By Alan Christianson, NMD
Did you know that thyroid disease can cause unexplained weight gain and fatigue? It can also cause depression, hair loss, anxiety, dry skin and poor memory. When tested randomly, at least 10% of adults are found to have thyroid disease. An additional 10-15% of adults may have early thyroid disease.
Unfortunately, many with early disease are tested and found to have 'normal' thyroid function. Furthermore many being treated for thyroid disease still have many of the symptoms remain.
Why is it that so many people are not diagnosed? And why are half of those already on treatment not feeling better?
Simply put, the shortcoming is in the "normal range" numbers of the thyroid tests that most doctors rely on. Laboratory ranges can be decided on or just averaged.
For blood sugar levels, for example, panels of researchers review glucose levels in people who have become diabetic and compared it to what their blood sugar levels were in the years preceding their diagnosis. Those whose morning fasting blood sugar levels are under 99 were found to have lower rates of becoming diabetic. Therefore 99 is considered the upper limit of the "normal range".
For thyroid disease the ranges are simply averages. What this means is that a lab will review 10,000 scores from a thyroid test and create a high and low range based on this group. The low range is the lowest 2.5% of scores and high range is the highest 2.5%.
The problem with this method is that these normal values are only reflective of whomever is being tested. Who gets a thyroid test done? Primarily two groups: those known to have thyroid disease and those suspected of having it. These two groups should not be expected to have the same thyroid blood levels as those with optimal thyroid function, yet this is the assumption inherent in the normal ranges.
So what is the solution? If you or someone you love has possible hypothyroid symptoms, have a complete panel of tests done including TSH, thyroid antibodies, free t3 and free t4. Look for your TSH to be in the optimal range of 0.3 - 1.5.
If it is not or if the other tests are abnormal, you may benefit from thyroid treatment. If you doctor does not agree, look for one recommended by thyroid patients such as www.thyroid-info.com/topdrs/
Whether you have thyroid disease or not, here are five easy steps you can take to improve your thyroid function:
1. Get the Right Amount of Iodine.
You want iodized salt for use at home. Sea salt can also be found in iodized forms. All the extra salt we get in processed foods and at restaurants gives us too much sodium but no iodine. Eat seafood, any kind helps. Have some seaweed every now and then like Nori found on sushi. Take a multi that contains about 100 mcg of iodine. Avoid very high doses of iodine found in kelp and iodine supplements. Too much is as bad or worse than too little.
2. Consume selenium.
This mineral helps your body better utilize thyroid hormones. Getting your needed 200 mcg can be as easy as 1 brazil nut per day or a good multivitamin.
3. Minimize Mercury.
Seafood is great but be aware of high-mercury seafood. The biggest no-no is don't eat tuna daily. The most complete current data is from the FDA:www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-
4. Avoid Perchlorate.
This is a toxic by product from rocket and jet fuels. It also forms spontaneously in the arid Southwest soil and ends up in our water. We absorb it from our skin and intestines. Once in our bodies it prevents our thyroid glands from absorbing iodine. Solutions: drink purified water only, not tap water. Ideally use a filter for your shower also. We also get this from dry cleaning. Take your clothes out the bag ASAP and ideally let them off-gas in the sunshine for a few hours before wearing.
The more aerobic activity you do the lower your odds are of developing thyroid disease. Keep your blood moving!?In the case of suspected thyroid disease or any other symptom, never assume that you need to suffer. Educate yourself and take action. You deserve to feel your best!
About Alan Christianson
Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD, is founder and president of Integrative Health clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. Integrative Health offers a fresh approach to living well by using a novel formula for science-based natural medicine. He and his team of physicians discover the cause of each patient's troubling symptoms and protects their long-term health and quality of life.
Dr. Christianson's primary focus is diagnosing hidden cases of thyroid disease and assisting those already diagnosed to resolve hypothyroid symptoms including weight gain, fatigue and hair loss.Currently he is co-authoring The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid for Penguin publishers, and the thyroid section for the Textbook of Natural Medicine - both due for publication in mid-2011.