Hypothyroidism is a serious condition found in people with and without food allergies.
However, people with food allergies, particularly those with celiac disease (a gluten allergy), frequently suffer from hypothyroidism. It causes fatigue, weight gain and many other problems. Hypothyroidism is often overlooked and misdiagnosed due to complexities in thyroid testing and symptoms which may overlap or contradict the symptoms of food allergies.
What Is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland sits in the neck in front of and on both sides of the trachea and secretes thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate metabolism and thus affect many aspects of health.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Lack of adequate thyroid hormone production may result in one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, weight gain, constipation, cold extremities, inability to focus, forgetfulness, dry skin and depression.
How Is Hypothyroidism Typically Diagnosed?
Most physicians measure thyroid function not by testing thyroid hormones, but by testing levels of TSH. TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. As thyroid hormone production drops, TSH levels are supposed to automatically increase to compensate for low thyroid hormone levels. Therefore a higher than normal TSH level indicates a hypothyroid condition.
Why Does Hypothyroidism Frequently Go Undiagnosed?
Unfortunately, TSH doesn’t always respond correctly to low thyroid hormone levels. If the actual thyroid hormones themselves (called T4 and T3) are not checked, hypothyroidism can be missed. I’ve seen several cases of hypothyroidism with low thyroid hormone production and a normal TSH level. Also, most physicians are using old data and a normal reference range that is too large when determining whether or not the TSH level is normal. This means that many people are being told that they have a normal thyroid when, according to the latest scientific standards, they are actually hypothyroid.
What Thyroid Tests Should Be Run?
An initial evaluation of thyroid function must include not only TSH, but thyroid hormones as well. Whenever there is a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, or when the TSH level fluctuates, it is also important that autoimmune thyroid antibodies be measured. This is especially true for people with food allergies, since there is a higher association of autoimmune hypothyroidism in these people.
How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?
Once the problem is properly diagnosed it is relatively simple to correct with thyroid hormone replacement. However, it is important to have thyroid levels monitored regularly to make sure that the prescribed dosage is correct. This is particularly true in people with autoimmune thyroid conditions and those with newly diagnosed food allergies, as their thyroid levels are susceptible to frequent swings.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having hypothyroidism or are wondering about the interpretation of previous lab results, please call my office at 206-264-1111 (or visit our Contact Us page here) to schedule an appointment for a thorough evaluation of your thyroid function.
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.