Despite What Your Doctor Says, Your Thyroid Might Not Be Functioning Normally

Throat pain

 

You have been experiencing thyroid symptoms, yet your Doctor told you your TSH was within a normal range.

Now what?

Now it’s time to find a Doctor who will request a FULL thyroid panel, including thyroid antibodies. This will give you and your care provider a more complete picture as to what is going on. 

Although Western medical Doctors including endocrinologists might not be educated on this (they are trained to prescribe medication rather than addressing and healing the root cause). They typically test your TSH level and it if falls within one particular range (usually 4.0 or under), they will tell you your thyroid is functioning in a normal range. However, you might still be struggling, and your thyroid might not be functioning optimally. People with TSH’s of higher than 1.5 can show symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.

What are some of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction?

*Fatigue

*Weight gain or inability to lose weight

*Cold hands and feet (poor circulation)

*Depression

*Constipation

*Digestive problems

*Itchy dry skin

*Thinning in the outer third of the eyebrows

*Hair falls out easily

*Heart palpitations

*Inward trembling

*Insomnia

*Night sweats

*Difficulty gaining weight

There are more thorough tests besides TSH alone that can give real answers. There are lifestyle and dietary changes that you can make to help support the health of your thyroid. It is important to find a care provider who understands the affect your diet and lifestyle have on the the health of your thyroid, and are willing to work with you to make these necessary changes.

This first piece is just to describe the full-panel and what it means. In subsequent pieces, I will address some lifestyle and nutritional changes you can make to help support your thyroid. There are many factors that come into play, such as diet, health of your gut, exposure to toxins, hormones, and stress levels. There are natural ways to support thyroid function and stop further destruction of this delicate endocrine organ. It is important to work with a practitioner who understands the complexity and balancing act, and works with you and your bio-individual needs.

 

What is a full-thyroid panel?

Scientist Placing Test Tube In TraySource: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal, Daris Kharrazian, 2010

TSH:

TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone or thyrotropin. It is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Testing TSH levels is the standard that most endocrinologists use in determining thyroid function. However, your TSH could be considered “normal” by your Doctor, and you get told your thyroid is fine. However, you’re still experiencing thyroid symptoms, right? TSH alone does not give all the answers. This test fails to account for a host of other factors. Mine was in the “normal” range according the endocrinologist. However, it was actually in a higher range than I would have liked to see (the standard for what is considered normal at 4.0 or lower is questionable). Many people with a TSH in the higher end of that range are feeling pretty lousy, yet still told their thyroid is normal. I also had thyroid antibodies that the first Doctor did not test me for (more on antibodies below).

 

Total Thyroxine (TT4):

Measures both bound and unbound T4 levels. Thyroid hormones travel through the bloodstream bound to proteins fore they are released to enter the cells and thus becoming unbound.

 

Free Thyroxine Index (FTI):

Total T4 and T3 Uptake considered together, measures activity of free or unbound T4. Free Thyroxine Index should be within a normal range if thyroid is functioning properly.

 

Free T4 (FT4)

Measures the amount of free or active T4 in the blood. Factors that impact TT4 will NOT impact FT4. FT4 is high with hyperthyroidism and low with hypothyroidism.

 

Free T3 (FT3)

Measures free T3 hormone and is the best indicator for measuring active thyroid hormones available to receptor sites. This test is rarely requested in conventional western medicine, and gives a great deal of info as to what is going on.

 

Reverse T3 (RT3)

Measures the amount of reverse T3 produced. This test helps with determining if high cortisol/stress/adrenals are playing a role in affecting thyroid function. Increased production of T3 is due to inability to clear reverse T3 and from high cortisol.

 

Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG)

Measures the amount of proteins in the blood that carry thyroid hormones to the cells. Elevated Testosterone and Estrogen can cause a change in the TBG, thus producing hypothyroid symptoms.

 

Thyroid Antibodies:

I made this one the biggest. One thing I will never understand is WHY Doctors fail to check antibodies for the thyroid. Most people with thyroid issues have undiagnosed Hashimotos (Autoimmune Thyroid). If the TSH level is high (by western medical standards), the individual may be put on a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement (usually T4 only). If it’s not high, the person may struggle with symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, hormone issues, and mental health issues for years and never get a diagnosis. Meanwhile, their thyroid is being attacked by their own body. Thyroid antibodies means that the bodies own immune system is attacking the thyroid. This is true for both hyper and hypo autoimmune thyroid. This is an autoimmune condition, meaning the individual needs to make huge lifestyle/dietary changes in order to stop the attack on their own thyroid. Most western Medical Doctors fail to recognize this, and will wait until the thyroid stops functioning or in some cases even needs to be removed. Thyroid antibodies in the blood indicate a positive autoimmune thyroid condition. Make sure to request having your thyroid antibodies checked.

