What are thyroid hormones? 


Millions of Americans suffer from chronic problems such as weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, bloating and puffiness, difficulty concentrating, and depression. Very often, physicians fail to diagnose hypothyroidism or low thyroid function as a cause for these problems. One is seven Americans have suboptimal thyroid function called hypothyroidism. Although anyone can get this disease, women over 50 are at the greatest risk. The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US is an autoimmune disease calledHashimoto’s thyroiditis. The body produces antibodies to the thyroid gland that damage the thyroid gland. Testing for these antiboidies, AgAb and TPOAb is very important and I rarely see it done by mainstream endocrinologists. People with celiac disease of gluten sensitivity are at increased risk for developing autoimmune thyroid and should be tested for the presence of these antibodies when having a thyroid test done. 

Over active thyroid, or hyperthyroidism afflicts fewer people, but can be just as devastating as hypothyroidism. This is usually caused by Grave’s disease, where antibodies are produced that bind to TSH receptor sites, stimulating excess thyroid hormone production 

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ or gland located just under the adam’s apple at the base of the neck. A normal thyroid gland is not visible and difficult to palpate. If a person has a goiter, caused by lack of iodine, or a thyroid nodule, a lump or swelling in that area may be visible. 

Hypothyroidism 


The two major thyroid hormones in our bodies are T4 and T3. The thyroid produces T4 and it is converted to T3 if things are working properly and the right co-factors are present. The thyroid needs iodine and l’tyrosine to make T3 amd T4. It needs a selenium dependent enzyme to convert T4 to T3. Toxins in the water we drink, namely fluoride and chlorine and the foods we eat and heavy metals from our dental work and environment, contribute to the toxic load that will impair thyroid function. When we are under stress, our bodies use the co-factors necessary for T4 to T3 conversion, so we may have suboptimal thyroid function symptoms. T3 is 4-5 times more active, or powerful than T4. When having your thyroid checked, it is vital that you have free T4, free T3, and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) measured! Ninety nine percent of your circulating thyroid hormones are bound to proteins renedering them inactive. That is why it is necessary to check for free T3 and free T4. Your practitioner should also be able to tell you if you need to check for reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies to rule out autoimmune thyroid disease. The most common cause of an underactive thyroid is autoimmune disease, called Hashimoto’s syndrome or chronic thyroiditis. Two other common causes of hypothyroidism are a pituitary gland disorder and an iodine deficiency. 

These two thyroid hormones regulate cell metabolism by controlling the rate at which the body converts oxygen and calories to energy. 

Decreased T3 production will raise your low-density lipoprotein, LDL, the less desirable cholesterol. It will also reduce the bioavailability of your EPA/DHA. These essential fatty acids reduce inflammation in your body and are cardio protective. Decreased T3 slows down your metabolism. Kind of like burning soft wood or pine in your fireplace. It reduces the rate at which you burn oxygen which can contribute to free radical damage to your cells and your heart.. 

Symptoms of low thyroid function include: 


Weight gain, constipation, dry skin, fatigue, hair loss, difficulty concentrating, cold hands and feet, loss of outer third of eyebrow, hoarseness, puffy hands and face, goiter, thyroid nodule, metastatic cancer, brittle hair and fingernails, heavier menstrual periods, decreased taste and smell, slow speech , joint and muscle pain, depression, sensitivity to cold, muscle cramps and weakness, slow thought process and dementia. 

There seems to be an epidemic in this country of subclinical hypothyroidism which often goes undiagnosed. This will be reflected on lab tests as elevated TSH with normal levels of T4 and T3. The patient may be symptomatic but the doctor is unwilling to provide thyroid support based on test results. These patients are at higher risk of developing clinical hypolthyroidism. Biodentical hormone replacement therapy in small amounts, may significantly help these patients symptoms with very little risk. Armour and other compounded thyroid glandular, have been used safely for 50 years and are very effective! 

The broad range of TSH reflected on thyroid tests will often result in hypothyroid patients going untreated. Levels over 2 have been associated with increase risk of clinical hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disease and hypercholesterolemia. Levels of 4 and greater with increased risk of heart disease. 

A consequence of hypothyroidism is constipation, which encourages digestive problems, including gas and bloating. Difficulty swallowing due to decrease motility in the esophagus which leads to heart burn, indigestion, nausea and even vomiting can be a gastrointestinal consequence of hypothyroidism. 

Panic disorders, depression and cognitive decline are symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed as depression and a recent study concluded that optimal thyroid function is very important for bipolar patients. 

Cardiac patients with elevated lipid levels, high blood pressure, elevated homocysteine and CRP, as well as other cardiac risk markers can greatly benefit from making sure that their thyroid is functioning optimally! 

Hyperthyroidism 


This disease afflicts approximately one percent of the population and it is when the thyroid gland produces to much thyroid hormone, accelerating the bodies metabolism. Symptoms include: sudden weight loss, rapid heart rate, sweating, nervousness, insomnia, sleep loss, bruxism (grinding of teeth) and anxiety. It can result in a “thyroid storm” which is a life threatening complication due to blood pressure spikes and increasing risks of stroke and heart attacks. 

Pregnancy and hypothyroidism 


During pregnancy, women need more thyroid hormones so the thyroid gland produces more. Undiagnosed, uncontrolled thyroid dysfunction cal lead to preterm birth, and mental retardation of the infant. It can also lead to hemorrhage in the postpartum period. Please consult your physician about your thyroid during this critical time. 

Blood spot testing for Thyroid problems: 

Tests to properly and thoroughly evaluate thyroid function include: TSH, Total T4, Free T4 (fT4), Total T3, Free T3 (fT3), Reverse T3 (rT3), thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAb), thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb) 

An easy, do it yourself at home, blood spot test can be done to assess thyroid function. Bioidentical hormone therapy is available through a practitioner to treat hypothyroidism. Repeat blood spot testing is an easy and convenient way to monitor the efficacy of your hormone replacement therapy. 

If hypothyroidism is suspected, an evaluation of the adrenal glands and sex hormones is advisable, due to the intricate functioning of the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA).