You have been experiencing thyroid symptoms, yet your Doctor told you your TSH was within a normal range.
Now it’s time to find a Doctor who will request a FULL thyroid panel, including thyroid antibodies. This will give you and your care provider a more complete picture as to what is going on.
Although Western medical Doctors including endocrinologists might not be educated on this (they are trained to prescribe medication rather than addressing and healing the root cause). They typically test your TSH level and it if falls within one particular range (usually 4.0 or under), they will tell you your thyroid is functioning in a normal range. However, you might still be struggling, and your thyroid might not be functioning optimally. People with TSH’s of higher than 1.5 can show symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
What are some of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction?
*Weight gain or inability to lose weight
*Cold hands and feet (poor circulation)
*Itchy dry skin
*Thinning in the outer third of the eyebrows
*Hair falls out easily
*Difficulty gaining weight
There are more thorough tests besides TSH alone that can give real answers. There are lifestyle and dietary changes that you can make to help support the health of your thyroid. It is important to find a care provider who understands the affect your diet and lifestyle have on the the health of your thyroid, and are willing to work with you to make these necessary changes.
This first piece is just to describe the full-panel and what it means. In subsequent pieces, I will address some lifestyle and nutritional changes you can make to help support your thyroid. There are many factors that come into play, such as diet, health of your gut, exposure to toxins, hormones, and stress levels. There are natural ways to support thyroid function and stop further destruction of this delicate endocrine organ. It is important to work with a practitioner who understands the complexity and balancing act, and works with you and your bio-individual needs.
What is a full-thyroid panel?
Source: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests are Normal, Daris Kharrazian, 2010
TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone or thyrotropin. It is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Testing TSH levels is the standard that most endocrinologists use in determining thyroid function. However, your TSH could be considered “normal” by your Doctor, and you get told your thyroid is fine. However, you’re still experiencing thyroid symptoms, right? TSH alone does not give all the answers. This test fails to account for a host of other factors. Mine was in the “normal” range according the endocrinologist. However, it was actually in a higher range than I would have liked to see (the standard for what is considered normal at 4.0 or lower is questionable). Many people with a TSH in the higher end of that range are feeling pretty lousy, yet still told their thyroid is normal. I also had thyroid antibodies that the first Doctor did not test me for (more on antibodies below).
Total Thyroxine (TT4):
Measures both bound and unbound T4 levels. Thyroid hormones travel through the bloodstream bound to proteins fore they are released to enter the cells and thus becoming unbound.
Free Thyroxine Index (FTI):
Total T4 and T3 Uptake considered together, measures activity of free or unbound T4. Free Thyroxine Index should be within a normal range if thyroid is functioning properly.
Free T4 (FT4)
Measures the amount of free or active T4 in the blood. Factors that impact TT4 will NOT impact FT4. FT4 is high with hyperthyroidism and low with hypothyroidism.
Free T3 (FT3)
Measures free T3 hormone and is the best indicator for measuring active thyroid hormones available to receptor sites. This test is rarely requested in conventional western medicine, and gives a great deal of info as to what is going on.
Reverse T3 (RT3)
Measures the amount of reverse T3 produced. This test helps with determining if high cortisol/stress/adrenals are playing a role in affecting thyroid function. Increased production of T3 is due to inability to clear reverse T3 and from high cortisol.
Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG)
Measures the amount of proteins in the blood that carry thyroid hormones to the cells. Elevated Testosterone and Estrogen can cause a change in the TBG, thus producing hypothyroid symptoms.
I made this one the biggest. One thing I will never understand is WHY Doctors fail to check antibodies for the thyroid. Most people with thyroid issues have undiagnosed Hashimotos (Autoimmune Thyroid). If the TSH level is high (by western medical standards), the individual may be put on a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement (usually T4 only). If it’s not high, the person may struggle with symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, hormone issues, and mental health issues for years and never get a diagnosis. Meanwhile, their thyroid is being attacked by their own body. Thyroid antibodies means that the bodies own immune system is attacking the thyroid. This is true for both hyper and hypo autoimmune thyroid. This is an autoimmune condition, meaning the individual needs to make huge lifestyle/dietary changes in order to stop the attack on their own thyroid. Most western Medical Doctors fail to recognize this, and will wait until the thyroid stops functioning or in some cases even needs to be removed. Thyroid antibodies in the blood indicate a positive autoimmune thyroid condition. Make sure to request having your thyroid antibodies checked.
I was told I had thyroid antibodies by a receptionist, who said my thyroid was fine now (because my TSH was under 4.0). She said once my thyroid stopped functioning at an “ideal” (according to their standards) level, they would put me on a medication. In the meantime, it is expected that I would just struggle with weight gain, fatigue, and mood changes that go along with the swings between hypo and hyper thyroid as the body is attacking itself. Through my own intense research I was able to find answers and change the course of my life. It is my goal to help as many people as possible to stop struggling and to find the right answers. As a Nutritional Therapist, I work with my clients to heal their gut and stop the autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
My take-home message is to always be your own advocate. You may need to switch care providers, and do a lot of work yourself. In subsequent posts I will discuss lifestyle changes and ways to support the health of your thyroid. I will also share some good gut healing protocols that I support my clients through.
Kathryn Kos is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) through The Nutritional Therapy Association, and a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor through The University of San Diego. Her undergraduate degree is in Movement Science from Westfield State College. Her Master’s degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling from Springfield College. She specialize in healing digestion, balancing blood sugar, balancing hormones, autoimmune conditions, weight loss, and feeding infants and children.
“My own health struggles occurred through years of following mainstream western nutritional advice led me down this path. I was eating what I thought was a very healthy diet (following conventional medical advice). However, I was struggling with feeling good inside and out. I ended up being diagnosed with several Autoimmune Conditions. I was having horrible gall bladder attacks and living on antacids. My thyroid was enlarged, and I struggled with anxiety and insomnia. My endocrinologist wanted to wait until my thyroid stopped functioning, and put me on a medication. That was the only solution offered. Doctors wanted to put me on medications. My philosophy is to find and heal the root cause of the problem, rather than fix the symptoms by taking a medication or removing an organ.Through my own intense research, I began my real food journey. My health changed drastically and my autoimmune markers went way down. I started to feel amazing and wanted to share my experience on a big level. I am so excited to share my knowledge with you! I am dedicated to helping you realize what your bio-individual nutrition needs are, and giving you the tools to make positive changes in your life!”
-Kathryn Kos, NTP
Great post! I think it’s awesome that more and more information is coming available for thyroid dysfunction. I was tested by my doctor after two miscarriages and was told I was normal. I felt in my gut that something wasn’t right and after doing my own research went to a Naturopath to get more answers. I discovered I was hypothyroid and had extremely low progesterone both which contribute to miscarriage and fertility. This all just recently happened so I’m continuing to do my research and learn about how to best heal my body. Currently I’m taking progesterone, Thyroid Px and Adaptogen to raise my T3 which was low and balance out my adrenals. Do you have any experience or thoughts on those?
I’m happy you found a good Naturopath and were able to find some real answers! Are you using bio-identical progesterone cream? I suggest researching that as well. That is great that you are supporting your adrenals as adrenal function has a profound impact on the thyroid. Looks like you are doing the right things! As a Nutritional Therapist, I help with supporting the thyroid through nutritional protocols that promote gut healing, fatty acid balance for hormone formation/balance, dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as supplement recommendations that support thyroid and adrenal function. However, I do not prescribe any thyroid hormone or medications. I hope you are able to find balance and continued healing. Looks like you are starting down the right path! 🙂