How to Test for a Thyroid Disorder You May Not Know You Have

September 9, 2020
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

If you’ve ever felt you had all the symptoms of a thyroid disorder but were told your tests were normal, then you may have Type 2 Hypothyroidism.

Jan asked her doctor for thyroid testing because at age 42, she struggled to get out of bed every morning, was gaining weight without any change to her diet or exercise, her muscles ached, her periods were heavier, and she was struggling with constipation. Her doctor did a thorough exam and found no other reason for her symptoms, so she agreed to run tests, including a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level. Jan’s doctor later called with the “good news” that all of her tests – including her thyroid test – were normal, but this left her feeling frustrated and hopeless, with no good reason for her symptoms.

If this sounds like you, you are far from alone – and your thyroid may not be as “normal” as you’ve been told. The tests may be right – you’re making enough thyroid hormone – but the question is whether your body is using it – or not.

Type 2 Hypothyroidism is similar to Type 2 Diabetes, a chronic condition where the body makes enough insulin but the cells can’t take it in. In Type 2 Hypothyroidism, the body makes enough thyroid hormone, but the thyroid cells are unable to use it properly. And because of the close relationship between your thyroid and mitochondria, your cells may not be getting the energy or nutrients they need to function, and toxins may not be getting out. Not surprisingly, the symptoms of low thyroid function are the same as the symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction.

The Many Faces of Thyroid Dysfunction

Type 2 Hypothyroidism is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around as long as blood tests for thyroid function have been around. And prior to this, all hypothyroid disorders were lumped together as one clinical diagnosis – that affected up to 30 percent of the adult population. Because this disorder affects both the thyroid and the mitochondria, it encompasses a wide variety of symptoms that can be caused directly or indirectly by the malfunctioning thyroid gland:

  • Change in appetite
  • Autoimmune disorders, from allergies and asthma to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Cancers
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Issues with the gums
  • TMJ disorder
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarseness, difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic and recurrent infections (including Candida)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Emotional and mental issues
  • Metabolic problems, leading to weight loss or gain
  • Weakness or lack of coordination
  • Neurologic issues, including migraine, vertigo, and numbness
  • Painful joints and muscles, including Fibromyalgia
  • Skin disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Thinning hair and eyebrows
  • Cold intolerance
  • Slowed speech

In addition to this lengthy laundry list of symptoms, I find a hallmark set of symptoms that are gender specific. In men, I find loss of muscle strength, low testosterone, reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased testicle size, hair loss, and osteoporosis. In women, I find heavier or lighter menses, infertility, breast discharge, irritability, constipation, hoarseness, and slow heart rate.

How You Can Test for Type 2 Hypothyroidism

Because there really isn’t a reliable blood test for this disorder, doctors have to think outside the box to find it. Dr. Broda Barnes found that the first morning basal body temperature taken in the armpit is the most accurate way to detect thyroid hormone resistance. If your armpit basal body temperature is consistently below 97.8 degrees F, then it’s possible you have thyroid dysfunction. It’s most effective if you measure your temperature for at least 10 days.

Living Well with Thyroid Disease

The first step to overcoming thyroid hormone resistance is understanding where it comes from. Thyroid hormone metabolism at the cellular level is most often disrupted by either defects in the mitochondria or toxins that are known thyroid disruptors. These toxins can include plastics like BPA and PCBs, halides like bromine and fluoride, chlorine added to drinking water, PFOA from nonstick cookware coatings, and heavy metals like mercury, aluminum, cadmium, lead, and arsenic. The mitochondria in the cells filled with these toxins may have an urgent need for thyroid hormones, but they are unable to even send the SOS signal to the brain for what they need.

Just like lifestyle changes are the first line of defense in Type 2 Diabetes, they are the first line of defense with Type 2 Hypothyroid. Here are my Top 3 Thyroid Supports to use when you have thyroid hormone resistance.

  1. Detox. If you’ve followed me over any part of the past 4 decades of my career, then you know that detox is an important daily ritual if you want to maintain your health. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the health of the thyroid and the mitochondria. It’s not uncommon at all to find that the heavy metals from dental amalgams in the mouth settle into sensitive thyroid tissues and impair their functioning. I find if we focus on detoxing these metals that the other toxins are also removed in the process.

While IV chelation therapy receives a lot of attention for its effectiveness in ridding the body of heavy metals, when I know the thyroid is involved, I like to use a more gentle systemic approach – sweating. Sauna therapy has been used successfully for centuries to rid the body of unwanted toxins and infections. I prefer infrared sauna therapy for its powerful detoxifying effects, even into deeper tissues. My brand of choice is Sunlighten, which is what I have in my own home.

  1. Nutritional and Glandular Support. When cells are unable to take thyroid hormone in and utilize it properly, it affects their metabolism. As a result they don’t break down and absorb the nutrients they need to function properly. Replacing nutrients in a highly absorbable form is essential thyroid support, in my opinion. Potassium iodide is essential for proper thyroid function, and selenium, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin E are essential for proper thyroid hormone conversion.

In addition, glandular extracts are very helpful for supporting thyroid function. The thyroid affects the metabolism of every cell, tissue, gland, and organ, so when it’s hurting, all of the other glands are also affected. Thyro-Key from UNI KEY Health contains not only pure bovine thyroid glandular extract, but also adrenal, pituitary, hypothalamus, parotid, and liver extracts, which all support the health of the thyroid and each other.

  1. Hormone Replacement. Once your cells are being nourished and detoxed, and your thyroid is being supported, your body may start to self-correct on its own. But, if the thyroid hormone resistance has been ongoing, you may need more help to overcome it. In this case, many functional medicine doctors turn to prescription thyroid hormone replacement to flood the cells with the much-needed thyroid hormones.

The theory is that if you saturate the tissues with enough thyroid hormones for a long enough period of time, even malfunctioning mitochondria will respond and start properly utilizing the hormones. You’ll know it’s working when your basal body temperatures start rising into the normal range and you actually start to feel better! I recommend talking to your doctor about a full spectrum medication like Armour, Westhroid, NatureThroid, or a specially compounded formula to get the full complement of thyroid hormones your body needs.

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Barbara

    I may be hypothyroid. I have a lot of the symptoms you list. Very interesting information.

  2. Melanie

    My doctor said I’m hypothyroid but I’ve actually lost weight and have a lot of energy. The only criteria I seem to fit is the chronic constipation I’ve had for years. Recently my eyelashes thinned, I’ve lost my periods and feel irritable by I’m only 42. Is it possible to have symptoms of both hyper and hypo?

  3. Team ALG


    You can alternate between hyperthyroidism and hypothyrodism but it is a rare condition and can be due to thyroiditis. Sometimes thyroditis can follow having a virus infection. You may also be in perimenopause. We suggest that you discuss this in more depth with your doctor.



  1. Just how to Check for a Thyroid Problem You May Not Know You Have – DietMarkets - […] Original Article […]

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