Have you been prescribed thyroid hormones and found that either they lost their effectiveness or that they just don’t work? Do you have issues with iodine or gluten containing foods? Does coffee, chocolate or things such as Echinacea or Maitake mushrooms make you feel worse?
Could this be you?
- Are you always cold?
- Do you gain weight regardless of how little you eat?
- Are you frequently constipated?
- Do you require excessive amounts of sleep?
- Is dry skin or hair an issue?
- Do you frequently have muscle cramps or problems with inflammation?
- Are you always the one catching the cold going around the office?
- Do you feel a little sluggish mentally?
- Are your bones becoming brittle?
- Is your hair thinning or have you lost the outer 1/3 of your eyebrows?
Or does this better describe you?
- Are you intolerant to high temperatures?
- Do you have difficulty gaining weight, even with a large appetite?
- Do you have issues with diarrhea?
- Do you find that you have become nervous, emotional, and/or have a hard time working under pressure?
- Do you experience inward trembling?
- Do you flush easily?
- Is your pulse fast even at rest?
- Do you have heart palpitations, insomnia or night sweats?
Or, maybe you feel a little like all of the above. If any of this rings true, you might have problems with your thyroid hormones.
Why is my thyroid so important?
Thyroid hormones are responsible for our basal metabolic rate. If you are cold, they help heat you up. If you are sick, they help amp up the immune system. If you are stressed, they help calm you down. Research has found links to thyroid activity and the brain, hormones, immune system, bone metabolism, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, liver/gallbladder, red blood cells, and macronutrient metabolism. Each of these systems also influences the manufacture and utilization of thyroid hormones. Talk about a catch 22!
Since there is a thyroid hormone receptor site on every cell in the body, it is easy to understand why symptoms may be so varied.
How do my thyroid hormones work?
To understand thyroid hormone dysfunction, you first need to understand how it works. Hormone production is initiated in the brain with production levels tightly controlled by the pituitary gland. If production is reduced, the pituitary commands the thyroid to produce more hormone, if too little, production is increased. Given all the correct cofactors, enzymes, neurotransmitter, and hormones, things go pretty smooth.
The thyroid produces mostly T4 which needs to be converted to the active hormone, T3. This conversion occurs for the most part in the liver and gut. To get where it needs to go and not react along the way, it is bound to a protein (whose numbers are dependent on estrogen and testosterone levels). After conversion, they are bound again and sent to the cells. If the cells are healthy, they readily accept the hormone for immediate use. Excess hormones are then detoxified by the liver.
What are the types of thyroid dysfunction?
Anything that affects the production, movement, conversion, reception, and clearance can affect function. There are quite a few types of dysfunction, but the end result may be:
- Hypothyroidism (too little hormone)
- Hyperthyroidism (too much hormone)
- Autoimmune thyroid (Hashimoto’s)
What causes thyroid dysfunction?
Low thyroid equals a slow metabolism: think fatigue, weight gain, dry skin and hair, low sex drive, etc. This dysfunction is commonly due to lack of sufficient thyroid hormones. This can be the result of diet or gut issues limiting cofactors, problems with the brain or the pituitary, adrenal dysfunction, conversion issues, hormone levels, etc.
This condition can be the result of autoimmunity, pituitary. overactive conversion, or from a more serious condition such as Graves disease. Please consult your licensed medical doctor to diagnose the cause as it can lead to serious health consequences such as stroke.
Hormone conversion issues
About 60% of the T3 is made in the liver, with the remainder converted in the gut and peripheral tissues. Even if you have everything you need to generate enough T4 hormone, if you can’t convert it into T3, your cells can’t use it.
Conversion issues are often the result of adrenal stress—including blood sugar issues, inflammation, liver dysfunction, infection, gut issues, etc. When the body perceives too much stress, it will initiate a “hibernation response” by converting T4 into an inactive form, rT3.—- to help conserve resources.
Hormone transport and reception
The ability to move hormones around is associated with testosterone and estrogen levels. Hormone deficiencies or excess can affect the number of available proteins needed to shuttle the thyroid hormones around the system.
Another concern is transport. If your cells don’t want to bring in the T3 hormones due to receptor site issues, you won’t be able to use them.
Finally, if you are unable to detoxify excess hormones, the pituitary will think that you have plenty of hormones and will not authorize production-even if you are deficient. Stress and blood sugar issues can directly impact pituitary function.
Autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s
It is really important to keep in mind that autoimmune thyroiditis describes a state of inflammation, not thyroid function.
If your thyroid is inflamed, it is unable do its job and your whole body suffers. With a small amount of inflammation, function is diminished. With greater amounts of inflammation, hormones can “spill” out of injured tissues, leading to symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Factors leading to autoimmune thyroiditis include sugar dysregulation and insulin surges, vitamin D deficiency, iodine excess, gluten intolerance, gut infections (especially Yersinia), estrogen surges, pregnancy issues, and the presence of heavy metals.
You may need to support the thyroid with supplements or medication while you work ton addressing the underlying problem.
How do you test thyroid hormones?
We utilize Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis to look at the production and utilization of thyroid hormones as well any underlying potential systemic interactions that affect thyroid activity.
Many people believe that thyroid dysfunction is limited to the thyroid itself and/or its interaction with the pituitary, but it is also necessary to consider issues related to hormone production; conversion, binding, utilization, and clearance in addition to autoimmunity. We recommend a comprehensive blood test that includes a thyroid panel containing TSH; Total and free levels of T3 and T4; Reverse T3; T3 Uptake; and TPO and TAA antibodies.
To see this in action, check out our video.
How do you correct thyroid hormone dysfunction?
It is important to support thyroid activity while correcting any underlying systemic issues that may be contributing to thyroid dysfunction. This may require modifying diet; controlling blood sugar levels; correcting neurotransmitters; balancing hormones; improving liver or gut function; balancing vitamins, mineral, essential fatty acid levels, etc..
Adrenals and mitochondrial health are extremely important in that given high demands on the body, they slow down our metabolism to protect our valuable resources. You can read more about that here.