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Hypothyroidism— the Most Under-Diagnosed Condition

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As many as more than 27 million Americans have an undiagnosed thyroid condition, most of the population being women over 40.

Oprah Winfrey told ABC’s Good Morning America host Robin Roberts that, “she blew out her thyroid.” What this means from my perspective as a naturopathic physician is that her adrenal glands – or stress glands became burned out, putting strain on the thyroid gland and “wearing it out” – or “blowing it out” in her words. Because her diagnosis was Hashimotos Thyroiditis, we know that there is an autoimmunity behind her imbalance which actually starts in the gastrointestinal tract. It would behoove her to look at food allergies to prevent future problems of an autoimmune condition, rather than just addressing the thyroid condition. Remember, we are more than one system; we are one complete system of integrated energy. What affects one gland, affects the whole body.

One exposure on Oprah stated,” She was simply over stressed and feeling exhausted. She is said to have taken vitamins, drunk Soymilk, munched golden flaxseed and ate fresh food and at the end of the month she felt better.” Her initial symptoms were lethargy and weight gain. The most common symptoms of low thyroid are fatigue, weight gain, constipation and depression. Additionally I see that most people are sensitive to cold, have memory issues, insomnia and experience hormonal shifts earlier in life. Sometimes simple PMS is a result of low thyroid. Unfortunately, many people with sub-clinical thyroid disorders (meaning they don’t show up on labs) are put on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications when thyroid medication could have taken care of the symptoms.

Natural Therapies for Treating Thyroid Imbalances

There are many natural approaches to treating the thyroid gland, which in my opinion help before an “overt” thyroid condition exists. Once the overt symptoms and signs are present, thyroid hormones are the best approach. I use a blended T3T4 “natural” pharmaceutical called Naturethroid.

Nutritionally we become deficient in specific nutrients that the thyroid uses in it’s conversion of thyroid hormone like L-tyrosine, selenium, Vitamin D, Vitamin A. Some herbs to consider are equisetum, oatstraw, alfalfa, and gotu kola to promote a healthy thyroid. Homeopahtic remedies are also effective and are specifically chosen for each personality. The most common one that I use is called Thyroidinum – which is thyroid hormone in the energetic form – not thyroid at all, just the vibration of it.

Soy and the Thyroid

The US FDA is very critical of soy because of the goitrogenic effects, which means that soy enlarges the thyroid and causes imbalances. Although this is true, there is so much more to the story. Soy in our country is the most heavily pesticide sprayed plant. If you consume many non-organic soy products, you are not only negatively affecting your thyroid gland, but your whole body. Fermented soy is much healthier, carrying less risk for goiter formation. In our culture, if something is considered healthy, we believe that more is better. Unfortunately, in the countries that eat soy daily, they have less risks of disease, eat very small quantities and mostly fermented soy products.

Diagnosing Hypothyroidism

The standard testing is to measure the TSH level. This is an antiquated use of labs and not specific or adequate for diagnosing. Optimally we should be looking at Free T3 and Free T4. The standard measurements, again in my opinion, are too low. Although I don’t force people into “numbers” – most people with low thyroid symptoms also have low hormone levels of free T3 and free T4. However, even if labs are within my optimal range as a physician, if patients have persistent symptoms that suggest low thyroid, I will do a “thyroid trial”. Immediately people will either have symptoms as it was the wrong therapy or they will have dissolution of their symptoms. Most important to know is that starting thyroid medication doesn’t always mean that you are on it for life. We can dose it high enough to give your thyroid a rest so that as we come off of the medication, your thyroid kicks in by making more appropriate thyroid hormone and it is once again effective for a healthy metabolism.


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EmpowHER Guest

Dr. Ramsey - Thank you for including this important article on hypothyroidism. I wish all doctors had the insight you do about this misunderstood disease. I learned the hard way that not all doctors fully understand the dangers of hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism following the birth of my first son in 2006 and experienced many of the symptoms you have listed. I trusted my doctors completely assuming they knew everything there was to know about this disease, especially when I became pregnant again in late 2008. How wrong I was! Under their care my TSH, the gold standard for measuring thyroid function, rose high above the safe range for pregnancy and I miscarried. I vowed to myself that I would research everything there was to know about hypothyroidism and warn other women. I fulfilled my vow and launched my blog Hypothyroidmom.com in memory of the baby I lost to hypothyroidism.

October 21, 2012 - 6:23am
EmpowHER Guest

Dr. Ramsey,
I want to do the right thing for my thyroid(without drugs if possible)
My TSH is 5.430 / my T3free is 3.2 / T4 free is 0.96
So TSH is high & others are normal ranges,so my thryoid is still working,but not good enough,causing the pituitary to send out more, right?

It's been suggested for me to go on Armour Thyroid @1/2gr twice day. I'd like to know more about this & are there any better natural options for me to try.
I was told this was from Bovine thyroid. I'm hoping for a natural way to get it kick started!
Thanks for any suggestion to look into.

May 17, 2009 - 5:39am

Hi Dr. Ramsey -- I really enjoy your posts and have a question for you. What is a "thyroid trial"? I have thyroid symptoms myself, but my T3 and T4 are fine. My basal body temp. is low, though. My last TSH test was 3.69.

March 25, 2009 - 10:03am
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