Thyroid Health: Hypothyroidism, Hormones, and Holistic Medicine

Alison's hair was falling out in the shower. She ate well and exercised often yet she could not lose weight. A doctor’s visit was inconclusive. Standard tests were done on her thyroid, and everything looked normal. Alison knew something was wrong. She began to research thyroid dysfunction and uncovered a whole new conversation about thyroid health.
 
The Body's Furnace: 6 things you Must Know about your Thyroid
1. The thyroid = the body's furnace. It helps to convert consumed nutrients into useful energy. Thyroid hormones are essential for the production of energy in each and every cell in the body.
2. T4 and T3 are essential hormones produced by the thyroid. T4 is the inactive form of the thyroid hormone and T3 is the active form of the thyroid hormone.
3. T3 is produced from T4. The thyroid produces T4 in response to Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which is made in the pituitary gland. T4 is then sent to the liver and large intestine where it is converted to T3. Many thyroid issues result from factors that either block or inhibit this conversion process.
4. More available thyroid hormones (T4, T3)= increase in cellular activity. 
5. T3 and T4 affect all our body’s functions. These hormones regulate aspects of our metabolism such as how many calories we burn, how much we weigh, and how warm we feel. They influence the heart, which pumps harder and faster with increased thyroid hormones. As the most potent and active thyroid hormone, T3 affects every single function in the human body. It affects the brain's cognitive function, mood, concentration, memory, attention span and emotions. Additionally, T3 has a direct impact on a woman’s ability to conceive and carry a fetus to term. Perhaps Jennifer's inability to conceive could be a result of insufficient or her bodies challenge to efficiently utilize T3.
6. Thyroid Continuum. Our thyroid functions on a continuum with overactivity on one end and underactivity on the other. We will discuss Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in this newsletter.
 
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism (Under Active Thyroid)
When a person's thyroid is underperforming, the loss of cellular energy and hormones is felt throughout the body. These issues become more acute and apparent especially with age. Symptoms include:
•Chronic fatigue
•Insomnia
•Immune system problems (frequent colds and flu, asthma, bronchitis)
•Woman-specific health issues (PMS, cyclic migraines, mood swings, fibrocystic breasts)
•Low blood sugar
•Increased cholesterol
•Weigh gain, or inability to lose weight
•A before-rising basal temperature of below 97.8 F
•Depression
•Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's and Grave's disease
 
What Causes Thyroid Dysfunction?
There are four main causes of thyroid dysfunction:
1.      Over or under production of thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) from the pituitary gland.
2.      Over or under production of thyroid hormones (T4, T3) from the thyroid gland.
3.      The body's inability to convert T4 into T3 efficiently.
4.      The body's inability to utilize T3.
 
1. Causes of Over or Under Production of TSH in Pituitary Gland
*High TSH indicates Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid), while low TSH indicates Hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid).
•Gluten intolerances
•Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's or Grave's disease
•Stress
•Low calorie diets
•Inflammation and environmental toxins
2. Causes of Over or Under production of T4, T3 in Thyroid Gland
•Iodine Deficiency
•Chlorine, bromine and fluoride
•Certain medications (Beta Blockers for cardiac arrhythmias, lithium, phenytoin, theophylline, chemotherapy)
•Immune reactions to food intolerances
•High doses of nutritional supplements such as alpha lipoic acid and carnitine
3. Causes of Poor Conversion of T3 from T4
•Stress hormones (cortisol)
•Nutrient deficiencies (especially selenium, iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamins B2, B6 and B12)
•Mercury, lead and cadmium toxicity
•Certain medications
4. Causes of Poor T3 utilization
•Tamoxifen
•High levels of estrogen, including estrogen replacement medications like birth control and Premarin
•Toxins
•Anti-inflammatory medications
•Vitamin A deficiency
•Fatty acids EPA and DHA
 
Testing Options: Finding out the Truth
1. TSH Range
Most doctors test only for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and T4 in standard blood tests. Unfortunately, this does not tell the whole story. In order to obtain a complete picture of your thyroid health it is important that any thyroid test also include:
•T3
•The body's utilization of T3
•Thyroid antibody levels
 
There are tests that check T3 levels. Testing for how the body utilizes T3 is often inconclusive. This is why symptoms surveys are crucial components to assessing thyroid health. Thyroid antibody levels are indications of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's disease or Grave's disease. Though these autoimmune disorders are increasingly common, thyroid antibody levels are not frequently examined. The absence of these three elements in standard blood tests is why so many patients still do not feel better.
 
