Falling Through The Cracks – Fibromyalgia And Low Thyroid

Sleepless womanExcerpt taken from my new 5th edition book, “Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” . . .

Do you battle low energy, brain fog, anxiety, depression, tingling in your hands or feet, cold hands and feet, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, headaches, hair loss, constipation, weight gain, or low sex drive? These are just some of the many symptoms associated with low thyroid, a condition often missed by conventional medical lab tests.

Though weighing less than one ounce, the thyroid gland (and the hormones it produces) are involved in nearly every bodily function. Your thyroid controls cellular energy, maintains body temperature, regulates growth, and affects brain function, moods, and emotions. The thyroid hormones, which control your metabolism (your energy), are internally secreted and then transported through the bloodstream to various organs. The thyroid’s main purpose is to produce, store, and release these two important hormones: triiodothyronine (T 3) and thyroxine (T 4).

I routinely have new fibro and CFS/ME patients who present with all the symptoms  of hypothyroid. The symptoms are, after all, very similar to those of fibromyalgia and CFS/ME. And in fact, up to 63 percent of patients with fibromyalgia and/or CFS/ME have been shown to have hypothyroid. I estimate the same for as many as 70 percent of my patients.

Fibromyalgia and Low Thyroid

helping other could help us live longerResearch continues to suggest that thyroid hormone deficiency may be a key feature in FMS etiology. Researchers have observed that FMS patients respond best to treatment with thyroid hormone as part of a comprehensive regimen to optimize the patient’s metabolism. They stated in the Journal of Myofascial Therapy that “virtually all FMS patients dramatically improve or completely recover from the symptoms with this regimen. As long as the patient does not take excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, there are no adverse side effects.” In fact, T4 with T3 has improved or eliminated depression, brain fog, feeling of cold, constipation, chronic fatigue, headaches, insomnia, muscle and joint pain, and chronic sinus infections. For some people it has helped them finally lose weight.

It’s not unusual for these patients to tell me that they have been tested over and over again for hypothyroidism but their tests are normal and their doctor tells them they’re fine. Well, the doctors should realize that you aren’t “normal.” I would tell them that normal blood work doesn’t decide anything; it is only the start, the beginning of the investigation. Those with fi bro and/or CFS are different, strange, weird. OK, special! Their biochemistry is different. It is no wonder they often have “low normal” or “high normal” blood work, which in their case, suggests they are in fact positive for that test. Blood tests are based on samples from the normal population.  FMS and CFS/ME patients are special, and their blood work needs to be scrutinized for any clues; otherwise they fall through the cracks.

The herd-mentality, lazy doctor is all too happy to recommend a mood-elevating antidepressant, stimulating amphetamine like Ritalin, pain pill, or cholesterol-lowering medication for the symptoms of low thyroid, while missing the real problem, the cause hypothyroid itself. I believe the “art” of doctoring is taking the time to do the appropriate detective work, to figure out the cause or causes, not to merely treat symptoms because it is “what we’ve always done.” Patients are more than an insurance code; they are real, live human beings, as unique and different on the inside as they are on the outside. There is no one-test-fits all protocol.

Of course, conventional medical professionals know that thyroid blood tests are less than perfect. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has reported that “laboratory blood tests for thyroid may be inaccurate for many who get tested for hypothyroid disorder.” In 2004, the president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) said, “There are more people with minor thyroid abnormalities than previously perceived.”

A thorough thyroid blood test should include not only thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and Thyroxine (T4), commonly checked in conventional blood tests, but should also include free and total T4, free and total triiodothyroxine (T3), reverse T3 (RT3), thyroid antibodies, and T3 uptake. If these tests aren’t being done patients run the risk of suffering with the symptoms of low thyroid for years. Worse, patients are often placed on all sorts of life robbing drugs to treat the symptoms of low thyroid, fatigue, high cholesterol, mood disorders, instead of the cause-a low thyroid. Missing the opportunity to accurately diagnose and treat low thyroid is a one of many ways fibromyalgia patients falls through the cracks.

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12 replies
  1. Hanne Pinkava
    Hanne Pinkava says:

    That’s me. I have hypothyroid and been on Synthroid for many years, but still have symptoms of hypothyroid. Doctors keep saying it is normal. I got copy of blood work and the T4 is in the lower end of spectrum. I also been diagnosed with fibromylagia/CFS, migraines with aura,high cholestrol, and the list goes on

  2. Linda Rognier
    Linda Rognier says:

    Everything you are saying in your articles fits me to a T. I am in Northern California. Do you know of any doctors that treat Fibro and Thyroid in my area. I have had to stop going to my Endocrinologist in San Francisco because of costs, he doesn’t take insurance. My local (Redding) doctor keeps reducing my synthroid meds and prescribes anti-depressants. I am feeling worse and the brain fog has gotten much worse.
    I am hoping we have a doctor that you would recommend.
    Thank you, Linda Rognier

  3. Kim Hoppers
    Kim Hoppers says:

    I’ve had all that tested. Normal, normal, normal!! Still I’m overweight, have no energy, half my eyebrows are gone, hair falls out every day, haven’t slept normally at night since 1993, severe (difficult to treat) depression, etc. you name it I’ve got it. No one can help.

    JUDY DEBOSE says:

    I have suffered with tingling, fatigue and many of the other symptoms that u mentioned since 2009. I was always told my thyroid level was fine, all the while my weight slowly inching up. Finally in April of 2013 I was unable to even stand for more than 5 minutes….I was told my thyroid level was at 129. Was immediately put on medicine to treat it and was doing good until recently. My left arm and hand started the tingling and itching again and the pain is horrible. I asked my doctor about possibly being the fibro and since I also have neuropathy in my feet and already take medicine for it, he said if it was nothing they could do. I don’t know where to go from here. Please help!

  5. Terri Waldron
    Terri Waldron says:

    I have “severe” Fibro. I say severe bc these days I meet several people that say they have fibro but they work, shop, LIVE! I had to quit working. My back hurts the most but hurt everywhere. I have knots all over back. I’ve tried trigger point therapy where she would put palm of her hand on knots until they release. However I’m a single mom & couldn’t afford it.’i was diagnosed with CFS when I was a teen but I didn’t have the severe body pain I do now. I was also in 2 bad car accidents so I don’t know what caused it. All I know is it has drastically changed my life. I’m pretty much useless until later in afternoon. I’m just tired of being in so much pain. My poor kids have to see me like this. I’ve gone from a size 6 to 12/14 in a short amount of time. I do think my thyroid is messed up but she did ultrasound & it was normal. I was shocked. Now I have excessive sweating, carple tunnel, chronic migraines and the list goes on. I want a dr to diagnose me with the tender points bc I have way more then 11 & it’s widespread pain & Drs here r clueless. I want the official diagnoses of fibro bc there is no doubt pain dr knows I have fibro but I want an expert. I’d be willing to make a trip. Life is so hard

  6. Laura Chelette
    Laura Chelette says:

    I have been diagnosed as having Fibro and CFS, I am a veteran and all they want to do is give me meds. I also have Osteoarthritis. I was on Lyrica and Gabapentin for years. I, take B12 shots twice a week, but took myself off all other meds. I am a chef and want to manage my pain with exercise, diet and natural herbs….. Any suggestions


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