For a year, Gabriella Campagna struggled with fatigue, joint pain, hair loss, depression, being tired all the time, and always feeling cold, but blamed the symptoms on the stress of post-college life and her dance career. When the New York City woman was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2009, she was prescribed Synthroid (sometimes misspelled as Synthyroid) and sent on her way.
Using Conventional Treatment for Hashimoto Thyroid Disease
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common thyroid disorder in the U.S., affecting 14 million people. It’s an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid gland can’t properly make thyroid hormones, leading to a gradual decline in function. Synthroid is the most-prescribed brand-name drug in the country.
The Synthroid thyroid medication initially helped her feel better, but then she started experiencing anxiety, heart palpitations, and manic behavior. Campagna’s mother intuitively thought it was the drug, but multiple doctors told her it wasn’t related and suggested she see a psychiatrist because the issue may have been bipolar disorder or depression. Campagna lowered her Synthroid dosage, and, again, felt better for a while, but then things got worse.
“I just went into this really low swing of major depression for about nine months. I didn’t have a period for nine months. I gained 30 pounds. I never wanted to see friends. I didn’t see the point in anything,” she told WellBe.
Campagna hit such a low that she thought maybe she did have depression or bipolar, and a psychiatrist offered to prescribe her antidepressants, but her parents resisted. They took her to an endocrinologist, who increased her Synthroid dosage. Within three weeks, she had symptoms of mania.
“You’re running on what feels like this incredible amount of energy. Your brain is moving really fast but there’s just no filter and I wasn’t sleeping,” Campagna said.
Synthroid Side Effects — Or Bipolar Disorder?
At this point, Campagna had seen seven endocrinologists and was afraid to stop taking Synthroid. Her mental health was so unstable, her parents reluctantly sent her away to a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut, where doctors claimed her problems had nothing to do with her thyroid.
She then went to a rehab center in Malibu. Her parents intended for it to be a place where she could rest, eat well, and undergo therapy— without drug intervention —but within her first week, staff told her she was being so disruptive in group therapy she’d have to take an antipsychotic to stay there. So she did. And she woke up having convulsive attacks so strong she thought she was in an earthquake.
The head of the rehab center told her parents that she needed to be in a high-security mental hospital, but they were determined to figure out what was really going on. The family ended up finding Dr. Michael E. Doyle, an integrative doctor in Connecticut. He told Campagna that everything she’d gone through was related to the Synthroid and her thyroid. The reaction happens to 0.1 percent of people, and none her previous doctors had considered it.
“I had fear put into me by my doctors and by my own experience that I needed [Synthroid] to survive. In fact, it was what was making me sick,” she said.
Doyle prescribed her Armour, a medication made from animal thyroid glands that replaces or provides more thyroid hormone. Since it’s derived from an animal, the drug is bioidentical to what the human body creates, which replaces what your body needs, Campagna said. Within a few weeks, she felt better.
“I felt like finally I was back; my head was back in my body in the way I had known it to be,” Campagna said.
After years of struggling, Campagna finally feels like she’s in a stable place with her Hashimoto’s. She told WellBe that autoimmune conditions are unique to each individual and finding someone who looks at all the symptoms and the body as a whole is key to working toward healing. (In fact, poor gut health is often a contributing factor in thyroid issues — learn more about the importance of the gut to your overall health in The WellBe Gut Guide!).