Women’s Health ®
Complimentary Issue IV
Is 98.6° Really Normal?
During the 1860s, an extensive Understanding
study of over 25,000 patients ... an increased preva- Thyroid Function
revealed that the average
temperature in the “normal” lence of mild to moderate The thyroid gland produces
range was 98.6°F. Based on that thyroid hormones that regulate
study, we have accepted 98.6° hypothyroidism may be the body’s metabolism. The
as our “normal” temperature, principal hormones secreted by
with variations being cause for the thyroid gland are:
concern of illness or infection.
contributing to the lower-
s triiodothyronine (T3)
However, in the Townsend Letter
for Doctors, Dr. Alan Gaby cites ing of our “normal” body s thyroxine (T4).
a more recent study, which
Because nearly 80% of the
determined that the average temperature. In other thyroid gland’s production is
body temperature was 98.2°F
devoted to T4, thyroxine is often
— somewhat lower than what words, “normal” does not called “the thyroid hormone”
we typically consider “normal.”
(much the same way that
Some medical professionals necessarily mean optimal. estrogen is considered “the
believe that an increased preva- female hormone”). Nonetheless,
lence of mild to moderate hypo- triiodothyronine, or T3, is func-
induced by pollutants, and the
thyroidism may be contributing tionally the more important
possibility that we are evolving
to the lowering of our “normal” thyroid hormone. According to
into a population with a pro-
body temperature. In other Dr. Joseph Mercola, “T3 does
pensity for hypothyroidism.
words, “normal” does not 90% of the work of the thyroid
Dr. Gaby explains that, in the
necessarily mean optimal. In in the body.”
past, people with mild hypo-
fact, using thousands of patients
thyroidism typically died from The thyroid, pituitary, and
as a basis for study, Dr. Broda
fatal bouts of pneumonia or hypothalamus glands all play
Barnes (author of the book
other infections before their a role in producing thyroid
Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspect-
thyroid condition was diag- hormones (see figure on page 2).
ing Illness) promoted a simple
nosed; today, many of these The thyroid gland is stimulated
body temperature test as the
other illnesses are cured with to produce T3 and T4 by the
most reliable indicator of a
antibiotics, allowing the pituitary gland’s production of
potential thyroid problem.
hypothyroidism to surface. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Subtle hypothyroidism has Therefore, instead of dying (TSH). The pituitary gland,
become increasingly common prematurely, these individuals in turn, is regulated by the
throughout the 20th century. survive to propagate an increas- hypothalamus. Dr. Thierry
Dr. Gaby suggests that this ingly large family tree with a Hertoghe indicates that there
apparent epidemic could be tendency toward hypothyroidism. may even be a pre-hypothalamic
the result of several factors. It seems that hypothyroidism is influence on thyroid hormone
Two such factors are a possible an inherited disorder, especially production, but it is not yet
thyroid hormone resistance for women. widely understood.
Continued on Page 2
Proper thyroid function
requires conversion of T4 to
T3, which is the metabolically
active derivative of T4. This The thyroid,
conversion takes place primar- pituitary, and
ily in the liver and kidney, hypothalamus
and is somewhat sensitive glands all play a
to nutrition and a variety of role in producing
Hypothalamus thyroid hormones.
vitamin, mineral, or hormonal
excesses or deficiencies (see
The liver and kidney
Imbalances That Can Affect T4 are also important
to T3 Conversion). If the to thyroid function
conversion of T4 to T3 is Thyroid because they
impaired such that there is a convert T4 to T3,
deficit of T3, symptoms of which is the meta-
hypothyroidism may persist, bolically active
even with thyroid treatment. derivative of T4.
