SUWANNEE, Ga. - One small gland in our neck can cause a lot of problems, when it gets thrown off. Our thyroid controls our metabolism. In the case of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, our immune system mistakenly begins to attack our thyroid, and that can cause low-thyroid function, or hypothyroidism. It can make you feel sluggish, tired and put on weight. That's what was happening to musician Rick Meeder. It all began in 2001.
"I was going through a divorce at the time and I just thought it might be low energy, depressed, whatever it might be. Drained, but as things got normal, I still didn't feel good," says the Cherokee County man.
So Meeder went to the doctor, who ordered a blood test, which revealed his thyroid gland wasn't functioning properly, and that was slowing down his metabolism. The doctor prescribed a synthetic thyroid hormone pill, and for a while, things got better, until about 2012, when Meeder started feeling bad again.
"It was kind of a combination of low energy, being overweight, trying to eat right. Or thinking you were eating right," says Meeder.
Meeder came to see Angel Nofzinger, a nurse practitioner with Preventive Medicine in Sandy Springs, who wanted to dig a little deeper. So, he had more blood tests for thyroid function and certain antibodies that might reveal what was driving his symptoms. Nofzinger diagnosed him with Hashimoto's disease, the most common cause of low thyroid function. His immune system was attacking his thyroid gland
"The main symptoms patients are coming to complain about is fatigue, foggy thinking or slow thinking. Muscle weakness and joint pain. Constipation, feeling cold all the time or having a low body temperature and weight gain," says Nofzinger.
Because Meeder has some food sensitivities, and wasn't responding well to the synthetic hormone he was taking, Nofzinger recommended a combination of synthetic and natural thyroid hormones, and suggested Meeder tweak his eating.
"You kind of have to do a customized version, of an individual lifestyle, for diet," explains Meeder. "In the morning, I'll have coffee with coconut oil in it because good fats are important."
He cut his portion sizes, cut back on sugar.
"Sleep is important. watching your coffee," adds Meeder. "I have one or two small cups in the morning now, then try to stop drinking."
Since weight gain can be an issue, regular exercise is also important.
Nofzinger says many patients with Hashimoto's are sensitive to certain foods.
"Once of the most common things we suggest is going off gluten, and along with gluten many times dairy can be the culprit as well. Some patients have to get off all grains completely," says Nofzinger
It's been a long road, but thanks to the right medication, and taking better care of himself, Rick Meeder feels like himself again.