I want to bring awareness to the epidemic of thyroid issue we are seeing these days. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. By far the more common form of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism and this is what I want to focus on today. Hypothyroidism is a disease state that happens when the thyroid gland isn’t functioning properly and is not making enough thyroid hormone. This gland makes two different thyroid hormones. These hormones are your master hormones and control almost every aspect of your metabolism. Because they have such a widespread effect on your body the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism are many and sometimes hard to discern from other common ailments.
Further, many times the medical tests for hypothyroid are incomplete. The most common test for hypothyroidism is a blood test measuring thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This test tells us a little about how the thyroid gland is working and being regulated but doesn’t tell us much about why or how a person is developing hypothyroid symptoms. If TSH is high most of the time it is assumed that it is because the patient is not producing enough thyroid hormone, replacement thyroid hormone then is prescribed. However, lack of thyroid hormone may not be why you are having symptoms. Here are a few examples:
- Your body may be producing enough thyroid hormones but it may not be converting those hormones to the active form because you may be deficient in key nutrients.
- Your body may have accumulated certain toxins that are interfering with the metabolism of thyroid hormones.
- If you are under high stress then cortisol (the hormone that helps you respond to stress) can become chronically elevated and could be interfering with your thyroid regulation system.
- If you have excess inflammation in your body this inflammation could be interrupting normal thyroid metabolism.
You may have also been told by your doctor that your TSH is normal yet you are suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism like fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, slow heart rate, and constipation. In this case your hypothyroid symptoms could be coming from one of the situations mentioned above. It is important to see a practitioner (such as a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner) familiar with the ins and outs of hypothyroidism so that you can get your body back on the right track.
So as you can see just giving someone more thyroid hormone may alleviate symptoms but it is not going to fix the underlying problems of why the thyroid is struggling. Don’t get me wrong sometimes thyroid hormone replacement is the most effective thing to do, but I always want to explore options that restore the normal function of the thyroid before bailing it out with synthetic hormones.