The most common method of Cases of mild to moderate Another problem with using
diagnosing thyroid function is hypothyroidism are often missed blood tests to gauge thyroid
to measure TSH and T4, and because the range of “normal” function is that the tests
sometimes T3, with a labora- test results is overly broad, and typically measure the serum
tory blood test. Blood tests may the measurement is not sensitive level, not the “free” or bio-
also be used to rule out other enough. In addition, thyroid chemically available portion
potential causes for a thyroid hormone levels are not static. of the thyroid hormones. The
imbalance, such as a pituitary They vary significantly through- majority of the thyroid hor-
or adrenal deficiency. However, out the day and are influenced mones circulate in the blood-
some healthcare practitioners by a variety of factors, such as stream, bound to a carrier
feel that these tests are some- the potential imbalances that can protein. However, only the
what limited for determining result from diet and lifestyle, as unbound or “free” portion of
thyroid function, and that their identified in the box below. the hormone is available for
results can be misleading. use by body cells. Furthermore,
conventional thyroid blood tests
account for only the thyroid
and pituitary glands’ roles in
the process. There are other
Imbalances That Can Affect T4 to T3 Conversion aspects of thyroid function that
Excesses can go wrong, which such tests
Nutrition: High-fat Diet, High-protein Diet do not measure.
Trace Minerals: Cadmium, Lithium According to Dr. Barnes,
Hormones: Estrogen (natural or synthetic), “More information often can
Stress-related hormones such as Cortisol be brought to the physician
Deficiencies with only the aid of an ordinary
Nutrition: Fasting, Starvation, Anorexia, thermometer than can be ob-
tained with all other thyroid
Protein Calorie Malnutrition
function tests combined.”
Trace Minerals: Selenium, Iodine, Iron, Zinc With years of study and
Vitamins: Riboflavin (B2) the successful treatment of
Hormones: T3, T4, TSH thousands of patients to back
Continued on Page 3
him, Dr. Barnes promotes
the use of a simple, easy,
temperature test for detecting
Basal Temperature Test
thyroid problems (see Basal Almost 60 years ago, Dr. Broda Barnes developed a simple
Temperature Test). While Dr. temperature test for detecting thyroid problems. This easy test
Barnes admits that it is not a can be performed at home, and has proven to be even more
perfect test for determining reliable than blood tests for detecting cases of mild to moderate
thyroid function, it has proven hypothyroidism.
to be quite reliable at detecting
Menstruating women should take this test only on the second or
mild to moderate hypothy-
third day of their menstrual flow. Young girls (pre-puberty), post-
roidism. In his experience,
menopausal women, and males can take this test at any time of
he noted that relatively few
other conditions lower the basal
temperature below normal
(including pituitary or adrenal Here’s how you do it:
deficiencies, starvation, and 1. Shake an ordinary thermometer down as far as
some drugs), but these can be it will go before placing it next to your bed.
fairly easily ruled out.
2. In the morning, upon awakening and with as
little movement as possible, place the
Symptoms thermometer under your armpit and lie quietly
Undetected thyroid problems for ten minutes.
have plagued people for years,
and continue to be an under- Here’s what it means:
lying cause for a variety of If your temperature is 97.
97.8°F to 98.2 F , your
ailments that doctors hear thyroid is probably functioning normally.
about today. The onset of
hypothyroidism is subtle, If your temperature is above 98.2 F , you may
with symptoms gradually have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism),
worsening over time, making or an infection.
it more obvious as people age. If your temperature is below 97.8 F , you may
To further complicate matters, have low thyroid function (hypothyroidism).
the symptoms of hypothyroid-
ism are varied, affecting each
individual differently, including:
s Excessive fatigue s Course or brittle hair, with s Infection, especially
s Increasing sensitivity to cold, slow growth or excessive respiratory infections
feeling chilly even at normal hair loss s Muscle weakness
room temperature s Skin problems such as dry, s Joint pain
s Slow, rapid, or irregular rough, scaly skin
heartbeat s Mental impairment, including Unfortunately, many health-
s Menstrual problems, with depression, inability to care professionals still do not
possible infertility concentrate, and poor memory recognize these symptoms
as being potentially related
s Weight-related problems, s Decreased or minimal to thyroid function. This is
including difficulty losing perspiration, even in hot another reason that hypothy-
weight, or unexplained weather or during exertion roidism is often overlooked,
weight gain or weight loss s Constipation that is resistant remaining undetected until
s Fluid retention, especially to laxatives or magnesium more severe symptoms
around the eyes supplements develop.
