According to Dr. Steven F. Hotze, physician and author of the book Hormones, Health & Happiness, under-active thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism, is rapidly becoming a health epidemic in the United States. A common health issue for women, hypothyroidism is routinely misdiagnosed in thousands and thousands of women, due in large part, says Dr. Hotze, to the fact that:
“The laboratory range of what is considered normal thyroid function is an arbitrary value with a range that is so vast, that 90 to 95% of the population will fall into the “normal range.”
The problem of misdiagnosis associated with this standard is so wide spread, that The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha conducted the Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study in 2000, and determined that as many as 13 million Americans may be unaware or undiagnosed for hypothyroidism. While the guideline has been revised since the study was released, many physicians and health care providers continue to use it as their primary diagnostic tool for hypothyroidism.
Another issue that contributes to the misdiagnosis is that physicians tend to rely primarily on just one test – the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test. Mia Lundin, Nurse Practitioner, and author of the book, The Female Brain Gone Insane, says that in order to get an accurate picture of thyroid function, healthcare providers should test not only for TSH levels, but for thyroid antibodies, and two other very important hormones as well: T4 and T3.
What are T4 and T3?
Thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) are the hormones primarily responsible for regulating your body’s metabolism and maintaining a consistent body temperature. Of the two hormones, your body releases more T4, although the majority of T4 is converted into T3. Many physicians believe that the body converts as much T4 to T3 as it needs. However, according to Mia Lundin, this is an erroneous assumption which further contributes to the problem of misdiagnosis.
What is Hypothyroidism and What are the Symptoms?
In simplest terms, hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped organ in your neck located just below the Adam’s apple, or larynx, does not produce enough of the hormones TSH, T4 & T3.
Common symptoms of low thyroid function are brittle, ridged nails, dry hair, hair loss, stubborn weight gain, constant cold hands & feet, and fatigue. Less commonly known symptoms also include:
Body aches Anxiety Allergies Infertility Heart palpitations Depression Headaches Heavy menstrual cycles Fuzzy thinking, short-term memory loss Pale skin Poor concentration Weakness
How is Hypothyroidism Best Diagnosed?
According to Mia Lundin, in order to accurately test for hypothyroidism, patients should undergo a complete series of thyroid tests, which would include the TSH test, along with other blood tests which measure the levels of T4, T3, and thyroid antibody levels.
Blood tests, says Mia, are the most accurate measure for diagnosing hypothyroidism. However, including the basal body temperature can also help as a general measure as well. Because your thyroid controls your basal body temperature, it can help you gauge how much T3 is active in your cells.
If your basal body temperature is below 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 3 days in a row, it is very likely your thyroid function is low. Following up with the necessary blood tests would then be appropriate to get a better picture.
If you think you may be suffering with hypothyroidism, but have been told by your physician that your thyroid function is normal, seek a second opinion. It may be that more tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Hotze, Steven F., M.D., (2005). Hormones, Health & Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones. Houston, TX: Forrest Publishing.
Lundin, Mia, Nurse Practitioner. (2009). The Female Brain Gone Insane: An Emergency Guide for Women Who Feel Like They Are Falling Apart. Deerfield, FL: Health Communications, Inc.