Low Dose Naltrexone for Hashimoto's Disease

 I was featured for a 3rd time of Hypothyroid Mom - I still can't believe it! 

I was featured for a 3rd time of Hypothyroid Mom - I still can't believe it! 

Written by Tristin Halie Fleetwood

IT ALL STARTED…

When I was 14 I began to have severe migraines and chronic stomach issues. What I didn’t know was I would spend the next 10 years of my life seeking out over 20 medical professionals, receive 13 different diagnoses and over 30 pharmaceutical prescriptions.

In 2016 I was tested for the 4th time to see if I had the thyroid autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It seemed to be the only answer my naturopath could come up with to explain my thyroid tribulations. I dreaded those test results. I thought my life was for sure going to be over if that diagnosis came back positive.

I walked into my follow up appointment and laying on the desk in bold print with my name on the top of the document was the word I’d feared for so many years. Just sitting there, mocking me was the word HASHIMOTO’S. To say that I was angry would be a severe understatement. I felt betrayed by every other health care professional I’d ever seen. Why had it taken this long to find this seemingly simple answer?

I argued with that piece of paper. I argued with the blood results. I argued with my body asking it countless questions about why it hadn’t given me the signs sooner (even though it had). Mid sob session, I looked up at my doctor and said I want to fight this. I’ve heard of ways to rid the antibodies from the body and I’m going to do exactly that. I refused to be defined by that diagnosis. I was going to have children someday. I’d battled my thyroid symptoms for so many years already and in that moment I decided the only way to move forward from this was to take matters into my own hands.

Have you heard of LDN?

LDN, short for Low-dose Naltrexone, is a wondrous medication that helps treat many autoimmune conditions. It can reduce the thyroid antibodies of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yes. It happened to me.

Naltrexone originally developed in the early 1960s is used in much higher doses to address the symptoms and withdrawals in chronic drug users. It helps block the effects of opioids and reduces drug cravings.

Low-dose Naltrexone & The Immune System

Dr. Bernard Bihari is credited with the discovery of the benefits of Low-dose Naltrexone for normalizing immune system function in his groundbreaking clinical trial of LDN on patients with HIV/AIDS at Downstate Medical Center in 1985-86.[1]

It is termed Low-dose Naltrexone because the amount of naltrexone used is in micro doses compared to the amount given for drug addiction. Studies have now found that Low-dose Naltrexone can be used to effectively treat autoimmune diseases including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, and fibromyalgia.[2-7]

There were very few known risks to taking this prescription, so I found an LDN physician and dove right in.

A local compounding pharmacy created a batch of capsules for me to start my first month’s journey on this medication. The pharmacist provided me with as much education as she could and expressed to me how excited she was for me to try this process. She informed me that I would be experiencing some vivid dreams for the next several weeks, but otherwise that was the only side-effect anyone had reported back to her. She then asked me to keep a journal of my thyroid symptoms and how they were progressing as I went through my treatment. This particular pharmacist had been following the medical journals on Low-dose Naltrexone for many months and was very intrigued to work with someone directly on this matter.

The pharmacist was 100% correct on the vivid and sometimes peculiar dreams. I experienced those for almost 3 weeks, but continued to achieve restful and deep sleep each evening, despite the extreme curiosity for my subconscious’s dream selection. I continued taking the recommended doses for 1 month, then dropped down to the lower dose recommended by my physician. I took the prescription for just shy of 6 months before seeking out another blood test to find out if my levels had shifted.

The results of my next blood test completely blew my mind. In less than 6 months, my thyroid antibodies had become clinically insignificant. For those of you who don’t know what that means…it means they were GONE! That’s right, you read that correctly.

The antibodies that were once attacking my thyroid were no longer significant enough to show up in a blood test. Did that mean I was completely rid of my Hashimotos? Unfortunately, no. Now that my body had developed the antibodies, it was something that could always stir back up later down the line. However, in this moment I was western medicine’s version of Hashimoto’s FREE. The number of emotions that overcame me were so vast I couldn’t hardly stand. I felt liberated, powerful, relieved, and so amazed at how my body was actually healing. I had lost faith in the power of my body so long ago as I battled one illness after the next.

