5 Things You NEED to Know About Unresolved Thyroid Symptoms
Every year millions of people (mostly women) head to their MD for some combination of the most common complaints related to Hypothyroidism:
- Cold hands and feet
- Weight gain
- Poor sleep
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- And more…
But despite being put on thyroid medication, the symptoms of hypothyroidism can continue to persistent, even if someone’s lab tests are normal! How can that be?
Read on for the top five reasons you might have unresolved symptoms of hypothyroidism.
REASON #1:Your doctor doesn’t understand the thyroid “system”
Most docs focus on the thyroid gland itself and whether or not it’s producing enough thyroid hormones. And to figure that out they routinely test your TSH and T4 levels (there are some exceptions of course). But that’s only part of the picture. The signals to make thyroid hormones come from your Hypothalamus and Pituitary glands (they’re up in your brain). Many things like stress and inflammation can weaken the signal to your thyroid, so the thyroid gland naturally makes less hormones as a result – but in this case the problems is in whatever is affecting your brain’s control centers.
Moreover, the major thyroid hormone that comes out of your gland is called T4, a biologically inactive version that has to be “processed” in your liver, changing in to the active T3 form before your cells can use it. Just like there are many factors that can change how your brain talks to your thyroid, many things can also change how your body processes T4, and you can actually end up with Reverse T3, an unusable version of your active T3 hormone that actually prevents cellular activation.
And finally, assuming you can make and process hormones correctly, your cells have to be able to receive and respond to them (the fancy word for this is proteomics). All cells have thyroid receptors, places for your active T3 hormones to plug in to create an effect – like energy production or mental clarity. If something interferes with your cells’ responses, you can have hypothyroid symptoms even though you have plenty of hormone around. In this case taking more hormones doesn’t help, because the problem is no longer “how much you have?”, but “can your cells respond to what you have?”
REASON #2: Your doctor doesn’t run enough lab tests
So if YOU understand how complex the thyroid system is, you can also understand that there are many “places” in the thyroid system that can go wrong. Errors in thyroid hormone production, processing, or proteomics (cell activation) all land you in the same set of symptoms – but each type of problem has its own set of lab patterns that show up, different things that cause them and things to do to fix them.
And running the typical thyroid lab tests of just the TSH and T4 are simply not enough to get the big picture. In truth, there are eight different tests (and some ratios) that need to be run to truly understand where the problem lies and what to do about it. And that’s ignoring the fact that other systems can affect the thyroid too – so your thyroid labs should hardly ever de bone in isolation. You might also need to cross check blood sugar control, adrenal function, gut heath and more.
If you don’t know what a good thyroid panel really looks like, here it is. TSH
- Total and Free T4
- Total and Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Antibodies
Again, most docs measure only TSH and Total T4 and think they have all they need. But I guess if your only tool is a prescription pad then maybe it is all THEY need, but you probably need a more thorough workup.
REASON #3: Your doctor sees you as a “diagnosis”
One of the worst things that’s happened in healthcare is losing sight of the fact that people are unique (we call it YOUniq). That means that your version of hypothyroidism, including your YOUniq causes and symptoms, are likely different from someone else’s. In most healthcare systems, doctors are taught to treat the disease and not the person. So there is a one-size-fits-all mindset that ignores your YOUniq individuality – if you have hypothyroidism then you get thyroid hormones…period.
Well, you are not Hypothyroidism. You are a person with hypothyroidism and there is a huge difference between the two! If you still have unresolved thyroid symptoms, perhaps you need to work with someone who can recognize your YOUniq-ness and base recommendations for you, on you, and not a disease.
When docs don’t get fooled (or trained) into a one-size-fits-all approach, that frees them up to ask powerful questions, like “What’s causing this person’s problems and how do I craft a YOUniq approach that fits them specifically?”
REASON #4: Your doctor is working on the wrong end of the problem
Inevitably, something is actually causing your hypothyroidism – something is changing your body’s ability to make sufficient hormones, so you suffer from fatigue, brain fog, poor sleep and so on. But if all you do is replace the hormones you’re no longer making efficiently, but you don’t address the real reason why, then the cause continues to work, unchanged, in the background. The result is either continued unresolved symptoms, or symptoms that come and go, and get worse over time – because the cause has not been identified and managed properly.
Now I am NOT saying to stop taking your meds (if you’re on them) just because we are cause-oriented. But I am saying that you need to work on the front-end of the problem, not the back0end. The RESULT of your problem is low thyroid hormones, and this creates classic symptoms that we see will almost all people with hypothyroidism. The CAUSE is something most docs don’t even care about – because if doesn’t change the fact that they are trained to manage your disease with thyroid hormone replacement.
But this represents the key distinction between conventional medicine and what we call Functional Medicine – where’s the focus? When all you do is focus on the end result, you’re always playing catch up. Being well, truly well, is about being proactive, regaining control of your health, whether its your low thyroid or something else, so that you not only improve your current condition, but protect your future as well.
Above all you have to find and work on the cause of your problems.
REASON #5: 90% of all hypothyroid problems are actually autoimmune conditions
This one’s a whopper! Modern medical research tells us that ALMOST ALL hypothyroid conditions are actually autoimmune conditions. That means that if you have unresolved thyroid symptoms, it is almost certainly because your immune system is attacking and destroying your thyroid gland – the cells and proteins needed to make T4 and T3.
What’s more, the autoimmune process can interfere with every single aspect of the thyroid system – all the way from how your brain talks to your thyroid gland, how efficiently the manufacturing process inside your thyroid gland works, the accurate processing of your hormones to make them biologically active, and finally how robustly your cells respond to the hormones you DO have.
Autoimmune hypothyroidism is the most common form of autoimmunity. If you have other people in your family with thyroid issues, or if you have people with other kinds of autoimmunities (like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Celiac Disease), then it increases the likelihood that you too have an autoimmune problem.
If that’s the case, then you will get far better results, far better control over your thyroid and health in general, if you learn to take care of your immune system. You see it’s about a lot more than your thyroid gland, and a lot more than the measly TSH number on your lab report. It’s about the health and balance of an entire system, running enough labs to be able to see the problem, and working with the mindset of managing the cause of the problem and not just the result.
If you’re ready to step into that place of “it’s time to figure this thing out” then use the contact form on our website to get in touch with us. We would be honored to help.