What you don’t know about your thyroid can make you ill

The test tells the doctor your thyroid is fine, yet the thyroid’s malfunction is making your life miserable, and it is getting worse by the day.

by Becky Coffield — 

The thyroid is probably the most overlooked, improperly diagnosed gland in the human body. This small, butterfly-shaped gland residing in the throat is one in a family of glands called the endocrine system. Its functioning is extremely intricate — and crucial to the health and well-being of a person. Yet it is often passed over with the wave of a hand or a quick glance at a blood test that may suggest it is working well, when in fact it may be the cause of multiple severe problems.

How can this happen? The test tells the doctor your thyroid is fine, yet the thyroid’s malfunction is making your life miserable, and it is getting worse by the day.

The symptoms of thyroid malfunction, in this case hypothyroidism — or low thyroid function — may sound all too familiar: weight gain, lowered body temperature, lack of energy, fluid retention, chronic constipation, nervous disorders, loss of memory and thinking ability, arthralgia, headaches, hair loss, changes in voice, anemia, loss of libido, infertility, visual disturbances, carpal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon, hypoglycemia and flaky, thin nails. These are only the symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

A person suffering from an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) will display a whole other range of symptoms, such as nervousness, anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, feeling hot all the time, heart palpitations and irregular pulse. In addition, exophthalmos (bulging, staring eyes) may be apparent.

Simply put, the list of symptoms indicating a malfunctioning thyroid is exhaustive. Even elevated cholesterol may be directly linked to hypothyroidism.

There are many reasons the thyroid is subject to such malfunction, from an environment loaded with toxins to genetic influences. But more importantly, why is the malfunction often not detected by the normal thyroid blood test? This is partly due to the type of test frequently administered.

According to Dr. Barry Durrant-Peatfield, there have been about 40 different tests for thyroid illness because none has been found reliable; rather, they can actually “… produce a false picture of the true situation.” He says one reason the blood tests for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) may be unreliable is that they test only the level of thyroid hormone in the blood. “What we need to know is the level of thyroid in the tissues and, of course, this blood test cannot tell us.” According to Durrant-Peatfield, it may come as no surprise to learn that some European doctors “… have been aware that blood tests may not just be useless, but worse than useless, since sick people are sent packing or are given the wrong treatment.”

A better test to check for thyroid function, and one you can do at home free of charge, is called the basal temperature test. Immediately upon awakening, take your temperature. If you use a mercury glass thermometer, take your sublingual temperature for approximately three minutes, or place the thermometer in your armpit for 10 minutes. The idea here is that if your temperature is two to three degrees below normal, it is extremely likely that you have a low functioning thyroid.

It is normal for a person’s temperature to drop slightly when they sleep, but only a few tenths of a degree. Simply put, if your waking temperature is 97.6 or less, it is possible you could be hypothyroid.

This temperature testing needs to be done for three weeks. Record this information along with your pulse rate. A person with hypothyroid issues may register a resting pulse rate of 60, while someone with an overactive thyroid may have a pulse of 90. Do not jump to conclusions based on the pulse rate alone, however. The pulse rate should only be taken into consideration along with temperature and blood pressure readings. Be more alert to other symptoms you may have brushed off, such as ankle swelling, facial puffiness or bags around the eyes.

Take note of physical symptoms you may be suffering, and seriously consider that many of your ailments could be the result of a low-functioning thyroid. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those ailments you have been chalking up to “old age” may, in fact, be reversible? Fortunately, other tests for thyroid function are beginning to gain attention and warrant further investigation and study, among those being the urine test and the salivary test. One of these tests may be appropriate for you.

The thyroid does not stand or function alone. It is intricately connected to other functions in the body, including the adrenals and the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and other hormones. This could well explain why people in a hypothyroid state often experience female problems or male menopause problems. In fact, a hysterectomy may very well affect thyroid activity. And for males, a low testosterone state is all part of the hypothyroid condition. In addition, according to Durrant-Peatfield, low thyroid output is a more significant cause of high cholesterol than bad eating.

Your thyroid, a gland you may have never really give much thought to, could be failing and causing many of your woes. Although it does not function alone and is intricately bound to the rest of your endocrine system, it sometimes seems to run amok, creating havoc for its partners in the endocrine system.

Do not stop at your doctor’s blood test. Do your own basal temperature tests. Be informed and prepared to do battle for your health. Neglecting a malfunctioning thyroid will only lead to a downward spiral in one’s health, causing untold misery and illness that might otherwise easily be remedied.


  • Durrant-Peatfield, Dr. Barry. Your Thyroid and How to Keep It Healthy. Hammersmith Press Ltd. 2006.
  • Schwarzbein, Diana, M.D. & Nancy Deville. The Schwarzbein Principle. Health Communications, Inc. 1999.


Becky Coffield is the author of several books, including You Can Conquer TMJ: Ideas and Recipes. www.youcanconquertmj.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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