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According to some, thyroid disease is epidemic in this country. "Never in the history of modern medicine has there been an epidemic of such proportion that has gone unrecognized." Dr. Mark Starr, M.D.
The thyroid gland is probably the most over-looked, under diagnosed gland in the human body. The small, butterfly shaped gland that resides in the throat is one of a family of glands called the endocrine system. Its functioning is extremely intricate – and crucial to the health and well-being of a person, yet it is often passed over with a wave of the hand or quick glance at a blood test that may suggest the gland is functioning properly when in fact it may be the cause of multiple severe problems. How can this happen? The test tells your doctor that the thyroid is fine, yet the thyroid’s malfunction is making your life hell and worse by the day.
The symptoms of thyroid malfunction, in this case hypothyroidism – or low thyroid function, may sound all too familiar: weight gain, lowered body temperature, lack of energy, fluid retention, chronic constipation, nervous disorders, loss of memory and thinking ability, arthralgia, headaches, hair loss, changes in voice, anemia, loss of libido, infertility, visual disturbances, carpal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon, hypoglycemia, and flaky, thin nails. These are only the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. A person suffering from an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) will display a whole other range of symptoms, such as nervousness, anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, feeling hot all the time, heart palpitations and irregular pulse. In addition, exophthalmos, or bulging, staring eyes may be apparent.
Simply put, the list of symptoms indicating a malfunctioning thyroid is exhaustive. Even elevated cholesterol may be directly linked to hypothyroidism.
There are many reasons why the thyroid is subject to such malfunction, from an environment loaded with toxins to genetic influences, but more importantly, why is the malfunction often not detected by the normal thyroid blood test? Partly this is due to the type of test often administered.
According to Dr. Barry Durrant-Peatfield, there have been about 40 different tests for thyroid illness because not one has been found to be reliable, and can actually “…produce a false picture of the true situation.” According to Dr. Durrant-Peatfield, one reason the blood tests for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) may be unreliable is that it only tests the level of thyroid hormone in the blood. “What we need to know is the level of throid in the tissues, and, of course, this the blood test cannot tell us.” In point of fact, it may come as no surprise to learn that some European doctors “…have been aware that blood tests may not just be useless, but worse than useless, since sick people are sent packing, or are given the wrong treatment.”
A better test to check for thyroid function , and one you can do at home free of charge, is called the Basal Temperature Test. Immediately upon awakening, take your temperature. If you use a mercury glass thermometer, take your temperature for approximately three minutes, or place the thermometer in your armpit for ten minutes. The idea here is that if your temperature is two to three degrees below normal, it is extremely likely that you have a low functioning thyroid. It is normal for everyone’s temperature to drop slightly when they sleep, but only a few tenths of a degree. Simply put, if your waking temperature is 97.6 or less, it is possible you could be hypothyroid.
This temperature testing needs to be done for three weeks. Record this information along with your pulse rate. A person with hypothyroid issues may register a pulse rate of 60, while someone with an overactive thyroid may have a pulse beating at 90. Don’t jump to conclusions based on the pulse rate alone, however. The pulse rate should only be taken into consideration along with temperature and blood pressure readings. Be more alert to other symptoms that you may have brushed off, such as ankle swelling, or a facial puffiness or bags around the eyes.
Take note of physical symptoms you may be suffering, and seriously consider that many of your ailments could be the result of a low functioning thyroid. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those ailments you’ve been chalking up to “old age” may, in fact, be reversible? Fortunately, other tests for thyroid function are beginning to gain attention and warrant further investigation and study, among those being the urine test and the salivary test. One of these tests may be appropriate for you.
The thyroid does not stand or function alone. It is intricately connected to other functions in the body, including the adrenals and the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and other hormones. This could well explain why people in a hypothyroid state often experience “female problems” or “male menopause” problems. In fact, a hysterectomy may very well affect thyroid activity. And for males, a low testosterone state is all part of the hypothyroid state. In addition, according to Dr. Durrant-Peatfield, low thyroid output is a major cause of high cholesterol, more than bad eating.
Your thyroid, a gland you may never really give much thought to, may be failing and causing many of your woes. Although it does not function alone and is intimately bound with the rest of your endocrine system, it seems to run amok creating havoc for its fellow partners in the endocrine system. Don’t stop at your doctor’s blood test. Do your own basal temperature tests. Be informed and prepared to do battle for your health. Neglecting a malfunctioning thyroid will only lead to a downward spiral in one’s health, causing untold misery and illness which might otherwise easily be remedied. Don’t wait until you are at death’s door before your “blood work” finally reveals a low functioning thyroid!
R.L. Coffield is the author of the award-winning suspense novel, Northern Escape and the humorous, travel/adventure memoir, Life Was A Cabaret: A Tale of Two Fools, A Boat, and a Big A** Ocean.