Thursday, October 19, 2023

Chronic Illness Vlog: Doing Better! ... And Sometimes Overdoing

It had been a while since I recorded a chronic illness vlog, so I put one together. These brief video clips from last week show an honest view of my life with chronic illness with its ups and downs. I've finally gotten my flare-up of yeast overgrowth/candida (chronic for many of us with ME/CFS, long-COVID, and Lyme) back under control. I've also been struggling for a year with treating hypothyroidism and am finally doing quite well! It was a mixed week, with some good, productive days and some run-down days. 

You can watch the video on YouTube (and see all the notes and links below it) or right here:

How are YOU doing?

Let me know in the comments below.

You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

TV Tuesday: Who Is Erin Carter?

My husband and I recently watched the Netflix limited series Who Is Erin Carter? This fast-paced, suspenseful thriller has a unique premise and kept us rapt for its seven intense episodes.

Erin Carter, played by Evan Ahmad, is a British teacher working in Spain and living with her daughter, Harper (played by Indica Watson), and her husband, Jordi (played by Sean Teale). They seem to be an ordinary, happy family until one day, armed robbers attack a supermarket while Erin and Harper are shopping. Erin displays some unusual skills for a wife/mom/teacher to help thwart the robbers, but one of them recognizes her. Her heroism at the grocery store--and the attention it brings--sets off a chain reaction of events that put Erin and her family in great danger. She gets dragged into helping their next-door neighbor, Emilio (played by Pep Ambros), who is a police officer and her husband's friend, with some nasty criminals. In each episode, things get more dangerous, and Erin shows more unusual aptitudes. It is clear she is a survivor and will stop at nothing to protect her family, but where did she learn all of these things? Who is Erin Carter?

The action begins in that first episode and continues at a breakneck pace here, with Erin getting involved deeper and deeper in the local criminal world, against her will, while trying to protect her family. There is ample suspense, as the mysteries surrounding Erin grow, plus figuring out what Emilio is involved in. We are not usually bingers, typically watching two episodes of TV each evening, of two different shows (old-school), but there were times when we finished an episode of this show and immediately watched another because the tension and stakes were so high. The truth of who Erin is and where she comes from was revealed about halfway through, but there was still plenty of suspense as Erin's past intrudes on her present-day life. We were both thoroughly entertained by this original, nail-biting thriller.

Who Is Erin Carter? is a Netflix original so is only available on Netflix.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Diagnosing & Treating Thyroid Dysfunction in ME/CFS and Long-COVID


NOTE: I am not a doctor. This post is based on my own experiences and what I have learned from my doctors and research. Always talk to your own doctor about any new treatments.

Key Points:

  • Thyroid function affects every part of the body.
  • Thyroid is very often dysfunctional in ME/CFS, long-COVID, tick infections., and related illnesses.
  • Testing just TSH is often not enough; a full thyroid panel is more helpful.
  • Treating thyroid can take a lot of patience and persistence to find just the right combination and dosages. Adjust dose in small increments to find the most effective dose for you.
  • After starting or changing thyroid treatment, wait 6-8 weeks to retest.
  • Evaluate treatments based on test results but also on symptoms and how you feel.
  • Effectively treating thyroid dysfunction should result in significant improvements in many ME/CFS and long-COVID symptoms.

ME/CFS and long-COVID are immune disorders that affect all parts of the body, with significant impacts on the endocrine system (this is also often true with Lyme disease and other tick infections). The endocrine system is made up of all the different hormones in the body and is responsible for regulating all bodily functions, including sleep, digestion, reproduction and sexual function, metabolism, and everything else. Hormones are the messengers of our body, released by various glands to tell our organs how to function.

What Does Thyroid Do?

