(Health Secrets) Low body temperature, weak heartbeat, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol, water retention, swollen hands or body, PMS, high levels of homocysteine, post-partum depression, hair loss, hyperactivity, and loss of the temporal sides of the eyebrows all signal the possibility of hypothyroidism (low thyroid), a disease that primarily affects women. But many with these problems have been told their thyroid hormone is normal, and sent home to deal with their symptoms by doctors who look at lab reports but ignore the person sitting in front of them.
The questions doctors should be asking include:
- These symptoms are real, so what is the cause of them?
- What would it mean if we gave patients enough thyroid replacement to make their symptoms disappear?
Fortunately a new breed of doctor is appearing who realizes that currently used testing methods for thyroid status are inadequate, and falsely lead to the belief that patients have sufficient thyroid hormones when in reality they do not. These practitioners tend to specialize in anti-aging medicine, and hormone replacement. They are in high demand because they are actually able to make their patients feel better! But there is more to it than diagnosis.
How to take thyroid hormone
Most new breed doctors favor natural thyroid replacement for their patients, and prescribe one of the two most common natural replacements, Armour and Erfa. These forms of thyroid replacement have been around since the 1930’s and shown consistently to be safe and effective.
Take thyroid replacement in the morning on an empty stomach, says Dr. Kathy Maupin. Don’t drink coffee, take other supplements, or eat anything for 20 minutes after you have taken it. That time is needed for the thyroid to be metabolized. She suggests her patients get in the shower after taking thyroid. When they get out, it will be time to go about their business as usual. Lying in bed an extra 20 minutes is a nice idea too.
When you start thyroid hormone replacement, your symptoms should resolve almost immediately, with the exception of weight gain which will also resolve in time. For the first time in probably years, you will be awake and alert all day, and be able to sleep through the night. But this is only if you have been given a dose that is sufficient, but not too much. Getting the dose just right may take some finesse, but the main issue is usually the fact that you have gotten used to your symptoms and your hypothyroidism.
You may have a slightly higher pulse rate at first, maybe up to 80 beats per minute which is still in the normal range. But to someone who has lived years with depressed heart beats at 60 beats per minute, this is a big change. You may feel hyperactive, because you have become comfortable with a low energy level, and you may feel hot because you are accustomed to low body temperature. But most people adjust to the difference by the time 72 hours have passed. If you feel the morning dose is just too much, try taking half the dose in the morning and the other half at around two in the afternoon. That should alleviate any issues.
“Our bodies learn to survive”, says Dr. Maupin. “We get used to our level of symptoms and we get used to our levels of hormones, and then when we are given the normal amount, it feels like too much because it is such a change.”
She sees the doctor’s job as making thyroid hormone replacement acceptable to the patient, in contrast to so many doctors who at the first problem tell their patients to stop taking hormone replacement. They throw up their hands and say ‘forget it’, and you are left still being thyroid deficient and having all those symptoms. Once you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should always be taking thyroid replacement.
What happens to your thyroid gland while you are on thyroid replacement? According to Dr. Maupin, the thyroid gland is still there but it becomes very small and very quiet, which is a benefit. The dysfunctional thyroid can develop problematic cysts, but when thyroid replacement is taken, the cysts shrink away as the thyroid is subdued.
Are your yearly labs telling the whole story?
While many who have prescribed thyroid replacement want to see lab results yearly. Dr. Maupin stresses that:
“Instead of just looking at the hormone level in the blood as an indicator of ‘successful treatment’, I look to see if they [her patients] are displaying symptoms of normal thyroid function — especially focusing on their basal body temperature (BBT). If it is over 97.9, that is a good indicator that they are receiving the proper dose. When someone’s BBT is normal and the symptoms are resolved, we have achieved the proper level of thyroid [replacement].”
What can interfere with those yearly lab tests
- The quality and quantity of thyroid hormone replacement.
- Antibodies in the receptor sites or to the thyroid hormone, or to the thyroid itself.
- Receptor sites that are abnormal secondary to autoimmune complexes that slow down or block the process of cell activation.
- Abnormal thyroid hormone made by the patient’s thyroid gland that looks good on paper, but doesn’t work at the cellular level.
- Increased cortisol that decreases the amount of active thyroid in the blood by increasing the L-T3 form (reverse T3) that is not functional, but makes tests look normal, when they are not.
- Genetic inability to metabolize thyroid hormone, or to convert it to active form.
- The introduction of synthetic thyroid medication like Synthroid that can cause the TSH to appear normal but is not converting to the active form of T3 because of other hormone abnormalities or genetic abnormality.
There are a myriad of drugs that cause thyroid hormone to metabolize ineffectively and prevent normal stimulation of cellular activity by thyroid hormone.
What’s the bottom line? You don’t have to settle for a life of progressing symptoms. There are doctors out there who will be responsive to your needs and able to help you regain that person you used to be.