Establishing a healthy thyroid is essential to good health and wellbeing, as the thyroid governs our metabolic rate or put more plainly the speed with which our body works. If our resting rate is not fast enough then all the automatic things that are done by the body are not done efficiently (eg. food not digested effectively; our temperature regulation is not done correctly, meaning one can suffer from coldness of the extremities etc.).
Thus our body is at an extreme disadvantage to operate efficiently as it is running lean, in much the same way as do our cars. So we need a tune up, and just as the modern auto is given all sorts of tests to see what is wrong so too are we.
This is where the problems begin as the tests for thyroid function are often much too nebulous and the parameters are often not set wide enough. Thyroid conditions are very patient specific and finding the right medication to fit the symptoms is often very difficult. Often all the test will say you are fine when you know that you are not!
Our horizons need to be broadened, and, to get on the road to good thyroid health we need to start a serious campaign, to put thing right. From what I have read the “ten steps to total health” of Richard and Karilee Shames seems to me the most beneficial.
1. Consider Thyroid the hidden factor in your overall health
- Do you…
- Have unusual fatigue unrelated to exertion?
- Feel chillier than most people, often needing to wear socks to bed?
- Dress in layers because of needing to adjust to various temperatures throughout the day (sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold)?
- Have feelings of anxiety that sometimes lead to panic?
- Have trouble with weight, often eating lightly, yet still not losing a pound?
- Experience aches and pains in your muscles and joint related to trauma or exercise?
- Have increased problems with digestion or allergies?
- Feel mentally sluggish, unfocused, or usually forgetful, even though you’re not old enough to have Alzheimer’s?
- Know of anyone in your family who has ever had a thyroid problem (even yourself at an earlier age)?
- Suffer from dry skin, or are prone to adult acne or eczema?
- Go through periods of depression, and/or lowered sex drive, seemingly out of proportion to life events?
- Have autoimmune conditions such as type 2 diabetes, Pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis? Does any in your family?
- Have diabetes, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, or early graying of hair? Does any in your family?
- Experience your hair as feeling like straw, dry and easily falling out?
- Experience significant menopausal symptoms, including migraine headaches, without full relief after taking estrogen?
- Feel utterly exhausted by evening, yet have trouble sleeping?
- Do you wake up tired?
2. See how low thyroid intensifies any illness
- Low thyroid often coexists with other illnesses, sometimes partly causing them, sometimes caused by them.
- These other conditions can be common diagnoses like anemia or depression. On the other hand, they can be more unusual diagnoses like intestinal parasites or chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).
- Carefully evaluation and treating coexistent low thyroid is a crucial part of managing any illness, because undiagnosed low thyroid makes any other condition worse.
3. Use signs, symptoms and family history to support a diagnosis.
- Significant fatigue, lethargy, sluggishness, or history of low thyroid at an earlier age.
- Any of these autoimmune disorders: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sarcoidosis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, biliary cirrhosis, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, thrombocytopenia (decreased blood platelets).
- High or low thyroid, or thyroid goiter.
- Low basal temperature in early morning (average of less than 37ºC over 7 days).
4. Realise that despite tests you may still be thyroid deficient.
- You could have low thyroid despite a normal TSH test.
- You could still be low thyroid despite any normal thyroid test. Although blood assays for hormones are a surrogate measure of tissue hormone action, they are the best practical measure we have of thyroid function at present.
- The above two situations may occur regardless of whether you are being diagnosed for the first time or are being checked after years of treatment.
- If your blood tests are normal, but you haven’t been tested for thyroid antibodies, insist on this as a next step as thyroid autoantibodies indicate the presence autoimmune thyroiditis which can progress to hypothyroidism.
- Even more sensitive than TSH and antibody determinations is the TRH test, although rarely used.
- Most important, the greatest test of all is how you feel – and not a laboratory number. But remember that unfortunately all symptoms of hypothyroidism are non-specific and therefore the presence of these symptoms cannot be assumed to be due to hypothyroidism, but they may be.
5. Discover your best brand or dose or mix of medicines.
- There is no one “best medicine” for all low thyroid sufferers.
- Each person needs to ascertain, largely by trial and error, which medication works best in his or her system.
- Sometimes what works best is a combination of two different medications.
- Sometimes what works best now may not work as well later. Optimal dosing is an ongoing process.
- People with mild low thyroid may not need to take prescription medication forever, although many find it most beneficial to do so.
6. Rebalance your reproductive hormones
- Proper diagnosis and treatment of low thyroid can generally improve the health of reproductive organs and sexual function.
- Specific problems with menstruation, libido, fertility, and miscarriage are frequently thyroid-related, and can often be effectively treated with thyroid hormone.
- Menopause, in particular, is one crucial area where low thyroid is commonly overlooked.
- Rebalancing female and male hormonal systems can frequently improve one’s overall thyroid recovery program (for most women, this means less or no estrogen, and more natural progesterone).
- Male menopause, impotence, and prostate problems, can be dramatically eased with the proper combination of thyroid and male hormone balance.
7. Determine if low adrenals is also a factor
- Your adrenals are two pyramid-shaped glands right above the kidney. Their job is to produce regulatory hormones including adrenaline and cortisone, which are active during periods of stress.
- Some people who need thyroid hormone respond negatively to it, possible indicating a coexistent low adrenal problem.
- Low adrenal, when present, should be treated along with low thyroid.
- Even for those who respond well to thyroid hormone, adrenal treatment is sometimes necessary for full improvement of the thyroid situation.