 

I was told I had thyroid antibodies by a receptionist, who said my thyroid was fine now (because my TSH was under 4.0). She said once my thyroid stopped functioning at an “ideal” (according to their standards) level, they would put me on a medication. In the meantime, it is expected that I would just struggle with weight gain, fatigue, and mood changes that go along with the swings between hypo and hyper thyroid as the body is attacking itself. Through my own intense research I was able to find answers and change the course of my life. It is my goal to help as many people as possible to stop struggling and to find the right answers. As a Nutritional Therapist, I work with my clients to heal their gut and stop the autoimmune attack on the thyroid.

 

My take-home message is to always be your own advocate. You may need to switch care providers, and do a lot of work yourself. In subsequent posts I will discuss lifestyle changes and ways to support the health of your thyroid. I will also share some good gut healing protocols that I support my clients through.

Get a free nutritional therapy consultation

 

About Me:

About Kathryn:

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Kathryn Kos is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)  through The Nutritional Therapy Association, and a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor through The University of San Diego. Her undergraduate degree is in Movement Science from Westfield State College. Her Master’s degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling from Springfield College. She specialize in healing digestion, balancing blood sugar, balancing hormones, autoimmune conditions, weight loss, and feeding infants and children.

“My own health struggles occurred through years of following mainstream western nutritional advice led me down this path. I was eating what I thought was a very healthy diet (following conventional medical advice). However, I was struggling with feeling good inside and out. I ended up being diagnosed with several Autoimmune Conditions. I was having horrible gall bladder attacks and living on antacids. My thyroid was enlarged, and I struggled with anxiety and insomnia. My endocrinologist wanted to wait until my thyroid stopped functioning, and put me on a medication. That was the only solution offered. Doctors wanted to put me on medications. My philosophy is to find and heal the root cause of the problem, rather than fix the symptoms by taking a medication or removing an organ.Through my own intense research, I began my real food journey. My health changed drastically and my autoimmune markers went way down. I started to feel amazing and wanted to share my experience on a big level. I am so excited to share my knowledge with you!  I am dedicated to helping you realize what your bio-individual nutrition needs are, and giving you the tools to make positive changes in your life!”

-Kathryn Kos, NTP

Kathryn sees clients worldwide through skype and google hangouts!

Contact Kathryn to schedule a free phone consultation:

(518) 260-9749

primalblissnutrition@gmail.com 

Understanding Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

January is National Thyroid Awareness Month.

This is a topic near and dear to me as many people in my family (including myself) have lived with thyroid dysfunction. However, the true underlying cause rarely gets addressed. I find it frustrating that many Doctors, including endocrinologists do not request the full thyroid lab panel. This is a basic step that gets ignored. Therefore, many people are told their thyroid is “functioning normally.” In reality, it may not be. If you are told your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level is “normal” yet you still suffer from low energy, depression, fatigue, and many more symptoms (symptoms listed here: http://thyroid.about.com/od/symptomsrisks/a/symptomsrisks.htm,  then you may still have issues with the function of your thyroid. Don’t ignore these symptoms!

Symptoms like depression and fatigue often get treated with antidepressants. However, this does not address the root cause of the problem. The thyroid plays a huge role in metabolism and hormone regulation.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ located in front of the neck.

Thyroid

 

Thyroid disease is quite prevalent in the US. Many people suffer from hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). In many cases of hypothyroidism the etiology lies in an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. With Hashimoto’s  thyroid the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, gradually destroying it. This results in inflammation, and eventually leads to an under active thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), and may cause an enlarged thyroid, also known as a goiter. Hashimoto’s thyroid is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.  It primarily affects middle-aged women, but also can occur in men and women of any age and in children.  To determine if one has Hashimoto’s thyroid, a blood test may be done checking for thyroid antibodies.

Dr Richard Herbold who practices at Capitol District Vitality Center in Clifton Park, NY is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Board eligible Chiropractic Neurologist. He discussed with me how complicated the thyroid is. “The thyroid hormones need to be manufactured, transported, binded to receptors, and cleared. Everything needs to work together in harmony to have a normal functioning thyroid. Minerals such as zinc, selenium, and Vitamin A are needed in order to make thyroid hormones. Many of us are deficient in these minerals because of our modern diet.” He stated that we need appropriate fuel in order for the thyroid to function efficiently. “We need protein, balanced blood sugars and CLEAN carbohydrates such as those found in starchy vegetables. We also need essential fatty acids to regulate hormones.”  According to Dr. Herbold all nutrition is about balance.  However, the physiological needs are different from person to person.

Here is my story:

I was getting a routine physical exam when my Doctor noticed my thyroid was slightly enlarged on one side. She sent me to an endocrinologist. The endocrinologist checked my antibodies and determined I have Hashimoto’s thyroid. She had her secretary call me, and the conversation went like this: “you have Hashimoto’s thyroid. Right now your thyroid is functioning normally. Once it stops functioning normally, we will put you on medication. You don’t need to worry about it right now.”

