Hypothyroid: Often missed or under-diagnosed

Dr. Brenda Gill
By Dr. Brenda Gill
December 5th, 2011

One of the common imbalances for women and as they age or after pregnancies is hypothyroidism. It can also be an problem for men after periods of high stressors.  The thyroid is a gland you can’t normally feel, but, if you put your fingers on your throat and swallow, it is in the area where you feel the cartilage move up and down. 

A symptom of a swollen thyroid is a thickness in the throat or having a hard time swallowing. However, it is more common to have a combination of symptoms.  Some of these are tiredness, dry hair, dry skin, muscle achiness, feeling colder than others most of the time, swelling in the hands and feet, little sweating or a poor time regulating temperature, heavy periods and problems with focus and memory and unexplained weight gain even though regular exercise and proper diet is maintained.

The classic test in BC for hypothyroid is a TSH. This does not test thyroid function.  TSH stands for Thyroid stimulating hormone and tests to see if the pituitary thinks the thyroid is working properly.  The thyroid puts out at least 2 hormones- T3 and T4.  T3 is the active hormone while the T4 is inactive and must be activated in the body mostly by the liver and kidneys to be effective.  If the thyroid puts out enough T4, but, not enough T3, the pituitary thinks the thyroid is working well enough, and the TSH will remain “normal”.  Also, if the T4 is not being converted to T3 by the body efficiently enough the TSH will still be “normal”.  Therefore the person still will have many of the symptoms mentioned above, but is told the thyroid is “normal”.

The most recent studies have shown that a more accurate way to assess whether the thyroid is functioning properly is to collect a 24hr. urine sample and test it for T3.  Another testing method is not only to test TSH, but free T4 and  T3, as well as reverseT3.  This gives us a much more accurate picture of what the thyroid is actually doing, not what the pituitary thinks it is doing.  Since this seems difficult to have doctors do in BC, it can now be done as a blood spot that can be done at home and sent away to be ananyzed.

It has been found to be extremely accurate.  Another of the ways to see how the thyroid is doing is to have someone take their temperature sometime during the day.  It doesn’t matter when, and the more variety during the day, the more we can see if the thyroid is keeping everything going consistently.

This gives us an indication of thyroid function.  Temperatures should be between 36.7C – 37.2C or 98.0F- 99.0F on a regular basis.  If the temperature is regularly below this, it is like having a smouldering fire that never burns the wood completely.  The food taken in is not burnt and utilized, but may accumulate as weight gain. 

Also, every other function in the body does not run as well as it should.  It is like having a 6-cylinder vehicle run on 4 cylinders, it will run, but nothing runs well.  It is the same in the body, processing and utilizing food is less than ideal, delivering energy and oxygen to the cells is poor, as is getting rid of waste products and by-products from the body.  It affects the whole system.  Therefore, it is essential that the thyroid works efficiently

Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.

Categories: Health

Other News Stories