Most of the time when a patient shows me their lab work the only thyroid tests that have been previously run are: TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), and sometimes, T4 (one type of thyroid hormone).
This is a very limited snapshot of thyroid function. For one, it does not include T3, the active form of thyroid hormone that the cells need to function. And, it does not evaluate for auto-immune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s, which constitutes at least 60% or more of most modern day thyroid conditions in America. (see previous article).
It is crucial to test for and rule out Hashimoto’s since this is an auto-immune condition and as such poses many more risks then just Primary Hypothyroidism (a non-auto-immune condition). The two antibodies that every person should have run if a thyroid condition is suspected is TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies) and TGA (Thyroglobulin Antibodies).
Auto-immune disease means that the immune system is the cause of the issue, not the thyroid gland itself. In auto-immune disease, the immune system attacks specific or multiple organs, tissues, glands or any part of the body. It is a confusion, or disfunction of the immune system. Western medicine diagnosis auto-immune disease by what tissue the immune system is attacking.
For instance, in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the joints. In Systemic Lupus (SLE), the immune system attacks multiple tissues such as joints, connective tissue, heart and more. In Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system is attacking the brain and central nervous system. And, in Hashimoto’s the immune system is attacking the thyroid.
Once there is a diagnosis of just one auto-immune disease, there is high risk for developing further auto-immune conditions, as auto-immune disease typically occurs in duos and triads. Like the bully in the schoolyard, if the immune system isn’t addressed, then the bully runs amok and will attack anyone (or tissue) that appears as a threat.
From the pharmaceutical perspective, there is no difference in treatment approach between Primary Hypothyroidism and Auto-Immune Hashimoto’s. The Western medical paradigm continues to be thyroid hormone replacement therapy for both. Why? Simply because the immune suppressive drugs often used in RA or SLE have not been proven to help (and can make things worse) in Hashimoto’s.
Fortunately, there are several botanicals that can support a healthy balance of the immune system and thyroid function (Bladderwrack, Ashwagandha, Bacopa, just to name a few). And, there are numerous dietary and lifestyle changes that can make a huge impact on the functioning of these systems as well as improve symptoms. (see previous article).
Other labs that provide useful information in understanding thyroid function include reverse T3, T3 Uptake, thyroid binding globulin, free T4/free T3, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and insulin.
Finally, evaluating for Leaky Gut, heavy metal or toxin overload and even infections are instrumental in understanding the nature of the imbalance and putting together a targeted approach to healing and balancing the body.