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What is Thyroid Hormone Resistance?

When your thyroid functions but body doesn’t accept it
What is Thyroid Hormone Resistance?
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Thyroid hormone resistance is widely misunderstood and sometimes not even acknowledged as a condition. Becoming more knowledgeable about the thyroid, its function, and disorders is important to ensuring that you receive excellent care and receive optimal treatment.

What is Thyroid Hormone Resistance?

Basically, thyroid hormone resistance is when the body doesn’t respond to thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are being produced, but the body is “resistant” to that hormone. Also known as subclinical hypothyroidism or hypothyroidism type 2, you could refer to it as pre-hypothyroidism.

With classic hypothyroidism a failure of the thyroid gland itself has occurred, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, loss of hair, depression or anxiety, and joint pain. In thyroid hormone resistance the symptoms can be the same, however in contrast to hypothyroidism, the cause is not that the thyroid is under-functioning, but rather that the body’s cells aren’t responding to the hormones being produced. Because thyroid hormones are being produced in the case of thyroid hormone resistance, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test will often come back within range despite experiencing all of the symptoms.

Many doctors perceive the TSH test as the gold standard for assessing thyroid health and will not order more testing unless the TSH show signs of possible thyroid disorders. But with thyroid resistance, TSH will generally be within range while T3 or T4 hormones may be elevated.  When the TSH test comes back normal, the patient may very well be sent on their way even though they are enduring significant hypothyroid symptoms because the other thyroid biomarkers were never examined. 

What Are the Causes?

Many factors can contribute to thyroid hormone resistance syndrome (THR). Some of these include nutritional deficiencies, genetic predisposition, and poor diet. Autoimmune antibodies may also be present, which is one of the reasons that it’s so important to have full thyroid testing and not just testing of TSH.

What Are the Signs of Thyroid Hormone Resistance Syndrome?

The signs of (THR) include having symptoms of hypothyroidism but receiving a normal TSH lab test or seeing no improvements in symptoms when placed on a T4 only medication. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

What Can I Do If Labs Don’t Reflect Hypothyroidism?

If you are having significant symptoms of hypothyroidism and your labs aren’t reflecting that you have thyroid disease be sure to see a knowledgeable doctor that specializes in thyroid health. They will take into full consideration your history of symptoms. In addition, they will order a full set of thyroid labs including TSH, T3, T4, and TPO antibodies. Having a thyroid doctor on your side will help ensure that you receive the medical treatment that you need in order to begin feeling your best.

You may possibly need to consider controlling your blood sugar and healing your gut. Finding and addressing the root cause may take some time but you will heal much more quickly when you find the cause of your thyroid hormone resistance. Working with a nutritionist can help you navigate this process by assisting you in addressing nutritional deficiencies and determining the best diet for your thyroid

Natural Treatment of Thyroid Hormone Resistance

Being open to a more holistic approach to thyroid care is also important in healing from thyroid disorders. Looking at the body and its functions as a whole instead of focusing attention to only the thyroid gland can greatly increase chances of seeing success with treatment.

Environmental toxins can negatively affect the thyroid because these toxins can bind to the thyroid receptors causing thyroid resistance. While it’s not possible to completely avoid toxins, adding detox strategies to a daily routine can help flush these toxins from the body. Some detox strategies include:

Drinking lemon water - lemons are full of antioxidants and fiber. Drinking purified water with lemon will help to expel toxins from your body.

Sweating - Allowing your body to sweat for 20-30 minutes each day in a hot bath with Epsom salt is a great way to detox.

Exercise - Make sure to get 20-30 minutes of exercise every day. Even a gentle workout like yoga or walking can help tremendously. Stretching alone can help release toxins from the body.

Eating whole foods - Eliminating sugar and processed foods is a key to a successful detox. If we take measures to detox and then constantly fill our body with toxins from food, we will just create a never-ending cycle. Work to replace unhealthy food with whole foods from nature. It’s said that it takes thirty days to form a new habit. Aim to remove sodas, sugar, and processed foods from your diet for a month. By the end of the month you may not even miss these foods anymore.

Increasing mineral intake - Minerals are very important in the detox process. Many Americans are deficient in minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, iodine and calcium. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist to ensure that you are receiving adequate vitamins and minerals for your thyroid.

Becoming knowledgeable about thyroid hormone resistance is the first step in understanding THR and learning how to manage thyroid symptoms. Visiting with a doctor that specializes in thyroid care can help you put together the puzzle pieces and determine the best thyroid treatment for you.


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Julia Walker, RN, BSN

Clinical Nurse

Julia Walker, RN, BSN, is a clinical nurse specializing in helping patients with thyroid disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Regis University in Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Medicine from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She believes managing chronic illnesses requires a balance of medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Her background includes caring for patients in women’s health, critical care, pediatrics, allergy, and immunology.

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