OK. So you are reading all you can about thyroid issues since you feel you may have a thyroid problem yourself. Your doctor may have tested your blood in the past and told you "all is fine." But you have all the thyroid symptoms. So what do you do?
As for me, I had "goiter" (swelling of the thyroid) after a head on collision. So I knew there was an issue. I needed to delve deeper.
Working in the health atmosphere for years, so many women complained of unexplained weight gain, being tired all the time, lack of motivation, and brain fog. Yet, they were told nothing was wrong and it was just stress. Now what? Take a pill? No way.
Most doc's just test the TSH by itself. But the issue with this is that a person can have a TSH level in the normal range, but low levels of T4 and T3. To make things even more complicated, even testing for TSH, T4, and T3 may not be enough information for a complete picture!
Not all T4 is available to convert into T3 because some of it is bound to proteins. Similarly, some of your T3 is also bound to proteins. About 99% of circulating thyroid hormones are bound to carrier proteins, making them metabolically inactive.1
When you have your T3 levels measured, it’s a combination of both the bound and the free T3. Your free T3 is the amount that is available for tissues. Therefore, knowing your free T4 and free T3 levels can help diagnose thyroid function.
Together with TSH, T3, T4, free T4, and free T3, testing for another hormone, called reverse T3, can help complete the picture of one’s thyroid health. Reverse T3 is a nonfunctioning form of T3 that is produced by the conversion of T4. Reverse T3 is not only inactive, but it also blocks thyroid receptors, hindering the action of regular T3.2 The conversion of T4 to T3 is hampered by cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands when under prolonged stress.
OH, and do you know about antibodies?
Another key in assessing thyroid function is measuring the thyroid antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase antibody) and ATA (antithyroglobulin antibody). These antibodies are elevated in autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. Mine were VERY high.
In such cases, the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid, lessening its ability to make hormones, and causing symptoms of under active (and sometimes overactive) thyroid. It is crucial to know if one’s symptoms are due to an autoimmune issue. Mine was.
I was SURE to get a COMPLETE testing of my thyroid with an explanation and THEN take it to an Integrative Medicine Physician.
Already taking thyroid med?
Is Your Medication Might be Doing More Harm than Good?
It’s common for a doctor to prescribe Synthroid or Levoxyl for someone whose test results show elevated TSH (remember, this is a negative feedback loop, so high TSH is indicative of hypothyroidism). These medications are just T4, and if someone is not converting it to T3, they are still going to have undesirable symptoms.
There are other medications that can be prescribed as alternatives such as Nature-throid, Armour thyroid, and Westhroid which provide T4 and T3. Another option is Cytomel, which is the synthetic form of T3.
This is why complete testing is important even for those who are already taking medications.
The Bottom LineIf you are gaining weight, tired, losing hair, and in a slump, your thyroid could be the reason. Assessing thyroid function can be complicated, so it is best to make sure your test looks at all aspects.
Complete comprehensive testing can help to diagnose the cause of your problem, so that you can be happy and healthy once again!
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After 18 years working in the health field as a Med/Surg Asst, I have seen many patients visit their doctor seeking answers but leaving with only a script in hand.