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Decoding Your Thyroid

Thyroid disease affects millions of people in the United States, and most are women. Decoding its functions is proving to be controversial. For example, during all phases of a woman’s life, from puberty to menopause, she may experience multiple symptoms that are often attributed to depression. But now we are seeing that there may be other explanations for these symptoms, including improper functioning of the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of an improperly functioning thyroid may include cold hands, thinning hair, dry skin, fatigue, weight gain or loss, slow or rapid heart rate, depressed mood and a general feeling of malaise. When thyroid disease is suspected, many doctors commonly order an inexpensive thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test. When your results are abnormal (either high or low), a remedy is prescribed to balance the thyroid. The problem is that when the test is normal, you may still have problems with your thyroid gland that go undiagnosed.

Here is where it gets tricky, because a standard hormone test may not tell the full story. The thyroid gland manufactures a number of different hormones, the principal one being thyroxine, or T4. Your brain uses this hormone to tell the hypothalamus gland either to release or shut down its production of TSH. When your thyroid gland is underperforming, the hypothalamus secretes more TSH, the level goes up and the test comes back as abnormal. If the
thyroid is hyperactive, the hypothalamus is told to stop working and the level of TSH will be lower than expected, also indicating an abnormal result.

However, the rest of your body needs a different version of thyroid hormone: triiodothyronine, or T3, which is converted from T4 by an enzymatic reaction. When this doesn’t occur properly, levels of T3 become low and your body will develop symptoms of an underactive thyroid, even though the levels test normal. If TSH levels tests normal, but you still have symptoms, ask your doctor or lab to measure your “free T3” levels, or find a health practitioner that understands how to properly interpret the blood test and provide you with appropriate treatment.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, or you haven’t had blood tests in over a year, testing may be appropriate. In addition, if you have a thyroid problem and are taking standard thyroid medication but you are still not feeling well, then you may benefit from a second opinion. Give us a call for blood work and a wellness consultation. We are happy to help.

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595 Elm Place, Suite 208
Highland Park, IL 60035