2. Oral Temperature and Resting Pulse Test and Thyroid Symptoms Survey
One of the easiest ways to test thyroid function is the oral temperature and resting pulse test paired with a comprehensive thyroid symptoms survey, developed by Broda Barnes, M.D. By measuring basal metabolic rate, an indicator of how well the furnace is burning, Barnes was able to determine sub-clinical hypothyroidism which does not show up in standard blood chemistry tests. Since the basic function of the thyroid is as a metabolic “furnace,” our body temperature is a key indicator of thyroid health. Our oral temperature in the morning after rising should be at least 98 F. Half an hour after lunch our oral temperature should be between 98-98.6 F. Our resting pulse after lunch or when not eating should be about 85 bpm. This information combined with a thyroid symptoms survey can clearly and accurately indicate a poorly functioning thyroid.
 
Common Medical “Cures”: Expensive and Ineffective
There are three common medical “cures” utilized by most doctors today:
1. Drugs for Hypothyroidism: Under active thyroids are common and wide-spread throughout the United States. So common, in fact, that Synthroid (Levothyroxine), a synthetic thyroid hormone which provides TSH and T4, is the # 4 prescribed drug. Unfortunately, this drug is not effective because it does not supply T3, the active thyroid hormone
2. Three Drugs for Hyperthyroidism: Overactive thyroids are treated with three different kinds of medication. The first kind are beta blockers such as Propranolol and Metoprolol that reduce rapid heartbeat, tremors and nervousness. The second are antithyroid drugs such as Tapazole (methimazole) or Propylthiouracil (PTU) that block production of thyroid hormones. Antithyroid drugs are known to lower white blood cell count, dropping the body's resistance to potential infection. The third are radioactive iodine-131 which destroys cells that make up the thyroid gland and prevent thyroid hormone production.
3. Thyroidectomy: The surgical removal of the thyroid gland is often utilized in cases of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), this can lead to the opposite problem: hypothyroidism (under active thyroid). Patients may rely on artificial thyroid hormone supplements for the rest of their lives.
 
Thyroid Results
As nutritionist Dr. Joseph Debé points out in his article Do You Need a Thyroid Tune-up?, “thyroid hormone medication does nothing to improve thyroid metabolism and actually causes the body to stop making it's own hormone.” Common medical cures often inhibit the body from healing itself. 
1. Right Information:The right information is the first step on the path to wellness. Once we know where and how our thyroids are failing, we can begin to heal appropriately. This is especially important in cases where thyroid antibodies are present. Thyroid antibodies can indicate an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto's disease or Grave's disease. Treatments should be tailored to our individual needs.
2. Armour thyroid: a complete bioidentical thyroid replacement hormone containing TSH, T4 and T3. Bioidentical hormones are identical in molecular structure to the hormones humans produce naturally in their bodies. Synthroid and other synthetic or pharmaceutical drugs may have negative side effects. Additionally, Synthroid provides ONLY TSH and T4 hormones, and not T3.
3. Thyroid glandular supplements: these supplements have T4 and T3 as well as other thyroid nutrients to help support the thyroid gland. An example is desiccated thyroid.
4. Iodine, Magnesium and Selenium: these 3 key ingredients are important nutritional supplements for general thyroid health.
5. Bladderwack, ashwagandha, and Indian ginseng to make sure body properly utilizes t3.
6. Work with a clinician to measure basal metabolic temperature four days in a row after lunch to see how well these supplements are resolving the thyroid issue.
 
Alison's Resolution
Alison decided to visit a healthcare provider who would test for T3 and Thyroid antibody levels as well as her afternoon basil body temperature and conduct a symptoms survey. The healthcare provider discovered low T3 levels in addition to the symptoms Alison mentioned. The healthcare provider conducted a food allergy test and discovered severe allergies to gluten. Alison removed all gluten from her diet and has finally been able to lose weight. Her hair no longer falls out in the shower, and her depression has vanished.
 
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