The thyroid gland is one of these messenger centers, regulating metabolism (the rate at which your body uses energy), which is a key factor in ME/CFS, long-COVID, and tick infections. It also plays roles in controlling heart, muscle, and digestive functions, brain development, and bone maintenance. The thyroid gland, located at the base of the throat, releases thyroid hormones, including triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which affect every cell and every organ in your body. Certain organs in your body transform T4 into T3 (the active thyroid hormone) so that it can be used by your cells. This article from the Cleveland Clinic explains thyroid function in greater detail.

T3 is named that because it contains 3 iodine molecules, while T4 contains 4 iodine molecules. Plenty of iodine must be present for your body to create enough T4 and convert it to T3. ME/CFS UK expert Dr. Sarah Myhill explains the critical role of iodine in this excellent, brief article, Iodine - What is the Correct Daily Dose? She's also written a book about treating thyroid dysfunction, The Underactive Thyroid - Do It Yourself Because Your Doctor Won't.

Clearly, the thyroid is critical to all functions in our bodies. Since endocrine dysfunction is an integral part of ME/CFS, long-COVID, and tick infections, thyroid dysfunction is very, very common in these diseases. Luckily, it is also very treatable, and treating thyroid dysfunction can help to improve just about everything.

I've recently come through a difficult period where my thyroid became extremely dysfunctional. At one point, I was bedridden for over a month. After a year of frequent thyroid testing and adjusting treatments, I am finally feeling quite good. My energy is good, my sleep is better, my symptoms are improved, and I am able to be more active without crashing. Oh, and I've lost 10 stubborn pounds over the past year (hypothyroidism aka low thyroid causes weight gain). I'll share some key details of my story, with respect to thyroid function (you can read my full 21-year illness history here) and then some lessons learned regarding testing and treating thyroid function.

My Thyroid Story

I am fortunate to have a primary care physician who understands ME/CFS and knows of the high potential for thyroid dysfunction in the disease. So, for the first 19 years of my ME/CFS and Lyme disease, she frequently checked my thyroid function with lab tests. Looking back, I see that some years she only tested TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which isn't enough to get a full picture of thyroid function (more on that below), but other years, she also tested T3 and T4, which were always in the normal range. In 2021, that changed. Here's a brief timeline:

March 2020 (no connection to COVID; the timing was coincidence) - I went into an unexplained relapse and began seeing my son's Lyme specialist (I hadn't seen one in a while and my Lyme was flared up). By May, I was improving. 

February 2021 - for the first time ever, lab testing showed low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) - T3 and T3 Uptake were slightly low; all other thyroid tests were normal. My Lyme specialist started me on a low dose (5 mcg) of liothyronine (artificial T3). Next lab tests were normal.

May/June 2021 - I got the first two COVID vaccines, and my ME/CFS worsened for the next 6 months.

October 2021 - slightly low T3, so my doctor increased liothyronine to 10 mcg.

January 2022 - I got COVID and my ME/CFS worsened for six months.

June 2022 - Thyroid labs mostly normal, except for slightly low T3 Uptake.

NOTE: See my Relapses and Recoveries post from June 2022 for details on all of the treatments that helped me to recover from the multiple relapses that began in March 2020, including those triggered by vaccines and COVID.

August 2022 - After decades on birth control pills to keep my hormone levels steady, I had to stop taking them (I was fully in menopause and my OB/GYN of 30 years was retiring). A severe relapse resulted, and I was mostly bedridden through all of September and part of October, until I started using estrogen patches and progesterone.

November 2022 - Since the whole endocrine system is connected, that sudden shift in estrogen and progesterone sent my thyroid hormones into chaos! Tests showed low T4, low T3 Uptake, and low Free Thyroxine (T4) Index (see Lessons Learned below for tips on testing).

January 2023 - I switched my thyroid care from my Lyme specialist to my primary care physician (PCP), and she started me on Armour thyroid, 30 mg, in addition to the liothyronine. Armour is a natural product, real desiccated thyroid gland from pigs, and thus, it works most effectively to help normalize all thyroid function. Many experts say it's the most effective way to treat hypothyroidism.

