is quite formal, I should be there by 9am. Nine to five, the usual. Well I couldn’t fall asleep until 1am and woke up at 6am. I felt cold shivers and my palms were sweaty. I lay in bed for a while but it was no use, I could not fall back asleep. I did get to work slightly after 9, not very late, sat down in my cubicle, turned on my screens and stared at the code. What was I supposed to be doing today? I had forgotten. My hands continued to sweat and I had chills. Emotionally I felt as if a train had run over me. I couldn’t remember on what task I stopped at on Friday. I sensed such fatigue that I was finding it difficult to sit up straight.

Logically I knew the cause, it all happened as my endocrinologist said it would. After a period of hyperthyroidism, my TSH went to almost non-existent level and now instead of being too high, my thyroid hormones were quickly dropping. Lab test on February 1st showed that free T4 and total T3 were near their lower threshold and TSH was also low. Since TSH continues to be low, and it is the thyroid-stimulating hormone, it was not stimulating the thyroid enough to produce T3 and T4. Therefore it’s likely that today hormone levels were even lower and I went into hypothyroid state.

test_feb2019

So this is what’s going on with my thyroid. I think the hypothyroidism symptoms are definitely starts as I have been getting chills, freezing even when my thermostat is at 24 degrees, not having the energy to talk to people even though I did not want to stay home on a Friday night. In theory, according to my endocrinologist, after an acute hyperthyroidism again, there will be not enough thyroid hormones stores in the thyroid gland, and therefore levels will fall. After sometime function should restore to normal, but hypothyroid state could last 8 months. I will be waiting for this normalization and in the meantime I will keep trying to reduce inflammation, because what else is there left to do.

Recently I came across a paper on green tea and exercise intervention for arthritis patients. “One-hundred and twenty subjects who had a mean age of (60.7 ± 2.53 years) and had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at least ten years previously were randomly included in this study. Patients were treated with infliximab, green tea, or a supervised exercise program for six months. Disease activity markers as well as antioxidant activity of green tea extracts were estimated before supplementation using in vitro assays. [Results] Rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with green tea for 6 months alone or in combination with infliximab or an exercise program showed significant improvement in disease activity parameters, including C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, swollen and tender joints counts, and modified Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire score, along with an increase in serum levels of bone resorption markers, i.e., deoxypyridinoline, amino-terminal telopeptide of type 1 collagen, and bone alkaline phosphatase, at 6 months of after initial treatment. The European League Against Rheumatism and American College of Rheumatology scores revealed more clinical improvement in the disease activity of rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with green tea along with exercise compared with rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with infliximab or exercise combinations.”

Green tea and exercise interventions as nondrug remedies in geriatric patients with rheumatoid arthritis

I know this is just one study and we should take the results with a grain of salt, but I see no harm in including green tea and exercise in your day. I want to note that I am not looking for only ‘natural’ treatments neither am I trying to prove that they are better. I am only looking for something that I can implement. When I was referred for IV corticosteroids treatment, I was happy to receive it and did see improvements. Since then I have not been prescribed any treatment even though I did ask for it. It’s possible that something like infliximab would work for me, but I have no access to it. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, and autoimmune encephalopathy, but inflixiamab is a medication that is prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis.

Infliximab is a monoclonal antibody that suppresses some parts of the immune system. Infliximab is a lab made molecule that binds to a specific cytokine TNF-α (chemical messenger), which is one of the causes of autoimmune reaction. TNF-α is tumor necrosis factor aplha, a cell signaling protein involved in system inflammation. Wiki states that Dysregulation of TNF production has been implicated in a variety of human diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, major depression, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Though controversial, studies of depression and IBD are currently being linked to TNF levels.

Infliximab has to be given as IV and cannot be taken orally as it would be destroyed by the digestive system. In the US the cost is about $19,000 per month and is mainly prescribed to arthritis patients who have not responded to other therapy. No one is going to prescribe it to me here in Canada.

Therefore, given that I have not been prescribed any meds at this point, and my psych and neuro keep debating whether to place me on IVIG or not, for now I have to do things on my own. Also trying green tea and exercise of course doesn’t cancel out any other treatment that I might get. I continue with helminthic therapy and hopefully I will get an IVIG trial (intravenous immunoglobulin therapy).