Understanding your Symptoms: A Guide to Your Thyroid

Understanding your Symptoms: A Guide to Your Thyroid

The thyroid is a gland that manages your metabolic rate.  It affects your energy, your mood, your hormones, your weight, and sometimes your cholesterol.  When it is under-functioning, you may experience fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, cold hands and/or feet , hair loss, low sex drive, constipation, depression and high cholesterol.  When your thyroid is over-functioning, you may struggle with hyperactivity, anxiety, weight loss, insomnia, diarrhea and heart palpitations.  More than half of my patients have a thyroid condition and often, it has been missed by other doctors.

 

Frequently, doctors will screen for thyroid problems with a TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone, and if it’s within normal range, they will decide the problem is not the thyroid.  Here’s the challenge.  The TSH has a range on many lab tests that does not specify the optimal range.  My patients feel best when their TSH is between 1-2 uIU/mL.  So a patient can have a TSH of 3.5, the result will not be flagged on the lab test, the Dr. will decide the thyroid is normal, and it will not be clear why the patient feels so tired.  If your TSH is higher than 2, you may have symptoms of subclinical hypothyroid, low thyroid.  If your TSH is lower than 1, you may have symptoms of hyperthyroid, high thyroid.

Another challenge is that frequently, the only thyroid hormone doctors are looking at is TSH.  This is not enough to know how the thyroid hormone is working in the body.   TSH is a hormone that is produced in the brain that tells the thyroid hormones, FT4 and FT3 to work.  TSH tells FT4, the inactive thyroid hormone to work, then FT4 is converted to FT3, the active thyroid hormone.  FT4 has an optimal range of 1.1 ng/dL, and FT3 has an optimal range of 3.1pg/mL.  If your thyroid levels are high or low, you should work with a naturopathic doctor to understand why these levels may be sub-optimal and why you have symptoms.

Lastly, most cases of hypothyroid are actually Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder.   In this disease, your body’s immune system starts attacking the thyroid, mistaking the thyroid for a virus or a bacteria that needs to be killed, and over time, the thyroid gland changes.  There is a blood test for thyroid antibodies, thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin to see if you have Hashimoto’s Disease.  If you have high antibodies, this is an important component of why you feel bad and needs to be addressed for you to get better.

What can you do about low thyroid?  With my patients I like to start with the cofactors or nutrients the thyroid needs to work properly.  They include iodine, zinc and selenium.  If you don’t eat iodized salt, you can add 1 tablespoon of dulse flakes daily for your thyroid.  Selenium is easily found in Brazil nuts, eating 1-2 per day.  Finally, you can get sources of zinc daily by eating oysters, red meat, chicken, beans and/or nuts or pumpkin seeds.   There are many other components to thyroid health, and working with someone who is familiar with thyroid is important to your health.

 

Photo by Tharakorn/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Tharakorn/iStock / Getty Images