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Do you suffer form dry hair and skin??  Trouble losing weight despite a healthy diet and regular exercise??  Depressed??  Anxious??  Cold all the time??  If you suffer from any of these symptoms you may have hypothyroidism.  Thyroid dysfunction affects an estimated 27 million Americans, most of them women, many of whom suffer years before a diagnosis is confirmed.  Sadly, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology estimates more than 13 million people go undiagnosed each year.

     Despite its prevalence, why is it that over 13 million people are unaware they have this common disease?  Hypothyroidism is under diagnosed for many reasons, the most common being the wide range of seemingly unconnected symptoms that accompany thyroid dysfunction.   These symptoms can range from fatigue, racing heartbeat, constipation, depression, dry skin, anxiety, hair loss, heavy periods, infertility and weight gain.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms the first step is to have blood work done to check your thyroid.  Maybe you have done this already and were told everything looks normal.  It is important to understand that thyroid blood work ranges are designed to diagnose disease and as such have very wide ranges of “normal”.   For example, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can range from 0.5 to 4.5 and still be considered “normal”.  However, when you felt “well” your TSH may have been at 3, now you are at 1.5, still within a “normal range” but not an optimal range for your metabolism and overall wellbeing.

Another often over-looked factor for optimal thyroid function is the immune system.  An often under-diagnosed condition affecting the thyroid is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  This is a condition were the immune system forms antibodies against the thyroid, much like it would form antibodies against bacterial invaders.  However, in this case the body begins attacking and trying to kill its own tissue, the thyroid gland.  A very simple blood test can be done to check this, it is known as the TPO antibody test.  If it is found that this is part of your thyroid problem there are natural supplements and dietary changes that can be made to help balance your over-reactive immune system.

Understanding your thyroid’s role in your overall health is essential.  If you have any of the above symptoms it is worthwhile to speak with your health care practitioner about having your thyroid tested.  Ensure your T3, T4 levels and TPO antibodies are tested, in addition to your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).  If your results come back and despite your symptoms your blood work appears normal, talk with your practitioner about considering if you are in the “low normal range”.  If your practitioner is not willing to consider this possibility it is important to get a second opinion, your thyroid will thank-you!!

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