Are you feeling exhausted? Are you losing or gaining weight, but you don’t know why? And how about your hair? Is it falling out for no explicable reason? That’s enough to boggle anyone’s mind and leave you feeling frustrated, stressed out, and maybe even pulling the rest of your hair out. Even though it may seem hopeless, the solution to this mystery may be simpler than you think. All of the evidence could point to a thyroid disorder – that is, something affecting your thyroid levels.
Over the years, we’ve provided many informational posts about the thyroid, so if this butterfly-shaped gland is new to you, we recommend checking out a few of them here (list opens in new tab). That way, you’ll have a solid understanding of
- what the thyroid is,
- how it works,
- why it may be malfunctioning, and
- what you can do about it.
However, this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get from patients or potential patients about thyroid levels.
The Most Common Question is: What is TSH?
TSH stands for thyroid-stimulating hormone. So what is that, exactly?
Thyroid-stimulating hormone is a hormone that the pituitary gland produces and releases into the bloodstream. It’s the master controller of the production of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). TSH does this by binding to receptors located on cells in your thyroid gland.
T3 and T4 are vital to your health because they maintain your body’s
- metabolic rate,
- heart health,
- digestive functions,
- muscle control,
- brain development, and
- bone maintenance.
What Happens When Thyroid Levels Are High?
If your TSH level is higher than it should be, that means that your pituitary gland has noticed that thyroid hormone is low. So it pumps out a whole lot of TSH to try to get the system back into balance. When this happens, it means you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
If you have high TSH levels, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- memory problems
- slowed heart rate
- weight gain
- swollen, stiff, or painful joints
- dry skin
- dry hair
- hair loss
- changes in menstruation
- increased sensitivity to cold
When untreated, hypothyroidism in adults can lead to:
- heart disease
- heart failure
- goiter (visibly enlarged thyroid)
- depression, which may become severe
- peripheral neuropathy
- myxedema (severely advanced hypothyroidism)
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
What Happens When Thyroid Levels Are Low?
If your TSH level is lower than the normal range, then your pituitary gland has noticed that your thyroid hormone level is too high, so it decreases TSH production. The underlying cause of high levels of thyroid hormone is an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
If you have low TSH levels, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- heart palpitations (pounding heart)
- unexplained weight loss
- feeling agitated or nervous
- tremors in the hands and fingers
- fatigue or exhaustion
- feeling hungry more often than usual
- thinning of the skin or hair
- change in bowel movements, especially increased frequency
- increased sweating
- changes in the menstrual cycle
When left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to:
- unintentional weight loss
- atrial fibrillation
- eye-bulging or trouble with vision (more likely to occur if your overactive thyroid is associated with Graves’ disease)
- thyrotoxic crisis (thyroid storm)
Can Your Thyroid Cause Hair Loss?
Absolutely. Severe and prolonged thyroid disorders can cause you to lose massive amounts of hair all over your scalp. Hair loss caused by thyroid disease becomes apparent several months after the onset of thyroid disease because hair grows in cycles and not all at once.
Hair will usually come back once the thyroid disorder has been treated, but regrowth will take several months, and you may not get all of your hair back.
Are Thyroid Problems Hereditary?
Yes. Some thyroid disorders are passed down through families, particularly those that involve autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s and Graves’. According to studies, 67% of thyroid hormone and TSH concentrations are genetically determined.
However, researchers are still working to solve the mysteries around the thyroid and its hormones.
Can Your Thyroid Cause Weight Gain?
One of the most common signs of a thyroid disorder is unexplained weight gain. Weight gain can signal low levels of thyroid hormones. This condition is called hypothyroidism (see above). An underactive thyroid will lead to anywhere from 10 to 30+ pounds of weight gain that is primarily made up of water and salt.
How is a Thyroid Test Done?
Checking thyroid levels only requires your doctor to administer and analyze some simple blood tests. Thyroid blood tests measure the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Results usually take 1-3 days to come back after the blood draw.
Most doctors do not recommend fasting before your thyroid function test because research shows that fasting may impact TSH levels, especially early in the morning.
What Are My Choices For Thyroid Optimization?
Your best options for thyroid optimization are any means of natural thyroid support.
For this reason, most treatment plans will include
- changes to your diet,
- exercise, and
- hormone replacement therapy.
What is Natural Thyroid Hormone Replacement?
When using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to boost thyroid levels, it’s important to pay attention to what kind of hormones are being used.
Many doctors use synthetic hormones like levothyroxine to treat thyroid disorders. The problem with using synthetic hormones is that they only contain synthetic T4, which often leaves you with suboptimal thyroid or even deficient thyroid levels.
On the other hand, natural thyroid hormone replacement uses desiccated thyroid hormone like Nature-Throid, Armour Thyroid, or compounded preparations that contain both T4 and T3. Optimizing T3 levels with sustained levels throughout the day is the key to helping you feel your best.
Are You Ready to Optimize Your Thyroid Levels?
Dr. Lamkin is here for you. His approach to optimizing your thyroid levels starts with a comprehensive consultation and initial lab tests that include testing the following thyroid levels:
- T3 (free)
- T4 (free)
- Reverse T3
- Thyroglobulin antibody
- Thyroid peroxidase antibody
After thoroughly reviewing your case, Dr. Lamkin will present you with treatment options and recommend a course of thyroid optimization treatment. Take your first step to feeling better, and contact us today.