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5 Lies About Your Thyroid Disease That You're Likely to Hear

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Updated June 03, 2014

5 Lies About Your Thyroid Disease That You're Likely to Hear

Don't believe everything you hear about thyroid disease.

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Whether it's the family doctor, endocrinologist, chiropractor, or an herbalist, you may not be getting the straight information regarding your thyroid. Here are five very common myths and bits of misinformation that you are very likely to hear, along with the real story you need to know.

5. Your Levels are Normal

First, what does "normal" mean. A decade ago, the medical community went by the standard that .5 to 5.0 on the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test was the normal range. If your TSH was below .5, you were hyperthyroid/overactive. If your TSH was above 5.0, you were hypothyroid/underactive. Since 2002, however, both the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry's "Laboratory Medicine Practice Guidelines," have recommended that the normal range be revised, so that it is instead .3, to 3.0. Many doctors and labs still haven't switched over to the new, narrower standards and range yet, so many people who are testing in the 3.0 to 5.0 range may be told they have "normal" thyroid function by some practitioners, and diagnosed as "hypothyroid" by others. So when a doctor tells you your levels are "normal" -- ask what "normal range" he/she is actually using to make that determination.

4. If You Have a Thyroid Problem, Take Iodine or Kelp

Nnatural health practitioners who don't truly understand thyroid function are often quick to tell you that "thyroid problems mean you need iodine" or iodine-containing herbs or supplements, such as kelp, bladderwrack and bugleweed.

If you are truly iodine deficient, iodine may be able to help your thyroid. One study done in 1998 found that over the past twenty years, the percentage of Americans with low intake of iodine has more than quadrupled. Currently about 12 percent of the U.S. population is iodine deficient, up from less than 3 percent in the early 1970s. So, for some people, iodine deficiency may be a factor in their thyroid problem.

But for some people, iodine or iodine-containing products make worsen autoimmune thyroid problems, both Hashimoto's and Graves' disease, and cause enlargement of the thyroid (goiter). Before you start iodine, consider having urinary iodine measured to see if you have an actual deficiency, and pay close attention to any symptoms that develop after you start to take iodine.

3. You Have Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism and Need Radioactive Iodine (RAI) Treatment

When it comes to autoimmune thyroid disease, Hashimoto's disease, which usually results in hypothyroidism, is the far more common than Graves' disease, which causes hyperthyroidism. At some stages of Hashimoto's disease, however, and in particular, often during the early stages, the thyroid that is in the process of autoimmune failure may actually spurt into action and become temporarily overactive, making a person hyperthyroid. Sometimes, it's the temporary hyperthyroidism symptoms -- anxiety, heart palpitations, fast pulse, weight loss, diarrhea, insomnia -- that first bring a Hashimoto's patient to the doctor. Unfortunately, some doctors run just the thyroid bloodwork for TSH, see the low TSH that is characteristic of hyperthyroidism, and recommend radioactive iodine treatment -- a usually permanent treatment that permanently disables the thyroid, and renders the patient hypothyroid for life. The problem is, the patient doesn't suffer form Graves' disease and the hyperthyroidism is just temporary "Hashitoxicosis" -- and the patient is ultimately on his or her way to becoming hypothyroid. In some cases, then, unless the hyperthyroidism was life-threatening and uncontrollable using drugs, the expensive radiation treatment -- whose side effects are still being debated -- is needless administered.

If you are told that you have Graves' Disease or hyperthyroidism, and are rushed to have RAI, insist on blood tests for various antibodies, as well as imaging tests, to demonstrate that you do indeed have Graves'/hyperthyroidism, and are not just experiencing temporary Hashitoxicosis.

Next: Basal Body Temperature, and Synthroid...

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