In a recent newsletter Amy shared her story of finally receiving a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack the thyroid. According to the American Thyroid Association one in eight women will experience a thyroid condition at some point in their life. Thyroid hormones regulate every cell in the body, including the organs and hormones responsible for menstrual function. Autoimmune disease is the leading cause of low thyroid production. Estimates show that among those with hypothyroidism, 67-90% have an underlying autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions have their own set of challenges, including increased risk for miscarriage and increased susceptibility to infection, among others.
Unfortunately, getting diagnosed with a thyroid condition can be challenging. Many of the symptoms are easily dismissed – you’re cold (“poor circulation!”), you’re tired (“go get some exercise and fresh air!”), you can’t lose weight (“stop eating junk food”) or you have irregular cycles (“go on the pill!”). Furthermore, the standard test for thyroid conditions is a TSH test (thyroid stimulating hormone) which doesn’t always provide the information necessary for a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease (TSH can be normal even with an autoimmune thyroid condition present). And to top it off, people are regularly told their results are “normal” when in fact they are not functional. While a TSH result of up to 5.6 is considered normal, most people feel best with a number between 1-2. Fertility clinics will typically treat a woman for hypothyroidism if her number is above 2.5, which should tell you something about the difference between “optimal” range and “normal” range.
So, what can you do if you suspect a possible thyroid condition? Here are five steps to follow:
1. Take your morning temperature under your armpit (this is easy to do if you are already checking BBT as part of a natural birth control or fertility program). Consistently low temperatures below 36 degrees Celsius typically indicate hypothyroidism (although iron and magnesium deficiency should also be ruled out).
2. Ask your doctor for a TSH test. If your levels are above 2, consider asking for further testing, including free T3, free T4, and tests for TPO and thyroglobulin antibodies.
3. If your levels come back normal, but you still feel your symptoms are consistent with a thyroid condition, ask to have your levels tested for antibodies anyway.
4. If your doctor declines to have you tested for the above additional thyroid indicators, offer to pay for the thyroid tests yourself. Most thyroid panels are relatively inexpensive ($80 or less) and are a valuable investment in your health. Unfortunately, because mainstream medicine treats hypothyroidism the same, regardless of cause, most doctors will not write a requisition to test for markers of autoimmune disease.
5. If your levels indicate a thyroid issue, find a doctor who is willing to work with you using a combination of prescription medicines as well as dietary and lifestyle factors to help you manage your condition. A naturopathic doctor, or a mainstream medical doctor who has trained in Integrative, Functional or Orthomolecular medicine are all good bets. We can also support you in managing symptoms here at Red Tent Sisters.
For more information on how we can help you, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize your health, check out our three-page quick reference guide to boosting fertility.
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Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.