When it comes to important hormones in the body, none seem to have as much impact as the thyroid hormones. In fact, every cell in your body has thyroid receptor sites proving just how important proper thyroid health is. Unfortunately, millions of men and women are plagued everyday with thyroid related symptoms.
Symptoms such as:
- Pale Dry Skin
- Tired in the Afternoon
- Gas or Bloating
- Elevated Cholesterol
- Hot Flashes
- Muscle Aches and Stiffness
- Brain Fog & Memory issues
- Weight loss struggles
- Thinning Hair
- Brittle Finger nails
- Cold Hands and Feet
- Low Libido
As a result of these symptoms, many individuals visit their doctors in order to seek relief. In many instances lab testing is done to help determine the nature of the problem and to offer medication and other advice.
When it comes to thyroid testing the gold standard is to evaluate your TSH levels. Elevated TSH levels indicate an under active thyroid and depressed TSH levels indicate a overactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism (under active) is far more prevalent affecting 12 times as many Hyperthyroid (overactive) individuals.
For those diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism (low TSH) the treatment options are to either remove the thyroid gland or to destroy it by drinking radioactive iodide.
Individuals who are diagnosed with Hypothyroidism (high TSH) are put on medication (most popular being Synthroid) to help suppress their TSH levels and bring it back into normal range. They will then spend the rest of their lives having their TSH levels monitored and taking medication.
But is evaluating your TSH level actually providing an accurate picture of your Thyroid health? What if TSH wasn't even the most important aspect of your thyroid health? What if there were more important lab values that indicated how your thyroid was actually working and could provide a much clearer picture and treatment options?
The truth is that there are 8 very important lab values that you should know in order to properly evaluate your thyroid health. But before I tell you what they are you need to first understand "how" the thyroid works.
Like a Thermostat
Your Thyroid is setup to work like a Thermostat. As your thyroid makes hormone your body sends signaling back to areas of your brain called the Hypothalamus and Pituitary. When your brain determines that your body has enough thyroid hormone it will signal the thyroid to stop making hormone. When the body needs more hormone it will signal the brain to stimulate the thyroid to make more.
This is very similar to your thermostat at home. You set the thermostat to 72 degrees and your air conditioner will kick on to lower the air temperature to 72 degrees. Once the air reaches the 72 degrees the thermostat will turn off the air conditioner. Only when the air rises above the 72 degree mark will the thermostat turn the air conditioner back on.
The hormone that your brain (Pituitary) uses to tell the thyroid to make hormone is TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). As you may recall this is the lab value that your doctor utilizes to diagnose you with a thyroid condition. In fact, this is the ONLY lab value your doctor must obtain for a diagnoses and to put you on medication for the rest of your life. But as you can see, TSH is not a thyroid hormone. In other words, your doctor makes assumptions about your thyroid health using a pituitary hormone!
When your brain sends TSH to the thyroid it will stimulate the thyroid to make thyroid hormones. The two most prevalent thyroid hormones are T4 and T3. The thyroid will produce T4 approximately 93% of the time and T3 7% of the time.
Now this is where it gets interesting. The most active form, and the form your body prefers, is T3. So your body must convert the T4 form into the T3 form. 60 % of this conversion is done in your liver, 20% in your gut, and 20% in other areas of your body.
Because every cell in your body requires thyroid hormone, T4 and T3 must be shuttled around the body to every cell. The shuttles, known as thyroid binding globules, bind to T4 and T3 and carry them to all the different cells of the body. When the shuttles arrive at a cell the T4 and T3 must disconnect from the shuttle in order to enter the cell. As T4 and T3 disconnect they become unbound and are known as Free T4 (fT4) and Free T3 (fT3). It is the fT4 and fT3 that enter the cell and is utilized by the body.
I mentioned earlier that T4 is converted into T3 because that is the body's preferable form. Certain enzymes and nutrients are used in that conversion, and in healthy individuals, the majority of T4 is converted into T3. Unfortunately however, if these enzymes and nutrients are not present, T4 can be converted into a non-active form of T3 called Reverse T3 (rT3). rT3 will then bind to the receptors on the thyroid binding globules and cells inhibiting the active T3 form from getting into your cells and providing the necessary hormone your body needs.
When thyroid hormone levels are off it can be assumed that your thyroid isn't properly working. But what if your thyroid gland wasn't your primary problem? In other words, what if there was something else negatively affecting your thyroid gland from working properly? If that underlying cause is never addressed would just treating your thyroid resolve your symptoms? Probably not. This is why so many individuals continue to suffer with thyroid related symptoms despite being on medications and constant lab monitoring.
It is estimated that 90% of individuals who are suffering from an under active thyroid in the United States have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Autoimmune Hypothyroidism. This is a condition in which your own immune system begins to attack your thyroid gland. As a result, your thyroid gland doesn't make adequate thyroid hormones and you begin to suffer with a myriad of symptoms such as weight loss struggles, fatigue, and brain fog.
Unfortunately for these individuals, which is 90% of you, simply taking thyroid medication will not resolve your problem. Why? Because the underlying cause is not being addressed. This is why so many people continue suffering despite being on medication and being told that their lab values look "normal". The good news is that determining if you have Hashimoto's is relatively easy. You will need to have two antibodies tested, Thyroglobulin Ab (tG) IgG and Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) IgG. This can be done with a simple blood test and can be ordered at the same time as your TSH level.
So as you can see, your thyroid health is much more comprehensive than a simple TSH value. In order to properly evaluate your thyroid health you will need to know the following values:
- T4 Total
- T3 Total
- Free T4 (T4)
- Free T3 (fT3)
- Reverse T3 (rT3)
- Thyroglobulin Ab (tG) IgG
- Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) IgG.
In addition, because your liver and gut play large roles in the conversion of your T4 into T3, evaluating their health status is also very important.
Only when all of these values are determined will you have a comprehensive look at your thyroid health and have a clearer understanding on what needs to be done. Health practitioners who understand thyroid health at a complex level take multiple and unique approaches to help you resolve your problem. Simply prescribing a medication like Synthroid rarely addresses all of your thyroid needs and is why many continue to suffer.
Another key player when it comes to your Thyroid health is the health of your Adrenal gland. Because of constant stress, poor diets, and chemical exposure, your adrenal glands often become poor performers. As a result systems in your body such as your gut, liver and thyroid work less effectively. For more information about adrenal health and it's role on the your thyroid and overall health check out my FREE ebook The Adrenal Code.
So if you are currently struggling with thyroid health and you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, I implore you to have proper lab testing done. Unfortunately, not all health care providers understand the complexity of the thyroid gland and how to properly evaluate it so you may need to look around for one that does. But not until all the factors are uncovered and the root cause determined and dealt with can you expect to eliminate your symptoms.
Ready to have proper Thyroid testing?
Check out our Holistic, All-Natural Wellness Program where we test all of our patients thoroughly so that we can give you answers and a solution that works!