THERE IS MORE…Hashimoto’s & Infections

Now that I had my Hashimoto’s temporarily under control, my next task was to discover the underlying causes of my digestion issues. In July 2017 I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where they found that I had an active staph-infection which had likely been plaguing my body for over 10 years. The infection had caused issues with my thyroid, digestion, adrenal glands, sleep patterns, white blood cell count, and more. Once they isolated the infection and began treatment, I was quickly able to function like a normal (I’ve never been all that normal, it makes life a little more fun) 24 year old.

Digestion Issues? It could be your Pelvic Floor!

Another piece to my Mayo Clinic journey was nothing short of shocking to me was my diagnosis of Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia. This condition doesn’t allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax properly, particularly during a bowel movement. Here is a quote from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

The pelvic floor is composed of a group of muscles that span the underlying surface of the bony pelvis, which function to allow voluntary urination and defecation. “Paradoxical contraction” refers to an abnormal increase of pelvic floor muscle activity with defecation, rather than the normal decrease in muscle activity that is necessary in order to have a normal bowel movement. This condition can contribute to some forms of constipation, complaints of incomplete evacuation, and straining with stool. Because pelvic floor muscles are controlled voluntarily, their function can be improved through various learning procedures – such as biofeedback.

With a few semi-invasive yet simple tests, the gastroenterologists were able to diagnose this disorder in less than a day. After having a half a dozen other doctors diagnose me with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) time and time again, this new discovery made so much more sense. While in Rochester, I took part in 2 brief sessions of bio-feedback training, which is essentially Physical Therapy of the pelvic floor monitored with electronic devices. After these sessions, I was able to understand so much more about how my body was processing food and trying to dispose of the waste material, simply by learning which muscles were functioning improperly. Upon returning back to my home in Bozeman, MT, I was participating in pelvic floor physical therapy on an at home basis 3-5 times a day. My digestion and bowel movements drastically improved and are still improving to this day. Where I used to have ZERO relief with my constipation and diarrhea, I now have an understanding of my body and am able to work with it instead of against it.

Even after all this healing, I still experience migraines, but on a much less frequent basis. I manage my compromised immune system and thyroid through a combination of Chinese Medicine and lifestyle care including coaching, counseling, proper diet, acupuncture, massage, exercise, meditation, chiropractic and LOTS of self-care.

Much Love,

Certified Health Coach

Tristin Halie Fleetwood

My Experience with Mayo Clinic

05/31/18

After 10+ years of battling one health issue after the next I finally sought out treatment from Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. I was terrified to go, but I knew that if I didn't make a change soon, I may not have anything to change.

The GI specialist I saw up there was absolutely phenomenal! I thought all my GI issues were actually linked to my stomach/digestion (which a few were) but he was also the doctor who sent me to a dermatologist (which I’d seen at least 4 of in Bozeman/Billings) and the dermatologist at Mayo found my most important diagnosis thus far. 

For a better explanation on my GI issues: I had been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) at least 7 times in Bozeman – that isn’t an exaggeration. All that diagnoses means is that the person has fluctuating diarrhea and constipation with no real reason as to “why”. I had colonoscopies, endoscopies; CT scans as well as MRI’s in Bozeman beginning at 14, which confirmed literally nothing. Other than the fact that they truly had no damn clue what was going on with me.

Another medical abnormality I had acquired in my lifetime was the damage that had been done to my umbilical cord during birth because of this, my belly button had leaked my entire life. It was something I brought up to every single doctor I ever consulted with, including the dermatologists here in Bozeman and they would either do nothing with it, or they would prescribe a topical hydro corticosteroid antibiotic cream that would make it 10 times worse every time I tried it.

Before leaving for Mayo Clinic, my Naturopathic doctor at the time was convinced the belly button leak was fluids coming directly from my stomach and that is was creating almost all of my digestion upset…then she too prescribed the same antibiotic ointment and this time the pain and irritation it caused were almost unbearable. I reached out to my Acupuncturist and Chiropractor that I work for part time and they suggested that after all they’d seen me go through, that Mayo clinic is where they were going to refer me to.

When I first saw the GI specialist at Mayo, he immediately dismissed the IBS diagnoses (informing me that all it was, was a catch all for doctors who didn’t know what was wrong but needed to provide a diagnoses for people’s “piece of mind” as well as something to bill insurance so they could be paid). He suggested GI scans, pelvic floor testing and blood work – all of which I was a little irritated about at first because it was all stuff I felt like Bozeman doctors had preformed before. That was completely de-bunked with my first GI scan which was one of the craziest tests I’ve ever had performed to date. I swallowed what was essentially a ‘radioactive’ capsule (which I wasn’t thrilled about) then they scanned my GI tract for approx. 15-30 minutes a day for 3 days. Their goal was the watch the capsule move through my system to see if it would get stuck at any point, or if my peristalsis (movement in my bowels) was off in any way.

