IS YOUR THYROID OFF?

Woman fallen asleep on her desk with laptop and three coffee cups

 

LOW THYROID IS A COMMON PROBLEM IN AGING

Does this look like you? Five cups of coffee?  Energy drinks all day? Struggling to stay awake?  Difficulty with simple mental functions?  Brain fog? Sluggish thinking? No motivation? Cold all the time? Difficulty losing weight? Increased belly fat? Constipation? Dry skin and hair? Brittle nails?

YOU MAY BE SUFFERING FROM AN UNDERACTIVE THYROID

Low thyroid may be the most misdiagnosed condition in the aging population. It is estimated that up to 80% of people over the age of 55 may have low or under-functioning thyroid. Many people complain of fatigue. While fatigue is a classic symptom of low thyroid, it is non-specific and may be due to many other conditions.

Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

As you can see, the list of symptoms is quite extensive. And, it is possible to have some but not all of them with low thyroid.

If you complain about these issues to your doctor he will most likely run a thyroid blood panel. Many times, even with a low thyroid, the blood tests will come back normal, and the doctor will tell you that its not your thyroid, that you should just try to get more rest.

UNFORTUNATELY, THYROID BLOOD TESTS DON’T ALWAYS REVEAL LOW THYROID

Your pituitary gland sends a signal called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to your thyroid gland.  The thyroid, having been activated by the TSH, secretes two hormones into the bloodstream — T4 (throxine) and a small amount of T3 (triiodothyronine).

T4 is the “inactive” hormone and is converted to T3 (the active hormone) by cells and various organs in your body.  Some of the T4 is converted to reverse T3. The conversion of T4 to T3 is essential because it is the T3 that regulates many functions and processes such as temperature, heart rate, metabolism, and others.

Many thyroid blood tests measure only the level of TSH in your blood and measuring TSH levels alone does not give a full picture of thyroid function.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THAT?

Luckily, there are a myriad of other ways to check out the thyroid. There are additional blood tests that aren’t typically done, which may reveal the problem.

There is a test that will measure the ratio of total T3 to reverse T3. T3 is the primary thyroid hormone in the body.  Reverse T3 is the inactive form of T3.  Reverse T3 is incapable of performing the metabolic activity generally carried out by T3.

It is also possible to measure Free T3 (T3 that is not bound to protein) in a 24 hour urine collection.  This gives us a good picture of thyroid function.

The third and easiest way to test thyroid function is to measure Basal Body Temperature.

BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE

Basal body temperature (BBT) is done with a special BBT thermometer. You ladies out there may be familiar with this as you may have done this to determine if you were ovulating when trying to conceive. This is the same thermometer. It is also referred to as an Ovulation thermometer.

The BBT must be done first thing in the morning, even before getting out of bed because just walking to the bathroom to get the thermometer can raise the BBT and make it inaccurate. The thermometer must be kept on the night stand, so it can be reached with minimal movement. A normal BBT is 97.8 or above. It is recommended to take the reading over the course of multiple days and then average them out. If you are consistently below 97.8 with some of the hypothyroid symptoms you may be a good candidate for thyroid hormone replacement.

THYROID HORMONE COMES IN MANY DIFFERENT FORMS

The most common thyroid preparation prescribed is Synthroid, or generic levothyroxine. This is a synthetic T4 product. The body must convert it into the active T3 form for it to be effective. Sometimes this doesn’t work very well, but the blood tests done will not determine that.  The person may still maintain all of their low thyroid symptoms despite what looks like adequate levels in the blood.

I prefer the more natural form of thyroid called Nature Thyroid or Armour Thyroid. These products are extracted from pig thyroid gland and are a combination of active T3 and T4 in precisely the same ratio as our own thyroid, so the conversion of T4 to T3 is not an issue. Sometimes just T3 can be used by itself.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO MONITOR RESPONSE TO TREATMENT

Again, blood tests may not tell the whole story when thyroid hormone is prescribed. The BBT may be helpful in addition to the resting heart rate, meaning your pulse at rest. It should never be above 90. If it is, it could mean too much thyroid. It can also be indicative of other problems as well.

ALL THE HORMONES IN THE BODY INTERACT TOGETHER LIKE THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS IN AN ORCHESTRA

Occasionally when I start a woman on her female hormones to treat menopause I hear a complaint that she feels bloated, is retaining water and feels “thick”. This may be due to an imbalance created by boosting the female hormones in the face of a low thyroid. All hormones need to be supported to a similar level to function together optimally.

If the thyroid is off, other hormones may not function well either. It is important to look at the thyroid in a comprehensive way when addressing hormone balancing, especially in people over 50 or 55.

THYROID HORMONE DEFICIENCY

Thyroid hormone deficiency is a much more common problem than is currently identified, and if properly corrected can dramatically improve the quality of life.

If you haven’t been thoroughly evaluated for thyroid function, call the office to make an appointment.

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