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Posted May 13 2008 5:32pm 11 Comments

Although controversial, many believe that hypothyroidism is underdiagnosed and that many people who have had blood tests indicating normal thyroid function may actually suffer from hypothyroidism. Broda Barnes, MD, was perhaps the first to come to the conclusion that many people suffering from chronic illness had underfunctioning thyroids. In his book, Hypothyroidism, the Unsuspected Illness (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1976), he states that hidden hypothyroidism is responsible for many chronic health problems including heart disease, immune system problems and chronic fatigue. He also felt that laboratory tests miss many cases of hypothyroidism.

Barnes developed a way to screen for hypothyroidism using a basal body temperature. Other physicians have come to the conclusion that symptoms are a much more important indicator of a thyroid problem. Another physician, Dr. E. D. Wilson has coined the term ?Wilson's Syndrome? for people who exhibit hypothyroid symptoms but have normal thyroid tests. Dr. Wilson has been sued for malpractice and has had his Florida medical license suspended. Needless to say, his views are not popular in traditional medical circles.

Relying on a simple TSH measurement and treating hypothyroidism based on symptoms represent two extreme points of view. Many people suffer from symptoms of hypothyroidism, but have normal TSH values. The British Medical Journal [BMJ 2000;320:1332-1334 ( 13 May )] published research examining the flaws in diagnosing hypothyroidism. The authors concluded the following:

  • There are no data on the relative importance of biochemical thyroid function tests and clinical symptoms and signs in assessing thyroid dysfunction.
  • Secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone is influenced by many factors other than the negative feedback inhibition by thyroxine or triiodothyronine.
  • Changes in thyroid stimulating hormone, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine concentrations during systemic illness are poorly understood.
  • Thyroid function tests cannot be interpreted in patients with systemic illness.
  • Since thyroid stimulating hormone concentrations are distributed logarithmically in the population, minor changes are unlikely to be clinically important.
  • The possibility of false positive and false negative results should be considered in interpreting thyroid stimulating hormone concentrations.

Thyroid problems are under diagnosed and, according to this research, relying solely on TSH measurements to diagnose thyroid problems may not be an effective strategy for finding thyroid disease.

Possible Signs and Symptoms:

Below are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. All of the symptoms need not be present for the patient to have hypothyroidism. Also, an underfunctioning thyroid can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease and immune system problems.

· Low body temperature. Patient feels cold even when others do not.

· Fatigue.

· Lack of motivation.

· Loss of interest in sex.

· High cholesterol.

· Sadness or crying for no reason. This can include women who have this symptom or experience mood swings at certain times during their menstrual cycle.

· Inability to lose weight.

· Puffiness under the eyes.

· Ankle swelling.

· Depression.

· Frequent colds.

According to Dr. Broda Barnes, the basal body temperature test can determine a possible problem with the thyroid. Axillary temperature (in the arm pit) is taken the very first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. No movement, the thermometer should even be shaken down the night before. If the thyroid is functioning properly, according to Dr. Barnes, the axillary temperature should be between 97.8°F and 98.2°F.

Of course a low temperature cannot be used as a complete diagnosis for thyroid problems. But if the temperature is low and the symptoms are present, there may indeed be a thyroid problem. You can look at the labs and read them a little more liberally and the ?normal? values might not be so normal. A TSH above two is ?normal?, but in the presence of symptoms and low temperature may need to be addressed. There is a lot that can be done nutritionally that can alleviate the patients? symptoms. One thing nice about nutritional therapy, there is a lot to be gained, and very little is risked.

Comments (11)
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I agree, I do think that hypothyroidism is under diagnosed. I have always had low body temperature 97.6 but, I did not develop many of the symptoms until around 10 years ago. Doctors tested my TSH and said that it was "low-normal" but, I was never treated for it until it was discovered that I had nodules. The nodules turned out to be Folicullar Thyroid Cancer. Now since my total thyroidectomy, I have just about all of the "signs and symptoms" even with being treated with "Synthroid" and having normal TSH levels.

Why are doctors so hesitant to treat thyroid problems that don't present as abnormally high or low? Also, at what age should a abnormal thyroid be treated in a child with a strong family history of thyroid problems?

I hope you are doing well. I am not sure why so many thyroid problems are missed. Many docs look at the lab values without reading between the lines or coordinating them with symptoms. That was the point of the British Medical Journal article. The testing really is an inexact science. Basal body temperature is not taken seriously as part of the diagnosis.

As far as children go, with that history you should get periodic lab tests. If the children become symptomatic, or the lab values are a little off, you can do some nutritional things that will help quite a bit. Important because thyroid is linked to IQ and development.

I am doing great as far as the cancer goes, 3 years remission this December. My TSH counts are finially where they should be and almost no cancer markers.

Thanks, I will take my son with me to the Endo next time I go and talk to her. I never knew about the link with IQ and development, this is very interesting. My son's IQ is quite high but, he does have dyslexia.

I have all of the symptoms, fatigue, weight gain, swollen feet, mild thyromegaly, and normal TSH levels as well as normal thyroid antibodies.  I was recently found to have a vitamin B12 defficiency.  I recounted all of my symptoms to my doctor who told me that the mild thyromegaly is due to a iodine defficiency and that the B12 defficiency was due to mal absorbtion.  I must also add that I am lactose intolerant and my mother has hypothroidism.  I am currently injecting myself with cobalamin with some improvement but only for a few days.  I have also had some difficulty concentrating and find it difficult to "find words" when I am speaking.  Why won't my doctor listen to me?  Maybe because I am only 37 years old?
Fortunately, thyroid symptoms are pretty obvious--if he has problems, you will probably have an idea. Since his IQ is high, your thyroid probably was not an issue. My daughter was dyslexic--the surprising thing was how clueless the school was. We got a lot of help from the IDA and found a tutor that helped a lot. She is 19, an honor student and a voracious reader now. If you get a chance, check out've started putting a lot of free natural health information there.
Do magnetic therapy products really work? Does the pain really go away?

I found this company that sells magnetic products and wondering if

anyone has tried their products or heard of them?
There is some research that supports the use of magnets. I do not have enough experience with them to say if they work well on a practical day-to-day basis. I am not familiar with the specific product that you mention
Thanks for your repy. Its greatly appreciated!!
I am not sure why docs don't diagnose this better, all I know is that they seem to miss a lot of thyroid problems. As far as the Synthroid not doing the job, Synthroid is T4 and not as active as T3--it has to be converted by the body. There are a number of nutrients that will help people on Synthroid better convert their T4 thereby improving their symptoms. As far as children go, if disease is present, it gets treated, just like adults. For undiagnosed kids with family history of thyroid, some supplementation is a good idea. Keep them off of nitrites and don't serve them liquid that has been stored in soft plastic. Also, a good whole food diet is a good idea.
I just had a partial thyroidectomy, and am experiencing a good recovery although a bit concerned by the hard swelling around the surgery site.  My doctor started me on Euthyrox. but I cannot get good information on how to get rid of the weight and plan a good diet - some sites say to eat whole grains, etc, and others say to restrict high-fiber foods, for example.  Can you offer some suggestions? 

When I pointed out, there are two main issues with trying to figure out if you are hypothyroid. The first is that most doctors and health care professionals mistakenly think that the condition is uncommon. It is actually quite common.



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