Is Your Thyroid Sick and Tired

Thyroid Doctor Charlotte

Features of a sick thyroid, or Euthyroid Sick Syndrome, often overlap with those of hypothyroidism and include a lowered body temperature, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, slowed breathing, altered mental status, weight gain and other symptoms generally associated with hypothyroidism. The only way to distinguish a sick thyroid from a disease condition is through thorough lab testing and clinical judgement.

What Causes a Sick Thyroid?

Many conditions are known to temporarily affect the thyroid compromising its function. These other predisposing conditions include:

  1. Dopamine administration (i.e. Parkinson’s)
  2. Iodine or selenium deficiency
  3. Acute or chronic illness
  4. Fasting, starvation, protein-energy undernutrition
  5. Severe trauma
  6. Heart attack
  7. Chronic kidney disease
  8. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  9. Anorexia nervosa
  10. Cirrhosis of the liver
  11. Burns
  12. Acute infections
  13. Cancer
  14. Heart Disease
  15. Gastrointestinal Disease
  16. Diabetes

How Do You Diagnose a Sick Thyroid?

Most doctors will typically run only a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test to determine the state of the thyroid.

This test, by itself, is useless in diagnosing a sick thyroid from a case of hypothyroidism where the secretion of thyroid or pituitary hormones are compromised.

The appropriate tests to run are a TSH, free T4, free T3, thyroid antibodies, a serum cortisol level and the use of good clinical judgement. The free T4 determine the amount of prohormone available; the free T3 determines the amount of active hormone available and the antibodies tell us if there are chemicals in the blood inactivating the active thyroid hormones.

Euthyroid sick syndrome is characterized by a low, normal or high TSH, reverse T3 (if done) is usually high, serum cortisol is often elevated, T4 and T3 are normal or low and antibodies are often high.

How Do You Treat a Sick Thyroid?

Therefore, a comprehensive assessment is so very important. While a sick thyroid may look like hypothyroidism to the untrained eye, a sick thyroid is not treated with hormone replacement as a general rule. Rather, the underlying condition is unearthed and treated. When the underlying condition is treated, such as malnutrition or iodine/selenium deficiency, the thyroid returns to normal and any abnormal lab parameters will normalize once the underlying condition is treated.

Alternative Treatments as Adjunctive Therapy


Functional medicine practitioners frequently encourage other adjunctive therapies along with the primary form of treatment. Some of these therapies are:

  1. Specific supplements to help with adrenal stress and fatigue
  2. IV vitamins where clearly indicated
  3. Lifestyle changes including stress management
  4. Energy medicine
  5. Acupuncture to reduce stress and free up “chi” or energy flow
  6. Massage therapy to stimulate relaxation and stress management

You can always depend on a functional medicine practitioner to look for the causes of an illness rather than jumping right in to treat the symptoms. Don’t forget to consult your functional medicine practitioner if you are not feeling well and engage their help in formulating an individualized plan for healing.