Low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, is the most common hormonal problem in the world. More than 20 million Americans are affected by this condition. Worse yet, millions more are suffering and are unaware that their thyroid function is the culprit.
Thyroid symptoms include any and all feelings that are caused by reducing the speed at which your body functions. If your body burns less energy you will be cold and gain weight. If your body does not repair or regenerate as quickly as it should, your nails, hair, and skin regenerate more slowly leading to ridged and brittle nails, hair that falls out and skin that is thin and dry. Worst of all, those with low thyroid hormone have low energy. This often leads to inactivity, weight gain and depression. When you do not have the hormone which gives you motivation to go out and live life, often times people stop feeling alive.
Unfortunately, identifying a thyroid problem is not as simple as it may seem. Standard medical blood testing for thyroid function only tells us part of the story and often times the cause of your problem is not identified. This leads to the classic statement, “My thyroid testing is normal, but I always feel tired” or worse yet, “I am on thyroid medication and my doctor says my tests are normal but I still feel bad.”
Here are three simple ways to tell if your thyroid hormone is causing you to not be as healthy or as happy as you should be.
1) Thyroid Symptoms
If any the following symptoms are affecting you, consider an under active thyroid hormone as the potential cause even if you are on thyroid medication and your testing is “normal”.
2) Low Body Temperature
Your thyroid hormones have an influence on the activity level of all of your cells. Therefore, if your body does not have enough thyroid hormone available it will not generate as much heat as it normally should and frequent coldness will often result. You can check your basal metabolic rate (resting body temperature) at home very easily. Take your temperature (underarm) first thing in the morning. Preferably, use a mercury thermometer or at least a good digital thermometer. Record this temperature for 1 week. Then add all of your recorded temperatures and divide by 7 to find your average temperature for the week. Note: If you are using oral temperature subtract 0.5 degrees from the final average temperature you calculate. Normal average temperature should fall between 97.8 and 98.2. If your average is less than 97.8 you have an indication that your thyroid hormones are not working as well as they should and further evaluation should be performed.
3) Abnormal Advanced Blood Testing
Mainstream medical testing normally includes three markers to assess thyroid function and is effective for the majority of patients. However, there are many who require more advanced testing to assess what is really going on in their bodies. Most thyroid medication is made of synthetic T4 (levothyroxine, levoxyl, synthroid, etc), therefore, medical physicians standard lab testing measure only three markers, T4, Free T4 and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.
STANDARD LAB TESTING
Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
This hormone is released from your brain and communicates with your thyroid. Think of TSH as your brain’s voice. The higher it is, the louder your brain is yelling at your thyroid gland to work. The standard normal lab range for TSH is .45-4.5 mIU/L but research has linked a TSH level of 2.5-3.5 with a significantly increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD). What this means is that even if your thyroid test is “normal” you may still have an elevated risk of dying from heart disease. We also find patients who are above 1.5 mIU/L have several symptoms of low thyroid but are still considered in the “normal” range. Therefore, we prefer our patients to stay in an optimal range of 0.5-1.5 mIU/L. In our experience there is a big difference in the way a patient can feel when they go from a lab TSH of 4.2 to 1.2 mIU/L.
Normal Lab Range: .45-4.5 mIU/L Optimal Range: 0.5-1.4 mIU/L
T4 is the most abundant form of thyroid hormone. 95% of the thyroid hormone that you make is T4. Unfortunately, this form of the hormone is not very active and needs to be converted to a more active form (T3) to have a more meaningful effect on the way your body works and, in turn, the way you feel. Primary care physicians look at this number because most of them treat low thyroid function with this form of the hormone. The problem with this protocol is if your body is not converting T4 to T3 then you may still feel bad despite having “normal” tests.
This test demonstrates how much access your body has to T4. It will be “normal” when T4 levels are “normal”, but will not show if there is a lack of T3 in your body.
ADVANCED LAB TESTING
This test looks at how much of the most active form of thyroid hormone (T3) is present in your blood. It is often the missing link between testing “normal” and feeling normal.
This test shows how much access your body has to T3, the most active form of thyroid hormone. It is useful in demonstrating if there is an underlying issue that is denying your body access to T3. These underlying issues include excess estrogen, cortisol (stress hormone), testosterone and liver dysfunction.
Both of these tests are used to indicate if there is an autoimmune disease present that could be attacking your thyroid gland. Many experts claim these autoimmune diseases are the number one cause of hypothyroidism in this country. The typical treatment for these conditions is to give synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine, synthroid, etc.) which shuts down the thyroid gland’s production of hormones because of the artificial replacement of thyroid hormones.
Unfortunately, this does not provide the T3 which your thyroid gland produces. It also does not address the autoimmune condition which is attacking your thyroid gland and your thyroid hormones. Furthermore, these medications are given once daily while your thyroid gland works all day long and is capable of increasing or decreasing its production as your body needs more or less of the hormone.
As you can see there is a lot to consider when you are suffering from thyroid symptoms. This is why it’s extremely important to find a practitioner who doesn’t just looks at basic lab work and use conventional drug therapies. A thyroid problem isn’t just a thyroid problem – it’s an entire body problem.
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