How Your Thyroid Works
Let us first talk about how the thyroid works. Your thyroid, one of the largest endocrine glands, greatly influences almost every cell in your body. Aside from regulating your metabolism and weight by controlling the fat-burning process, thyroid hormones are required in nearly every physiological process in your body.
Mounting research shows that nearly 40 percent of people living in the United States have suboptimal thyroid function. Poor thyroid function has been linked to serious health conditions like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, eczema, gum disease, infertility, and autoimmune diseases.
In addition, 10 percent of the general population in the United States, and 20 percent of women over age 60 (that’s 1 out of every 5 women over 60), have subclinical hypothyroidism, a condition where you have no obvious symptoms and normal lab tests.
However, only a marginal percentage of these people are being treated. Why? The reason behind this is the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of lab tests by traditional medicine, particularly TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Most traditional medicine physicians believe that if your TSH value is within the “normal” range, your thyroid is fine.
But as Functional Medicine Doctors say, the devil is in the details. More and more physicians are now discovering that the TSH value is grossly unreliable for diagnosing hypothyroidism. A lot more than just TSH levels need to be looked at and it will take more than a 5 minute “fly-by” with your traditional medicine doctor to do it.
A traditional medicine doctor will run the standard TSH and T4/T3 tests. But that is where they usually stop. And between that and assuming that you’re thyroid is healthy if your values are in the ‘normal’ range, that is where the sub-clinical hypothyroidism gets missed.
Ideal level for TSH is 1 – 1.5 milli-international units per liter.
Free T4 and T3 tests
The normal level of free T4 is between .9 and 1.8 nanograms per deciliter. T3 should be between 240 and 450 picograms per deciliter.
**Usually Missed + Critically Important Tests:
Thyroid Antibody Testing
This test helps determine if your body is attacking your thyroid, over reacting to its own tissues (i.e. autoimmune).
Basal Body Temperature
The most commonly used is the Broda Barnes system, which is a measure of your basal body temperature at rest.
TRH Stimulation Test
This test helps identify hypothyroidism that’s caused by inadequacy of the pituitary gland.
A Functional Medicine Doctor will take the time and run the right tests and ask the right questions.
They will also look at the biggest dietary culprits that can throw the thyroid off kilter (did you know 30% of people with hyperthyroidism have an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten/wheat?).
They will check for heavy metal toxicity, and in particular bromines, that can disrupt the normal physiology of the thyroid (did you know these heavy metals are in Gatorade, Mountain Dew, nasal sprays, and several baking flours?).
They will also look at the function of your adrenal gland which is your “STRESS” gland – stress is a huge thyroid offender and must be addressed to fix your thyroid.
Functional medicine is becoming the new alternative way to analyzing thyroid problems and empowering patients to reverse this problem.