Continued on Page 4
Related Diseases Reliance solely on blood may block a clogged artery),
testing for determining as well as increased blood
Hypothyroidism is also thyroid deficiencies, coupled pressure and excessive fatigue
often associated with other with the development and — all factors that can increase
diseases, such as menstrual use of synthetic thyroid the risk of stroke or heart
disorders (including infertil- hormones, has caused many attack.
ity), heart disease, and menstrual-related thyroid
osteoporosis. disorders to go untreated, Osteoporosis
according to Dr. Barnes. He Years ago, there was some
Menstrual Disorders believed and practiced that, concern that thyroid treatment
The fact that many menstrual without evidence of an organ- could lead to osteoporosis.
irregularities are related to related cause, most menstrual Even though this has not
hypothyroidism has been problems (including miscar- proven to be true, women are
commonly accepted for quite riage and infertility) could be still warned about it today.
some time. As far back as remedied with proper thyroid In fact, according to Dr. Ray
1914, Dr. Eugene Hertoghe, therapy. His book, Hypothy- Peat in the Townsend Letter for
a distinguished Belgian roidism: The Unsuspecting Doctors, the opposite is more
endocrinologist, noted “The Illness, contains numerous likely to be true. He states,
thyroid has a great influence anecdotes, examples, and case “Hypothyroidism, whether
on menstruation, pregnancy, studies that demonstrate Dr. natural or promoted by
lactation, and even uterine Barnes’ success rate. Some of administered thyroxine,
involution after childbirth.” this success was due to the retards bone modeling and
And in 1982, Dr. Broda Barnes fact that he looked at both tissue repair in general.”
confirmed that “There are members of a couple (not just Osteoporosis may result from
many possible causes for the woman), and thereby hypothyroidism itself, or from
menstrual difficulties. recognized hypothyroidism thyroxine pills (which are only
Among them are ovarian in the father as a potential T4) if there is poor conversion of
cysts, fibroids, and cervical part of the problem. T4 to T3. Dr. Peat contends that
polyps, [as well as] endome- Over the past few decades, the risk of osteoporosis is
triosis … But in the vast it has been well documented likely to be greater without
majority of women, there is that infertility is on the rise. administering the proper
no evidence of any [organ- There may be a link between thyroid hormone therapy,
related] problem. What is the rise in untreated hypo- as explained below.
commonly evident if it is thyroidism and the rise in
sought is low thyroid infertility. This possible
connection warrants further
Dr. Barnes continued, research, especially in light The current method of treat-
“Forty years ago, … of the success Dr. Barnes had ment for hypothyroidism is
leading gynecologists … with treating infertile couples. some form of thyroid hormone
were reporting that thyroid replacement (synthetic or
[therapy] had cured more Heart Disease natural) that provides either
menstrual disorders than all T3 or T4, or a combination of
Heart diseases may also be
other medications combined. the two.
related to hypothyroidism.
Unfortunately, that lesson Thyroid secretions also The most commonly prescribed
seems to have been largely control cholesterol levels, thyroid therapy is synthetic
lost.” Even more unfortu- which means that hypo- levothyroxine or L-thyroxine
nately for the many women thyroidism may be a primary (with brand names such as
who suffer from menstrual contributor to atherosclerosis. Synthroid®, Levothroid®, or
problems, that lesson still Thyroid deficiencies can also Levoxyl®), which contains only
seems lost today, almost lead to accelerated blood T4. Synthetic T3 is available as
twenty years later. clotting (producing a clot that Cytomel®.
4 Continued on Page 5
Although the predominant
treatment is synthetic T4, In the majority of cases, it seems that the
some medical practitioners
question the value of T4-only significance of T3 — the biochemically
treatment. In fact, a recent
New England Journal of Medi- active thyroid hormone — is being
cine article reinforced the
significance of T3 in treating ignored during diagnosis, treatment, and
hypothyroidism, which lends
support to those practition- subsequent treatment monitoring.
thyroid hormone — is being well as other potentially
For example, Dr. Mercola
ignored during diagnosis, active thyroid hormones (see
states that many people being
treatment, and subsequent Is There a 3rd Thyroid Hormone?
treated for hypothyroidism
treatment monitoring. below). Because T3 is both
with T4 are actually being
fast-acting and has a short
undertreated. He suggests As mentioned previously,
half-life, some practitioners
that the excessive reliance on there are many factors that
single-thyroid treatments (T4) can impair conversion of T4
natural thyroid treatments
and the subsequent blood to T3. A significant number of
twice daily instead of once.
