It’s Thyroid Health Month: What is a “normal” thyroid function?

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By Leigh Lewis ND L.Ac. Naturopathic Doctor

Most patients have had thyroid function testing prior to seeking assistance at ilumina, whether it is for fertility issues, difficulty losing weight, mood and energy issues or simply as part of a general check up.  However, there is much confusion amongst health care providers and patients regarding what constitutes normal function tests. In fact, recent research suggests that patients can be experiencing significant symptoms such as those mentioned above even when the results are normal and may be able to safely take and benefit from thyroid replacement. This is why we often request patients bring in their results or get new testing even if they have been told that all their thyroid testing is within normal range.

The thyroid can be through of as the gas pedal to many bodily functions.  It’s hormones increase heart rate, bone turn-over, basal metabolic rate, cognition, digestion, reproductive function, etc.  When there are not enough thyroid hormones, these processes slow down and when there is too much, they speed up.  The tricky thing is, two individuals can have the same thyroid hormone levels and one feels great and the other feels terrible.  Individual biochemistry dictates these differences and our current lab testing is based on pooled population data, therefore, often missing individual nuances.

A quick explanation on thyroid function testing:

Typically we here at ilumina recommend the following tests:

  • TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone:
    • This is a hormone produced by the brain to stimulate the thyroid to produce its own hormones such that when thyroid hormones levels are low, TSH levels rise and when thyroid hormones levels are high, TSH levels drop.
  • Free T3 and T4 – triiodothyronine and thyroxine
    • These hormones are produced by the thyroid, T4 is viewed as a precursor to T3, which is more biologically active and potent, T4 is converted to T3 via an enzymatic reaction…some people have difficulty making this conversion, necessitating a combination of T3 + T4 for replacement.
  • Thyroid antibodies:
    • These immune cells represent a common cause of thyroid disease; produced by the body, they attack specific mechanisms in the production and function of the thyroid hormones such that activity is either increased (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) or decreased (autoimmune hypothyroidism).  Research suggests that the presence of these antibodies may explain symptoms of thyroid disease despite normal thyroid function tests.

There are several other thyroid tests that may be done other practitioners, but in practice it is our experience these do not lend much more information.

Confused? You should be.

Basically, it is important to remember that, while your thyroid function testing may be within the normal range, it doesn’t mean you would not benefit from a trial of thyroid replacement.  Some patients, like those with mood, weight and energy issues, will be monitoring symptoms to see if the replacement has a positive impact, others, like those with fertility issues, may not notice a day to day improvement in any symptoms, but the hope is that time to conception & risk of miscarriage will decrease.  Replacement can be done safely in those with initially normal labs because repeat labs will  detect over medication or if the dose needs to be increased. If thyroid antibodies are positive, anti-inflammatory supplement and diet measures may be helpful.

Thyroid function affects nearly all of our physical, psychological, and mental processes either directly or indirectly; talk to us today to review yours for a healthier tomorrow.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

This little butterfly shaped gland in your neck has many functions, so when it is malfunctioning the body feels the consequences, as many as 12.5% of Americans suffer with a thyroid disorder, and many people are undiagnosed. Some causes of thyroid disorder include: Autoimmune disease, gluten intolerance, stress, toxins, adrenal fatigue, and iodine deficiency.

The thyroid gland drives the metabolic rate of every single cell in your body, which is 37 trillion cells, so you can imagine symptoms like weight gain, male and women’s infertility, hair loss, depression, and chronic fatigue are some symptoms of a low and hyper functioning thyroid.

At ilumina Healing Sanctuary, we bridge Eastern and Western medicine making it easy to check your thyroid, and get help with any imbalances of your hormones. It’s important to get your thyroid checked regularly. The thyroid plays an important role in getting pregnant and maintaining pregnancy. New research suggests that a slightly underactive thyroid may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant even when the gland is functioning at the low end of the normal range, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Chinese Medicine has come to the rescue, considering a study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which stated, “Cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and their immune function and thyroid function were observed. It was found that Chinese Medicine was able to reduce the thyroid antibodies in the peripheral blood of the patients with hypothyroidism and to recover their thyroid function”. Treating patients with Chinese Medicine can help lower anti-thyroid antibodies and regulate thyroid function

Check your thyroid frequently, maintain a healthy balanced gluten free diet, manage stress, and regular acupuncture treatments are important to keep the thyroid happy.

It is essential to keep the body balanced. Discussing these concerns with your Chinese Medicine practitioner may help you take control of your thyroid health.

Written by Charlene Hagner L.Ac., Dipl.OM