March 2023 - Lab tests still showed low T3 and T4, so my PCP increased my dose of Armour thyroid to 45 mg.

June 2023 - Lab tests showed normal T3 and TSH but still low T4, so my PCP increased my dose of Armour thyroid to 60 mg.

August 2023 - Lab tests showed T3 barely in the normal range and T4 still low, so my PCP increased my dose of Armour thyroid to 75 mg.

October 2023 - I tested differently this time, getting the blood drawn before I took my morning thyroid meds (see Lessons Learned below), and the results were similar to the August results: low T4 and T3 barely in the normal range. My PCP increased my dose of Armour thyroid to 90 mg.

NOTE: Throughout 2023, with each dose increase of Armour thyroid, I was feeling better and better--more energy, better sleep, more stamina, fewer crashes. The dosage adjustments my PCP has been making have been tiny changes each time, rechecking lab results every two months, as recommended. I am still on just an average dose of Armour thyroid (average is between 60-120 mg).

December 2023 - Tests still showed low T4 and very low-normal (barely in the normal range) T3 and TSH. Based on advice from my Lyme specialist and Dr. Myhill's article, I started a small dose (6.25 mg) of Iodoral brand iodine (the one recommended by both of those sources). After 2 weeks, I increased my dose to 12.5 mg (2 pills), then to 18.75 mg (using the 6.25 mg pills and the 12.5 mg Iodoral pills). As of end of January 2024, I am testing out a dose of 25 mg. With each increase of iodine (Iodoral), my energy and overall well-being improved.

Lessons Learned


Many doctors only test for TSH, but TSH can be normal when T3 and T4 are abnormal. For maximum effectiveness, ask for a full thyroid panel, including:

  • TSH
  • Thyroxine (free T4)
  • T3 Uptake
  • Free Thyroxine Index
  • Triiodothyronine (free T3)
  • Reverse T3, serum

At a minimum, ask your doctor to request tests for free T3, free T4, and TSH. 

If you are taking any thyroid treatments, get blood drawn for testing first thing in the morning, before you take your thyroid medications. This will provide the most accurate picture of your thyroid function rather than just showing the immediate effect of the medications.

After starting or changing treatment for thyroid dysfunction, wait 6-8 weeks to retest. It can take that long for your body to fully adjust. It can take even longer for your body to fully absorb iodine supplements.

The goal is not only to get T3, T4, and TSH barely into the normal range, but to get to a point where your thyroid function is normalized, and you feel better, with T3 and T4 values in the middle of the normal range. In fact, the very helpful website Stop the Thyroid Madness, which is based on thousands' of patient experiences over the course of decades, says that optimal thyroid function will be when your free T3 is in the top part of the normal range and free T4 is in the middle of the normal range (remember that T4 converts to T3).

In addition to what the tests show, pay attention to how you feel and describe to your doctor any changes (positive or negative) after changes in treatment. As thyroid is normalized, you should begin to feel better.


Everyone is different. Finding exactly the right combination of treatments and dosage for you can take some trial and error (and patience and persistence!). 

Experts generally recommend Armour thyroid or other natural desiccated thyroid as most effective in normalizing thyroid function, either with or without a T3 treatment (like liothyronine). Some people do well on just a T3 treatment (as I was for the first 18 months), and some on a combination of T3 and T4 treatments or just natural desiccated thyroid.

The right treatment for you will depend in part on your lab results (for instance, in the first 18 months of my thyroid treatment, my T3 was a bit low and the other numbers were normal) and your own individual response to treatment. That's why some trial and error might be necessary.

I felt much better after starting Armour thyroid, and with each increase in dose, my condition further improved. 

Thyroid medication should be taken on an empty stomach and away from antacids, calcium, iron supplements, and cholesterol medications. Taking it upon waking and waiting at least an hour before you eat works well for many patients.

