My blood tests are in! And I’ll tell you what, they don’t look like much of anything is going on… So a doctor that was looking at those ranges would tell me, you’re all clear, nothing is wrong! And I would be disappointed… because aren’t I feeling all crappy? That can’t be normal right?
Let’s first take a look at blood work… You go to a lab (any lab) and when you get your results sheet back there are ranges next to all your values.
So what do those numbers mean? Most people think that this is the range of values your body should operate in, physiologically speaking. In actuality these ranges are averages from all the people who have had each test done in that particular lab for the entire year. And every year those ranges change. And they can be different from lab to lab. You may be thinking, ok that’s weird… so what do those numbers mean then? Possibly not what you need them to… the numbers depend upon the people getting the test done. Are they sick? Are they healthy? Probably a combination… So these numbers become set as averages of a community that is not the healthiest. Do you think it is wise to compare yourself against other unhealthy people to find out what is actually the right range for you?
This is where functional medicine comes in to the picture. Physiological ranges are being observed and utilized by doctors practicing what is being called functional medicine. I myself have attended many seminars to learn the ‘method.’ With these ranges, doctors can look for patterns between different blood variables that will explain symptoms. Often times these values would be considered subclinical, meaning that the value falls below what we would consider abnormal. Using functional ranges brings these subclinical results to the surface as to what is happening in your body.
So now using functional medicine blood ranges, my results paint a completely different picture. And my symptoms now make sense. My thyroid is not working hard enough, function is low. But the pattern my results fall into suggest that my thyroid is fine. Secondary hypothyroidism. Which leaves the question, what is primary (or what is causing my thyroid to act sluggish)? The results suggest it is secondary to pituitary hypofunction. This means the pituitary gland in my brain has fallen asleep on the job, and therefore is NOT telling my thyroid to work. Thyroid fine. Pituitary not.
Secondary hypothyroidism, pituitary hypofunction. This pattern of low thyroid function, is very common. TSH values will be low (not as low as hyperthyroid function) and you will have symptoms of hypothyroidism. The criteria for this thyroid pattern are TSH under 1.8, T4 under 6, and hypothyroid symptoms. Is this you? There are several common reasons why the pituitary glands gets lazy and stops working.
First and possibly most common is chronic stressors. An active stress response tires the adrenal glands and ultimately the brain. This can range from a busy lifestyle, poor diet, too much caffeine, not getting enough sleep, chronic inflammation (a lot of times from diet), bacterial and viral (HPV, herpes simplex, etc) infections, to a high carbohydrate diet.
Postpartum depression. Many times woman go into pregnancy with already stressed out adrenal glands and the demands on the body exacerbate this. It is common for thyroid function to dip after pregnancy.
Inappropriate thyroid medication use will also cause this pituitary issue. Many times when TSH is low, doctors will prescribe thyroid medication. Blood values will normalize and symptoms will go away, but only for a little while. Symptoms will return, only for the the medication dosage to be increased. This tells the pituitary gland it doesn’t need to do any more work, so the link between the pituitary and the thyroid will be suppressed. Too much medication over time can actually sever this link completely, leading to lifelong medication dependence.
I fall under the first mentioned, chronic stressors. As you have read in my first article about my symptomology (which you can read here), I have had digestive issues for many years which were spurred by excessive antibiotic usage. The imbalance in my gut microbiome (the natural balance of bacteria in my intestines) led to a condition called leaky gut. This means the spaces between the cells in my intestines have opened up, and hence I have developed several food intolerances (wheat, corn, soy, eggs). Every time these foods are eaten, there is an inflammatory response. This means my immune system reacts and inflammation is created. This inflammation further damages and strains other systems in the body. Unless the digestive tract lining is fixed, this response will continue every time certain foods are consumed (specifically the ones I have noticed symptoms with, among others that are known to cause inflammation such as vegetable oils). It is imperative for my thyroid and pituitary health, that these stressors be removed. My digestive tract needs to be healed.
So now I have the answer to my question… what is wrong with me?
Now I need to treat the issues.
1. My immune system. I want to make sure my immune system is strong and functioning properly. I will be supporting it with the following:
- Turmeric based supplement or curcumin twice a day to eliminate inflammation.
- Cod liver oil based high vitamin D supplement twice a day to eliminate inflammation and provide D for the immune system.
- Glutathione for immune function twice a day applied to bottom of feet.
2. My gut health. Remove, Reinoculate, Replace, Repair. This is the gut mantra.
- Remove harmful bacteria, yeast, parasites with an herbal supplement 4 times daily.
- Reinoculate the intestines with beneficial bacteria 8-10 capsules daily (I will be using a probiotic with enteric coating to get through the acid of the stomach).
- Replace parts of healthy digestion with hydrochloric acid and enzyme supplements with each meal.
- Repair the lining of the gut with a specific repair supplement 3 times daily. I will also be detoxing my liver with a powder shake with herbs, enzymes, minerals, and herbs.
3. My pituitary thyroid axis. This pathway needs to be stimulated.
- Herbal and mineral based supplement to specifically stimulate the Pituitary thyroid axis.
This protocol, along with proper eating and exercise, will help overcome fatigue.
Understanding what is actually going on inside of you is extremely important to start the healing process. We may experiment with remedies here and there, but seeing concrete proof is a definite way to know where to go next and to make sure the problem is thoroughly fixed.
I plan on updating you through this process, with how I am feeling and what phase of healing I am in. It is important to understand that faulty systems in the body can be stimulated to work properly again. A deficiency in a medicine is not the root of our problem, nor will taking a medication be an ultimate fix (although I do realize there is a time and place for pharmaceuticals).
I hope my journey helps you along your journey! Many of us are not exactly sure what is going on inside of us… which is why bloodwork analysis is the solution. Going to your doctor to get regular bloodwork will not solve this problem. Many issues that present themselves in the blood, are sub-clinical or below detectable levels. Functional bloodwork analysis is the answer! This technique can spot underlying issues in the physiological patterns in your blood. Once you know exactly what is wrong with you, the solution is easy.
To get your own bloodwork analysis, go here.