Hypothyroidism – What Your Doctor May Not Yell You But You Need To Know

Hypothyroidism is a common health condition affecting millions of women that is

frequently overlooked in our health care system. The American Association of

Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) estimates that 10% of Americans – more than the

number of Americans with diabetes and cancer combined – suffer from thyroid

disease. Many of these people are not receiving adequate care for a number of

reasons. The AACE estimates that half of the people with thyroid disease are not

being diagnosed. For those patients properly diagnosed, the standard conventional

treatment is often ineffective. The bottom line is that millions of Americans are

hypothyroid, many hypothyroid patients receive inadequate treatment, and millions

more are hypothyroid and may never even know.

In order to understand the health effects of low thyroid, it is important to know how

the thyroid affects the human body. A healthy thyroid produces hormones that

control a person’s metabolic rate. In essence, the thyroid acts as the body’s gas

pedal. An overactive or hyperthyroid causes the body’s systems to run too hot and

too fast. An underactive or hypothyroid causes the body’s systems to run too cold

and too slow. The effects of low thyroid and low body temperature can be

devastating because for every one degree decrease in body temperature the base

metabolic rate decreases by approximately 6%. It is not uncommon for a person to

have an average temperature that is two to four degrees below normal, this

correlates to a 12%-24% reduction in overall metabolism. No wonder these people

feel tired and depressed and are consistently challenged with their weight.

There are many risk factors and symptoms that point the increased possibility of

low thyroid. Risk factors include: females, age over 30, a family history of low

thyroid or auto immune disease, post-partum depression, infertility, multiple

miscarriages, pms, weakness, problems with skin or hair, lethargy, sensation of

cold, impaired memory or mood, constipation, weight gain or loss, muscle/joint

pain, emotional instability, swelling around eyes, face or legs, nervousness,

depression, heart palpitations, fullness in the throat area or difficulty swallowing,

and many more.

Fatigue is one of the most common reasons for visits to primary care doctors and

successful treatment begins with diagnosis. Therefore, any patient suspecting they

have hypothyroidism should be evaluated by a doctor skilled in this area. In

addition to hypothyroid, there are many other reasons for fatigue. These include:

poor blood sugar regulation, low adrenal function, anemia, nutritional deficiencies

(often B vitamins), heavy metal toxicity, lack of exercise, allergies, inadequate sleep,

clinical depression, and chronic infection.

Diagnosing low thyroid can be difficult using the current medical model. Although

there are numerous lab values that can be used to evaluate thyroid function, many

physicians use only one lab test for diagnosis: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

Many patients with 8 out of 10 low thyroid symptoms will be told that their thyroid

is not the cause of their symptoms because their TSH level is “normal. ” Doctors

using the TSH test as the sole criterion for detecting and treating the low thyroid

patient are missing a great opportunity to help more sick people. Recently, the

AACE has lowered the acceptable TSH values in order to detect more patients with

this condition.

Although TSH is the most common method to diagnose low thyroid, having “normal”

TSH levels does not automatically rule out hypothyroidism. In addition to the TSH

test, a more complete thyroid panel should also include free T3, free T4, and

possibly TPO antibodies, and reverse T3. Although these are the best tests to

evaluate thyroid function, these tests are often not performed because they are

more expensive than the common tests and may not be covered by your insurance

companies. When choosing a doctor to treat your possible thyroid problem, ask

your doctor what tests they include in their thyroid panel.

Even with the adjusted lab value and additional thyroid tests, there are problems

with this evaluation model. Lab values are just one factor to consider when

evaluating the patient’s thyroid. Many patients with hypothyroid will respond very

well to thyroid treatment even though their lab tests are considered “normal”. Even

thought lab tests can be helpful in the diagnosis, doctors should focus on treating

the patient instead of treating the lab values.

Another very simple and effective method to detect low thyroid is for the patient to

measure their basal body temperature at home using a mercury thermometer. The

basal temperature is measured by putting the thermometer under the arm for five

minutes before getting out of bed. Men and post-menopausal women should

record their temperatures for a week, menstruating women should start recording

their temperature for a week beginning on day two of their period. Anyone with an

average temperature of less than 97.6 F could be hypothyroid and should consult a

skilled physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Once a diagnosis is made, the conventional treatment of hypothyroidism is to

prescribe synthetic thyroid (Synthroid) and retest the TSH level in 4-6 weeks. The

goal of the treatment is to bring the TSH level back into a normal range. This

approach can be effective for some patients, but many patients do not feel better

even after achieving normal TSH lab values.

When choosing a doctor to help with your potential low thyroid, you should ask

whether the doctor uses medications other than Synthroid. Synthroid is the most

commonly prescribed thyroid medication but is not the best solution. Physicians

with experience in successfully treating thyroid disease will also utilize other

alternatives such as natural compounded T3/T4 hormone, Nature-throid, or

Armour thyroid. Natural supplements such as l-tyrosine, iodine, bladderwack (sea

weed), natural progesterone, adrenal and thyroid glandulars can also stimulate

thyroid function.

Exposure to toxins can also cause poor thyroid function. Radiation treatments for

an overactive thyroid is one of the most common causes of low thyroid. Heavy

metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and others can also be a primary cause of

hypothyroidism and need to be removed from the body. Lastly, fluoride and

chlorine from chemical exposure compete with the iodine needed for thyroid

hormone metabolism and can cause poor thyroid function.

Many of you reading this article of are suffering needlessly from the symptoms of

undiagnosed or ineffectively treated hypothyroidism. The ideas and suggestions

contained in this article should provide you with a starting point and some direction

for pursuing an effective solution.