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Hypothyroidism and Hair Loss by Ann Smith

One idea that I hope will help someone out there is this. Low thyroid function is one of the most common causes of diffuse hair loss. Problem is, most doctors are "strictly by the numbers" these days in terms of diagnosis. For example a TSH "normal" range could be .5-5.5. Therefore, anything between these numbers the doc dismisses as normal. This is wrong!

There has been a recent change in thinking that even a TSH of 2 (well within "normal" range) when accompanied by hypothyroid symptoms is suspect. A course of thyroid hormone (starting at tiny dose) will not harm a normally functioning thyroid, and can only help a borderline or less obvious case of hypo.

I know several women who start to lose their hair if their TSH's are over 2. Also, the most important test is the Free T3 (most doctors don't test it since the TSH wrongly became the "gold standard".) Free T3 is the active thyroid hormone and you can have low levels with a "normal" THS. Also, many doctors use T4 medications, that is - Synthroid; yet some people do far better on T3/T4 combos, that is - Armour.

Years ago, doctors treated people so that they would feel better -- these days, it's doctoring by lab numbers only -- what a shame! For great info on this topic, go to this terrific website: www.thyroid.about.com

Comment: I think Ann Smith’s message will be of help to people whose hair loss may be attributed to hypothyroidism. I hope it motivates them to click on the link she provided. It’s the best site I’ve seen about this problem. The following is what Ann wrote after I asked permission to use her message on my site.

Great Tom - feel free to post it and edit it anyway you see fit. One more point I forgot to mention was that hypos who live where winters are harsh, that is, in the Northeast, may notice their symptoms worsen during the winter - trouble losing weight or weight gain, lowered sex drive, slow knee reflex, depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, INCREASED HAIR SHEDDING, high cholesterol levels (HDL -- the "good" as well as LDL), orangey palms and soles of feet because hypos do not utilize beta carotene as well and really need true Vitamin A.

This list is not complete but those are some classic symptoms. Hypos who are susceptible to a winter "dip", and who are treated by truly knowledgeable docs will get their thyroid med dose raised during those months to prevent such symptoms. Good docs exist but you must be proactive in seeking them out. If a doc dismisses you if your labs are 'normal' without a real discussion or is impatient when you ask questions, DUMP HIM OR HER. I'm not suggesting that everyone with hair loss has thyroid problems, but know this: all hormones decline with age including thyroid. It's one of the most overlooked problems these days unless you are one of those whose lab numbers match your symptoms.

In the old days before the TSH test (which many docs are not considering the final say anymore thank God) - docs would look at symptoms and listen to the patient. They wouldn't just pat you on the head and tell you to go home and suffer or tell you it's "stress" or "all in your head." I had a doctor in his 80s (he died recently unfortunately) and he said that it's a travesty how medicine is practiced these days. 15 minute physicals are crap. Doctoring by the numbers only is crap. He said that Armour thyroid (pig glandular) has been used for 100 years. Years ago people ate glandulars for health. Now they eat twinkies and wonder why they feel sick. Be proactive and have faith. I sincerely hope that my posts can be of use to someone out there.

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, about one in eight women will develop a thyroid problem in her lifetime.



Dr. Andrew Weil's Answer to a Question

The following question and answer is on Dr. Weil's excellent website - www.drweil.com. There are informative articles here on all aspects of health and nutrition.

What's the Best Thyroid Treatment?

I would prefer to take the natural Armour thyroid instead of the thyroxine my physician prescribes for my low thyroid. My chiropractor wants me on the Armour. What is your opinion and why?

Answer (Published 8/29/2008)

I used to recommend Armour thyroid to treat an underactive thyroid. This product contains both T3 and T4, a combination of two hormones produced by the gland. I find that some patients respond better to the combination than to T4 (thyroxine) alone. Thyroid deficiency (hypothyroidism) can cause a number of symptoms including low energy levels, constipation, dry, flaky skin, a sensitivity to cold, depression, weight gain, joint stiffness and hair loss.

The only effective way to treat hypothyroidism is to replace the deficient hormones. The drug most often prescribed for this purpose is Synthroid, a synthetic form of T4.

The reason I no longer recommend Armour thyroid is because it is animal derived (from pigs), which makes me a little nervous, because of the risk, however slight, of disease transmitted by animal tissue. Instead, I recommend Thyrolar, a synthetic drug that gives you both T3 and T4, and most closely approximates the natural mixture of hormones that the thyroid produces. You may find that the combination has a better effect on mood than thyroxine alone.

Since most cases of underactive thyroid are due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, I also suggest following my general recommendations for autoimmune diseases including a diet low in animal protein (especially meat and milk products) and one that eliminates polyunsaturated and trans fats. In addition, take my antioxidant formula, exercise regularly and practice relaxation techniques.

I also advise against excessive intake of certain foods (called goitrogens) that can interfere with thyroid hormone production. These include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, peanuts and soybeans. You don't have to avoid these foods but don't overdo them.

It's best to take thyroid medication on an empty stomach because some foods (particularly those high in fiber) can interfere with absorption. Certain drugs and supplements can interact with thyroid medication as well, especially if you take them at the same time of day. These include aspirin, calcium, Coumadin and other blood thinners, estrogen, iron, psyllium and other fiber supplements, and certain antacids. You shouldn't have any problem if you take your thyroid medication two hours before or after taking any of these drugs or supplements.

You can also try performing a shoulder stand, which can help by increasing circulation to the thyroid (this isn't a good idea if you're pregnant, menstruating or have glaucoma and should be done with caution if you have high blood pressure or sinus problems). And be sure to have your thyroid function checked periodically to see whether the dosage of medication needs to be adjusted.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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