The “normal” test result that’s anything but

Now that you know I can  talk about something other than diabetes and obesity…let me get back to the original reader question that prompted yesterday’s RHC-thyroid concerns.

In fact, problems with the thyroid gland (which is primarily responsible for regulating metabolism) prompt MANY visits to integrative medicine practitioners–including myself. It’s just inevitable, because diagnosing and treating thyroid problems can be a real conundrum to those who aren’t in the know.

In fact, if you’ve gone to the doctor and have been told your tests are normal, but you still feel like something’s wrong…chances are, you’re right.

The TSH blood test is what most doctors use to diagnose thyroid problems. Unfortunately, most clinical laboratories use an overly broad, out-of-date “normal” range for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) values. In fact, this was one of the expert analysis findings presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians recently.

I have been saying this for years. So I’m glad to hear someone was finally brave enough to publish this data. (Of course, whether or not your physician will read it is another story.)

When TSH numbers are high, your thyroid is functioning too slowly. But the standard normal range goes all the way up to 5.0 mIU/L. In my opinion, this misses too many people who suffer from sub-clinical hypothyroidism. People that have all the symptoms, but their TSH number don’t reflect a problem. Which is proof positive that the numbering system is all wrong.

While the symptoms–including fatigue, weight gain and hair loss–aren’t life-threatening…they can certainly make you feel miserable. Which is why I treat every patient whose TSH is greater than 2.

Here’s something else your conventional medical doctor may not be aware of…

Sometimes people lose the ability to convert the thyroid hormone T4 to T3. T4 is what the body produces. But T3 is what the body uses. Unfortunately, there’s no clear test to tell us if your body is making this necessary conversion. So what I usually ask my patients to do is take their temperature four times a day (when you wake up, at lunch, at dinner, and at bedtime) for four days in a row. Then take an average of the temperatures. If the number is below 98, you almost certainly have a thyroid issue. Other tests your doctor should be doing include: free T3, free T4, thyroid auto-antibodies (this is a test for Hashimoto’s Disease), and reverse T3. If any of those are abnormal, then you have a thyroid problem that must be treated.

I have seen so many patients, especially women, suffer needlessly with thyroid conditions. They often come to me after being told by countless doctors that, “it was all in their heads.”

And believe it or not, there are many endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in hormones) who don’t even do the tests I listed above. But the thyroid is a very important gland. And it should be recognized as a health threat if it’s not functioning properly. So don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to order these tests. Then find a practitioner near you who can help.

If you do need treatment, I recommend a natural hormone replacement pill, such as Armour or Westhroid. These natural preparations contain both T3 and T4. So if your body can’t convert T4 to T3, you are covered. Synthroid, on the other hand, only provides T4. (Synthroid is the most common synthetic mainstream thyroid medication.)