Your thyroid gland is in the front of your neck, as shown in this photo. This is the gland that regulates your metabolism by controlling the rate at which the body converts oxygen and calories into energy. In fact, the metabolic rate of every cell in your body is regulated by thyroid hormones, primarily T3.
Thyroid hormones are produced by the Thyroid gland and travel through the blood to get to the cells. They don’t have any effect until they reach the cells. Once there, they enter and activate the “power plant”, called mitochondria, and produce energy. If the cells aren’t getting the proper amount of hormone, then metabolism is low, and your body can’t convert nutrients from the food you eat and doesn’t function like it should.
Low thyroid hormones, or Hypothyroidism is a relatively common condition, moreso in women, but also in men. Thyroid levels can change as we age, especially when entering perimenopause and menopause, but can also occur at any age. Low thyroid symptoms can include:
- Weight gain with difficulty taking it off
- Foggy thinking
- Lower body temperature with cold hands and feet
- Mood swings
- Joint and muscle aches
- Hair falling out
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Irregular menstrual cycle
Have you already seen a doctor because you’ve been having low thyroid symptoms? And have they tested your thyroid and told you that your thyroid levels are “normal”? We see many patients who have been told that there is nothing wrong with them, yet they’re still symptomatic. Unfortunately, this is all too common, and the problem lies not with YOU (as your doctors might suggest), but with inadequate testing and improper reading of the results.
It is considered standard practice by many physicians to check only your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level, and possibly your T4 levels. IF they see a problem with your TSH, only then may they order more testing. If the TSH levels come back “normal,” then they often assume that everything is fine. Even if a wider panel is run, a patient can still be in normal range and yet still have low thyroid symptoms. This can be extremely frustrating to be told that nothing is wrong with you, but yet you still feel bad.
What is commonly considered the “normal range” is quite antiquated; the average range was created by a study of 1000 people, and is just that, a range. Lab ranges were originally designed to identify a disease in process for the physician. These values are decades old, and our bodies, needs, and lifestyles have changed greatly since then. Unfortunately, by the time one falls outside the “expected range,” your symptoms might be quite severe. The standardized range for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is 0.4 to 4.0. A patient can have a result of 2.0, and is considered to be normal per the standardized results, however, this result can also be a precursor for Hypothyroidism, and if symptoms are already present, then the condition may need to go ahead and be treated.
Even if someone does have a test result out of normal range, and begins treatment, they still may not feel better. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is to prescribe a synthetic form of T4. The body’s job is to convert T4 into T3 (think of T3 being the gas pedal that drives the cells). Often times, the body is unable to convert T4 into T3, so while there is plenty of TSH floating around in the blood, it’s not getting into the cells. Without testing free T3, the doctor has NO WAY of knowing if the body is converting T4 to T3.
It is also possible to develop antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, called Hashimoto’s Disease, and this can be another factor causing low thyroid symptoms with “normal” test results.
All of these factors are why it is so important for you to get a COMPLETE thyroid panel that includes:
- TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
- T3 – free
- T3- total
- T4 – free
- T4 – total
- Thyroid Antibody Test
- These are technical terms for the lay person, however, just know that several conditions with your thyroid will not be apparent without ALL of these hormones being tested.
Lastly, if you have been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, it is extremely common for a doctor to prescribe a synthetic thyroid medication. Levothyroxine is the most common synthetic ingredient, and can be found in such medications as Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, and Levothroid. It is important to note that manmade Thyroxine (T4) is an INACTIVE hormone. Synthetic thyroid medications can cause your levels of TSH to show normal, but the medication may not be getting into your cells, so you are still symptomatic.
Bioidentical thyroid medications are made up of a natural desiccated thyroid. They are marketed under a few different names such as Armour Thyroid and Naturethroid. These medications include T4, as well as triiodothyronine, which are ACTIVE forms of T3. They also include other thyroid hormones such as T1 and T2. Patients who switch from synthetic forms of medication to bioidentical often report feeling better. And there is another option, which is a compounded bioidentical thyroid replacement consisting largely of T3.
Our practitioners here at Renewed Vitality of Dallas are experts in treating disorders of the thyroid and low thyroid symptoms, along with other hormonal imbalances, which affect overall health. We have a functional medicine approach and look for root causes rather than just treating symptoms.
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