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My doctor is using my Basal Body temperature as a guide to determine if I've met my optimum thyroid medication level. I take my temperature under my arm first thing upon waking for 3 days in a row and write it down. I have read recently that this is much more accurate than the blood tests (target range being 97.8 to 98.2), so why don't other doctors use this method? I had never heard of
using he basal temperature until I went to this doctor.
As a side note to you, my basal temperature for the 3 days ranged from 95.8 to 96.8, though my TSH level at my last doctor was in the normal range (that doctor has been "fired" by me). Since that TSH test my thyroid meds have been increased by my new doctor, and my BBT is still low.
I would like to hear another doctor's opinion on the BBT method of
DRS. RICHARD AND KARILEE SHAMES ANSWER
of other practitioners, I absolutely insist
on basal temperatures being part of the equation.
|There is considerable evidence that current
tests both for the diagnosis of hypothyroidism and for the management of a
case under treatment are tests that lack sensitivity and accuracy. Faced with
this situation, in my medical practice and in my second opinion telephone
coaching sessions with patients|
For people who are wondering if their health problems are due totally or in
part to an underactive thyroid, basal temperature testing is not the only
diagnostic maneuver that I use, but it is one additional piece of data along
with symptoms, family history, related conditions, and signs of abnormality
upon physical examination. For those who have already been diagnosed with
hypothyroidism, the basal temperature test is an additional piece of
observational measurement that helps determine whether a person is on the
right medicine and / or the right dose, along with considering the response
to medication, physical signs ( especially ankle reflexes and skin
temperature), and blood test results.
In other words, the doctor who is suggesting that you use the thermometer
testing maneuver you described in your question is doing what I would
consider a very proper medical maneuver, if indeed that doctor is also
considering the other factors I have mentioned. Your information saying that
basal temperature testing is "much more accurate than the blood tests" should
be taken with a grain of salt. Like many things, the statement is true for
some people, but not true for everyone.
Therefore, a prudent practitioner and a prudent consumer, will use as many
different clues and pieces of information as possible to help make the
sometimes difficult decision about whether or not to treat a health problem
as a low thyroid issue or , if already being treated, whether or not to add
or change medication or supplements.
Here is a good example: I generally find out on a first conversation with a
potential thyroid sufferer what is their present percent of total optimal
function that they currently enjoy. Some people say to me, "Dr. Shames, I'm
glad I can talk to you on the phone from across the country because I'm only
feeling 20% of my prior self, but my doctor says my TSH test is normal, so
they are not going to do anything further."
This is a person who should be following their basal temperature, rather than
their TSH. Most likely their basal temperature will still be low, suggesting
a need for further medicine, and I endorse people going along with that
suggestion regardless of TSH levels.
You asked why other doctors don't use this method. I believe it's because many
of them have not read the 1970s book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected
Illness, by Broda Barnes MD. In this compelling volume, Dr. Barnes, the
granddaddy of the thyroid field, put his many decades of experience into a
succinct and easily-digestible form. It was here that the basal temperature
test was first explained in proper detail, with the proper rationale and
research. From your question, it is clear to me that you did not proceed
along the exact lines that Dr. Barnes would have most recommended.
He recommended that you do the morning temperature sampling for ten days in a
row, not just for three. Menstruating women should start this ten-day period
on the third day of their cycle. It is best to use a basal thermometer, which
is more accurate than a regular oral thermometer. Currently most folks are
able to locate non-mercury thermometers, which we recommend as more friendly
to the environment. This kind of basal thermometer is actually more accurate
for this purpose than any digital electronic thermometer. Dr. Barnes also
suggests that the thermometer not be used orally, but instead used under the
arm, with the person lying quietly in bed, and the arm comfortably at the
side. The temperature is taken upon awakening, before rising up out of bed
for any reason.
Dr. Barnes felt that this test was a check on the most basic function of the
thyroid gland: its ability to regulate the metabolic furnace of the body, and
to control temperature. An average of ten days is a very useful indication,
therefore, of one's overall thyroid status, and in many people it may well be
more accurate than the blood tests. Temperature testing, however, is not
infallable, and - like any other test - should never be used alone to rule
in or rule out a thyroid condition, or to dictate therapy. This is simply a
good piece of information that should be used wisely. I use it with every one
of my patients who will do the test, and I recommend to other practitioners
to do the same. It would be a welcome addition to many doctor's thyroid
Dr. Richard Shames has practiced for over 30 years, written and lectured
widely on thyroid-related topics, and is considered an expert in the field.
He practices in San Rafael, CA. Karilee Shames has been an assistant professor of nursing, and has led thyroid support groups for many years. In addition to writing their popular book, Thyroid Power, they are regular contributors to Thyroid-Info.com, and provide a service offering thyroid coaching education sessions to consumers nationwide by telephone. For more information, see their site, www.Thyroidpower.com.