Could My Thyroid Be My Problem?

by Varsha Rathod, M.D. - Date: 2010-09-27 - Word Count: 570 Share This!

The one gland that causes havoc with weight, allergies, and energy, can be the relatively easy to fix. However, it is usually the gland that is most often overlooked. This gland is your thyroid. The thyroid gland produces hormones T4 and T3, whose main purpose is to "run the body's metabolism". The thyroid gland is located in the neck and weighs less than one ounce. It is hard to imagine that a gland this small affects almost every organ and system in the body, from the rate of your heart beat, to your mood and energy levels; and even to how fast you burn calories.

When your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone, its normal rate of function slows, causing mental and physical sluggishness. This underproduction is known as Hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are vast and range from fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, weight gain, joint pain, infertility, heart disease, irritability, impaired memory, poor circulation and the list goes on.

The good news is that Hypothyroidism is easy to correct, if it is detected. Most physicians recognize the significance of testing TSH to check thyroid levels. When your TSH is high, thyroid function is proportionally low. Measuring TSH levels is a good start but it doesn't give a complete picture. It is also important to check T3 Free, and T4 Free levels. Testing T3 Free and T4 Free gives a better sense of which hormones needs adjusting.

In some cases, patients will present with symptoms of an under active thyroid, but all labs TSH, T3 Free and T4 Free are normal. In this case, I believe it is important to treat the patient's symptoms on an empirical basis. When the blood work does not show a problem with the thyroid gland, I may utilize another form of testing known as the Biological Terrain. It is also important to test other hormones for dysfunction. When thyroid hormone is dys-regulated it may be compensating for other hormonal imbalances such as your adrenals or insulin status. Until medical technology creates a more precise lab to gauge the activity of the thyroid gland, we cannot overlook symptoms the patient is experiencing.

Many doctors will prescribe synthetic T4, such as Synthroid or Levoxyl, in response to labs that indicate a high TSH level. This will work if the patient has no difficulty converting T4 into T3. For those who have problems converting T4 to T3, adding Cytomel, which improves T3 levels, may be beneficial in correcting the problem.

Another option is to use prescription natural thyroid (eg. Armour Thyroid) which replaces both T3 and T4. It is made from desiccated beef or pork thyroid glands and is fully standardized by USP (United States Pharmacopeia). Armour natural thyroid was the most common form of thyroid replacement in the 1970's, until synthetic alternatives became available. It is still used today and often yields great results. Another option I may use is Thyroid Complex, an enzyme based supplement that offers a natural solution. This product contains thyroid proteins rather than the actual hormone.

The overall treatment goal is to restore balance to your body's metabolic function. Assessing the entire picture and taking into consideration both lab values and patient symptoms to customize a treatment plan, yield the best results.

Dr. Varsha Rathod is a Board Certified Rheumatologist and Internist at Preventive Medicine in the Westport Plaza area of St. louis, MO. The Practice has focused on a combination of traditional and holistic medicine since 1967.

About the Author: Dr. Varsha Rathod is a Board Certified Rheumatologist and Internist. Preventive Medicine has focused on a combination of traditional and holistic medicine since 1967. For more information about alternative solutions, visit or call 314-997-5403.n
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