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The Thyroid/Fibromyalgia Connection


Updated May 16, 2014

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrom

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue expert Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of Fromm Fatigued to Fantastic, who contributed the Foreward for the new book Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia takes a more liberal interpretation. He believes that if someone generally fits the description of fibromyalgia, with symptoms including unexplained fatigue, plus any two symptoms from among brain fog, sleep disturbances, diffuse achiness, increased thirst, bowel dysfunction, and/or persistent or recurrent infections or flulike feelings, then a positive diagnosis should be assumed.

The Hypothalamic Connection

Dr. Teitelbaum believes that at the core of thyroid dysfunction and fibromyalgia is a problem with the dysfunction or suppression of a master gland in the brain called the hypothalamus. Says Dr. Teitelbaum...

This gland controls sleep, your hormonal system, temperature regulation, and the autonomic nervous system (e.g. -- blood pressure, blood flow, and movement of food through your bowel). This is why you can't sleep, you have low temperature, you gain weight, and (because poor sleep causes immune dysfunction) you are prone to multiple and recurrent infections. The hypothalamic dysfunction by itself can therefore, cause most of the symptoms! I suspect that problems with the "energy furnaces" in your cells (called the mitochondria) often cause the hypothalamic suppression.

The Thyroid Connection and T3

If you are a thyroid patient who has signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia, you should consider being evaluated by a practitioner with expertise in the condition, whether it’s a holistic or complementary MD, an internist or rheumatologist.

And, if you are a fibromyalgia patient, it’s also worth digging somewhat deeper to determine if you have an underlying thyroid problem that may be contributing to – or even causing – your fibromyalgia symptoms.

People typically have a thyroid TSH test to determine if they have a thyroid imbalance, but fibromyalgia expert Dr. John Lowe, who heads the Fibromyalgia Research Foundation, and is author of The Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia, questions what he calls the four "conventional endocrinology mandates" --

(1) The only cause of thyroid hormone deficiency symptoms is hypothyroidism

(2) only patients with hypothyroidism "according to lab results" should be permitted to use thyroid hormone

(3) the hypothyroid patient should only be allowed to use T4 (levothyroxine) and

(4) the patient's dosage should not suppress the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level.

Dr. Lowe has had to challenge these preconceptions as part of his long-standing effort to learn more about treatment-resistant fibromyalgia. The result is a treatment protocol based on his findings that the unresolved symptoms associated with treated hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia are actually evidence of untreated or undertreated hypothyroidism, or partial cellular resistance to thyroid hormone.

A unique aspect of Dr. Lowe's theories is his recognition that a patient with cellular resistance may have perfectly normal circulating thyroid hormone levels yet have the symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism. This is an important aspect of Dr. Lowe's treatments that may point to the reason for his success. He has found, however, from his discussions with other fibromyalgia/CFS researchers, that most are unaware of such potential mechanisms. He says:

To them, if a patient has a normal TSH level, and especially if the patient's symptoms don't improve with replacement dosages of T4 (levothyroxine), her condition cannot possibly be related in any way to thyroid hormone. Recent scientific research, however, has shown this belief to be false.

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