It’s a common term, but let’s look at what it really means by breaking the word hypothyroidism apart.
Hypo-: This part of the full word hypothyroidism means “less than normal“. So in the thyroid sense, it means you are making, or have, “less than the needed amount of thyroid hormones” to keep you healthy, provide a good metabolism, or result in the right amount of energy.
–thyroid: Here is the word that refers to a gland in your neck which releases important thyroid hormones: T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin. T4 is the storage thyroid hormone. T3 is the active thyroid hormone.
–ism: Refers to the fact that hypothyroid is a “condition”.
Causes of hypothyroidism
Having a less-than-normal release of thyroid hormones, aka hypothyroidism / hypothyroid, has many causes:
- autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease (also known as Hashi’s and is an attack of the thyroid
- iodine insufficiency
- Graves’ disease treatment (removal of gland and/or RAI)
- thyroid removal due to cancer
- overconsumption of goitrogen foods
- mold exposure
- genetic mutations that affect conversion of T4 to T3, for example
- many more causes (Down syndrome, environmental, congenital and more when you click on the latter.)
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
- the need for a nap, especially in the afternoons
- easy sleepiness
- fatigue or poor stamina
- dry skin or dry hair
- hair loss
- high cholesterol or rising blood pressure
- easy weight gain; difficulty losing
- thinning bones
- brain fog; concentration problems
- fibromyalgia type symptoms; inflammation of joints
- many more symptoms
Lab tests to discern a hypothyroid state
- TSH (aka Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) But note this can be in the normal range while you have hypothyroid and doctors don’t get that. By the time it rises high enough to reveal hypothyroidism, you may have been hypothyroid for quite awhile. The two below are FAR more important.)
- Free T3 (active thyroid hormone and what is available for use, aka the “free”. If it’s below midrange, that can be hypothyroidism.)
- Free T4 (thyroid storage hormone and what is available for use, aka the “free”–if it’s below midrange, that can be hypothyroidism)
- Reverse T3 aka RT3 (inactive hormone which if it goes up, causes a hypothyroid state, and keeps T3 from getting to the cells well. Can also rise due to chronic stress, inadequate iron, high cortisol, infections)
- Anti-TPO; Anti–Tg (to test for autoimmune Hashimoto’s, a common cause of hypothyroid due to the attack on the thyroid. Both antibodies are needed, and doctors don’t often get that)
How to understand your lab results
It’s not about falling anywhere in those so-called normal ranges, and doctors don’t understand that, dismissing your hypothyroid state by proclaiming you are “normal”. What it is about is where you fall in those ranges, alongside your clear symptoms. This is where you need to be comparing your lab results to the Lab Values page on Stop the Thyroid Madness.
Problems associated with being hypothyroid
Sadly, the longer patients are hypothyroid without treatment, or being on a poor treatment with T4-only medications like Synthroid or Levothyroxine , the more problems they end up having. It’s individual which of the below will happen in a hypothyroid state.
- high cortisol (due to the body being alarmed at one’s hypothyroid state)
- low cortisol (happens after time due to one’s continued hypo state stressing one’s adrenals, also called adrenal fatigue or hypocortisolism)
- bone thinning (called osteopenia, then leading to osteoporosis)
- depression (due to the brain not getting enough T3, the active thyroid hormone)
- anxiety issues (due to the body being alarmed at the continued hypothyroid state)
- heart problems (a heart needs the active hormone T3 to be healthy)
- high cholesterol (commonly rises due to a hypothyroid state)
- high blood pressure (commonly rises due to a hypothyroid state)
- inadequate iron levels and sometimes anemia (commonly lowers due to low stomach acid from the hypothyroid condition)
- inadequate B12; inadequate Vitamin D (due to low stomach acid from the hypothyroid state
- more conditions
How to treat hypothyroidism
- Synthetic T4 with Synthetic T3 Man-made thyroid hormones. Patients have to be optimal, not just on them. They naturally lower the TSH lab test below range, and contrary to what doctors state, that low TSH when on these meds has not been harmful. We also have to have good iron and cortisol levels to tolerate raising it in search of our optimal amount.
- T3-only Dosed three times a day, often 4 hours apart. Mostly used by people who have a strong genetic mutation preventing the conversion of T4 to T3. Or by those with a high Reverse T3 (RT3).
- Natural Desiccated thyroid (NDT) Unfortunately, most American brands are not the consistently excellent brands they used to be. They changed. So it’s hard to recommend them like we used to. So if you choose this route, keep an eye out and see if you can get optimal, not just on it. Many are doing better adding T3 to the less effective NDT.
- Natural Thyroid supplements These include names like Thyrogold, Thyrovanz et al. But again, it’s important to see if you can optimal.
NOTE: We also have to have good iron and cortisol levels to tolerate raising any of these in search of our optimal amount.
The worst way to treat hypothyroidism
- T4-only This synthetic storage hormone has been proven by millions over the past several decades to be an inadequate way to treat hypothyroidism. T4 is meant to convert to T3, the active thyroid hormone which changes lives. But depending solely on conversion, and receiving no direct T3, the active hormone, has proven to be problematic since synthetic T4 first came out around 1960. Some never feel well on it. Others do report feeling better, but they are destined to see problems sooner or later. Why? The body is not meant to live for conversion alone. And there are numerous situations which can negatively affect that conversion.
Books you may want related to hypothyroidism, no matter the cause:
- Hashimoto’s: Taming the Beast (for those who suspect or have the autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism) This is a companion book to the below Stop the Thyroid Madness revision.
- The 2019 updated revision Stop the Thyroid Madness: A Patient Revolution Against Decades of Inferior Thyroid Treatment (called the bible of thyroid treatment no matter the cause of your hypothyroid state; based on years of thyroid patient experiences and wisdom). This book has proven to be a must-have for any reason someone has hypothyroid.
- Stop the Thyroid Madness II (each chapter topic contributed by a practitioner.) Perfect for patients to read the perspective of a medical professional, or for practitioners to see that some of their colleagues see the same thing that informed thyroid patients see) This does not replace #1 or #2.
- 2012 translations of #2 above in German, Swedish and Spanish. Based on previous revision of #2. Still good info.
Related hypothyroid topics
- The home page for the life-changing patient-to-patient website pertaining to hypothyroidism: http://stopthethyroidmadness.com
- Why T4-only is not the best treatment for hypothyroid, say thyroid patients worldwide: http://stopthethyroidmadness.com/t4-only-meds-dont-work
- About the use of Natural Desiccated Thyroid for hypothyroid (some of the info can apply to use synthetic T4 with synthetic T4) http://stopthethyroidmadness.com/natural-thyroid-101
- How the TSH is the absolute worst test to diagnose hypothyroid or treat by: http://stopthethyroidmadness.com/tsh-why-its-useless