The purpose of the thyroid gland is to produce and release two hormones called T3 and T4. When the brain thinks there is not enough thyroid hormone, the hypothalamus produces Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone and sends it to the Pituitary, another part of the brain. Then the pituitary, releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH. The TSH then travels in the blood stream to the thyroid gland and eventually causes the production and release of the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4.
If you don’t produce enough of the T3 and T4, you have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.
If you produce too much T3 or T4, you have hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid.
Thyroid hormones impact nearly every bodily function, which is why the thyroid is so important to your general health!
HYPOTHYROIDISM Or UNDERACTIVE thyroid can cause:
Fatigue, cold hands and feet, weight gain, elevated cholesterol levels, puffiness of eyes, face, hands and/or feet, dry hair and skin, brittle nails, constipation, brain fog, irritability, depression, irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty swallowing or hoarseness.
In addition, there is also a condition called “HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS”, an autoimmune condition where your immune system is attacking your own thyroid gland like a foreign invader, damaging the thyroid and usually resulting in hypothyroidism.
HYPERTHYROIDISM or OVERACTIVE thyroid can cause quite the opposite:
Racing heart rate, sweating, feeling excessively hot, weight loss, anxiety and insomnia, to name a few!
Okay, so now you say, “I’ve been to the doctor and had my thyroid tested and they said the results came back normal.” This is where you wonder in the back of your mind, but why do I still feel so terrible??!!
Well, this is where we come in. We don’t just look at the TSH test, see that it’s in normal range and say, “Nope, it’s not your thyroid.” We dig a little deeper to find out what is going on and work to bring your labs into optimal range FOR YOU!
You see, there is more than the TSH test. TSH is for diagnosis of hypopituitary, NOT to diagnose or dose your hypothyroidism (unless it’s high). If you allow a doctor to diagnose or dose you by this lab test and range, i.e., to say you are normal simply because it’s in range according to the lab…you could still be hypothyroid. And, the supporting adrenal glands may be part of the problem too (see our write-up on Adrenal Fatigue and #5 below). Ideally, both the Thyroid tests and the supporting Adrenal saliva cortisol levels, along with other labs for items that affect thyroid function, should be done at the same time, if possible, so that everything can be assessed and brought to the best balance for your body.
In addition to the TSH test, there is:
- Free T4 and Free T3 (note the word “free”–important since it measures what is unbound and available.)
- Reverse T3: to be done at the same time you do the Free T3.
- Thyroid Antibodies: anti-TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies) and TgAb (anti-thyroglobulin antibodies) will help discern Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. You need BOTH. You can add TSI (Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulin) for the Graves antibodies–some have all three.
- Four iron labs: Ferritin, % Saturation, TIBC (total iron binding capacity) and serum iron (sometimes the latter will just say Iron, or total iron). A high ferritin can also point to inflammation.
- Adrenal Cortisol levels: Saliva, NOT blood. Blood is measuring both bound and unbound cortisol and does NOT give results you can go by.
- B-12 and Folate (folic acid), important for detox and repair.
- Magnesium and Potassium, plus Calcium, Sodium, Glucose, etc All of these are part of the Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP) blood test. Sometimes the RBC (Red Blood Cell) versions of Magnesium and Potassium are ordered, which measure cellular levels. This is the best test for accurate Magnesium measurement.
- Vitamin D3 (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test)
- Sex hormones: progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA-S, etc. These tests may not be necessary, depending on age and current hormonal status.
- MTHFR gene mutation: Helpful, but not absolutely necessary. Good to do if you have high levels of mercury, iron or B12, or a personal or family history of cancer, blood clots, miscarriages, heart disease or stroke.
- Other tests your doctor may recommend: Hair analysis, heavy metals, Candida antibodies, food sensitivities, Stool Analysis, etc.
Did you know that there were decades of successful treatment for hypothyroid that involved nothing more than dosing you by symptoms? The TSH lab didn’t even come into existence until the mid-1970′s. There’s a fascinating book about this and more, called Type II Hypothyroidism, by Mark Starr, MD, which outlines the many signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and why it sometimes cannot be diagnosed with a blood test.
Today, the tables have completely turned. We now live in a lab-obsessed society. Lab results are very helpful to figure things out, but patients often figure out that “being in the normal range” has little to do with how they feel and what is needed to restore their health! Instead, we’ve discovered that it’s “where” the result falls in the normal range and what is optimal for you. And that’s what the practitioners at the NHIC can help you figure out.