How many times have I heard from my patients that their prior doctor or doctors (some have been to multiple doctors without relief, and said their thyroid tests were normal. Even if they had every thyroid symptom known to mankind. So what’s the explanation?
Thyroid hormone is everywhere in our bodies. Every cell has receptors to thyroid hormone which means that there is a function for thyroid in that cell. Is it any wonder that people feel bad when their thyroid function is abnormal? Memory, emotions, cholesterol levels are all affected by thyroid function.
People often think that they must have low thyroid function because of symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, dry hair, hair loss, brittle nails, constipation, and cold hands and feet.
They’ll go to the doctor and explain that they have these thyroid tests symptoms. A blood test is done and almost all of the time they are then told their thyroid is normal, it must be something else. But no one knows what that is or how to make it better.
Well, I’m here to tell you that if you have the above symptoms, you probably have low thyroid function, regardless of what the tests show. And the thyroid tests that were done? Either they were incomplete or incorrectly interpreted.
Let’s talk first about thyroid testing and then we can talk about thyroid function in the body and changes that occur with time and stress.
The most commonly done thyroid test is called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
This hormone is a messenger from your brain to your thyroid gland and it regulates the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland produces. If your thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone, TSH will be low and if your thyroid gland is making too little hormone, which is usually the case, TSH will be high.
Now, the question is how high is too high. As the years have gone by, TSH reference ranges have been lowered because it is gradually being understood that people function better when they are making more thyroid hormone and their TSH is lower. The goal is somewhere between 2.0 and 2.5, depending on which authority you follow.
Now lets look at the thyroid hormones themselves. We have 4 thyroid hormones: T1, T2, T3, and T4 which are numbered depending on how many iodine atoms are attached to the hormone. Not a lot is known about the function of T1 and T2.
T3 is our main thyroid hormone, meaning that it is the one that attaches to cell membranes throughout our bodies and causes metabolic changes to occur in the cell, changes like more rapid metabolism.
T4 functions as a reservoir hormone, meaning that it is there as a source of conversion into the active form, T3. Another thyroid hormone that we have not mentioned so far is Reverse T3, the “evil twin” to T3.
Reverse T3 is the mirror image of T3 and in the world of biological reactions this means that it can sit on a cell membrane, but it isn’t going to cause the metabolic changes we want to see.
Reverse T3 levels raise when we are stressed and have high cortisol levels and when we lack certain nutrients. The result of a high Reverse T3 is that we can have any or all of the symptoms of low thyroid and still have normal thyroid blood testing.
Another issue in understanding thyroid function is the change that occurs with aging. As we get older, our cells become “resistant” to thyroid hormone. It’s similar to insulin resistance.
This means that it is more difficult for the hormone to attach to our cells and start the metabolic changes that need to occur. Even if the amount of T3 appears to be adequate, it may not be enough to make function and feel well.
So, what to do? Stop shopping around and find a doctor who is well versed in Restorative or Anti-Aging Medicine. This type of doctor has the perspective that you need for thyroid tests.