It’s not Your Thyroid…. Or is it??

“It’s Not your Thyroid” … Or is it?? 

  1. Are you having fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, brain fog, cold intolerance, insomnia – all symptoms that ‘seem like thyroid’ but told “you’re testing was normal”?
  2. Is your LDL (bad cholesterol) high despite a good diet and exercise?
  3. Are you taking Thyroid medications and still having thyroid-like symptoms?

Thyroid know-how:

The Thyroid is a 2 inch by 3 inch butterfly gland located in your neck.

This is the ENGINE to your car! This tiny gland supports your entire body working with a whole team of glands delivering “mail” (hormone messages) to all your tiny cells to keep your body running smoothly.

This tiny amazing gland and it’s hard working hormones are responsible for:

  • Digestion
  • Hormone regulation
  • Vitamin D absorption
  • Temperature regulation
  • Energy
  • Controlling appropriate levels of LDL (“Bad” cholesterol)
  • Heart rate (your “pulse”)
  • Metabolism
  • Hair growth
  • Calcium levels
  • Oxygen use by the cells of all tissue

Thyroid Dysfunction:
Hyperthyroidism. Too much Thyroid Stimulating Hormone production (also known as TSH) which is often diagnosed with an elevated “TSH”.

Hypothyroidism. Too little TSH production which is often diagnosed with a low “TSH”.

Psst…Crazy little secret… the TSH is actually not a thyroid hormone because it is produced by the PITUITARY gland. So why are traditional practitioners only checking TSH as a screen and using only this number to reveal “normal” or “abnormal” thyroid?

How’s the whole thing work?

Gonna make it as easy as possible without making you feel like you’re in biology/pathophysiology class – and there will be NO TEST!  The “feedback” system of the thyroid:

  1. Hypothalamus (in brain) sends signal to pituitary gland
  2. Pituitary gland (also in brain) sends TSH to Thyroid to tell it to send out T3-aka triiodothyronineand T4 –aka Thyroxine (these two are your thyroid hormones)
  3. Thyroid sends out T4 and T3. 95% of the hormones sent out are T4 which are sent to the liver (see step four) and 5% of the hormone is T3 (the usable thyroid hormone) which is sent to your cells.
  4. Liver converts the unusable T4 to usable T3.
  5. Remainder of T3 is sent to cells needed to control all the ‘stuff’ mentioned above.
  6. Messages go back to Hypothalamus and pituitary glands – These glands function as the thermostat for your TSH:  If too little T3/T4 they will ask the thyroid to produce more- if not enough they tell them to tell the thyroid to stop sending it out.

What interrupts optimal Thyroid functioning?

Since everything in the body is interconnected, there are many things that may interrupt optimal functioning, however I’m trying to keep this blog less than 6 pages long so will list the top 3:

Exposure to Halides:

Everyday chemicals which bind to iodine receptors. Iodine is a major player in the production of thyroid hormones. We highly recommend my clients try to decrease exposure to these as much as possible and recommend routine detoxification support.
Halides include:

  • Fluoride – found in most municipal water, toothpaste and some beverages
  • Chlorine -found in most municipal ‘public’ water, pools, Jacuzzi’s, Sucralose and Splenda
  • Bromide -Methyl Bromide is a pesticide used mainly on strawberries. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is added to citrus drinks to help suspend the flavoring in the liquid.  Potassium Bromate is used in commercial bakery products and some flours.

Stress:

Stress from your (and your kids’) insanely full schedules, traffic, finances, conflict at home/work, deadlines, and health conditions or injuries. Every day, prolonged, chronic stress is as toxic as the chemicals above. Stress –Why?

  • Stress produces cortisol. Cortisol interrupts the HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal). Remember the Hypothalamus and the Pituitary in steps 1-6 above? Yeah- the body’s systems are all interconnected.
  • Stress decreases the ‘receptivity’ of the thyroid hormone. (step 3 above) So the plug (hormone) isn’t fitting into the outlet (cells).
  • Stress is inflammatory which increases ‘fighter cells’. Fighter cells in the immune system decrease the function of the liver to convert T4 to T3 (step 4 above).

