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Hypothyroidism (Low thyroid function)

Hypothyroidism

 

Hypothyroidism is a very common condition in our society. It effects many more women than men and typically comes into play as women go through childbearing years and beyond. This is a gland that sets our body’s thermostat and is part of the endocrine/hormonal system.

Hypothyroidism has gone from being poorly recognized in the earlier part of the 1900’s to being over diagnosed and treated for weight loss in the 1950’s . Today it is difficult to diagnose solely on lab tests and needs to be evaluated with a thorough clinical intake.

 

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism means a low functioning thyroid; the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones are the metabolic regulators of the body. Thyroid hormones are needed by every cell of the body to keep the cell at the right temperature for proper cell function and growth. 

 

How do I know if I have hypothyroidism?

Three techniques are commonly used to measure thyroid function:

  1. Symptoms of low thyroid
  2. Blood testing of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), free T3, free T4 (the free forms of two thyroid hormones), total T4, total T3, T3 uptake, reverse T3
  3. Resting body temperatures

 

No single blood test can tell us all we need to know about the thyroid. Blood tests measure thyroid hormones T3 and T4 as well as a pituitary hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Practitioners follow different reference ranges based on their knowledge of thyroid disease.  I prefer testing TSH, free T3 and free T4 to assess thyroid hormone production and status.

Body temperatures are a good indicator of the metabolic rate of the body. A low body temperature in conjunction with other symptoms can alert us to low thyroid function.

 

Taking body temperature

A resting body temperature can be taken each morning for 10 days. The temperature can be taken upon waking before getting out of bed or anytime later in the morning before 11:00a.m. When taking your temperature after getting out of bed, take it before exercising, eating, and/or drinking a warm beverage as these can raise the metabolic rate and the temperature. Temperatures can be measured in the mouth with a digital or glass thermometer.

 

 

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 Symptoms of low thyroid include:

Intolerance to cold, sensitive to cold temperatures, difficulty warming up

Dry skin

Dry/thinning hair or hair loss

Constipation

Depression

Fatigue, low energy

Other conditions like sleep disorders, high cholesterol, heavy menstrual bleeding may also be related to low thyroid function.

 

Hypothyroidism and Heart Disease

In February 2000 a Dutch study (The Rotterdam Study) came out that showed: “Older women with subclinical (meaning it did not show up on lab testing) hypothyroidism were almost twice as likely as women without this condition to have blockages in the aorta. They were also twice as likely to have had heart attacks.”

 

We have long known that low thyroid increases cholesterol levels and hyperlipidemia, but I often see patients coming in with high cholesterol on cholesterol lowering medication and borderline low thyroid conditions that have not been addressed. I always like to see a low or borderline low thyroid condition corrected before making a decision about high cholesterol. Once the thyroid is working at an optimal level, the cholesterol values also can normalize.

 

Books on Thyroid Health and Dysfunction

Thyroid Power by Richard and Karilee Shames

 

Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled?: A 3-Step Program to Restore Thyroid, Adrenal, and Reproductive Balance… by Richard and Kariles Shames

 

Thyroid Balance: Traditional and Alternative Methods for Treating Thyroid Disorders  by Glenn Rothfeld

 

The Thyroid Solution: A Mind-Body Program for Beating Depression and Regaining Your Emotional and Physical Health by Arem Ridha

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