Thyroid issues are on the rise.
It used to be that we saw 3-4 patients per week in our medical office with thyroid disorders. Now, we see 3-4 cases per day. These patients are victims of a wide range of debilitating issues. Brain fog, weight gain, anxiety, and muscle weakness are just a few of the crippling symptoms we commonly see.
More troubling is the fact that 60% of people with a thyroid disorder are not aware of their condition. The reason? TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) testing does not offer the complete picture. If your TSH screening is normal but you still have unexplained symptoms, consider the benefits of our supplementary lab tests.
What if Thyroid Disease Goes Undiagnosed?
Undiagnosed thyroid disorders can lead to devastating consequences. Statistics show that 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime. Women in the United States are hardest hit, as 1 in 8 will develop thyroid disease in their lifetime. An untreated thyroid disorder can lead to serious consequences, like: infertility, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the most common thyroid disorder) or Grave’s disease, you have an autoimmune disease. Having one autoimmune disease triples your risk of developing another, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or celiac disease. Did you know that autoimmune diseases have increased by 400% over the last decade—again, mostly in women—yet most people aren’t aware of it!
What is the Benefit of Early Detection?
Before you start to worry that you have every autoimmune disease in the book, let me remind you that early detection and appropriate treatment can reverse the course of the disease and protect you from long-term risks. This is true for all autoimmune diseases, but it is particularly true for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Thyroid disease does not develop overnight. It comes on gradually, with only subtle and vague symptoms at first. You might just feel tired or depressed, for example. Even before symptoms become obvious, we can detect changes in blood test results that show there is a problem with the thyroid. If we see changes on a blood test at an early stage, we can potentially reverse the trajectory of the thyroid disease, improve symptoms, and avoid the lifelong consequences.
If you have a thyroid disorder, early detection and treatment can change your life. This is the same approach that is used with breast cancer (early detection), but most doctors are not doing it. Most health care providers screen patients for TSH level, but TSH is not the final verdict. There are more comprehensive screening tests that can be performed, and that is exactly what we do at our office. I will explain all about TSH and further testing next.
What if My TSH Test is Normal?
TSH stands for thyroid-stimulating hormone. TSH is the routine screening test that your doctor probably orders every year at your annual physical. It is also the first test a doctor will order to screen for thyroid disease. TSH plays a central role in thyroid function: it is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormone. If the thyroid gland is underactive and does not produce thyroid hormone, the pituitary pumps out more and more TSH to try to get the thyroid to work. TSH goes up in most cases of an underactive thyroid. The opposite is true if the thyroid gland is overactive; TSH goes down. For decades, TSH has been the main test used to screen for and detect an underactive or overactive thyroid gland.
TSH is an important indicator of thyroid function, but it is not the only indicator. Other tests will often show abnormalities at an earlier stage of thyroid disease. We offer a comprehensive thyroid test that evaluates TSH, several forms of thyroid hormone (free T4, free T3, and reverse T3), and antibodies related to autoimmune thyroid disorders (anti-TPO and anti-TGA). When we evaluate patients with this comprehensive panel, we often detect early changes in one or more parameters that alert us of a problem.
Thorough screening with a more comprehensive thyroid panel is the best way to achieve early detection of thyroid disorders.
How is Thyroid Disease Treated?
The treatment for thyroid disease depends on the exact disease diagnosed. The treatment for an underactive thyroid, like in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is very different than the treatment for an overactive thyroid, like in Grave’s disease. The treatment for non-autoimmune hypothyroid is different than the treatment for autoimmune Hashimoto’s.
In cases of the most common form of thyroid disease—Hashimoto’s—we not only directly treat the thyroid but also treat the immune system to calm the autoimmune response and decrease inflammation in the body. This is not necessarily the approach you will see in most conventional doctors’ offices. We take a more holistic and integrative approach because we view the body as a system of parts working together, rather than separately. The beauty of this integrative approach is that when we calm the autoimmune response, we not only improve thyroid function but also reduce your risk of developing additional autoimmune diseases.
This is truly preventive medicine.
In our treatment of thyroid disorders, we often combine pharmaceutical medications (such as prescription thyroid hormone) with natural treatments. The essential mineral selenium, for example, has been shown to significantly calm the autoimmune response and decrease levels of TPO antibodies in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
I have discussed some of the various treatment approaches for thyroid disease here, but please know that every person is unique. When we identify potential thyroid disease in a patient, we consider their overall symptom picture, evaluate additional lab tests, and calculate their risk factors based on lifestyle and family history. We create a specific treatment plan to direct every patient on a unique path to health.
Should I Have My Thyroid Tested?
The symptoms of a thyroid disease in its early stage are vague and difficult to pinpoint. Before you start worrying that your thyroid is under attack, please visit us in the office. We can evaluate your symptoms and order appropriate lab tests. Remember that our approach may be different than what you have experienced with other doctors. We will order a comprehensive thyroid panel to optimize our chances of early detection of disease. If we notice abnormalities, we will recommend the most natural therapies possible to reverse the course of the disease.
If you have any questions about your symptoms or thyroid disease, please call our office to make an appointment with one of our providers. 303-343-3121
We look forward to serving you!
The material contained herein is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Please refer to the full text of the Legal Disclaimer on www.thecaregrouppc.com.
American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/. Accessed November 1, 2017.
Turker O, Kumanlioglu K, Karapolat I, Dogan I. Selenium treatment in autoimmune thyroiditis: 9-month follow-up with variable doses. J Endocrinol. 2006;190(1):151-156.
About the Author: Dr. Gerard Guillory, MD is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has published two books on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In 1985, he opened The Care Group, PC. Today, his clinic is a Primary Care facility that is a hybrid of functional and traditional medicine treating patients with digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, and other conditions. You can learn more about Dr. Guillory here.