It is very important to address the under functioning thyroid leading to the condition known as hypothyroidism. Not only is hypothyroidism common, it is an unrecognized epidemic. Our medical community is giving false information to the public concerning the number of people in this country who are affected by hypothyroidism. The experts, who seem to always have the ear of the public, claim that 1 out of 10 people is affected by low thyroid function. In reality, the number is closer to 6 out of 10, so why the discrepancy? This is an example of medicine being practiced in an unscientific manner. The wrong tests are ordered and physicians are trained to rely only on those test results while ignoring what the patient says. Because of tradition, the TSH test is considered the “gold standard”, but the TSH is quite inaccurate and relying upon that test results in 5 out of 6 hypothyroid patients being told that their thyroid is “OK.” The second example of unscientific medicine and unsound tradition is that the test score ranges, of the test that is fairly revealing (free T3), are inaccurate and lead to misdiagnoses. The third example is that doctors are taught to prescribe a supplemental thyroid product (synthetic T4) that is not nearly as helpful as other products (desiccated thyroid) that have not been advertised as widely. Why did I choose to start with a boring topic about the thyroid? First, it is the most important of the endocrine glands because if it is not functioning properly, then you will never be healthy regardless of the functioning of the rest of the endocrine system.
If you visited your doctor with the complaint “Why am I so tired?,” did he/she check your thyroid function studies? If you’re still tired, I’m assuming you were one of millions that was told that your thyroid was OK or you are being under treated! If you were given that story, then it is likely that your doctor used the standard, but misleading studies, to determine whether or not you will continue to suffer the consequences of hypothyroidism and that’s unacceptable. Why do doctors continue to use these tests if they miss the diagnosis in so many patients? That’s a good question and strikes at the very reason I wrote the book, “Dangerous Medicine: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know Can Hurt You.” The tests are used because the experts, in the field of endocrinology, have advised all other doctors to follow suit. Endocrinologists should be smarter than that by recognizing that we are right in the middle of an epidemic and the tests they are relying upon do not reflect the degree of that epidemic. Denial is such a wonderful defense mechanism and when attempting to convince someone they are using that mechanism, they deny it!! Go figure! Instead of listening to patients, recording their symptoms, looking at other body systems and obtaining resting body temperatures, most doctors take the easy shortcut of relying upon faulty lab studies. Unfortunate, but true! Has this happened to you?
Why is it so important to make this diagnosis? You say you’re healthy, but just a little more tired in the afternoon? Do you further excuse yourself and your doctor because you’re getting older or that you’ve been under a lot of stress? I will bet that if you were questioned properly, there would be other issues that were not disclosed such as needing more sleep than in the past, not getting restful sleep, high cholesterol, joint pain, muscle aches, cold hands/feet, hair loss, dark circles under eyes, weight gain or inability to lose weight, constipation, dry skin, loss of outer third of eyebrows, depression, anxiety, needing a power nap, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, thickening fat tissue in thighs and arms, memory loss, cloudy thinking, loss of interest in areas of previous interest etc. The list goes on, but suffice it to say, you are probably beginning to realize why making the diagnosis is so important and if left untreated, you can be a setup for serious health problems. Of course, there is a pill for everything and your local drugstore is ready, willing and able to fill that prescription for something to lower your cholesterol or your blood pressure. They also have something to help depression and something to help with weight loss. Should I go on? The point is, treat your hypothyroidism, if you have it and stave off the many undesirable effects of ignoring it. Why would you want to set yourself up for heart problems? Depression? Fatigue? Constipation, skin problems, weight gain, joint and muscle pain? Why would you want to do that to yourself? Why not treat hypothyroism properly, if you have it?
If you are a candidate and have three or more of the symptoms listed, then the first thing you must do is find a doctor who has a brain and will listen to your complaints. Second, your doctor must also understand that the typical and traditional thyroid function studies are pretty much worthless and misleading. They must be willing to at least order a free T3. You should also record your resting body temperatures for three mornings in a row. A thermometer should be placed by your bedside and the next morning, before arising,the thermometer is placed under your arm (armpit) until it beeps. Record that temperature three mornings in a row. For those of you who have a regular mercury thermometer, shake it down the night before and place it under your arm the next morning upon awakening and leave for 10 minutes. Do not get out of bed until you record the temperature, otherwise, it will not be valid. The only exception is for women who are still of child bearing age. Their under arm temperatures should be taken the 2nd, 3rd and 4th day of their menstral cycle. Your doctor must also understand that the laboratory values for free T3 are extremely low and misleading. I have found the real optimal range for free T3 to overlap only with the highest part of the accepted “normal” ranges as reported to doctors. Also, be certain to choose a doctor who knows about the superiority of desiccated thryoid in comparison to the commonly accepted treatment with synthetic T4 that goes by the brand name, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid and others. The problem with synthetic T4 products is the issue of conversion. The thyroid gland itself produces mostly T4, but the most important thyroid hormone is not T4, but T3! So, how do we get T3? It is the product of T4 being converted by the liver, kidneys and some other tissues. In other words, a chemical process, within your own body, is supposed to change (convert) T4 into T3 by removing an atom of iodine. In people without hypothyroidism, the process works as it should. In some hypothyroid patients, it also works as it should, but what if you are one of many who have a defect in that process? It is quite common and that it a good reason not to rely upon treatment with synthetic T4.
I’ve only hit the high points on this most important topic and one that most doctors ignore and do not seem to understand very well. There is also a chapter in my book on this very topic and if you wish more information, that would be a good place to start. I welcome your questions and will answer them as quickly as I can. Thank you for reading.
– Ken G. Knott, M.D.