For over 100 years, thyroid disease has prominently taken its place in the medical literature for affecting the quality of life for millions of people. During the greater portion of that century, thyroid disease was diagnosed by reported symptoms and managed effectively with natural thyroid supplementation.
With scientific advances in identifying actual hormone structure and function we developed the ability to measure hormone levels. That ability is a good thing. Measuring a large number of people generates a range of results (remember the bell shaped curve) where the lowest 2.5% and the highest 2.5% are considered “abnormal” and everyone in between is “normal”.
But with the ability to measure, we forgot to remember that symptoms don’t always follow the bell shaped curve…that is, the “normal” range is not necessarily the “optimal” range when it comes to symptom relief.
The usual thyroid test performed by most primary care providers is the TSH test: the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test. As its name implies, it stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone.
The TSH test has a reported reference range that is quite broad, varying from lab to lab, but frequently from 0.4 to 4.5 mIU/L. Simplistically, when there is optimal thyroid function the body makes less TSH since the body senses it has enough thyroid hormone (TSH is low) but when the body senses a need for better thyroid function it makes more TSH (TSH is high) to stimulate the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone.
That may all sound appropriate, but as TSH stimulates the thyroid, the majority of hormone the thyroid gland produces is a very weak thyroid hormone (T 4) that must be changed after it leaves the thyroid gland into the active thyroid hormone (T 3). Many people have trouble changing the weak T 4 into the active T 3 such that their T 4 level is good, but their T 3 level is not optimal, and frequently at the low end of the reference range.
Since it is primarily the amount of T 4 (the weak thyroid hormone) that influences the production of TSH rather than the amount of T 3 (the active thyroid hormone), the low level of T 3 does not cause the TSH to elevate to the range where it is considered “abnormal” and lead to a diagnosis of an underactive thyroid, i.e. hypothyroidism. Consequently, since the level of active thyroid hormone T 3 is in the low range, symptoms of hypothyroidism are present in spite of the “normal” TSH. Consequently, when thyroid testing is limited to TSH and/or T 4, many people with symptoms of hypothyroidism are told they are “normal” and the symptoms of fatigue, mental fog, inability to control weight gain, depression, etc are attributed to “getting older” , “lack of exercise” or “eating too much” etc, etc instead of treating the source of the symptoms.
SoWal Health & Wellness , we perform a more extensive thyroid panel, and when indicated by symptoms and testing, prescribe natural thyroid hormone which contains both T4 and T3 instead of synthetic thyroid hormone (Synthroid or Levothyroxine) which only contains T4.
If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism (under active) or have symptoms in spite of “normal” screening thyroid testing, click the button below to arrange for a panel of thyroid tests and consultation.