Can CT Scans Affect Your Thyroid? CT Contrast Side Effects

Can CT Scans Affect Your Thyroid? CT Contrast Side Effects
can-ct-scans-affect-thyroid
Photo by Edusoft @Pixabay

My Experience with CT Scan and Thyroid Issues

Can CT scans affect your thyroid? This is not a question I would have given any thought to until recently. I had gone to my doctor because of some sharp abdominal pains that I had been having for a couple of days. My doctor suspected that I had appendicitis so I was whisked away to the emergency department for possible emergency appendectomy. Once the emergency doctors saw me, they advised that I have a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis as soon as possible. After being administered some intravenous contrast dye, I subsequently had the CT performed. When the contrast was being injected into my veins, I could feel my heart begin to beat faster and my throat got a strange hot feeling that moved down my chest and then disappeared. I had been warned that this was how I would feel, so I got comfortable and went through with the CT thyroid scan.

The radiologist who looked at the CT images asked for repeated images in order to get a better look at the urinary tract to rule out any problems with the bladder or kidneys. Fortunately, nothing showed up to be abnormal, and I was told that only the urine test had come back with signs of a UTI (urinary tract infection).

Follow-up Tests Show a Problem

A few weeks later, I was contacted by the Nuclear Medicine department to schedule me for a radioactive iodine scan of the thyroid because my thyroid function blood tests were abnormal. The endocrinologist had set up the scan to find out if my thyroid was functioning properly.

Now, I am not one to take too many medications and I always ask questions about my treatments. Before going through with the nuclear medicine scan, I read about the link between CT scans and abnormal thyroid levels. I found out a lot of information, which I want to share here.

Test Results

thyroid tests #1
Thyroid tests, photo by author

How did I know my thyroid was abnormal? First of all, my doctor had ordered a thyroid panel of blood tests: a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and a free T4. At first the free T4 was a little high. The TSH, however, had dropped since the 2011 levels, to 0.04 (normal > 0.10). At the same time, my weight jumped up 10 pounds practically overnight, even though I had been good about avoiding gluten, and now I was even heavier than before I stopped eating wheat gluten!

I also started to notice that I was always tired, even after a good night’s sleep and in spite of taking my usual multivitamin every night. Apparently, these are some classic signs of thyroid dysfunction.

 

Hyper- vs. Hypothyroidism

According to the blood tests, which showed a low TSH and a mildly elevated free T4, I had begin manifesting hyperthyroid symptoms the month right after the CT scan. However, when I got repeat blood tests two months later in March, the opposite was true: the TSH was sky-high and the free T4 had dropped below normal. This was an indication of hypothyroidism, meaning that the thyroid was not producing thyroid hormone (measured by free T4) and so the pituitary gland was working overtime to produce TSH to stimulate thyroid hormone. This meant that the iodine from the CT scan had affected my thyroid so it couldn’t produce its own thyroid hormone!

Not wanting to add any more toxins to my system, I decided not to have the radioactive thyroid uptake scan. Besides, I had read that the iodine from the CT contrast would eventually clear from my system by itself. The nuclear medicine doctor agreed, canceled the scan, and said I could just wait and have another blood test in a month to monitor the thyroid function.

My reading shows the TSH has leveled off a bit and gone down slightly, though still abnormal at 30.6. The free T4 still has not recovered, at 0.6. The only changes I have made are to replace iodized with non-iodized salt in my diet, avoid shellfish (even though iodine content is minimal in seafood), and to drink distilled water rather than fluoridated tap water (even if it’s filtered, fluoride is nearly impossible to remove from water). I had been using a Brita filter, but now I always make an effort to only use distilled bottled water for drinking. I believed that distilled water would help clear toxins more quickly from the kidneys since there are less impurities for the kidneys to process. I have since found out that drinking only distilled water is NOT good for you and iodine can be good in some circumstances of hypothyroidism.


 

Related on Amazon

I am not a health professional, so I always advise that you contact your own medical practitioner to monitor your health. In addition, to provide more information on thyroid issues and thyroid health, below are some helpful resources available on Amazon.

 Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You… That You Need to Know (Revised Edition)Check Price Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? when My Lab Tests Are Normal: a Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and HypothyroidismCheck Price Stop the Thyroid Madness: A Patient Revolution Against Decades of Inferior TreatmentCheck Price The Thyroid Solution Diet: Boost Your Sluggish Metabolism to Lose WeightCheck Price


Underactive Thyroid Problems: Is There a Solution?

thyroid disorders symptoms
Photo, Geralt @Pixabay

Synthetic vs. “Armour” Thyroid

Though this may be a long time before my thyroid normalizes, I have chosen not to go with the synthetic thyroid that the endocrinology doctor recommends. I inquired about the natural “Armour” thyroid but he replied that desiccated animal thyroid is not consistently manufactured and not shown to be effective in clinical trials. I understand his concern, because I have read that the T3 to T4 ratio is not always the same in these formulations, and too much T3 can result in hyperthyroidism, which is very difficult to control. I have heard so much bad about synthetic thyroid, however, that I can’t in good conscience take a chance on using that, either.

The next step is to visit my health practitioner as I continue to wait for my thyroid to go back to normal. If the symptoms become too bothersome to wait the 9 to 12 months’ time that this could take, I will ask her advice about taking Armour thyroid.

Even though I am a strong advocate of natural medicine and holistic therapies, I have to caution anyone who is thinking about self-prescribing any kind of thyroid NOT to do that without the advice and counsel of a licensed medical practitioner! There is just too much margin for error and a very strong possibility you might ruin your health. These are strong hormones and definitely nothing to take without medical supervision.

Important!

Never self-prescribe! Always be under the care of a licensed health practitioner to administer thyroid 
medication or supplements, and to measure thyroid hormone levels.

 

How Long Will the Symptoms Last?

I have read that it takes up to a year for thyroid disorder symptoms of hypothyroidism to correct after a CT scan. Even though I feel I had a valid reason to get the scan (family history of aneurysm is one reason), I don’t think I personally will be having a contrast study again, because of these side effects. However, each person must make his or her own decision, and I think this article may be helpful for you to see how CT scans with contrast might affect your thyroid health and to ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned.

Not everyone’s situation will be the same as mine; please work with your health care provider to advise about the risks of a CT scan and the reason you are having the scan done. A CT scan can be done with contrast or without contrast, but with contrast, a doctor can see more detail on the images. That being said, if you have ever had an allergic reaction to iodine or a bad  reaction to contrast dye, please inform your provider so he or she can request to have the scan done without the contrast.

A CT scan is a wonderful invention that can detect abnormalities in the body that are not visible with traditional x-ray studies; even so, ALWAYS be informed about any studies or therapies a doctor recommends for you.

Please Read!!

If you have ever had an allergic reaction to iodine or a bad 
reaction to contrast dye, be sure to inform your 
provider ahead of time. He or she can then help you decide 
the best test for your condition.

 

Always Be Your Own Advocate

Remember, it always pays to be your own health advocate: always ask questions if you have any doubts about treatment you are receiving and if you don’t understand the answers or don’t get cooperation from your health provider, ask again or change doctors. You don’t have to agree with any doctor, nurse, or other medical professional who blames your symptoms solely on (1) your age, (2) your gender, or (3) your weight, or tries to tell you “it’s all in your head.” To me, this means they don’t want to dig any deeper or admit they don’t have the answer. A good health provider will always see you as an individual rather than a statistic,and be willing to listen to your concerns instead of sloughing them off.

It’s understandable that many traditional doctors don’t know more about nutritional or holistic therapy, because they usually haven’t received more than a few hours’ training in medical school about nutrition and probably little or no training about alternative therapies. That is beginning to change, and now most doctors won’t put you down if you are helped by acupuncture or chiropractic, or vitamin therapy. If you have access to a holistic health practitioner or naturopath, you are very fortunate because you can then receive a full spectrum of care.

Whoever provides your health care, I’ve learned it is always a good idea to do your own research first before accepting anything that someone else tells you as the whole truth. (That includes this article, since it is based on my personal experience alone.) Do your homework!


