As I work with clients, I find that nearly all of them have undiagnosed thyroid issues. The most common thing for me to recommend in a consultation is for someone to get a full thyroid panel done by a good doctor who understands thyroid disease.
What’s the connection between fibromyalgia & your thyroid?
Many symptoms of thyroid disease overlap with fibromyalgia symptoms. Therefore, it just makes good sense to check to see if some of your fibromyalgia symptoms, or symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), could be caused by low thyroid.
In addition, thyroid issues could be amplifying your CFS or fibromyalgia symptoms, making them worse than they would be if your thyroid was functioning properly. If it’s not functioning properly, then…
Treating your thyroid could improve your fibromyalgia.
Here are some of the symptoms of low thyroid that can mimic fibromyalgia:
(Your thyroid is the green butterfly-shaped gland shown in this picture.)
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping more than average
- Muscle pain, especially lower body
- Muscle weakness
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
- Increased sensitivity to temperature, particularly cold
Other common symptoms of low thyroid are:
- Pale, dry skin
- Puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Unexplained weight gain
- Difficulty losing weight
- Heavier than normal menstrual periods
- Brittle fingernails and hair
There are three things that make discovering a thyroid condition tricky.
1 – The most common symptoms of low thyroid look like fibromyalgia.
One down side to being diagnosed with fibromyalgia is that doctors may put all of your symptoms under the “fibromyalgia” heading and not look further for causes. This may be what happens with your thyroid.
If you complain to your doctor that your legs are hurting more than normal, but everything else feels the same, your doctor could very well say, “Your fibromyalgia is flaring up. You must’ve done something different with those muscles.”
However, if your doctor is familiar with the lesser known symptoms of low thyroid, you might discover that your leg pain is due to low thyroid.
2 – Your doctor and/or lab may not know about the updated lab standards.
In November 2002, new guidelines were published by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) for what the normal range should be for your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Before this revision, a range of 0.5 to 5.0 was considered normal.
However, the AACE found that patients within the range of 3.04 to 5.0 had symptoms of hypothyroidism. (This is one test where the higher number indicates low thyroid function.)
In light of this, the AACE shifted the normal range to be 0.3 to 3.04 — a much narrower range.
According to the AACE, this shift doubles the number of people who are considered to have abnormal thyroid function. The reality is, these folks already had abnormal thyroid function; the test now correctly reflects this, allowing these people to get proper treatment.
If your doctor is still using the old standards, I suggest bringing this press release from the AACE to your next appointment. If your doctor remains resistant after reading the press release, it’s time to look for a new doctor — at least for your thyroid needs.
3 – Your doctor may only know how to diagnose basic low thyroid.
In order to properly diagnose some thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where your body thinks your thyroid is evil and tries to kill it, your doctor needs to run a full thyroid panel, not just a simple TSH test. Only by running a full thyroid panel, will a doctor who understands the intricacies of thyroid disease have the information needed to treat you.
Your TSH levels can actually look normal while you are having a problem with your thyroid.
It was the thyroid antibodies that told my doctor that I had Hashimoto’s; one of my clients doesn’t manufacture enough T3 from the T4 in her body. These are things you’d never know by only running the TSH test.
Most MD’s will only run the TSH test. However, your thyroid test should include Free T3, Free T4, and thyroid antibodies TPO/TSI, along with the TSH level if you want to get a complete diagnosis.
Of course, you’ll also need to see a doctor that knows how to interpret these test results! You would think that would mean seeing an endocrinologist. In my experience, that hasn’t been the case. For me, and for most of my clients, it means visiting a naturopath. If you need help finding a good one, let me know.
You’ve finally gotten a diagnosis of low thyroid. Now what?
When treating your thyroid, there are two options: synthetic medications or natural glandulars.
Most MD’s will prescribe synthetic medication such as Synthroid or levothyroxine to treat your hypothyroidism. These medications only contain the T4 thyroid hormone. I believe that glandulars are a much better option.
Using a natural glandular, such as Armour Thyroid, gives you both the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. They are made from pig thyroid, which is similar to human thyroid. However, if you go with a natural glandular, choose Armour Thyroid.
Why is Armour Thyroid brand the only way to go?
I’ve read that many MD’s prescribe synthetics because they think that the natural glandulars are not standardized, meaning that you may not get a consistent amount of thyroid hormone in a natural pill.
Forest Laboratories, the manufacturer of Armour Thyroid, tests both the raw material and the actual tablets, to make sure that you are getting exactly what you are prescribed. Armour Thyroid is standardized.
- Armour Thyroid is gluten free. The generics are not.
- Natural glandulars have been proven to work better on depression than many antidepressants! Synthetics cannot make this claim.
- Your thyroid produces both the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. Natural glandulars contain both T3 and T4; the synthetics most MD’s prescribe do not.
- It’s almost always true that natural products are utilized by your body more fully than synthetics.
If you want to read more about diagnosing thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s, and how an undiagnosed thyroid disorder could be affecting you, I highly recommend reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Dr. Datis Kharrazian. It’s an excellent, groundbreaking book about this subject.
I have recently switched over to a custom compounded T3/T4 synthetic medication to manage my Hashimoto’s. Here’s why:
- Dr. Kharrazian explains in his book, above, that some people react to the porcine thyroid. As my doctor puts it, some people with Hashimoto’s will react to the “beasty bits.” If you are trying Armour Thyroid, and in spite of going gluten free, find that your antibodies are still out of control, you might consider this.
- By using a custom compounded T3/T4 blend, my doctor can tweak my medication for exactly what I need. For example, she recently increased my T3 (liothyronine) while leaving my T4 (levothyroxine) the same. You cannot do this with a one-size-fits-all pill.
- Many of us who have Hashimoto’s or other thyroid issues have trouble converting the T4 (which is the only thing that most doctors prescribe) into the T3 that your body can use. If you are having a conversion issue, you may need higher doses of T3 and less T4… but that’s the subject of another blog post!
Check out the symptoms of low thyroid. Do any of them apply to you?
If they do, make an appointment to talk with your doctor about running a FULL thyroid panel to test your thyroid. Treating your thyroid can make a huge difference in your fibromyalgia symptoms. You owe it to yourself to check this out as soon as possible!
Do you have questions about thyroid testing? Do you wonder if your symptoms indicate a thyroid issue?
Leave me a comment below or contact me directly. I’m happy to answer. As someone with both fibromyalgia and thyroid disease, I can help you sort through the confusion and figure out how to approach your doctor.