Low thyroid function is common, so it is often overlooked when a patient’s labs look “mostly normal.” Time and time again, we see patients present with a long list of clearly hypothyroid symptoms, but they’ve been dismissed because their labs look normal. Some of them have been told their symptoms are all in their head, they need an anti-depressant, or they are just a busy working mom, and their fatigue is normal.
There are so many ways to support optimal thyroid function when you look at the bigger picture. Does the thyroid have the nutrients it needs to produce thyroid hormones? Are the adrenal glands under stress and affecting thyroid hormone production or conversion? Are there other medications affecting metabolism? Did you know birth control pills impact our thyroid hormone function?
Understanding the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is located in your neck under the Adam’s apple and produces the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4), which is converted into the active hormone triiodothyronine (T3). The brain tells the thyroid to produce more or less thyroid hormones based on what it sees the downstream metabolism doing. Low metabolism tells the brain to make more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T4. T4 is converted into T3 in the liver, heart, muscles, gut and nervous system. The conversion to T3 requires an enzyme made by gut bacteria – which means your gut health affects your thyroid function. This T4 —> T3 conversion happens in the mitochondria of the cells (the energy factories), so anything affecting mitochondria (such as nutrient deficiencies, toxins, pesticides, etc.) will affect thyroid conversion.
Hypothyroid and Hyperthyroid
When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough T4 or doesn’t convert to enough T3, we call this Hypothyroid. When the thyroid overproduces its hormones, it’s called Hyperthyroid. Hypothyroid is much more common than Hyperthyroid.
There are many causes of Hypothyroid, the most common being an auto-Immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is a condition when the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid tissue, damaging it, and resulting in lower thyroid hormones. These antibodies are called thyroglobulin antibodies (TGA) and thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO). Your initial thyroid labs should always include these antibodies to ensure there isn’t an immune factor affecting your thyroid function. Auto-immune conditions are more common in women, and they tend to run in families.
Symptoms of Hypothyroid
There are thyroid receptors on every cell of the body, so thyroid hormones affect every cell and all tissues, therefore the symptoms of hypothyroid are widespread. Some of the most common Hypothyroid symptoms include:
- Fatigue (at any point of the day)
- Low body temperature (consistently less than 98.6)
- Poor circulation, cold hands, and feet, cold sensitivity
- Hair thinning or hair loss (head, arms, eyebrows)
- Nail changes (ridges, weakness, brittle)
- Dry skin
- Constipation or sluggish digestion
- Slow metabolism and difficulty losing weight
- Poor memory or concentration
- Fluid retention
- Joint pains
- Menstrual issues (such as heavy bleeding and PMS)
- Fertility issues and miscarriages
- Poor metabolism of cholesterol and hence high cholesterol
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) or the sensation of a lump in the throat
- Decreased reflexes (particularly the Achilles’ tendon)
*** Many of these symptoms could also be the cause of other dysfunctions that may need to be checked. For example, anemia (low red blood cells or hemoglobin) can also cause many of these hypothyroid symptoms.
Monitor Your Body Temperature
- It is best to use a mercury-free liquid metal thermometer
- Check your ORAL temperature three times a day for five consecutive days
- Average each day
- If your daily averages are consistently less than 98.6 consult with your physician about getting a thorough thyroid lab panel
The common thyroid labs include just testing TSH and thyroxine (T4), but that is missing most of the picture. A full thyroid panel should consist of:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Thyroid Antibodies (TGA & TPO)
- Reverse T3 – this is a helpful marker to assess thyroid conversion from T4 —> T3
- It is best to have your thyroid labs drawn in the morning before you eat, and if you take thyroid hormone, then have your blood drawn BEFORE you take your thyroid medication
Many other factors affect thyroid function and overall wellness. Consider these additional labs to optimize function too:
- Micronutrient Panel
- Iron – which also helps the thyroid do its job
- Vitamin D
- Cortisol – our stress hormone that, when elevated, can lower thyroid conversion
- Food Allergy Panel – checks for food sensitivities that might be affecting gut function, nutrient absorption and inflammation – all of which affect thyroid function
- Organic Acid Panel – is a urine panel that looks at mitochondrial function, detoxification, gut dysbiosis, the primary neurotransmitters, and a few micronutrients
Supporting Optimal Thyroid Function
Our Living Wellness physicians are all trained in thoroughly assessing thyroid, adrenal, and mitochondrial function. Once the weakened systems are identified, your physician can customize a therapeutic plan to restore optimal function. Some of the treatment options we commonly use include:
- Herbs 🌿
- Natural and Synthetic Thyroid Hormones
For a free brief meet and greet with one of our naturopathic physicians, call 480-588-6856.