After reading that splitting the dose can improve effectiveness and keep thyroid levels more stable throughout the day, I began splitting my daily dose in two, taking half when I first wake up and half after my nap, which is midway between lunch and dinner. (Note that I am talking about taking some pills in the morning and some in the afternoon, not cutting them in half; Armour thyroid can not be cut in half as it crumbles.)

There are several minerals that can be helpful to your thyroid--most of these are recommended for patients with ME/CFS or long-COVID or tick infections anyway (always start with a low dose, as listed, and check with your doctor):

  • Selenium 200 mcg - also supports healthy immune function.
  • Zinc - start low at 15-20 mg (increase if testing shows you're low); also supports healthy immune function.
  • Vitamin D3 (necessary for good immune function & often low in ME/CFS) - I take 5000 IU - you can test to see where your levels are to start.
  • Magnesium (look for glycinate, malate, or l-threonate; avoid oxide or citrate which are not well-absorbed and can cause diarrhea) - also helps with pain, sleep, energy, cognition, nervous system - I take Mg malate (1600 mg) and Mg-l-threonate (1200 mg), which is the only form of magnesium that can cross into the brain and is thus best for cognitive function.
  • Iodine - Iodoral brand is recommended by experts as pure and effective. Start at a low dose, like 6.25 or 12.5 mg or equivalent liquid and increase gradually if it is helping. Be sure to take iodine supplements away from vitamin C.

(NOTE: Check labels of supplements and medications if you are dairy intolerant; many use lactose as a filler. Pills that contain lactose are usually white and solid; gel caps don't contain lactose. Check labels or drug information online, looking for "inactive ingredients.")

Some experts say that low-dose naltrexone (LDN) can also help. This is a treatment that helps to normalize your immune system, so it is helpful for those with ME/CFS, long-COVID, and tick infections anyway. My son and I have taken it for about 15 years. Maybe that's why I didn't have any thyroid issues for so long!

If your doctor isn't willing to work with you on this--trying a treatment, waiting 6-8 weeks to get retested, listening to what you say about symptoms, adjusting treatment, repeat--then you should look for a different doctor (tips on finding a doctor). Treating thyroid dysfunction is often done by primary care physicians, family doctors, or general practitioners (GPs); however if your case seems particularly complex, your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist. But, in most cases, a specialist isn't necessary.


I've found a couple of resources that have been very helpful in understanding how to diagnose and treat thyroid dysfunction:

  • Stop the Thyroid Madness - an excellent website packed full of information, based on decades of collected patient experience. If reading is difficult for you (congrats on getting this far in my post!), there are some audio options on the home page. Be sure to check out the article on achieving optimal thyroid function (can also print to share with your doctor).
  • Hypothyroidism in Lyme Disease from the Treat Lyme website by Marty Ross, MD - a well-respected website for those with tick infections, and the thyroid article is applicable for those with ME/CFS and long-COVID, too. Also good for sharing with your doctor.
  • Iodine - What is the Correct Daily Dose? by Dr. Myhill (who is an ME/CFS expert in the UK)

So, that's my story and what I've learned. 

What have been YOUR experiences with diagnosing and treating thyroid dysfunction?

Let me know in the comments below.

You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

TV Tuesday: And Just Like That ...

Back in July, my husband went away for a week to play golf with his two best friends from high school in their hometown. Major Oklahoma road trip for him, and major alone time for me! I was searching for the perfect TV show for me to watch on my own, and after several false starts, I finally settled on And Just Like That ..., the sequel/reboot of Sex and the City. This show didn't even occur to me at first because--admission time--I never watched Sex and the City! I missed that whole 6-year-long pop cultural phenomenon (I was busy with my kids), though of course, I heard about it and recognized the four actresses who starred in it. But I gave And Just Like That ... a try because it was about women my age (ish). While it's not a perfect show, I enjoyed watching it during that week alone and during lunch on golf days since.

Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, was at the center of Sex and the City, and she is back here, along with two of her best friends from that previous show: Miranda, played by Cynthia Nixon, and Charlotte, played by Kristin Davis (Samantha has moved away). At the start of the first season, all three of them are married (presumably to the men they ended up with at the end of Sex and the City) but not all are happy. I'll avoid spoilers here, though I already knew what happened in the first episode from seeing it on the Today Show! They each make some new friends, too. Dr. Nya Wallace (played by Karen Pittman) is the Black law professor in Miranda's new program at Columbia. Che Diaz (played by the wonderful Sara Ramirez of Grey's Anatomy fame) is a non-binary, bisexual, half-Mexican podcaster, who asks Carrie to be on her podcast discussing sexuality (the show's new version of Carrie's old newspaper column). Miranda is quite taken by Che when she meets them. Lisa Todd Wexley, a very accomplished, wealthy Black woman played by Nicole Ari Parker, is Charlotte's new mom friend from the private school their kids attend. And Carrie ends up befriending her real estate agent, Seema Patel, played by Samita Choudhury. As the show moves forward, all of the women deal with their own highs and lows: divorce, death of someone close, sexual wondering/awakening, dealing with teen kids, work-life balance, and more. They are also dealing with the more minor aspects of aging, like hair turning white. 

I watched the two seasons that are currently available and enjoyed getting to know these characters. I made a point in my description above of pointing out the race or ethnicity or sexuality of some of the new characters because it felt so obvious to me that the show was making a concerted effort to update itself and become more diverse. I'm guessing the original show was pretty focused on the four white privileged women at its center? Don't get me wrong--I was happy to see a diverse, interesting cast, but it sometimes feels a bit forced here. And, almost all of them are still quite wealthy and privileged! But I enjoyed most of the characters, old and new. It was refreshing to see some of the issues and situations of 50-ish women get some attention on TV; that's a rare thing. The characters all get their own storylines, background, history, and dreams (even the newer ones), but somehow it didn't feel like too much. I'm assuming, from the title, that the original show was quite outspoken about sex, and this one is, too. This is not a show for the faint of heart or the easily offended! From gay sex to teen sex and much, much more, this is a very open, honest, sexual show. Overall, it's not a perfect show, but it was enjoyable entertainment for me and a refreshing change of pace.

There are currently two seasons of And Just Like That ... available on Max (formerly HBO Max). A third season is coming in 2024, according to IMDb.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Peace and Tranquility in Nature

In my book, I included a chapter, The Restorative Power of Nature, that details the scientific evidence that time spent in nature has measurable positive effects on both mental and physical health. That chapter also includes tips on how to bring nature's benefits into your own life, no matter how restricted you are; studies show that even looking at pictures of nature provide benefits. You can read an earlier version of that chapter/article here on the blog. With that in mind, I wanted to share some photos and video of some of my own recent time spent outdoors, which provided a much-needed respite in the midst of a busy month.

First, in spite of weeks of rain, we managed to get out for a couple of nights camping. It was a tight squeeze, with everything else we've had going on, but those two days of complete relaxation outdoors were worth the rush to get there. We took our pop-up camper to a beautiful state park in Maryland, less than an hour from our home. With views from our campsite of the Elk River and expansive views of the Chesapeake Bay near the historic lighthouse, we soaked in all the sights and sounds of nature. Here, I put together a video of photos from our short trip. View on YouTube or below:

Expand the view to full-screen, and you can also enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature!

Just a few days after that camping trip, we met our sons (and one girlfriend) at a rented lake house for the weekend. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and a tropical storm sat over the area for much of the weekend (and the following week!), but Friday evening was beautiful. My husband and I got the kayaks out on the lake, and we all enjoyed a stunning sunset over the water. In spite of the rain, the rest of the weekend was super-relaxing, and we loved having that time together as a family. A few photos:

I find being near the water especially peaceful and restorative.

Have you been able to spend any time outdoors lately?

Or even just looking at nature through your windows?

Let me know in the comments below.

You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.