test results that indicate a patients do not convert T4 to
“normal” TSH level are the T3 at a sufficient rate (or at One reason synthetic T4
primary reasons for the all), necessitating a treatment persists as the conventional
oversight. that combines both hormones. treatment is a perception that
In fact, some practitioners do it may be more stable than the
Ray Peat, PhD, adds that “If
use compounded mixtures natural thyroids. However,
the liver is the main source
that include both T3 and T4. Dr. Peat states that “Armour
of the thyroid problem, then
thyroid, USP, is often said to
thyroxine pills [which are Another alternative is natural
be of imprecise dosage, but in
only T4] can make the prob- thyroid therapy, which is
fact every batch is biologically
lem worse …” because the desiccated (or dried) animal
standardized, and studies
liver is not converting T4 to thyroid, with brand names
have shown it to be reliably
T3, and the treatment is such as Armour® thyroid.
within 1% of the labeled
further suppressing T3 pro- Some practitioners believe the
potency. The best known
duction from the thyroid. In natural thyroid more closely
brand of the supposedly
the majority of cases, it seems resembles the entire range of
chemically precise levo-
that the significance of T3 — human thyroid hormones,
thyroxine, however, was
the biochemically active including both T3 and T4, as
for a long time 30% below
the labeled potency.”
Is There a 3rd Thyroid Hormone?
Over the course of his many years in practice, the late Dr. Barnes Conclusions
noted that many patients who were being treated with synthetic
Overt hypothyroidism is
thyroxine (T4) or a combination of T3 and T4 complained of
fairly easy to detect. But,
residual symptoms, specifically dry skin and retention of fluid.
for the majority of people
However, when their therapy was modified to the natural Armour
who have this disease in
dessicated thyroid, which more closely resembles the full range of
mild to moderate forms, the
human thyroid hormones, both symptoms disappeared within
diagnosis is often missed.
one to two months. These observations suggested to Dr. Barnes
Once diagnosed, proper
that “there may be a diuretic factor in the thyroid gland separate
thyroid hormone replacement
from T4 and T3.” He suggested that the possibility of additional
therapy can remedy the
thyroid hormones warrants more research.
majority of symptoms.
Continued on Page 6
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Connections is printed on recycled paper. 5/2000
Not all people with hypothyroidism will exhibit the s Dr. Joseph Mercola, Optimal Wellness Center
same symptoms. The symptoms that do surface will website (http://www.mercola.com)
affect people to different degrees, from very severe s Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, “Nutritional Influences on
to very mild. In addition, thyroid hormone levels Hormone Levels” at the Broda O. Barnes, MD
are not a reliable indicator of how bad (or good) Foundation, Inc.’s Annual Spring Conference,
you feel. Some people with very “mild” deviations March 1996.
in their laboratory thyroid test results will feel just s Dr. Broda O. Barnes, MD, PhD, “Is There a Third
fine, while others will have any number of symp- Hormone in the Thyroid Gland? Which
toms. Therefore, it is important for both you and Preparation Should be Used for Treatment?”,
your healthcare practitioner to keep in mind that Journal of IAPM, November 1982.
the goal is not necessarily to force the blood test s Ray Peat, PhD, “Thyroid: Misconceptions,”
results into the “normal” range, but to make Townsend Letter for Doctors, November 1993.
you feel better as well! s Drs. Bunevicius, Kazanavicius, Zalinkevicius and
Prange, “Effects of Thyroxine as Compared with
For More Information Thyroxine Plus Triiodothyronine in Patients with
If you would like to learn more about hypo- Hypothyroidism,” New England Journal of Medicine,
thyroidism, you may refer to the following sources 1999; 340:424-9.
used in researching this article: s Stephen E. Langer and James F. Scheer, Solved: The
Riddle of Illness, Keats Publishing, April 1995.
s Dr. Alan R. Gaby, MD, “Literature Review & Com-
mentary,” Townsend Letter for Doctors, July 1997.
s Dr. Broda O. Barnes, MD, and Lawrence Galton, This article was written by Kathleen McCormick
Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspecting Illness, Harper and of McCormick Communications, with illustration
Row, Publishers, New York, 1976 by Amelia Janes.