Your thyroid is a small organ with a huge impact on all aspects of your health.
Are you feeling tired, depressed or experiencing mood swings? Are you struggling to lose weight? Are your periods heavy or irregular? Having troubles starting tasks or completing tasks? Can you not remember the last time you just plain felt great?
Your thyroid is a small organ with a huge impact on all aspects of your health. Thyroid hormone impacts every cell in your body, so even a small disturbance in thyroid hormone levels affects your digestive tract, brain, heart, metabolism, glucose and cholesterol levels, and much more.
Yet, despite its importance, thyroid problems are one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the world. As many as 60% of people with thyroid problems aren’t aware. By some estimates, up to one in 10 North Americans have a thyroid problem, and that number rises to one in eight for women.
For many people, thyroid issues are the result of low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition referred to as hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
● Weight gain
● Fuzzy thinking
● Chronic fatigue
● Always feeling cold
● Dry skin
To further complicate matters, many thyroid treatments fall spectacularly short when it comes to improving a patient’s quality of life. At the root of the problem lie inadequate diagnostic tools. Traditionally, conventional medical practitioners run two tests for thyroid hormone levels: one for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and one for the hormone thyroxine (T4). Then they place patients on thyroid hormones or iodine in hopes of restoring balance. In effect, this is a Band-Aid solution that doesn't get to the root of the problem.
By prescribing thyroid hormone without a full investigation, medical practitioners may run the risk of harming their patients’ health. Growing evidence suggests thyroid hormone is over-prescribed, and may even increase a patient’s risk of mortality.
When blood tests show a dip in thyroid hormone levels, thyroid hormone replacement therapy drugs such as levothyroxine, are very commonly prescribed. Those that clearly have low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) benefit from the thyroid medications, however the problem may lie in those who may have only a few, mild symptoms of hypothyroidism and come back with borderline test results, known as subclinical hypothyroidism, and older adults in particular. Studies show those aged 65 and older have many hormonal changes that naturally begin to occur and natural dips in thyroid levels may be one of those. Thyroid replacement medication in these cases may not be necessary and if taken may be causing an override of said changes, therefore causing further complications.
Thyroid problems and treatments are more complex than simply trying to fix a shortage of thyroid hormones as determined from testing TSH and T4. For better results, and a more holistic treatment plan, patients need to understand "WHAT" is causing their thyroid to not function properly in the first place. Below are five common causes of thyroid problems that won’t be detected by standard tests.
Focusing solely on levels of TSH and T4, and then applying a quick fix, ignores the fact that the most common cause of hypothyroidism is actually an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto's has been found to be responsible for 90% of hypothyroid cases in the United States. When someone experiences Hashimoto’s, their white blood cells and antibodies erroneously attack the thyroid, leading to a reduction in thyroid hormone secretion.
Autoimmune diseases, although evidence suggests genetic factors, toxins, infections, inflammation, stress and issues with the digestive system (dysbiosis, inadequate microbiome) can all contribute. There are actually several studies showing how a condition called “leaky gut” syndrome, or increased permeability, can lead to worsening autoimmune disease of the thyroid. To learn more about leaky gut and how it can affect you check out our blog post here.
In a study published in by the Journal of Clinical Research Pediatric Endocrinology, found children and adolescents with leaky gut and a correlation between the more severe their intestines were leaking to the more severe their thyroid disease was. Causing those with the more permeable, leaking, guts to taking a higher dose of thyroid medication and gaining more weight. Because of the vague causes for autoimmune disorders, traditional medicine tends to treat just the symptoms, without taking a holistic approach to address overall health. This is particularly true for Hashimoto’s, which is problematic. Without proper treatment, the immune system will continue to attack the thyroid gland, making it increasingly difficult to treat without addressing the autoimmune response.
If you suspect a thyroid problem or have already been diagnosed with one, advanced lab tests to indicate the presence of antibodies that can be attacking your thyroid gland is THE MOST IMPORTANT TESTS YOU CAN HAVE!!! I can’t reiterate this enough.
The production of thyroid hormone is controlled by a gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland, which releases TSH. Elevated cortisol levels can affect the pituitary gland, which in turn can reduce the amount of TSH, and consequently the amount of thyroid hormone. Therefore having your cortisol levels checked can be an important clue for why your thyroid may be struggling.
In order to be used by your body, T4 must be converted to another hormone, triiodothyronine, more commonly called T3. If this process doesn’t run smoothly, your body won’t have its optimum amount of T3, even if your T4 test results look good. Nutritional deficiencies, inflammation and stress can lead to this conversion problem. This is why we recommend a comprehensive blood and nutritional test for our patients to look for as many possible contributing factors if we see this inefficient conversion.
Thyroid hormone travels through the bloodstream thanks to a protein called thyroid binding globulin (TBG). High TBG levels can lower the amount of active thyroid hormone, since it is inactive when bound to TBG. Excess estrogen can result in elevated TBG levels, which can lead to hypothyroidism, even if the results of the traditional tests are within normal range.
Paradoxically, low TBG levels can also lead to hypothyroidism. That’s because low levels result in an excess of free thyroid hormone in the blood, which causes cells to develop resistance. The result is hypothyroidism, since although there is enough thyroid hormone in the blood, the body’s cells aren’t receptive to it. Common causes of low TBG levels include high testosterone levels and insulin resistance.
Iodine is needed to stimulate the production of T4 and supports the conversion to T3, so getting enough in the diet is important. While iodine deficiency can happen it is important to understand too much iodine supplementation can also cause harm. Not unlike other nutrients, a balance is needed to support optimal thyroid health. You should have your levels checked and monitored by an experienced practitioner before every blindly taking iodine.
As you can see, there are some very big problems with the current standard medical approaches to both testing for and treating hypothyroidism. But the biggest problem is standard treatments do nothing to find the true cause of why your thyroid isn’t functioning properly. In turn, the treatments do even less to improve your condition and restore your body to optimal health.
That’s why we at Integrative Wellness Centers believe it’s extremely important for you to find a practitioner who doesn’t just look at basic lab work and use conventional drug therapies as treatment.
We now know, a thyroid problem isn’t just a thyroid problem – it’s an entire body problem! It’s important you take a more holistic, natural approach to balancing your hormones and seek help from a board certified functional medicine practitioner (C.F.M.P.) who is trained to look at all aspects of your health. We have a clinically proven step by step process for helping our patients achieve health. Get started today and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our doctors to learn more about how you can regain your health and get your life back.
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