- Standard adrenal tests do not generally reveal mild adrenal dysfunction.
- Neither standard nor alternative tests are as definitive as measuring adrenal reserve with the more expensive Cortrosyn Stimulation Test (when the latter is interpreted liberally). The short Synacthen test will measure adrenal reserve. Measuring adrenal response to insulin hypoglycaemia is the gold standard. This assesses the entire hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The short Synacthen test can miss central pituitary hypothalamic problems. The short Synacthen test is not particularly expensive.
- Hydrocortisone is a natural hormone constantly used in everyone’s body for health and energy. If you are low in it, you ought to take some, especially if you are also low thyroid.
8. Boost your medication with natural therapies
- Even a great medical regimen may need additional help.
- Healthier food may be your best additional medicine, and fast food your worst poison.
- Cover more of the bases at once is with a specific thyroid-boosting supplements.
- An easy way to cover many bases at once is with a high-quality combination vitamin and mineral pill taken once daily.
- What to avoid may be just as important as what to ingest. Thyroid function improves with less caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, chlorine, and fluoride.
- Specifically avoid extra-large intake of thyroid-blocking foods, such as soy and certain cruciferous vegetables.
9. Improve the underlying autoimmune conditions
- Certain synthetic chemicals are major autoimmune triggers. Reduce your exposure to these potential metabolic toxins, such as insecticides, hair sprays, artificial fragrances, and harsh chemical cleaners.
- Treat your inhalant or food allergies.
- Diagnose and treat mild intestinal parasites.
- Avoid the halogen elements: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine. Just as noxious are excessively frightening movies and demoralizing people.
- Use stress reduction and imagery techniques to lessen autoimmune activity.
- Further balance your immune system with bodywork, yoga, acupuncture, or homeopathy.
10. Reach optimal recovery with an empowered lifestyle
- Consider becoming involved with a support group that can help you explore options and feel connected throughout your recovery process.
- Pick supportive, nonjudgmental practitioners to assist in your health recovery efforts.
- With an empowered attitude, you can rebuild your defences into something more healthy and discriminating.
- Health is not a goal or destination, but is an ongoing process. Enjoy the trip, and let your voice be heard.
The thyroid gland secretes two hormones, T3 which is triiodothyronine and T4 which is thyroxine. The function of these hormones is to produce energy from food. Thus too much produces hyperthyroidism and too little hypothroidism.
Hyper is associated with weight loss and rapid heart beat. It is usually treated by removal of part of the thyroid gland.
Hypo is a much more common occurrence and effects a large proportion of the population. The most common cause is either inadequate production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland or inadequate production of thyroid stimulating hormone, TSH, by the adrenal gland which cause the thyroid to produce T3 and T4.
It is essential to keep the thyroid in balance as thyroid hormone impacts on many other hormonal systems in the body.
Hyperthyroidism –This is when excessive serum levels of thyroid are present, which leads to reduced libido and decreased positive emotions. Both fat and muscle are destroyed as excess of thyroid hormones is catabolic.
Hypothyroidism – This is when you have insufficient thyroid hormones to help drive your insulin metabolism. This leads to an increased fat to muscle ratio as your metabolic rate is also reduced. So as well as feeling exhausted and lethargic your testosterone level is also reduced leading to decreased libido, just as in hyperthyroidism (this is true for both males and females).
Basic Physiology of Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid production begins in the brain in the hypothalamus which releases TRH [thyrotropin releasing hormonal] which in turn stimulates the pituitary to release TSH [thyroid stimulating hormone].
TSH combines with thyroid receptors and AMP is formed from ATP and iodine is transported to the thyroid gland.
Iodine is oxidised to form monoiodotyrosine [MIT] and diiodotyrosine [DIT]
MIT and DIT combine to form the thyroid hormones thyroxin [T4], triiodothvronine [T3] and reverse T3 [RT3].RT3 is an inactive form ofT3
In the thyroid the ratio ofT4 to T3 is 75% T4 to 25% T3.
T4 is converted to T3 in the thyroid and other tissues in the body.
T3 is the active form all cells and tissues and is more essential than T4. Hypothyroid appears when T4 is not converting to T3. In hypothyroid the symptoms appear even though there is an excess of T4 and normal TSH.
Symtoms of Hypothyroidism – a picture of slowed metabolism.
- Chilliness daytime temperature less than 98F.
- Cold and heat intolerance – cold hands and feet
- Fatigue, headaches and depression
- Fluid retention – face, legs, eyelids and abdomen.
- Dry skin, eyes and/or hair.
- PMS – irregular periods
- Headaches, migraines
- Depression, apathy and anxiety
- Irritability – low self esteem
- Low sexual desire
- Memory and concentration impairment
- Enlarged tongue, deep voice and swollen neck
Having said all that quite often hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed as the symptoms although profound to the individual are vague and are often ignored, particularly so if the blood tests come back normal. This is where integrated medicine is essential, as the doctor must look further than diagnostic blood levels. Symptoms of low thyroid function must be used as a diagnostic tool.
Not only must T4 levels be taken but also TSH, for this alone may indicate subclinical hypothyroidism. Even if both of these fall within the normal range hypothyroidism is still a possibility and by simply testing your basal under-arm temperature the health of your thyroid can be established. This should be done over several days with a basal thermometer and taken in the morning as soon as you awake. If the temperature is, on average, under 98F inadequate thyroid production is indicated.