The thyroid is perhaps one of the most influential systems regarding general bodily function. Despite its importance, there is a great deal of misinformation and confusion surrounding it.
By dispelling common misconceptions and false notions regarding the thyroid, we hope to improve understanding for both patients and practitioners. The following nine thyroid myths are not only false but potentially dangerous if left uncorrected.
Myth 1: Thyroid Disease is Easy to Diagnose
Thyroid disease exhibits a wide range of vague symptoms including fatigue, weight fluctuations, and cognitive troubles – get the full list of thyroid disease symptoms here. Therefore, it is easy for a thyroid disorder to be overlooked or misdiagnosed. Symptoms triggered by thyroid disease are frequently attributed to other conditions such as depression and menopause. The dangerous belief that thyroid disease is easily recognizable and diagnosable has led many thyroid patients to suffer from their condition without any medical assistance.
Myth 2: TSH Is the Best and Only Test Needed
Testing levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) has long been established as the standard for assessing thyroid function. Unfortunately, if used as the sole method for testing thyroid activity, it is not nearly sufficient. TSH levels only convey data relating to how well hormone-influencing systems are communicating with each other. Therefore, TSH testing completely overlooks essential indicators of thyroid function. Ideally, other factors such as Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies are tested to acquire a more accurate image of individual thyroid activity.
Myth 3: There is a “Normal” TSH Range
Most medical practitioners believe if a patient’s TSH rests within the average or “normal” range it indicates healthy thyroid function. Even though it has been used for many years, this ideology is flawed. Each individual has their own optimal TSH level that may or may not fall within the “normal” range.
The established “normal” TSH range is large, spanning from 0.40 to 4.0. Because of its breadth, only extreme cases of thyroid disease are recognized through TSH testing. Additionally, minor shifts in TSH can result in significant change in thyroid activity meaning that even if patients do fall within the normal range, they may experience thyroid disruption and worsening of symptoms.
Myth 4: Only Older Women Are at Risk of Hypothyroidism
Regardless of age or gender, it is important to be cognizant of the risk of thyroid disease. Although women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop a thyroid condition males are not exempt from thyroid disorders. It is true that thyroid issues tend to occur more often in older individuals but infants, children, and teens, regardless of gender, are also capable of developing thyroid disease.
Myth 5: Treatment is Simple
Many practitioners have adopted the irresponsible one-size-fits-all method of treating thyroid disease. The common approach for treating hypothyroidism involves levothyroxine, a synthetic form of inactive thyroid hormone, T4. Unfortunately, this practice is not sufficient for most thyroid patients. The majority of thyroid patients suffer from multiple factors of dysfunction such as conversion issues, hormone transport, and poor absorption. These can inhibit the efficacy of T4-only treatments. It is more likely that other options including T3 or combination T4 and T3 medications are likely to be more effective for a greater percentage of thyroid patients.
Myth 6: Natural Desiccated Thyroid Drugs Are Unregulated and Inconsistent
There are multiple treatment options available for thyroid disease including natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). Sadly, a great deal of misinformation is circulating around this beneficial thyroid treatment. Many endocrinologists state that NDTs are not regulated, have inconsistency in dosage and quality, and are unsafe. These claims are untrue. NDT medications are a natural form of thyroid hormone containing both T4 and T3, which may provide greater benefits than synthetic options for many patients.
Myth 7: Thyroid Nodules Always Indicate Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid nodules are growths or lumps located on the thyroid gland. Many believe that all nodules, even before testing has been conducted, are cancerous. In reality, it is approximated that only 5% of thyroid nodules are malignant or cancer causing. Without proper testing it is impossible to know if a thyroid nodule is malignant or cancer promoting. If a nodule returns benign results, it is often the case that no action must be taken. Alternatively, patients and doctors may elect to remove a given nodule while leaving the thyroid itself intact.
Myth 8: Hypothyroidism Is Just an Excuse for Weight Gain
Some specialists claim that even though the thyroid is tasked with regulating metabolism it does not affect weight in any meaningful manner. This is false as a slowed thyroid frequently results in weight gain and makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight. Hypothyroidism slows metabolism, promotes fatigue, adjusts hunger, regulates fat storage, and influences many other factors that impede the body’s ability to lose weight while promoting weight gain. Therefore, if you’re suffering from hypothyroidism, being diagnosed and subsequently treated is a necessary part of returning to and maintaining a healthy weight.
Myth 9: Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism Always Cause Weight Loss
Hyperthyroidism accelerates metabolism which promotes the burning of calories and may promote weight loss. For this reason, many believe that hyperthyroidism always induces erratic and fast-paced loss of weight. However, depending on various factors including insulin resistance, fitness level, and genetics, some hyperthyroid patients may actually gain weight due to their condition. Even though hyperthyroidism is frequently accompanied by certain symptoms such as weight loss, it should never be assumed that all of the typical symptoms will be present in each case.
Replacing Myth with Fact
Thyroid function is a complex topic requiring patience and careful study to fully comprehend. Continuing to learn about the thyroid and how it can impact individual wellness is an important part of maintaining a good quality of life.
One of the largest hurdles that impedes mastery of the thyroid is the continuous dissemination of misinformation. Hopefully by dispelling some of the most common misconceptions and myths regarding thyroid function, we have helped you gain greater thyroid knowledge that can be used to improve your individual wellness.
1. 5 Thyroid Lies Your Endocrinologist May Try to Tell You. Holtorf Medical Group. https://www.holtorfmed.com/5-thyroid-lies-endocrinologist-may-try-tell/
2. 13 Common Thyroid Myths. Health Central. https://www.healthcentral.com/slideshow/myths-about-thyroid-disease
3. 8 Myths Concerning Thyroid Disease Debunked. VeryWell. https://www.verywellhealth.com/myths-concerning-thyroid-disease-debunked-3868602
4. 5 Common Myths About Thyroid Disease. VeryWell. https://www.verywellhealth.com/common-lies-about-thyroid-disease-3233190
5. 7 Common Myths About Hypothyroidism. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/healthy-living-with-hypothyroidism/common-hypothyroidism-myths-pictures/