About Thyroid Testing

Dear GH,

Without knowing what type of test you took, it is hard to comment on both the results and the manner in which the test was performed. I can tell you that the lab technician is incapable and unqualified to make the assertion regarding medication.

I am not sure who directed you to have the lab work done, but you should make sure that a physician looks over the results of any such important test and share in the diagnosis and treatment.

If your thyroid is underactive, you are not alone. Of all the problems that can undermine health, none is more common (or more likely to be overlooked) than an underactive thyroid gland. And, unfortunately, if your thyroid doesn't work right, the rest of your body doesn't, either.

I don't know what inspired the lab work, but the incredibly broad range of symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland emits makes it really hard for even a physician to diagnose without a proper lab test. Often lab results do not help either.

There are many people that suffer from hypothyroidism, the medical term for the condition, that do not have lab results out of the norm. They may have a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level that falls in the normal range, but still suffer from an underactive gland.

An underactive thyroid can certainly lead to other health problems and to our efforts to achieve a maximum life span. For this reason alone, you owe it to yourself to have your thyroid gland checked. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy can safely, effectively and inexpensively treat your condition.

A simple 10-minute test performed at home can indicate if you are suffering from a subclinical thyroid condition. It will measure your Basal Metabolic Temperature, known as BMT. Provided you have no infections or other conditions that may affect the test, here's how you can check:

1. Before going to sleep, shake a thermometer and place it within reach of your bed. (Shaking it in the morning, when you awake, will raise your temperature and affect the test.)

2. Make sure it is a liquid-in-glass thermometer, not a digital instrument.

3. When you awake, place the thermometer under your armpit; leave it there for 10 minutes. Lie as still as possible. Do not get up or move around, as this would also raise your temperature.

4. After 10 minutes, record your temperature. Do this for at least three days.

If your temperature consistently falls below 97.8º, you likely have an underactive thyroid. A normal BMT reading will be between 97.8º and 98.2º. If your self-test indicates a low thyroid, it is time to go see a good physician.

Thyroid Function

So, why would your thyroid gland's function be so important to your health? The hormone produced by the gland travels to each cell of your body and establishes the rate of that cell's metabolism. In other words, it tells the cell how fast to work.

If you produce too little of the hormone, your cells get sluggish. If the cell is a nerve cell, your thinking may slow down or depression may set in. If the cell is a muscle cell, your strength declines. If the cell is an intestinal cell, your digestion may be affected.

The immune system is especially vulnerable to low thyroid performance. White blood cell production may slow down and cells that fight infections may lose their aggressiveness. Imagine the problems you may encounter with your hair or skin cells!

If you feel you have a compromised thyroid, see your doctor. They will order a test that measures your level of TSH and a test for your antithyroid antibody, which will determine if your immune system is trying to fight your thyroid.

If this test falls out of the norm and there are symptoms that indicate to them that you might have hypothyroid, it will more than likely confirm the diagnosis.

Thyroid Treatment

Prior to considering any medication, known as thyroid replacement therapy, read all you can about the medication because once you begin the treatments, you take them for the rest of your life, in most cases.

There are nutritional supplements that may help to balance the thyroid and this may be helpful to you prior to taking the medication. These supplements help to nourish the thyroid by providing it with targeted nutrients and botanical ingredients that are capable of providing balance to the gland. Thyroid health is determined first and foremost by the production of adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. Iodine is essential for a well-functioning thyroid. It is required by the thyroid gland to synthesize thyroid hormones from tyrosine, an amino acid.

Zinc is essential for healthy thyroid function. Zinc is a cofactor that is required by more than 200 enzymes, and is an integral part of the body's ongoing process of repair and renewal. Zinc is also essential for proper growth and development, and is involved in the metabolism of prostaglandins and the body's inflammatory response.

Other nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid include manganese, which is a mineral that is necessary for the production of thyroxine. Chromium is a mineral involved in carbohydrate, lipid (fats), and nucleic acid metabolism. Some trace minerals, like chromium, are essential for the proper function of enzymatic transactions.

Tyrosine is an amino acid that is important to the health and functioning of the thyroid, as well as to the adrenal glands and pituitary. Many of these nutrients are found within nutritional formulations that are specific to the thyroid.

If nutrition does not help, you may be a candidate for thyroid hormone replacement therapy. It may be good to test a low dose of natural thyroid hormone on a trial basis. For a patient otherwise healthy, the test will pose little risk and may have enormous potential benefit to you.

Once you and your physician have determined the trial was a success, they will determine a proper dose of thyroid replacement hormone. I would recommend discussing natural thyroid hormone replacement with your physician, as opposed to the synthetic forms. Natural thyroid hormones offer the full range of hormones the thyroid produces. The synthetic medications do not.

Your physician will monitor your dose and adjust it as necessary, in the normal range as determined by additional TSH tests. As the hormone increases, the TSH levels will fall on your lab test.

GH, you may require monitoring for two to three months to achieve the levels that will positively affect your health and aging process. It may take this long to feel a difference as well.

Thyroid hormones, either natural or synthetic, are by prescription only. Do not confuse it with thyroid glandular products that are sold over the counter. They may support thyroid function, but may not offer the full benefit. For more information about natural methods of supporting your thyroid, contact me for a consultation .

To truly get the answers to thyroid therapy, take the home test and see your physician for lab tests. Your thyroid is too important to trust to self-care. And don't take your thyroid health lightly; it is so crucial to a long and healthy life.

Mike Casso, R.Ph.