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The Thyroid/Fibromyalgia Connection

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Updated April 09, 2014

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrom

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

If you have autoimmune hypothyroidism, it's fairly common to develop some classic fibromyalgia symptoms -- such as muscle/joint pain, aches, and sleep disturbances. According to Dr. Lowe, the conventional physician is likely to consider any new or worsened symptoms as evidence that the there's yet another condition -- such as fibromyalgia -- in addition to the autoimmune thyroid problem. To Dr. Lowe, however, that means that the newly developing symptoms are likely evidence of undertreated hypothyroidism:

As thyroid hormone deficiency worsens, the number of tissues involved and the severity of the resulting symptoms increase. The patient typically experiences the worsening deficiency as an increased number of symptoms of greater severity. In most cases, such patients simply need a more appropriate dosage or form of thyroid hormone to recover from all their symptoms.

Dr. Lowe believes that rigid adherence to the so-called "normal range" does not show whether a patient has enough circulating T3 (the active thyroid hormone at the cellular level, which is produced in part by the thyroid, and in part by conversion of T4 hormone to T3) to maintain normal metabolism in cells. His research shows that safe but suppressive doses are often more effective at eliminating the associated health problems that are of greatest concern. T4 to T3 conversion can be impaired, so the fact that a patient has a normal TSH level does not mean that her tissue metabolism is normal.

According to Dr. Lowe, one study showed that replacement dosages of thyroid hormone-- dosages that keep the TSH within the normal range -- mildly lowered patients' high cholesterol levels, but TSH-suppressive dosages lowered the levels significantly further.

Many published reports and our studies show that the TSH level does not correlate with various tests of tissue metabolism. Dr. Lowe feels this is important because making tissue metabolism normal should be the goal of all treatment with hypothyroid patients. When the hypothyroid patient is restricted to a dosage of T4 that keeps the TSH within the normal range, testing will produce evidence of abnormal metabolism in multiple tissues.

Dr. Lowe has found that TSH-suppressive dosages of thyroid hormone can also reduce a patients' risk for disease. Dr. Lowe finds that lower dosages of thyroid hormone have been found to be associated with progression of coronary atherosclerosis and higher dosages (including TSH-suppressive dosages) associated with a halting of the progression. In his studies, Dr. Lowe has extensively tested patients and determined that there is nothing harmful to patients in having their TSH suppressed by these dosages of thyroid hormone. Dr. Lowe sees the far greater danger being the clear adverse consequences of undertreated resistance, resulting in conditions such as fibromyalgia, CFS, and liver and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Lowe believes the hypothyroid patient has two options: She can submit to using a replacement dosage of thyroid hormone and remain symptomatic, thus risking premature death from cardiovascular disease. Or she can find a physician who will completely ignore her TSH level and find a dosage that produces normal tissue metabolism.

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