Hi. It’s Dr. Connie.
It’s estimated that tens of millions of people worldwide have thyroid problems—approximately 5-25% of the world’s population.
According to the book, Thyroid Mind Power by Richard Shames, “we’ve witnessed a massive increase in the amount of hormone-disrupting synthetic chemicals in the last 40 years, finding their way into our air, food and water [and] the most sensitive and highly susceptible of human tissues turns out to be the thyroid gland.”
What is the Thyroid?
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower front part of your neck.
Its primary job is to produce hormones that control growth/development during childhood, regulate your metabolism and body temperature, and drive the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain.
Such neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which help you feel good and help you to have the motivation to accomplish your goals.
It turns out, when told you have thyroid issues, you may have other imbalances that should be balanced first before having to resort to synthetic thyroid pills.
What Inhibits Healthy Thyroid Function?
- Excess stress and cortisol production
- Selenium deficiency
- Deficient protein intake
- High sugar intake
- Chronic illness
- Compromised liver or kidney function
- Heavy metal toxicity (cadmium, lead, and mercury)
- Herbicides and pesticides
- Oral contraceptives, leading to excessive estrogen production
Thyroid problems are fast becoming an epidemic especially among women, frequently surfacing after pregnancy and during middle age.
According to a recent study conducted in 2017, approximately 23.2 % of postmenopausal women demonstrate thyroid problems.
Thyroid imbalance is a major cause of depression, anxiety, mental fog, and memory issues:
- 1/3 of all depressions are directly related to thyroid imbalance
- 80-90% of postpartum depression is associated with thyroid abnormalities
- More than 80% of people with low-grade hypothyroidism have impaired memory function
Hypothyroid or Hyperthyroid?
There are two main types of thyroid imbalance.
Hypothyroidism, or under active thyroid, is when the gland does not produce enough hormone.
- Feeling tired all the time
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Brain fog, or feeling “spacey”
- Feeling cold all the time, even when others feel hot
- A body temperature that tends to be lower than 98.6
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is when the gland produces too much hormone, causing everything in your body to work too fast.
- Feeling jittery, as if you have had too much caffeine
- Racing thoughts
- Fast pulse
- Weight loss, despite an increased appetite
- Feeling too hot for no clear reason
Do You Suspect Thyroid Imbalance?
The best way to know if you have a thyroid imbalance is to get your blood tested.
There are specific labs you can ask your primary physician to check.
The main thyroid hormones—TSH, T3, and T4—all have to be in the right balance for you to feel your best.
So what should be checked?
Conventional medical practice is to check for TSH levels. However, this only measures your thyroid stimulating hormone and is not a good indicator for your thyroid levels.
This is because TSH levels can be normal, even when you have an underlying thyroid problem.
If you have any symptoms and suspect you have thyroid issues, ask your doctor for the following tests to be included:
- TSH (according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, anything over 3.0 is abnormal and needs further investigation)
- Free T3 (active)
- Free T4 (inactive)
- Thyroid antibodies
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOab)
- Thyroglobulin antibodies (TG)
- Liver function tests (95% of T4 is “activated” in the liver so having a healthy liver is essential).
- Ferritin level (ferritin is like the bus that drives the active T3 into the cells for the activity to occur. Ferritin needs to be above 90 for this to happen).
Balancing Your Thyroid
A true thyroid imbalance can be effectively treated with various thyroid medications.
However, your doctor needs to test your levels regularly to make sure you’re not taking too much or too little.
There are also a number of natural dietary supplements that support thyroid function.
- Vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, C, D
If possible, check to make sure that you have healthy testosterone, insulin, and melatonin levels.
While all such testing is helpful, it’s important to remember that your doctor should treat YOU as an individual, rather than the test results.
This means that they are mindful of your individual symptoms.
The results of your labs should align with your symptoms and a good doctor will do their part to treat you as a whole being.
I’ve seen many women with hypothyroidism not treated by their physicians because their thyroid numbers were low but “within normal limits.”
Clinically, even if you’re normal, it may not be the optimal range for YOU.
How you feel and how you function (e.g., energy, constipation, dry hair, dry skin, cognition, body temperature) is more important in assessing thyroid function than just using arbitrary blood test normal ranges.
There’s much more to your brain health than your thyroid. Even if you suspect a thyroid dysfunction, it’s important to understand your symptoms in the context of the big picture.
So many things can contribute to thyroid imbalances. If you or anyone you know is on Synthroid, I would get the specific levels checked to make sure that’s what you need.
If you or anyone you know is on medications for the symptoms above, rather than opting for the pill, a better alternative is to understand the root issue.
Often, simple lifestyle changes can allow your body to reset and balance itself.
I hope this was helpful.
Thanks so much, see you next week.