Despite the fact that thyroid disease affects an estimated 20 million Americans, there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition. Myths about thyroid disease can make accurate diagnosis and treatment confusing and difficult for both patient and physician alike.
How many of these have you heard?
1. “The TSH Test is the Best Test for Thyroid Disease”
In my experience, about 90% of those who have been screened for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism have only had a TSH test, often as part of a routine blood profile. Based on this test alone, the patient is usually told that their thyroid function is normal. Here are my laboratory recommendations to thoroughly evaluate thyroid gland function:
- Free T4 (Free Thyroxine, FT4)
- Free T3 (Free Triiodothyronine, FT3)
- Total T4 (TT4)
- Total T3 (TT3)
- Reverse T3 (RT3)
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab)
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGB Ab)
- Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins (TSI)
These tests screen for hypothroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, and Graves’ disease. Ask your doctor to order these tests when screening for thyroid disease.
2. “People with Thyroid Problems Always Develop a Goiter”
Back in the times before thyroid disease could be accurately diagnosed through medical testing, a “goiter” or enlarged thyroid, was one of the few ways to tell if someone had a problem with their thyroid. Goiter can occur in both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, as well as the result of a pituitary gland disorder. However, just because you don’t have a goiter does not mean you don’t have thyroid disease.
3. “Thyroid Nodules or Lumps Are Automatically Cancerous”
Actually, less than 10 percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous. Nodules that arise in thyroid glands with optimal function are less likely to be cancerous than those that arise in individuals with hyperthyroidism. Exposure to radiation, along with advanced age, may increase the risk for a thyroid lump to be cancerous. If the thyroid nodules are not cancerous or interfering with your everyday life, most doctors will leave them alone, and reevaluate them every 6-12 months. If they are more serious, hormone treatment or surgery may be suggested. In my experience, a combination of a whole-food diet and proper iodine supplementation has proven a beneficial treatment for many with non-cancerous thyroid nodules. It is important to have your doctor evaluate any thyroid mass.
4. “Natural Thyroid Supplements Don’t Work”
The most common prescription thyroid supplement, synthetic Synthroid (levothyroxine), contains only part of what your body needs: T4. My patients with hypothyroidism have found great success using natural thyroid replacements such as Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid, Erfa, WP Thyroid, or compounded thyroid. This is because these natural products contain both T4 and T3, which help keep your thyroid levels in balance.
5. “People with Thyroid Disease Must Avoid Many Fruits and Vegetables”
In my 30-plus years of practice, I have never known a patient with thyroid disease to have an adverse reaction from eating so-called “goitrogenic foods.” As a matter of fact, foods like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and Brussels sprouts are rich in essential nutrients that nourish the thyroid. The only food I would recommend avoiding is soy, with the exception of (some) non-GMO fermented soy.
6. “Gluten Has No Effect on Thyroid Disease Either Way”
Since the term “gluten-free” has become more mainstream, there are a few misconceptions that have developed around it. Some medical professionals and laymen alike believe that this diet is nothing more than a fad similar to the Paleo diet. The truth is, there is strong scientific evidence to suggest that patients with autoimmune thyroid disease may have an underlying autoimmune reaction to gluten. According to a study published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine & Research, Celiac disease is found in 2-5 percent of cases of thyroid disease. Many more have an intolerance to gluten. This can cause a plethora of symptoms, and is often unrecognized. The majority of my patients with thyroid disease do quite well on a gluten-free diet and have made it a part of their natural thyroid treatment plan.
7. “People with Hypothyroidism Can Never Lose Weight”
hypothyroidism will often have difficulty losing weight because even though the appetite may be dulled, their sluggish thyroid will slow the rate at which they burn calories. This is where normalizing thyroid levels with natural thyroid replacement will help, along with the right dietary choices and exercise. For my patients, I recommend a gluten-free, low-carb diet and moderate exercise 3-5 times per week.
8. “Men Don’t Get Thyroid Disease”
This is another common misconception about thyroid disease. While thyroid disease is much less common in men, it is not unheard of. Two out of 10 cases of thyroid disease are found in men, although the symptoms may be a bit different than they are in women. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in men include mood and cognitive changes, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, frequent and loose bowel movements, and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Symptoms of hypothyroidism in men include depression, constipation, weight gain, fatigue, and infertility.
Once you break through the myths of thyroid disease and understand its true causes and treatments, it’s much easier to get under control.
About the Doctor
Dr. Craig A. Maxwell specializes in Integrative Medicine. He is board certified in Integrative Medicine, Family Medicine, and Osteopathic Medicine.
He understands your struggle with chronic illness and wants to help you achieve your best health. Over the span of his 30-year practice, he has treated many patients with difficult-to-treat conditions such as thyroid disease, hormonal imbalances, heavy metal toxicity, food and environmental allergies, nutritional deficiencies, chronic digestive disorders, autoimmune illnesses, and adrenal fatigue.
In 2012, Dr. Maxwell began research, writing and telemedicine. This means he is now available by telemedicine to offer you his natural health consultations wherever you are in the world. He also sees patients at his Integrative Medical Center in historic Metamora, Indiana.
Dr. Maxwell listens to you, believes you, and understands what you’re going through. He will take the time to look over your medical records carefully, speak with you about the health problems you’ve been experiencing, order additional testing if necessary, and devise a unique natural treatment protocol you can follow at home to return to a state of wellness. Give ‘one more doctor a chance. Give Dr. Maxwell a call today and start living a better life tomorrow!