The thyroid gland is an important gland in our body with respects to metabolism. It really helps with energy production throughout the body. Whether it is our immune system, our cardiovascular system including our heart, our lungs, our bones, our gut, our brain specifically and without good thyroid output we tend to run deficits in energy production. In many kids on the Autism spectrum we know that there are underlying medical problems which contribute to many of their issues. We know that research points to the fact that there are methylation chemistry problems which can affect attention and focusing, we know there are mitochondrial imbalances with can influence negatively metabolism throughout the body and energy production as well. We know that there can be immune system imbalances, digestive problems, etc.
One of the things that doesn’t get a lot of attention is thyroid imbalances. And the thyroid is often either not assessed or under assessed with respects to Autism. In patients with various mental health problems, depression, bipolar, etc., many times thyroid dysfunction is a contributing factor and often optimizing thyroid function helps to really improve the overall mental status and health status of patients. So I want you to be aware of the importance of thyroid function in Autism as something to just assess for your child’s overall health.
So if you are doing a blood chemistry test or any type of blood testing for your child, make sure that your doctor includes a thyroid panel and specifically what you want to look at is what’s called TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, free T4, and free T3. Now these are important because the free fraction of those hormones, specifically the free T3 is what is acting physiologically at the cellular level. You can also add what is called a reverse T3 and if the body is producing a lot of reverse T3 it will actually inhibit thyroid function as well and often that goes missed. So TSH, free T4 and free T3.
Now personally I like to see the free T4 and the free T3 in the upper 2/3 of normal in its reference range. Often if they are low many times I will use natural thyroid such as Westhroid or Armour Thyroid etc. to try and replenish thyroid function. That is not something necessarily we do forever, but sometimes 6 months to a year just to see if we can re-establish thyroid function. And often times it helps with energy and brain function and cognitive function and even growth.
So again the thyroid is something important to assess and I recommend that any parent who is having their child be assessed by a physician with respects to blood work to make sure you include a thyroid panel, the TSH, the free T4 and the free T3. A couple other things that you could also add to that panel to rule out that an auto-immune process may be occurring is something called anti-TPO and an anti-thyroid globulin antibodies. If there are antibodies being produced to the thyroid gland then that indicates that there is some type of auto-immune process that is likely affecting the thyroid adversely so that would be really a complete thyroid panel. But minimally the TSH, the free T3 and the free T4 are critically important to look at.
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