Have you been with friends and your thyroid gland has come up in conversation? I’ve been hearing it a lot lately and no wonder, I just read a report that said, “As much as 40% of the population has some degree of hypothyroidism.” Wow, really?! Even if you were to cut that number in half, that would still be 1 out of 5 people! What’s going on? Are you one of the 40% that has some sort of thyroid issue? Read on and decide for yourself…
- Weight gain
- Irregular menstruation
- Memory Loss and/or poor concentration
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Hair loss (even eyebrow hair loss)
- Cold intolerance
- Dry skin
- Weakness or sluggishness
- Hoarse voice
- Sleep issues
Thyroid hormones are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working as they should.
Why do we have so much under- and misdiagnosis of Thyroid disorders?
- First, many patients with thyroid symptoms have “normal” lab results. So you may be subclinical (on the verge of being hypothyroid).
- Second, the go-to medicine for doctors is a synthetic thyroid hormone and for the alternative types it is iodine. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases neither is effective because they don’t address the underlying issue of the disorder. Patients may get relief for a short period of time, but inevitably symptoms return or the disease progresses.
How do you properly diagnose?
As a Functional and Integrative doctor, my main job is to get to the root of your issue and treat from there. Getting to the root means understanding why your thyroid has stopped producing the correct hormones to begin with, and not just replacing the deficiency. Often times, thyroid hormone isn’t at the root of the issue.
And here’s a really interesting fact that not many folks have put together: Thyroid disfunction is really common in stressed-out patients! From my past articles you may recall the discussions on the stress hormone, Cortisol. This is made by the Adrenal glands- the tiny yet oh so important glands that sit on top of the kidneys (Ad = above, renal = kidney). Turns out that too much or too little cortisol production can result in a negative feedback loop to the thyroid. In simpler terms, chronic stress = messed up thyroid.
What do you do if you think you might have a thyroid disorder?
The solution seems so easy; get a blood test for thyroid levels, diagnose hypothyroidism, give synthetic thyroid hormones and voila, you’re fixed! Oh, it pains me to have written that last sentence. It is so wrong for so many reasons…seriously it is stressing me out!
A couple issues with the “normal” approach to this:
- Functional and integrative doctors know you need to run more blood tests than just your basic TSH level. And when the results come back, my alarm bells would start to chime at a level of 2.5 (versus the standard 4.5)! Secondly, while synthetic thyroid hormones can be very helpful for some patients, such as Synthroid, there are natural alternatives that don’t just supply the inactive T4 hormone. For example, products like Armour, Nature-throid, NP Thyroid, and many others contain T4, T3, T2, T1, and calcitonin.
- And now for the big disconnect. If you go back up and reread the symptoms I listed above, most if not all of these symptoms are also found in patients suffering from Adrenal Fatigue! Ironic, isn’t it? Well, not really. Turns out that stress causes the release of cortisol, and cortisol inhibits TSH and the conversion of T4 to T3. So patients suffering from Adrenal Fatigue OFTEN will also be suffering from Hypothyroidism! Fascinating! The beauty of Functional and Integrative medicine is that it treats the patient from the top down, or the big picture, or the aerial view. If we treat Adrenal Fatigue, we often fix, or at least significantly improve Hypothyroidism without having to give thyroid hormone replacement. We let the body do it naturally. As a matter of fact, when I do treat folks for Adrenal fatigue that are already on Synthroid for a previous diagnosis of hypothyroidism, I have to warn them that they may need to decrease their dosage of Synthroid as their Adrenal Fatigue is corrected, and the negative feedback loop that cortisol has been imparting on TSH and T4 is decreased. If they don’t, they’ll start to experience hyperthyroid symptoms such as jitteriness.
Four treatments you can start doing NOW, to either correct your Hypothyroidism, or your Adrenal Fatigue:
- Decrease your stress – Easier said than done, I know, but “stress management” isn’t just a “90’s” buzzword. Meditation (I love the Head Space free App), Breathing exercises (Dr. Weil taught me the 4-7-8 exercise), yoga or Tai Chi, and plain old Go Have Some Fun.
- Heal your gut – Got Irritable Bowel (IBS)?, a history of Antibiotic use?, or love your processed foods? EAT REAL FOODS! If it comes in a box, there’s a good chance you’re making your leaky gut worse.
- Take Supplements – Doctors use to think you could get everything you need from a well-balanced meal. Not true. Take a (well-researched) Multivitamin. Take Fish Oil supplements. Please, please, please only buy from a reputable person or company. Ask me, or stop by the office and check out what I take.
- Elimination Diet – If you suspect you have food sensitivities, but aren’t quite sure if it’s gluten or something else, consider an elimination diet. Most are for 30 days, which is very difficult to do, and you must be 100% compliant- 99% still gets you a grade of “F” when it comes to elimination diets. OR you could do a Food Sensitivity test. It’s a simple finger prick with our Integrative Nutritionist which gives a huge list of foods, spices and environmental allergens and if you are sensitive to any of them.
If you think you might have a thyroid or adrenal issue, feel free to reach out to me.