More Thyroid Help

 

 Beat Hypothyroidism Naturally: Proven 3-Step Guide to Healthy Thyroid FunctionCheck Price Pure Encapsulations – Thyroid Support Complex 120cCheck Price


Update on My Thyroid Condition

What I’ve Learned

Looking back, I can now understand that my lab tests viewed over the long term show: hyperthyroid right after the CT scan, then a sudden change to HYPO-thyroid. In other words, my thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone. The good news for me is that my TSH lab values are now one-third of what they were, although the free T4 is only marginally improved.

In order to aid in the production of thyroid hormone, I have reintroduced iodized salt and seafood back into my diet. Also, after being cautioned about the dangers of distilled water for drinking, I asked my doctor about using a reverse osmosis water filter. She said that there is no good way to filter out fluoride from water without also filtering out essential minerals like calcium. She advised me either to continue using filtered tap water (I use a Brita filter), purchase a carbon block filter system, or add mineral supplements (if I were to continue to drink distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water). For now, I’m sticking with my Brita filter until I find a better system.

Also, since my thyroid values are improving, my doctor did not feel I needed to take thyroid hormone (Armour thyroid) right now. She provided me with a thyroid support supplement to take in the morning.

In addition, because I have a family history of thyroid disease (my mother was diagnosed with Graves’ disease), my doctor suggested that I request a full thyroid lab panel from my primary physician. This consists of: TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibody screen), thyroglobulin antibody, and TSI (Graves specific thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin) to see if I am predisposed to thyroid problems. She said that not everyone will have the same reaction to iodine contrast with a CT scan, so a hereditary tendency might be the reason.

which foods are good for your thyroid
Photo by author

 

Which Foods are Good for Your Thyroid?

There are some foods which can lead to goiter (an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid), and which are referred to as “goitrogenic” foods.

which foods are good for my thyroid
Photo, Gadini @Pixabay

Although she stated that you’d have to eat these foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to cause a problem, my doctor did say that there are some foods that can promote goiter: those foods include soy, raw kale, cabbage, and broccoli. Again, you’d have to eat a LOT of these foods, but it’s something to keep in mind when you have thyroid issues.

Foods that help support the thyroid are: Brazil nuts (they contain selenium), sea vegetables like kombu and wakami (contain iodine), chicken and fish (contain protein),and oysters. Kale, cabbage, spinach, and broccoli are good, as long as they are cooked and not raw. Iodized salt is also beneficial in small amounts. I’ve been drinking coconut water for hydration and for the added minerals.

In general, it’s always smart to use good judgment about what you eat and don’t go overboard eating too much of any one thing. Maintain good health habits of getting out for fresh air and exercise, staying well-hydrated, and avoiding sugary and fatty foods. Stress can be a factor in many cases, too.

I hope this post has been helpful to those who are going through similar issues.

Important Note

Please do not consider any of this as medical or health advice: 
I caution that this is my experience only; your situation may be
different. Always consult your health practitioner for this 
and any other health concerns.

 

Looking and Feeling Younger For Life

Looking and Feeling Younger For Life

Some tips to keep you looking and feeling younger for life. A quality skin care regimen, getting enough sleep, nutrition, and supplementation is important to keep you looking and feeling younger for life.

How I Found Out I Have a Gluten Allergy

How I Found Out I Have a Gluten Allergy

How I found out I have a gluten allergy was quite by accident. I never dreamed that I was allergic to anything, least of all bread or wheat. When I was little, my mother stayed home while my dad went off to work, and she cooked and she baked. Boy, how she baked: Vienna tortes, chocolate chip cookies, applesauce cake, chocolate eclairs, and, last but not least, homemade bread! I’ve grown up loving the smell of the yeast dissolving in water, the dough rising, and the warm comforting aroma of the bread just hot from the oven. Let’s face it, I was hooked. I LOVED bread, long before I had ever heard that there was such a thing as a gluten allergy.

Throughout my life, though, I’d had issues. Nothing too out of the ordinary—a little sluggishness, bouts of constipation—until I reached middle age, when my magic charm ran out and I gained a lot of weight. For my milestone birthday, I planned a big party to celebrate going “over the hill.” Six months before, I had started the “Atkins” diet to get rid of those extra pounds once and for all. I did so well on that diet (I did love bacon and cheese!), that I went from a size 14 to a size 6 in six months. You can find out more about the Atkins diet here.

