I thought being diagnosed with cancer was a horrible experience, but 8 yrs later I had debilitating symptoms of chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, dry thin hair, cold sensitivity and digestion issues. I went from doctor to doctor, from specialist to specialist desperately trying to find someone to tell me what was wrong with me. Everywhere I went I was told I was “stressed” or that it was “all in my head.” Finally, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease but even then it took years to find the right medicine.
The thyroid gland plays a huge role in our bodies, influencing the function of many of the most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is vitally important to the body’s overall well-being!
Thyroid disease is an epidemic of our time because of major stress and adrenal fatigue. Thyroid disorder can lead to life threatening conditions, including cancer, yet it’s often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. I see this ALL the time with my clients. They come in with similar stories to my own, but no answers. Their visit to the doctor’s office has left them only with the instruction to “lose some weight and take these meds for depression”. In some cases they were never tested for thyroid dysfunction or Hashimoto’s Disease and in other cases they were tested, but were told their TSH levels fell within “normal ranges”.
Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction are mistakenly chalked up to anxiety, depression, menopause, aging, and weight gain (to name a few). With an estimated 150 million people living with un-diagnosed thyroid disorders and over 300 symptoms of thyroid disorder (I can include a list of these as an attachment), the only solution is to self-educate and empower yourself to get answers.
If you’re suffering, be your own advocate! See your doctor and make sure he or she follows these THREE STEPS TO PROPERLY DIAGNOSE YOUR THYROID DISORDER:
- Insist on a complete physical, full blood workup, and thorough review of your symptoms/health history/family health history. Some doctors do not know that your symptoms are thyroid related, so weight gain, depression, high cholesterol, hair loss, and fatigue are passed off as separate issues. Doctors can also fail to connect the dots between thyroid disorder and the more serious issues of diabetes, liver disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and heart disease! Some thyroid conditions are genetic, and a review of your family history can help reveal this. If you walk into your doctor’s office as the poster child for thyroid disorder (puffiness in the face, high cholesterol, constantly feeling cold, hoarse voice, fatigued, dry thin hair, loss of outer third of eyebrows) and leave with a prescription for depression or are told to lose weight, you need to seek a second opinion.
- Test for more than TSH. A full thyroid panel should include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and Thyroid Antibodies. The predictive indicator for thyroid function and determining treatment is testing TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH alone does not provide a thorough picture of thyroid health. If your TSH falls in the “normal” range, but you’re still experiencing symptoms, your thyroid disorder may go undiagnosed and untreated. Without a FULL workup, your doctor cannot fully comprehend your individual complexities. Although the preponderance of thyroid hormones produced are T4, T3 is the most useable form. It is also vital for your doctor to know your rate of conversion from T4 to active or inactive (Reverse) T3. If you have Hypothyroidism, it’s important to test for Hashimoto’s Disease too. If you have it, your Thyroid Antibodies will be elevated and then there is a different treatment for it.
- Don’t base your results on “normal” ranges. Each individual is different and that goes for measurable TSH ranges too. The conventional medical community’s acceptable TSH range is from .5 – 5.0 with slight variations allowed. It is very possible to have normal blood results with hypothyroid issues, because of this the thyroid community and many integrative physicians are lobbying for more specific ranges. Individuals have different healthy ranges. The best doctors recognize this and treat the individual based on more than lab results. You want optimal results, not “normal”. Here are the recommended OPTIMAL LEVELS:
- TSH – < 2.0 (some doctors I respect say .5-1.0 is optimal)
- Free T3 – Top 25th percentile of reference range
- Free T4 – Top half of the reference range
- Reverse T3 – Low end of normal range
- Vitamin D – > 50
- Ferritin – > 60 or > 80 if you have hair loss
Now that you are armed with the knowledge you need to take to your doctor for an accurate diagnosis, next week, I will explore the conventional treatments for thyroid disorders and the ways that you can ensure you are being properly TREATED.