During those 3 days I was also seeing other doctors for my thyroid (Endocrinologist) as well as my headaches (Neurologist). When the GI specialist determined that my peristalsis was fine and that the “leaky belly button” wasn’t coming from within my intestines, he was sure my GI issues were partially impaired by my pelvic floor muscles. I thought that sounded crazy, like real crazy and almost didn’t want to go through with the testing. However, thank goodness I did because my pelvic floor dysfunction was 100% contributing to my fluctuating constipation and diarrhea. Once we tested those muscles and got a confirmed diagnosis of pelvic floor dyssynergia, I began PT to help treat this condition (which is essentially PT of the vagina and anus). After my first session of this, the GI specialist sent me straight to Dermatology to address my leaky belly button further.

Upon arriving there, the doctor swabbed my belly button and sent it off to a lab immediately. He prescribed me this medication to turn my urine bright orange to see if the color of my belly button fluid would change, in order to establish if this fluid was seeping out from my bladder. Thankfully the answer was NO! (That would have been some extensive surgery.) Not even 2 hours after the Dermatologist sent my sample to the lab he called me back and said I needed to get back up there and start antibiotics right away because I had a staph infection in my belly button. He said it was a fairly aggressive one, and that it very well could be contributing to 60-70%+ of my other symptoms.

When I went back up to his office they spread the skin apart yet again to show me exactly what I was looking at/for. The infection had started to eat away at the surrounding tissue. The fact that I was so crazy about keeping it clean all the time is the only thing that allowed me to make it as far as I did. I was keeping it just clean enough that the infection would almost heal completely but not quite, the skin would scar slightly and then the infection would start all over again. My body was literally fighting a staph infection for over 10 years and I had NO CLUE. Neither did any of my 15+ doctors here in Bozeman. Come to find out the hydro corticosteroid that each doctor had been prescribing me actually “feeds” staph and was giving it a nice little environment to keep thriving in there; which is why it always made things so much worse each time I tried it. He informed me that over the next 1-2 years there was a high probability that the infection would have eaten through the remaining tissue and likely spread to my entire body. (This could have been fatal). Hearing this confirmed my original thoughts, that if I hadn't taken control of my healthcare when I did; I may not have gotten the opportunity to. 

This Dermatologist prescribed an appropriate topical anti-biotic as well as a pretty harsh oral antibiotic and within 48 hours I started to feel like myself. My constant brain fog I’d been battling for actual years began to lift entirely. My mood was elevated, my sleep was AMAZING and the swelling around my thyroid and other parts of my skin started to dissipate. The fact that my body had been battling an active staph infection for so long is what started to “tank” other systems within me. My adrenals were shot; cortisol levels non-existent, thyroid completely out of whack, inflammatory markers on blood tests through the roof etc. Once my body was able to receive some much-desired assistance with the infection my other bodily functions began healing and slowly reaching a new version of normal. I did have a few weeks of recovery just from being fatigued after all the anti-biotic use; but in all honesty that level of fatigue was still better than what I’d been experiencing for 10+ years.

I went to Mayo clinic in July of 2017, and almost a year later I feel like a completely different individual. I’m still healing; it takes a few years to recoup your immune system after an event such as this, but I’m feeling better and better all the time. So now that I’ve given you a book to read on my experience, I hope any of you about to embark on a journey of their own to Mayo Clinic - feel a little more secure that any answers you receive from Mayo clinic will be SIGNIFICANTLY better than anything you’ve done here in Bozeman! Hands down! I came back home and started to treat some of my remaining health issues on a much more natural basis than what some of the doctors up there recommended (with things like Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Chinese Herbs, diet changes and supplements) which may have made my healing process take a smidge longer, but looking back I wouldn’t do it any differently. 

If you feel like the doctors you're working with aren't giving you the answers you deserve, or aren't doing their part to send you to someone who will - remember that you have the right to SPEAK UP! You are your own best advocate and I can't begin to express that enough. 

Health begins with you.

All my love,

Tristin Halie Fleetwood

Certified Health & Wellness Coach/Licensed Esthetician 

 xoxo

xoxo