For those who are wondering why they have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) but always test in the ‘normal’ range, take heart-you are not crazy and there may indeed be something not quite right with your thyroid. First of all, the thyroid tests used by laboratories are notoriously inaccurate, being ‘off by three standard deviations’ (pretty much useless except in certain cases).
Adding to the confusion is the difference between T3 and rT3 (Triiodothyronine and reverse Triiodothyronine). T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone in the blood and is converted from T4, which is produced in much larger amounts than T3. Synthetic T4 is what is provided in pharmaceutical medicines, which works fine as long as everything else in the pathway is working.
The tricky part comes when T3 is no longer being converted from T4, instead being converted into rT3 (reverse triiodothyronine). Think of it like this: reverse forms of the natural substances that we need are chemical mirror images. They are exactly flipped and don’t work the same way. Because the chemical ‘lock’ is oriented either right or left and the reversed form is oriented in the opposite direction, the reversed ‘key’ just doesn’t fit.
For instance, our bodies use D-glucose (dextrose) with is a right-rotatory molecule. L-glucose-a left-rotatory molecule–cannot be metabolized. It can taste the same, look the same, often have the same properties (dissolving in water the same, burning the same, etc) but it still is not D-glucose. So since the tissues of the body need T3, and rT3 won’t fit the lock, the symptoms of hypothyroidism occur.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism have been treated by many physicians as indicative of hypothyroidism despite ‘normal’ lab tests. Those symptoms include the following:
Hair loss (head and outer part of eyebrows)
Hormonal problems (men and women)
Most of the time physicians just order a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test, which does pick up blatant changes like the true hypothyroid state of not producing enough (which causes an elevation in the TSH levels) or the hyperthyroid state of extremely low (producing too much, which causes a drop in the TSH levels). The others-more than 80%–of us that are producing rT3 get told there is nothing wrong with us, it’s all in our heads, and the lab tests are normal. For more on what to do about that, see the other articles in this series.
To perform the ‘poor man’s thyroid test’ is easy. First get a thermometer that is easy to read-not a fever thermometer. You want a ‘basal body thermometer’ or ‘pregnancy thermometer’ because you need to be able to actually read the small increments of temperature. The standard is the mercury thermometer but you can also use a digital thermometer if you must but it is not recommended as they can be very inaccurate.
Shake down the thermometer so the mercury is all the way down and place it safely on the bedside table to use in the morning. The axillary temperature is the usual preferred place to take the temperature. Just be sure to place the tip of the thermometer right in the middle of the armpit and hold the arm tight against the body for 10 minutes. Most doctors will tell you to start taking the temperature about three hours after you wake up, and then twice more at three hour intervals. The trick is to make sure the temperature is checked at the same time and during the same levels of activity every day, for one week. Some of us like to have the early morning temperature recorded and averaged in also.
Take at least three temperature readings daily and average them together, recording that average, for one week. Normal temperatures are low in the morning and highest in the late afternoon. There are plenty of references to the Broda Barnes method of thyroid evaluation, where it is suggested that below normal is 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Denis Wilson (Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome) suggests that 97.8 degrees is too low for proper metabolic functioning and that 98.6 or higher is preferable (which has been the case for my own patients).
If people were running higher temperatures during the teenage years, that might be one indication that a higher than ‘normal’ temperature would be desirable. If someone ran 99.6 during healthy teenage and young adult years, and then dropped to 97.8 in middle age, that could be an indication that driving the temperature back up into the 98.9 to 99.6 range might be better-for that person.
Of course, each person is different and needs to watch out for heart palpitations and anxiety (good indicators of too much thyroid).
Once the week-long temperature evaluation is done and found to be below normal, one can approach a naturopathic or holistic doctor to determine the next step. Or, one could try iodine supplementation, which might take care of the problem all by itself. In any case, avoid things that load the system up with bromide, fluoride and chloride. Since too many people are way shy of having anything approaching the required dose of iodine in the diet, adding some supplementation via shellfish, kelp and other sea vegetables could make a huge difference. For those who hate the very thought of tasting iodine-which is admittedly pretty nasty-there are pill forms that can help.
© 2010 Dr.Valerie Olmsted All Rights Reserved