Never did I exclude vegetables from my eating regimen—the only changes I made to were to eliminate breads, potatoes, and sugar from my life. The diet worked so great that I stuck to it more or less religiously for five years. I maintained a good weight and stayed around a size 7 or 8 during that time. At the end of five years, the Atkins diet worked so well, I thought I could go back and eat foods I had previously denied myself, like bread.

Looking back now, I realize that the symptoms of gluten allergy coincided with me going off the Atkins diet. I was no longer able to go hiking anywhere without easy access to a restroom because I would have urgent diarrhea. I had to stay close to home a lot because I needed the bathroom every half hour.

It was no fun to live like this! Finally, I made an appointment to get a colonoscopy because I feared the worst—colon cancer. The specialist assured me that I did not have cancer and that everything looked ok, except for what he called “micro-bleeds” of the intestine. He couldn’t tell me what caused these bleeds but assured me that I didn’t have cancer or polyps.He also said it wasn’t irritable bowel disease (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease, either. He told me to come for a checkup in five years! 

Mysterious Ailment
© Edisaacs | Dreamstime Stock Photos

With all this tummy trouble, I lost a quick ten pounds from losing all that fluid and, soon after that, bounced back up an extra 15 pounds that I just couldn’t get rid of. The diarrhea eventually stabilized but the weight did not come off. I never got up to a size 14 again but did feel bloated and gassy all the time—my stomach at times would look like I was 6 months pregnant.

A Mysterious Ailment: How My Nephew Helped Me Discover I Had A Gluten Allergy

Meanwhile, I found out that my nephew had been consulting a number of doctors trying to get answers for a mysterious ailment that he had had since his mid-30s, or for about 10 years. He was always not feeling well and when I saw him during one visit back home, he looked really sick. I was really scared for my nephew. It was heartbreaking to think that something could happen to him.

One day my sister old me that a doctor had finally figured out what was wrong with my nephew. He had celiac disease! I really had no idea what that was—I thought it was the same as Crohn’s disease, which I knew was something bad. However, the only thing that he had to do to live a normal life again was to avoid anything with wheat in it. didn’t know a wheat allergy could make someone so sick but when he quit eating wheat, he came back to normal health and looked better than he had in years!

When I talked to my nephew about his experience with celiac, he explained to me that he was allergic to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat. He could never have it in his diet again, but he said it was pretty easy to avoid gluten foods and still eat well. When I asked him what symptoms had brought him to the doctor, it sounded a lot like my experience: he said that he had had uncontrollable diarrhea and bloating. In fact, he said once he avoided foods with gluten, he lost 20 pounds right away and the digestive troubles associated with gluten allergy and gluten intolerance just stopped.

Gluten is in a Lot of Foods! A Partial List 

Thanks to that chance conversation with my nephew about his wheat gluten allergy symptoms, I decided to try to stop eating wheat, too. It hasn’t always been easy to know how to avoid foods with gluten, because wheat is not just in whole-wheat bread, it’s in nearly everything on your grocery shelves. (You can even find wheat in soy sauce, and I don’t just don’t get that at all!)

Here’s a partial list of foods with gluten in them:    

Gluten in beer
© Scantynebula | Dreamstime Stock Photos
  • Most flours (white or wheat)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Soy sauce (tamari is OK)
  • Alcoholic drinks except for wine
  • Barley
  • Beer
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
  • Farina
  • Barley
  • Grain vinegar (apple cider vinegar is OK)
  • Grain alcohol
  • Durum
  • Couscous
  • Graham crackers
  • Kamut
  • Modified food starch
  • Olestra
  • Packaged puddings
  • Semolina
  • Orzo
  • Flour tortillas
  • Cream of wheat cereal
  • Croutons
  • Most cornbreads (mixed with regular flour)
  • Bran
    NOTE: This is not a complete list.

How Do I Know if I Have Gluten Allergy?

If you are concerned that you may have gluten allergy, you can ask your doctor to order antibody (usually IgG and IgA) tests. Be aware though that unless you are actively consuming wheat or gluten, these tests can turn up negative.

