So frequently I see patients who present the entire gamut of Low Thyroid symptoms and continue to suffer these for years-without ever receiving the adequate help they need. They are told their labs are normal and hence this means they must be fine. However, they continue to experience the symptoms which include but are not limited to weight gain, difficulty losing weight, fatigue and lack of energy, hair loss, brittle nails, crushing depression, mental fog, poor sleep, irregular periods, feeling cold, hot flashes, slow digestion, etc.
The way that Low Thyroid disorders are diagnosed and addressed is something that in my experience needs to be revisited and updated. The primary marker used to diagnose Hypothyroidism is TSH. TSH is a pituitary hormone which is a shadow of how much T4 (thyroid hormone) is in circulation. When practitioners see TSH rise above 4.5 or 5 depending on the lab, they will prescribe Thyroid Hormone Replacement (Levothyroxine, Synthroid, etc) to “bring down the TSH”. When this is achieved in the lab work most patients are then told that the problem is now fixed and they are all better. Sadly, statistics show that nearly 85% of all those diagnosed with a Low Thyroid disorder will continue to experience symptoms of Hypothyroidism regardless of being on medication and being told their labs are now normal.
There are many reasons for this prolonged, yet unnecessary suffering. One of the reasons is TSH ranges are not based on optimal – they are based on population average. By the time someone hits 4.5 or higher on their TSH they are already very sick. Research is now showing that optimal TSH range should live between 1 and 1.5 and that someone who is showing an upward trend away from these values should be considered for intervention.
There are at least 33 different patterns that could be causing your continual problems such as:
- Thyroid resistance
- Pituitary problems
- Numerous other metabolic conditions that could be causing your symptoms
Most doctors only check for one of these patterns by only looking at your TSH when there are actually over 9 essential markers to understand thyroid function.
The number one cause for their suffering is rarely ever checked for in the United States. The number one cause of Low Thyroid in this country is a disease called Hashimoto’s Disease.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disease. This means that your immune system is attacking your own body.
97% of people with diagnosed low thyroid disorder actually have an immune disorder called Hashimoto’s.
n Hashimoto’s Disease/Thyroiditis, your immune system is attacking and literally eating your thyroid until you begin to lose thyroid tissue little by little. This goes on day by day and even year by year until one day your thyroid gland no longer has enough healthy thyroid tissue to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones.
The medications prescribed for low thyroid patients only replace the hormones the gland no longer generates, it does not address the immune disorder. Hence, the disorder inevitably continues to progress.
IS IT REALLY A THYROID PROBLEM?
Ultimately what you need to understand is that if you have Hashimoto’s you do not necessarily have a thyroid problem. You have an immune problem and the thyroid is just the victim. It’s just a symptom of a deeper problem.
As you can see there are many things that are missed in the proper diagnosis of Low Thyroid disorder. Even those that already know they have Hashimoto’s receive the same treatment as everyone else – medication to replace the hormones they are loosing – when in reality what they have is an immune problem. So many of these patients that have been diagnosed sadly go on a rampage of internet searches and reading books in an attempt to help themselves. However, most of the time they fall short of their goal because they are not reading the overabundance of scientific data that now shows us that many of these immune disorders can be modulated and even arrested. That’s right, STOPPED!
The first step out of your continuous suffering is to obtain a comprehensive diagnosis, which can only be done through rigorous testing. That is the vision of an Integrated or Functional Medicine doctor- it is always about the Root Cause and not just the symptoms.
By Dr. Ruben Valdes, DC