Gut disorders:

Your gut holds approximately 70% of your immune system. Our immune system is working 24/7 on alert to recognize, interpret and fight any and all substances that come in. Here is a great article discussing the gut-thyroid connection.

  • Food sensitivities
  • Disordered healthy to unhealthy gut bacteria
  • Highly processed diet
  • High sugar/glycemic diet

Empower yourself and know OPTIMAL lab values:

As we explain to our clients, there is a HUGE difference between “normal” test value and “optimal” value. The “normal” test values are determined by averaging the results of the millions of results received over a specified time frame. An “optimal” value is the level which the person feels best.

Below is a table with the ‘normal’ (traditional) values and the optimal (functional) values. Many health practitioners will only test the TSH and if it is abnormal, then test other hormones. However, a TSH hormone level may be “normal” but if there is not enough T3 or T4, a person may have symptoms and be left undiagnosed and untreated.

Empowerment * Know your optimal levels

“Normal” levels
Traditional medicine approach
“Optimal” levels
Functional medicine approach

TSH

.03-5.5 >2.5  needs further investigation

Free T3

2.3-4.3 ~2.8-3.5
Be suspicious when T4 is higher within range for a while and T3 is lower within range.  Issues with conversion are common.

Free T4

0.7-2.0 ~0.8-1.2
(remember only 5% of T4 is usable w/o conversion in the liver)

Total T3

80-220 Not as useful – often not tested

Total T4

4.5-12.5 Not as useful – often not tested

Thyroid Antibodies

Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody (TPO)

 

Anti-thyroglobulin (Anti-Tg)

 

Neg – if TSH normal don’t typically treat

 

Neg –  Hashimotos if positive
if TSH normal don’t typically treat

 

Neg  – watch and treat reasons for Autoimmune condition or search for toxicities.
Neg- Hashimotos if positive – watch and treat reasons for Autoimmune condition or search for toxicities.

Reverse T3

Not typically tested Lower half of reference range à cellular hypothyroid

Much more reliable to test Total T3 to Reverse T3 (Total T3 should be at least 10x as high as reverse T3)

*Important to have this if you are taking a T4 medication to ensure you are converting it to the usable T3

**Address  Adrenal gland function

 

Sometimes the hypo or hyperthyroid dysfunction can be caused by the immune system sending out signals and the thyroid actually fighting itself (otherwise known as “Auto-Immune”). There are two types of “Auto-Immune” thyroid.

1. Graves Disease (thyrotoxicosis) –

caused by the “thyroid stimulating antibody” which stimulates the thyroid cells to grow larger and to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. In this disease, the thyroid is often enlarged (also called “goiter”) not from too much TSH but from the antibody.

2. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis –

Many with Hashimoto’s have a goiter at the early stages. Low thyroid hormone levels makes the TSH turn up production causing enlargement in the thyroid, however the goiter is caused by an accumulation of white blood cells and inflammation in the thyroid gland. The inflammation can destroy the thyroid cells and, eventually, thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism). The goiter often disappears in later stages because of the destruction of the thyroid.

Thyroid Nodules – These occur when the thyroid is not functioning appropriately and gathering a collection of cells in one part of the thyroid which may be benign or malignant. .This is not Auto-immune in nature. The thyroid gland is highly susceptible to toxins in our everyday products, water, and environment. Thyroid nodules are often a sign of the Thyroid holding onto toxins.

Medications to treat Hypothyroid (“high TSH”) are primarily T4 and for more than half the population this works well.  However, for many there is a less than optimal conversion from T4 to T3 leaving the person thinking they are “crazy” because they have many thyroid symptoms but a “normal” (or even optimal) TSH.

Empower yourself:

Ask questions, Ask for complete thyroid testing. Keep pushing 4 Better Health. For a great thyroid reference; I recommend the book “Stop the Thyroid Madness”

Stay tuned for next month’s blog on Optimizing your Thyroid…

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