Feeling fatigued and spacey? Are you often cold? Concerned that your hair is thinning? Have dry skin or brittle nails? Have gained weight or find it difficult to lose weight? While there are many potential root causes to these symptoms, one of the most common cause is hypothyroidism. If your thyroid isn’t functioning well, you aren’t functioning well and therefore not feeling optimal.
An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease. While women are more likely to have thyroid problems, it is not uncommon to see it in men as well. The thyroid gland is located in the throat, around the larynx and trachea, and is normally not visible. As the largest hormone-secreting organ in the endocrine system, it plays a central role in your metabolism and weight management. It is also an important role in almost every function of the body including body temperature regulation, heart rate regulation, and hormone production.
The thyroid produces the hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). It produces T4 in much greater abundance than T3, but this is the inactive form and less bioavailable. Typically when released from the thyroid this mixture of T4 and T3 is naturally in an 80%/20% blend.
Our body converts T4 into the biologically available T3 but the process is complex and delicate. While hypothyroidism is associated with low T4 and T3 levels, T3 – the active hormone that we really use and need – is the one that usually dips the lowest.
The thyroid also secretes Calcitonin which regulates calcium levels and bone metabolism.
There are many different factors that can contribute to hypothyroidism. Stress, poor nutrition, adrenal fatigue, environmental exposures and genetics can all affect how well the thyroid is functioning. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. This occurs when the immune system starts attacking the thyroid leading to decreased thyroid function.
While it is common for conventional physicians to run a TSH to look at thyroid function, we have found this to be incomplete and less accurate at diagnosing thyroid conditions. We will run additional labs to look at the circulating thyroid hormones and test for antibodies that are associated with Hashimoto’s. Many patients with hypothyroidism have gone undiagnosed for years due to traditional screening labs used.
Treatment is individualized based off your symptoms and labs. For patients who need thyroid medication, we often prescribe a natural dessicated thyroid medication that mimics the exact ratios of the thyroid hormones that the body produces. Because of this, patients often notice an improvement in energy and other symptoms within a couple of days. We will also work on diet and lifestyle changes that positively affect the thyroid and may recommend supplements and/or herbs that will help to heal, protect, and restore proper functioning of the thyroid.