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OK… the following gets a little technical, but it’s really important. If you have questions or need clarification, please call us.

It turns out that proper thyroid function requires more than one gland, and more than one hormone. There are actually two different thyroid hormones. And it’s the thyroid’s job to produce only one of them (known as T4). After T4 is produced by the thyroid, it flows through the pituitary gland (which acts like kind of a hormone thermostat).

When the pituitary senses that the body doesn’t have enough T4, it puts out a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (or TSH). TSH then stimulates the thyroid to produce more T4.

Proper functioning of this feedback loop between the thyroid and the pituitary is the first piece of the thyroid puzzle.

There’s more, though. T4 is not the thyroid hormone that the body actually uses to regulate your metabolism. T4 has to be broken down into another thyroid hormone called T3, and then T3 gets broken down into yet another thyroid hormone called T3 free. T3 free is the hormone your body can actually use. You can have all the T4 in the world; but if it isn’t getting converted to T3 and T3 free, you may as well have none at all.

One of the reasons thyroid hormone levels decline with age is because the thyroid and pituitary glands start to slow down. Also, as the body ages, it becomes less efficient at converting T4 to T3 and T3 free.

The Problem With How Most Doctors Approach Low Thyroid In Women

  • T4 only accounts for about 20% of thyroid function in the body.
  • T4′s primary function is to be broken down into T3 and T3 free.
  • T3 free accounts for 80% of thyroid function in the body.
  • As the thyroid gland ages, less T4 is produced. Also, as people age, chemical changes take place in the body that inhibit T4′s breakdown into T3 and T3 free. The result of both of these is low T3 free.
  • Most doctors only measure T4 levels and the feedback loop between TSH and T4. They miss 80% of thyroid function by not testing for T3, and its functional form, T3 free.
  • When doctors do treat for low thyroid, most only replace T4—and they usually use a synthetic form of thyroid (such as Synthroid). They may achieve adequate levels of T4 with this approach; but if the body isn’t breaking the T4 down into T3 free, the end result will be less than optimal.
  • What most doctors consider to be a normal level for thyroid isn’t usually high enough. With most hormones (except possibly for estrogen) the upper end of lab tested ranges is usually what’s healthiest. A woman with a test result that comes in toward the lower end of that lab tested range may still have severe symptoms of low thyroid, even though most doctors would consider her results to be normal.

Unfortunately, all of the above results in far too many women being inadequately tested and treated for low thyroid, if they’re being tested and treated at all.

If you're ready to talk, give us a call at 714-484-8000 or use the form to the right to schedule a consultation.