In my opinion, your body will tell you whether or not you have gluten allergy, so I prefer to do my own challenge testing. Watch how your body responds when you stop eating certain foods for a week or so and then try and eat them again. You may notice that your tummy puffs up or you feel gassy and uncomfortable. Oftentimes, the effect will be immediate.

The reason for the puffiness or bloating is that gluten (if you are sensitive to it) erodes the lining of the intestine and can lead to “leaky gut,” where the impurities in the intestine leak out to the surrounding tissues and cause inflammation. Based on my reading, I think that much of what we call obesity is just inflammation of the tissues as a response to attack on the immune system by an offending substance in the intestines, like gluten.

Dr. Mark Hyman’s Warning About Gluten and Gluten Allergy

Here are some links if you want to learn more about gluten allergy and celiac disease.

Screening for Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease Symptoms

Why is Bread So Bad? What I Didn’t Know About Modern Wheat

Though I’ve been interested in natural health and healthy eating for many years now, I’ve only recently read “Wheat Belly” by cardiologist, Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis explains exactly how modern wheat is different from what most of us knew growing up. Although wheat is one of the grains that are affected by genetic modification (along with corn and soybeans), the changes in its basic structure started long before GMOs became news. Using specialized breeding, or hybridization, scientists began a widespread experiment in how to better feed the growing population of Planet Earth. In approximately 1985, a hybridized form of wheat, a “supergrain” was developed that could potentially solve world hunger. The hybridized form of wheat had a larger seed head and shorter stalks, making it faster to grow and easier to harvest; in addition, it packed a lot more carbohydrate into the edible portion so that in places like Africa and India, where harvests were meager, what little bit of grain farmers grew would yield more nutrition.

Sounds like the perfect solution, right? However, what happens when that carbohydrate-packed grain ends up in the diet of developed nations like the United States? With a sudden increase in the carbohydrate content of wheat, then it’s no wonder that obesity rates have skyrocketed in the last three decades, and younger and younger people are struggling with weight issues. Childhood obesity rates in the United States are at record highs.

Check out Dr. Davis’ book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health to read this fascinating story of modern wheat, and all the serious health problems that have developed because of our addiction to foods that contain wheat.

What Does This Have to Do with Gluten?

In addition to more carbohydrates in the edible portion of the wheat stalk, the gluten content has skyrocketed. Gluten makes baked products lighter, fluffier, and helps the dough stick together so it can be made into bagels, bread, and muffins that have the desired consistency and appearance that we are used to. Gluten does much more than that, however. As Dr. Davis mentions in his book, gluten is one of the only food substances that can make the intestine permeable, meaning it allows the contents to leak out, spilling into places they don’t belong like the abdomen and causing toxic reactions and immune responses, like cramping and bloating. As if that weren’t nasty enough, gluten gets carried along in the bloodstream and can pass through the blood-brain barrier into your brain, affecting mental clarity (“brain fog”), making you sleepy, irritable, and even depressed.

I won’t even attempt to address the question of whether our digestive tracts are meant to handle grains (i.e., grasses) at all. (That’s something for a future blog!) However, I believe we would do well to try and avoid wheat in all forms, stay away from genetically modified foods whenever possible, and to try to eat food that comes from local and known sources. There are a number of products you can find that will substitute for mainstream flour and wheat products and I’ve tried some of them.

I have listed some resources below if you suspect you have a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance. Take charge of your own health and do the research to avoid gluten allergy and other health issues stemming from overindulgence in carbohydrates, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Links:
Doctor Says Genetically Modified Wheat a “Perfect, Chronic Poison”
Celiac Disease Symptoms
Gluten-free by Tradition: What Is Gliadin?

Recommended Reading

Bob’s Red Mill GF Homemade Wonderful Bread Flour “Never Fails!”

Bob’s Red Mill has been making products for gluten-sensitive and people with celiac disease for over 30 years. I love buying these products, but the best and easiest by far is Bob’s Red Mill Bread Flour. I have baked bread twice now and got exactly the same result: perfectly browned, with a hard shell crust rising up out of the baking pan. And the taste is heavenly! I don’t even miss “real” bread any more!

The bottom line: it’s called “Wonderful” for a reason!

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