So hold on a minute…I should just let my body attack itself? I should just let my thyroid self-destruct, and then just go on thyroid medication? In the meantime, if I gain weight, feel depressed, have low energy…well there are medications for that as well? Right? Why didn’t the Doctor call to explain more thoroughly? I was just diagnosed with a disease that I knew nothing about. Was my thyroid really functioning normally? What were they basing this off of? Because I did not feel “normal.”

The truth is my thyroid was not functioning normally. I believe this is the truth for most of us with thyroid issues. However, we suffer in silence, because after all, the Doctor told us our TSH is “normal.”

One thing I recommend is to ALWAYS be your own advocate when it comes to your health. Always get second, third, and fourth opinions. Ask a ton of questions. Do your research! The thyroid is a very complicated endocrine organ. Don’t just take what your Doctor says at face value. We tend to put Doctors on a pedestal…as if they know everything. Doctors are trained in medicine, and can be a great resource. However, they might not have all the answers.

There were several important factors that this endocrinologist did not even take into consideration. She did not run a full thyroid panel, she only checked for Hashimoto’s antibodies because of the enlargement, and my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. There are many more blood tests that would give a more accurate understanding of what was going on.

I learned through my own research that (as with other autoimmune conditions) the profound affect that diet has on the function of the thyroid.  For those who are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains (many of us are sensitive to gluten and are not even aware that we are) consuming gluten actually tricks the body into destroying your own thyroid, and can trigger Hashimoto’s. According to Dr Herbold, this is known as “molecular mimicry.”  He stated that “Chains of amino acids in gluten share the same molecular structure as thyroid tissue. So when gluten is consumed, the immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader, and attacks the thyroid tissue as well.” It can take several months for the immune system to bounce back and stop attacking the thyroid. I also learned about goitrogenic foods (to avoid) when you have an enlarged thyroid- such as raw cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage).

This book was life changing for me. Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal? http://www.thyroidbook.com/ The author, Dr. Kharrazian (a colleague of Dr.  Herbold) earned his Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of the State of New York and his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. Graduating cum laude, Kharrazian was distinguished with the Mindlin Honors at Entrance Award, the Dean’s List, and the Delta Sigma Award for Academic Excellence. He also earned a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and a Master of Neurological Sciences degree from the Carrick Institute of Graduate Studies. He received a Doctorate of Health Sciences degree from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for his work in nutrition and neuroendcrine-immunology.

In this book Dr. Kharrazian explains why taking thyroid hormone replacements does not address the cause of hypothyroidism, and why iodine supplements can make you worse. He teaches how to appropriately manage Hashimoto’s thyroid. He explains the six patterns of low thyroid function, only one of which truly can be helped by thyroid hormones. Dr Kharrazian explains how diet affects the health of your thyroid. He discusses what blood tests to ask your Doctor for in order to get real answers. He explains how to talk with your Doctor. I actually had my Doctor read the book!  Dr Kharrazian also explains what foods to avoid based on individual physiological needs, and what minerals/supplements help to support thyroid function.

As I stated above, most endocrinologists/MD’s will only check your TSH level. It is important to request a full thyroid panel, so that you can get the whole picture as to what is going on. I don’t want to get too scientific, and I will link information that I found helpful.

I found this website extremely helpful in learning what types of questions to ask, and what lab tests you might want to request www.stopthethyroidmadness.com.

www.thyroid.about.com is another awesome  web reference. Mary Shomon is an amazing thyroid patient and advocate. She has published numerous informative articles on thyroidabout.com.

RE: medication…Natural porcine (pig) thyroid supplies T1-T4, where as synthetic thyroid only supplies T4 (inactive thyroid hormone). Depending on your individual blood panel, your T3 (active thyroid hormone) may be low as well. T4 needs to be converted to T3. However, there are many factors that can affect this conversion, resulting in low t3. Therefore you might still feel tired/depressed being on synthetic T4 thyroid medication alone. Take home message: If you need medication, know that there are options, and learn about them!

The thyroid is not easy to treat…there are many factors that come into play. There will be ups and downs, especially with Hashimoto’s thyroid. There are many times that the thyroid swings back and forth between hypo and hyperactive. The ups and downs that come along with it are not fun. It’s a balancing act for sure…and each person is different based on their bio-individual needs and the mechanism by which the thyroid is being affected.

At my last visit my thyroid antibodies were lower. I attribute this to the changes I have made in my diet over the past year. I avoid grains. I mainly eat pastured meats and vegetables (including starchy veggies for carbohydrates). I learned that if I get “glutened” even once, my thyroid would be actively attacked for 6 months or more. I’m feeling pretty darn good these days! There are still struggles, and I am learning as I go. I am lucky to have found a Doctor who checks my full thyroid and adrenal panel. She utilizes that information to determine where I am at. I am feeling better than ever and now have a better understand of my past struggles.

If you are experiencing thyroid symptoms, don’t ignore them! Take control, and you will feel so much better!

 

* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.