Excerpt 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
Research 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.