Millions of Americans suffer from some sort of thyroid dysfunction. What’s shocking is that most people don’t even know it! The American Thyroid Association estimates that one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her lifetime.
In our clinic we see patients daily who have been to their doctor, suspecting a thyroid disorder, and leave with normal lab values and no diagnoses. The major problem here is that a medical doctor can only checks two thyroid lab markers. What we do in our clinic is check all 10 thyroid markers allowing us to dig deeper to find the underlying problems.
The most common problem we see with the thyroid is called hypothyroidism, which means the thyroid is underactive and slows down all metabolic processes in the body.
Hypothyroidism can lead to symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Poor concentration
- Low libido
- Low body temperature
If you have been diagnosed and are being treated for thyroid dysfunction or you have the symptoms listed above and suspect you thyroid is out of whack, be aware of these common missteps conventional doctors make in diagnosing thyroid dysfunction:
1. You have the symptoms, but they don’t check for thyroid dysfunction
If you have conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or an autoimmune disease, your symptoms often will overlap with thyroid dysfunction and your doctor simply may not order thyroid lab testing.
Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can be vague and often mistaken for signs of aging or stress. If someone is suffering from fatigue, anxiety, hair loss, weight gain, depression, or other symptoms they may just think that’s what happens as you age, however this is not the case. With that said make sure your doctor is testing for a complete thyroid panel on your next checkup
2. They don’t test ALL thyroid markers
When your doctor checks thyroid levels, they commonly check two thyroid markers called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4. Medical doctors typically use TSH levels as the key marker in diagnosing thyroid dysfunction, this is because the majority of patients suffer from under active thyroid in which TSH would be elevated.
At our office we recommend everyone have extensive blood work testing that includes a complete thyroid blood panel so that we are able to get a whole picture of how your thyroid is functioning.
3. They rely on a “normal” range instead of optimal levels
Many patients come to our office saying their doctor told them their thyroid levels are normal, however they still have symptoms. As a functional medicine clinic, our optimal thyroid ranges are much narrower. This is so that we can catch thyroid dysfunction sooner rather than later.
4. They don’t test for autoimmunity
Thyroid problems are epidemic right now. 90% of low thyroid (hypothyroidism) is autoimmune, this is a condition called Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is not a problem with your thyroid itself, it is the immune system that is attacking the thyroid. Conventional medicine uses the same treatment protocol for autoimmune and non-autoimmune thyroid dysfunction.
We understand that there is a difference and that if your condition is autoimmune, there is a different treatment plan. Many factors such as diet, gut health, toxins, infection, and stress are the root causes to this thyroid dysfunction and that’s what we address.
5. They don’t test for nutrient deficiencies
Listed below are vital nutrients that are needed for optimal thyroid function. These nutrients help you produce thyroid hormones that convert them from their storage form to active form. In addition they help support healthy immune function.
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins
- Vitamin D
- They don’t test hormone levels
Stress hormones and estrogen levels have a remarkable impact on thyroid function. The primary stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to underproduction of thyroid hormones. This impacts thyroid receptors causing the thyroid hormones to stay in their inactive state where our body cannot use them properly.
Patients who suffer from adrenal fatigue, due to chronic stress, may also have some thyroid dysfunction. Women who are on birth control pills may also suffer from thyroid problems due to the excess estrogen that binds up the thyroid hormones.
6. They don’t address the root cause of the thyroid dysfunction
So many patients come into our clinic who are on thyroid medication such as levothyroxine, however they’re still experiencing the same symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, thinning nails and hair, weight gain or weight loss resistance etc. Why is this? Their conventional doctor may have run a few thyroid labs and put them on medication to help with the symptoms, which may have worked at first, but they are not addressing the root cause of their thyroid issue. They may not be looking at the whole picture or the person as a whole. They may not be addressing all of the factors that influence thyroid function. Environmental factors play a huge role in thyroid health some include leaky gut, diet, toxins, chronic infection, and stress.
As opposed to a conventional doctors approach, in functional medicine we spend far more time learning about our patient’s’ health history, we order comprehensive blood work, and find ways to optimize lifestyle changes specific to each person. We know there is no magic pill and while this approach takes time and commitment, it leads to far better results!