Endless Summer 2018
Could It Be Your Thyroid?
By Seema Rathi Bonney, M.D.
Do you find yourself fatigued after sleeping 8 hours a night, or needing to take a nap daily?
Have you been gaining weight or unable to lose weight despite doing all the right things like eating right and exercising?
Do you have mood swings, anxiety or depression?
Have you noticed that you have hormonal imbalance such as PMS, infertility, irregular periods, and a low libido?
Do you have muscle pain or joint pain, or dry/cracking skin?
Do you have cold hands and feet, feel cold when others are not, or a low body temperature consistently below 98.5?
Do you have constipation?
And last but most definitely not least, have you noticed you have brain fog, poor concentration or poor memory?
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the body lacks enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid, a little butterfly-shaped gland in the center of the neck, is considered the master gland of metabolism. How well it functions is inter-related with every system in your body. If your thyroid is not producing thyroid hormone optimally, you cannot function optimally.
Thyroid disease affects more women than men, and the chances of you developing hypothyroidism increase as you age. It shouldn’t be surprising that studies have shown that the most common group of patients who develop hypothyroidism are women in their 50s.
Since the thyroid system plays a critical role in the body’s metabolism, it is understandable that people with this condition will have symptoms associated with weight gain due to slow metabolism. In fact, low thyroid causes a myriad of symptoms and affects every cell in your body.
Along with cortisol and insulin, the thyroid hormone is one of the big three hormones that controls your weight and metabolism. It’s very important that the correct testing is done to evaluate whether your thyroid is sluggish and causing a slow metabolism and all the other symptoms you can see with hypothyroidism.
So, how does the thyroid gland work? The production of thyroid hormone is regulated by a loop between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the thyroid gland. The hypothalamus produces TRH, or thyrotropin releasing hormone, which goes to the pituitary and creates TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone. TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce T4, T3, T2, T1.
The main hormone (85 percent) produced by the thyroid is T4, which is an inactive form of the hormone. A small part of what is produced is T3, which is the active form of the thyroid hormone. There are number of nutrient deficiencies and hormone imbalances that can cause decreased conversion of T4 into T3. This means decreased production of the active thyroid hormone and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
To make matters even more complicated, some of the T3 can be converted into reverse T3, which removes some of the active hormone out of circulation. We see reverse T3 elevated in patients under extreme mental or physical stress and those with mercury toxicity.
And it’s important to consider Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease which is the most common form of hypothyroidism. Every year, we are seeing increasing numbers of patients with this condition. It’s important to find the root causes of inflammation in patients with this condition, to decrease the antibodies that trigger the immune system. This is why patients need to be screened for autoimmune thyroid disease as well.
Since many symptoms of thyroid imbalance are vague, your physician has to spend enough time with you to sort out what might be causing the complaints. In our practice, we spend hours with our patient during the initial consultations, where we are able to get a good sense of the total picture and health of the individual.
Additionally, your physician has to order the right tests to figure out if you have hypothyroidism. Most conventional doctors just check the TSH, which doesn’t give a full picture of what is happening with the thyroid. Other important tests that we do in our anti-aging practice include individual thyroid hormones free T3 and free T4. It’s important to ascertain whether there is a difficulty converting the inactive hormone to the active hormone. We also look at gluten intolerance, food allergies, heavy metals and deficiencies of selenium, vitamin D, zinc, iodine and
The other issue is that the interpretation of this test is incorrect most of the time. Current guidelines say that a TSH up to 4.5 is within “normal” range. However, newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology dictate that anybody with a TSH over 3.0 is hypothyroid. In our practice, we see patients who are exhibiting clear symptoms of hypothyroidism well below that upper limit of “normal” of 4.5.
Other important tests that we do in our anti-aging practice include individual thyroid hormones free T3 and free T4. It’s important to ascertain whether there is a difficulty converting the inactive hormone to the active hormone. We also look at gluten intolerance, food allergies, heavy metals and deficiencies of selenium, vitamin D, iodine and ferritin.
The optimal way to correct hypothyroidism requires a functional medicine approach. It’s more than just taking a Synthroid pill. It involves nutritional support, stress management, exercise, optimizing sleep, and supplementing the nutraceuticals you are deficient in. It also involves taking the right kind of thyroid hormone replacement. In addition, a functional medicine physician will evaluate your intake of fluoride, bromide and chlorine in your diet. Healing your gut if you have dysbiosis is also critical to good health.
While weight gain may be one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, the more serious ramifications of unrecognized thyroid dysfunction are increased heart disease, bone fractures, foggy brain, and depression. There is no one perfect way, no one symptom or test result, that will properly diagnose low thyroid function. The key is to look at the whole picture, which includes reviewing your symptoms as well as the blood tests to get to the bottom of the problem.
Are you ready to regain your energy and feel like yourself again? Please know that you CAN reverse your condition. Heal your thyroid with a proactive and comprehensive approach. Partner with a trained functional medicine physician who can help you take back your health!
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