Certainly a commonly diagnosed medical problem, hypothyroidism has far reaching effects. The most commonly found effects are:
- dry and thinning hair
- cold extremities
- intolerance to cold
- menstrual irregularities
- weight gain.
Do these symptoms seem applicable to many people you know? How about memory loss, depression, sluggishness, poor mental concentration, muscle pain, headaches, decreased libido? Still thinking of the same list of people? Do any of these people have asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, high cholesterol, hypertension or mild edema under the eyes or ankles? While it’s true that hormone issues can have many overlapping symptoms, many 21st century symptoms resemble hypothyroidism.
Many have had a few thyroid tests done to verify this and have been told their thyroid is fine. Elevated TSH levels, which can signify a call by the body to get more thyroid hormone (T4), as well as lower levels of this T4 are often focused on for diagnosis. Often, when the level of TSH is under 5 a patient is considered as being in normal range or fine. In fact, a level over 1.5 points to the possibility of the body not having enough activity from the thyroid. So, why do we have symptoms that suggest hypothyroid and our T4 and TSH are “fine”?
Keep in mind that average lab values are a range of all people that have ad their levels done – healthy and sick. We remove the most extreme upper and lower values and then we are left with a normal range. If your TSH is 3, you may be in normal range but your body is telling you that something is wrong. We often treat thyroid with lab values instead of symptoms. What can also happen is that a couple of other levels may be off that probably haven’t been measured, T3 and reverse T3. T3 is the actual active form of the thyroid hormone and is created from T4. Reverse T3 is created in times of stress and binds to the T3 receptor but has no activity. This sounds like something we shouldn’t have in our bodies but it does have a reason for being in an evolutionary way. In times of famine, the stress response that results causes an increase in reverse T3 so that we can reduce the energy expenditure by the body thru the thyroid.
What kind of stress do we have today in North America? Although lack of food is a fact of life for many, the large majority of us have stress from credit card bills, financial issues, relationships, family commitments, travel, pollution, widespread family, a diet that is quite different from a few generations ago (processed food, additives, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, high carb, trans fat), and many other stressors that elevate cortisol and reverse T3, and lower T3. Food sensitivities (like gluten) can affect the thyroid adversely like any organ. Unfortunately when our TSH and T4 levels are taken, they may actually be “within range” and the symptoms are still present. This is because there is an issue in converting T4 to T3 especially in the peripheral tissues where it is needed. This is why many people medicated on thyroid hormone (which is T4) still have symptoms. Another condition, tissue resistance to thyroid hormone has been well documented. In much the same way we develop insulin resistance where the insulin response at the cellular level is reduced, the thyroid hormone can have the same fate. Some are unable to mount a TSH increase from the pituitary to stimulate an increase in T4.
Some nutrients are needed for this all to happen properly. Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, and other nutraceutical ingredients like l-tyrosine, forskohili, guggul, vitamin C and ashwagandha for adrenal support (as proper thyroid function needs proper adrenal function). Also, a small dose of T3 in a long acting preparation (amounting to 0.5-1.5% of the T4 dose to start with) can be helpful.
So why do we develop all of the health issues that we do? Perhaps it could be your thyroid.