Thyroid hormones provide our body’s cells and tissues with important signals that affect just about every aspect of health. Every system in our bodies is affected, including our nervous and immune systems and also the functions that regulate temperature and metabolic rate.
An underperforming thyroid can lead to weight gain (fat, not muscle!), sluggishness or fatigue, brain fog and depression, digestive problems, and high cholesterol. Knowing those consequences, you’d want (and expect) your doctor to order a full thyroid profile to fully assess your thyroid. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case!
The TSH test is the primary lab ordered in a screening for low thyroid. TSH is not actually thyroid hormone! TSH is released by the brain as a signal for the thyroid gland to begin production of T4, which is a version of thyroid hormone—just not the active version. T4 is released into circulation and converted to T3, which is the active version. It’s the version that does most of the work in your body to maintain metabolism, body temperature, and affect energy production among many, many other important functions.
To stimulate the body to perform in all those important capacities, T3 must bind to receptors in cells and tissues. (Think lock and key to unlock a door!) In certain situations, a form called rT3 is produced (for example in response to stress) that blocks those receptors to which T3 wants and needs to bind. An elevated rT3 can lead to low thyroid function even with normal T3 levels!
Further complicating the thyroid picture, many individuals develop an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s, in which their immune system becomes confused or dysregulated and begins to attack their own thyroid. Two antibodies can be tested that assess for this condition, TPO and TG.
An autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s can lead initially to wild fluctuations of thyroid levels. This can lead to not only low thyroid symptoms, but also “high” thyroid symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and increased stress perception, among others. Eventually, if nothing is done to normalize the immune response, the thyroid gland becomes scarred and doesn’t function, more so as time passes.
There are roughly 82 symptoms of low thyroid function. If the goal is to get a full picture of thyroid function in a patient with one or more of those symptoms, a complete thyroid profile is in order. A more complete screening provides more complete answers. Seems pretty simple, right?
If you are struggling with ongoing fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, and depression, and you haven’t had a full thyroid panel, it’s time you had one.
You should also know that low or “sluggish” thyroid function does’t exist in a bubble, but often leads to a variety of unwanted secondary problems including insulin resistance, being overweight, diabetes, and heart disease.
If you are still hesitant to request these tests from your doctor, you can begin by doing a simple test at home to assess your metabolism. First thing in the morning check your temperature. For additional insight check it mid-day and again in the evening. The human body is designed to maintain a temperature of 98.6 throughout the day. The temperature can be slightly lower first thing in the morning but for the most part our system regulates temperature between 98.2 and 98.6. There are a variety of offenders if your body temperature is persistently low, the most important of which is low thyroid function.
The Lamkin Clinic provides specialty thyroid screening, care, and optimization protocols for people suffering from low thyroid function.