THYROID: Misdiagnosed/Misunderstood

Thyroid dysfunction is an ever-increasing problem in our society. It is also a very misunderstood syndrome and frequently missed in diagnoses.

At present the most common tests for thyroid problems are TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone in the brain) and T4 – (Thyroxine hormone produced by the thyroid gland in the front of the throat). The problem with this is that neither hormone reflects what actually happens at a cellular level. T4 is an inactive hormone. This means that it can do nothing metabolically until it is converted to T3 by the liver. T3 is the active hormone that does all of the work, telling cells how fast to spin and burn glucose/fuel to make energy and heat. 

In the past T4 (inactive) was a better reflection of thyroid hormone’s effectiveness, as our environment and lifestyles were more conducive to T4 being made into T3 (liver) to control our metabolic rate/energy production.

Now so much of our modern living impacts this important conversion as well as how well the thyroid makes T4.

The thyroid gland needs Iodine and B vitamins and tyrosine protein to make T4. In Australia, 40-60% of school children are Iodine deficient, largely because our soils and diet are deficient. Anyone with less than perfect digestion can be tyrosine (protein) deficient, and stress is a huge robber of B vitamins. Diet and chemicals also affect the thyroid gland and can initiate auto-immune attack on it, thus slowing (or revving up) its T4 production.

By far the biggest threat nowadays is the change in the liver’s ability to make T3 (active) from T4 (inactive). The enzymes making this critical conversion are zinc and selenium dependent, plus require healthy liver metabolism devoid of stress, chemical and drug interference. However, 80% of Australians have mild to severe zinc and selenium deficiency because Australian soils are among the most zinc and selenium deficient soils geologically in the world. These trace minerals have literally washed into the sea, long ago. People living in countries like Japan, who have diets rich in kelp and sea foods have fewer deficiencies.

A more effective assessment of thyroid function is therefore T3 levels; the active hormone that actually does the work. This is not however readily available, so another way of assessing general metabolic rate and thyroid effectiveness is to take ones temperature upon rising (under tongue).

Because T3 controls how much glucose is burnt and at what rate, it also controls how much energy is produces and how much heat is spun out of cells in this process. Measuring this heat is called your Basil Metabolic Temperature. A healthy range is between 36.6C – 36.8C upon waking. Under 36C, on average over a month, is usually a clue to slow thyroid hormone. Often better living and correction of nutrient levels will show an improvement in basal temperature, albeit slowly.

T3 testing is now available at Professional Naturopathics, as well as Reverse T3 (rT3). Sometimes we also look for Immune Antibodies ‘attaching’ the thyroid gland to pick up early-stage low-thyroid disease. These more accurate tests may show very early thyroid function changes, especially in people with a ‘visible thyroid’ who have been told “nothing is wrong with the thyroid”.