Today’s medical standards give little hope for people with hypothyroidism. For those of you with thyroid issues who have gone through the healthcare system, your experience may have gone something like this:
- Feelings of chronic fatigue and weight gain.
- The healthcare “expert” tests only for TSH (a hormone released from your pituitary gland to tell your thyroid to work harder) and maybe T4 (the primary inactive hormone your thyroid produces).
- Your TSH level is high.
- A lifetime of synthetic T4 (Levothyroxine) is prescribed with periodic TSH level checks to tweak your Levothyroxine.
With all the knowledge we have on the complex interactions of the thyroid on the body and the body on the thyroid, it is unfortunate the above pattern remains typical.
To go deeper, let’s go over 5 things about the thyroid that your doctor will never tell you about.
Most people with hypothyroidism don’t have a “thyroid problem”, they really have an immune system problem.
Situations can happen where the immune system mistakes the thyroid gland for a foreign invader (like bacteria or viruses). Over time (and not necessarily with symptoms) this can lead to thyroid gland damage and thus hypothyroidism.
These thyroid antibodies (TPO and TGA) can exist for many years before the onset of symptoms (when standard medicine is usually introduced) and can have genetic sensitivity. If you have elevated levels of these antibodies (Hashimoto’s Disease), it is important to get all family members tested early, before the onset of symptoms so that preventative action can be taken…
Hashimoto’s is well known in online communities but what is not readily understood is people who test negative for TPO and TGA could still have antibodies to T3 and T4 themselves. This may be the case if you can tolerate replacement hormone therapy, neither natural nor pharmaceutical.
The health of our gut greatly influences our overall health, including the thyroid gland and its function.
Since we could write an entire book on the gut/thyroid connection, I want to make one very important point: only 20% of the T4 the thyroid gland produces becomes active T3 that the body can use to run cellular metabolism correctly. Another 20% of the T4 gets converted into inactive T3 sulfate and T3 acetic acid. These two can act as hormone backups only in the presence of a healthy gut. T3 sulfate and T3 acetic acid are made into active T3 by healthy gut flora.
Having gut symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation can be a sign of an unhealthy gut, however, it is very common to have an unbalanced gut and have no symptoms at all.
Even though T3 sulfate and T3 acetic acid cannot be tested, the health of the gut can include digestion, absorption, infections, healthy bacteria balance, etc. All this can be done with a simple stool test.
There are about 85,000 chemicals in use in the US. Each year we are exposed to hundreds of new chemicals, many of them being thyroid-disrupting chemicals. The key way these chemicals disrupt the thyroid system is by taking the place where active T3 should go on our cells so the T3’s message is never received. This may not be seen in standard lab results. That is why testing for environmental chemicals is crucial in getting to the root cause of thyroid disease.
Testing: Environmental Exposure Test Panel
HOMOCYSTEINE AND THYROID
In hypothyroidism, all chemical reactions in the body are slowed. This can become an issue, especially with an amino acid called Homocysteine. Homocysteine is damaging to our bodies and can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and strokes. I like to describe homocysteine as “sandpaper” because it irritates everything it contacts.
Vitamin B12, folate, SAM-E (s-adenosylmethionine), and other nutrients are responsible for assuring our bodies don’t overproduce Homocysteine. However, in cases of hypothyroidism, the amounts of these nutrients a person needs to maintain healthy levels are much different than the person without thyroid disease.
In all cases of hypothyroidism, it is critical to screen and continue to monitor Homocysteine levels.
Testing: Homocysteine Blood Test
Food sensitivity can be a trigger and a promoter of hypothyroidism. Don’t mistake sensitivity for allergy (peanut, shellfish, etc.). Certain foods can produce persistent low-grade inflammation that can damage the gut function, immune system, brain, and thyroid.
Since most cases of hypothyroidism involve a dysfunctional immune system, testing for food sensitivities can be tricky. Why? Common tests for food sensitivities look at antibodies to foods. The more antibodies you have, the larger the inflammatory reaction you’ll have the next time you eat that food. Those with thyroid-related immune system issues may struggle to produce antibodies to those foods creating a false negative result on testing (even though other inflammatory pathways are active). Because of this, I recommend the MRT Food Sensitivity Panel for people with thyroid issues.
The MRT checks to see how much content white blood cells release when triggered by a certain food. The more the white blood cell empties, the larger the assumed reaction. Because MRT does not solely rely on antibodies, it makes it a much more useful food sensitivity test for those with hypothyroidism.
Testing: MRT Food Sensitivity Panel
As important as it is to use mainstream healthcare providers to investigate “Grammy award-winning” diseases such as thyroid cancer, understanding and finding underlying triggers and promoters of thyroid dysfunction is way out of their league. Did they discuss any of the above with you? Probably not.
Though it is useful to work with a healthcare practitioner who takes time to put the complex puzzle together for you (search FunctionalMedicine.org for doctors), it is possible to make decisions on your own, especially armed with a wealth of knowledge like Dana provides for you through Hypothyroid Mom.
Here is a summary of the suggested lab tests:
- Thyroid Antibodies (antibodies to the thyroid gland)
- T3 Antibodies and T4 Antibodies (antibodies to thyroid hormones themselves)
- DNA Stool Test (check for a healthy gut) (click for Europe)
- Leaky Gut Analysis
- Environmental Toxic Exposure Panel
- Homocysteine (commonly elevated in hypothyroidism)
- MRT Food Sensitivity Panel (click for Canada)
Have you had any lab tests that helped you restore your thyroid health? Share your story in the comments below.