The Complexities of the Thyroid
By Dr. Tabatha Barber, DO
Thyroid dysfunction is complicated and can be caused my many things. Unfortunately, conventional medical doctors are trained to screen for thyroid disease using one basic lab for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced in the pituitary gland of the brain. Even though it’s not a thyroid hormone, it’s what most physicians use to rule out thyroid disease.
“This practice fails to diagnose most thyroid diseases, making patients suffer longer than they should,” says Dr. Tabatha Barber, a functional gynecologist at PrivaMD. She adds that even when a patient gets diagnosed with hypothyroidism, evaluation for the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is rarely done, so medication does not help.
Hypothyroidism is the clinical state in which your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone for your body to maintain homeostasis. This condition is more common than the over-active state called hyperthyroidism, occurring in 4 to 10 percent of the U.S. population. The more concerning statistic is that 90 to 97 percent of those diagnosed with hypothyroidism are believed to have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but they aren’t tested for it.
The problem is that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease need to be treated significantly differently than those with simple “sluggish” thyroids. The root cause of the autoimmune disease needs to be addressed, and because physicians aren’t checking antibody levels in patients, these patients aren’t being managed appropriately. This is why most patients don’t feel better once they start taking thyroid medication.
Patients with hypothyroidism can have a variety of unsettling symptoms including feeling cold, being unable to sweat, constipation, weight gain or inability to lose weight, feeling unmotivated or depressed, sleeping a lot and still feeling tired, hair loss, dry skin, hormonal imbalance, menstrual irregularities, recurrent miscarriage or infertility.
“If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I recommend that you have your TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and TG (thyroglobulin) antibodies checked with a simple blood draw, along with the complete thyroid function panel that shows total and free T4 and T3 levels and reverse T3 levels,” says Barber.
When diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (chronic autoimmune thyroiditis), it is recommended that patients undergo aggressive diet and lifestyle changes in order to regain homeostasis and feel good again. This includes eating a low-inflammatory diet, detoxing, actively managing stress hormone levels, in addition to treating any underlying infections like systemic yeast overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, hidden parasites and healing a common culprit – leaky gut.
“If this sounds like your struggle, then I encourage to see a functional medicine physician. We are trained to get to the root cause of your diseases and truly heal what ails you,” says Barber. “It’s a lifelong partnership to get you well and keep you well.”
Dr. Tabatha The Functional Gynecologist at PrivaMD|Physicians. Tabatha Barber, DO, FACOOG, NCMP. See ad page 29.