Low thyroid function seems to be nearly epidemic these days. I think with the issues of our food supply and toxic environment, we have just done a number on our endocrine systems. The problem is medicine is not catching up with how prevalent poor thyroid function is in people of all ages. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s just that the system is rigged and not in your favor if you happen to be hypothyroid.
When we began this journey I had no idea I would become a self scholar-ed endocrine guru but that’s what’s happened! I had to learn because my doctor didn’t learn and I was my only hope for getting myself the right treatment. Later on I would have to go to bat to find the right doctor to help with my children’s thyroids too.
When I say the system is rigged what I mean is the testing used today to look for hypothyroidism is inadequate and so is the medication used to treat it. The reason for this is because most doctors are taught to test serum TSH levels, which is a pituitary hormone. Yes a pituitary, not thyroid, you read that right. TSH actually stands for “thyroid stimulating hormone”. It’s your pituitary yelling at your thyroid to “make more juice I’m barely hanging on over here“.
That result is then compared to a range which sounds OK but whose range? Labs are using ranges based on all the people they test. So that means most ranges are based on patients who get labs done. Let’s face it, healthy energetic people don’t really get labs done. Sick people who feel cruddy do. Do we want cruddy ranges? I think not.
What does a pituitary hormone have to do with things anyway? The basic thing to remember is that being in a “range” on paper doesn’t necessarily mean it’s optimal. Plus the glaringly obvious fact here is TSH testing doesn’t look at your actual thyroid hormones anyway. It tells you nothing about what your thyroid is doing. Many people can have TSH in those “ranges” but do not have enough Free T3 hormone available to drag themselves out of bed. Not without Free T3, the active thyroid hormone.
Before TSH testing and the push for synthetic thyroid drugs, doctors treated patients by symptoms for thyroid conditions. They gave you dessicated thyroid tablets to take and dose until you felt normal again. With the invention of synthetic T4 drugs which is nothing like your actual thyroid hormones, (see above photo) they needed to market them as the “new way to treat hypothyroidism”. It makes your TSH levels stay within that “range” which makes your doctor happy. It also makes the companies happy selling those drugs. They don’t care if you still feel like a used dish rag. Your doctor doesn’t know better. It’s what they are taught in medical school. Test the TSH, wait for it to go SKY HIGH, then put them on Franken-Throid! (what us laymen call fake T4, levoxyl/synthroid drugs.)
It’s not all bad though. There are doctors who do know how to properly test for hypothyroidism and use dessicated thyroid medication which is more identical to what your body makes. They do a full panel of blood work and look at your TSH, Free T4, Free T3 and both thyroid antibodies, PLUS they listen to your symptoms. If you have antibodies you do need treatment or your immune system will continue to destroy your thyroid.
We are truly grateful for those doctors and hope that some day the paradigm will shift and all doctors will be privy to this information to help their patients more effectively.
In the meantime you have to know what to look for and seek out those doctors who do know. I find so many children on the spectrum (and off) are low thyroid. It’s far more common than most people think.