Do You Have a Thyroid Condition?

Have you been treated for a thyroid condition, (or suspect you may have a thyroid condition), yet none of the treatments or therapies that usually offer relief of “thyroid symptoms” seem work for you?

The thyroid is one of our body’s many endocrine glands – a gland that secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream to affect all the cells of the body. The thyroid gland regulates the physical and chemical processes that occur at the cellular level, affecting the rate at which the tissues utilize food and natural chemicals. Ultimately this determines how much energy is converted into body heat and muscular energy for example. Other critical biochemical processes including metabolism and energy levels, blood calcium levels, body composition, sex hormone levels, oxygen utilization, fertility, mood, and the ability to lose weight are all affected by thyroid hormones.

The most common thyroid condition in the United States is considered to be some form of a “slow functioning thyroid” (hypothyroid), where the thyroid output appears to be decreased. Although the thyroid itself is the usual suspect in the dysfunction, it is important to fully assess the entire systemic environment to determine the primary cause of the thyroid condition. For example the thyroid is governed by a feedback loop with the pituitary, another endocrine gland, and therefore a “dysfunctional” thyroid could be secondary to a malfunctioning pituitary gland. (This condition is much less common, and does have its own characteristic labwork results, and thyroid hormone levels).

Under-active thyroid gland symptoms include appetite loss, chronic fatigue, constipation, depression, catching colds / flu and other infections easily and difficulty recovering, cold sensitivity, low body temperature, dry skin, hair loss, muscle weakness, painful menstrual periods, morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses, tiredness, and weight gain even on a low-calorie diet.

Overtraining; strict, poor or fad diets; hormonal birth-control; antibiotics; high levels of stress; and various types of nutrient depletion caused by some medications can lead to slight alterations in the body’s environment and cause the thyroid to function in a less than optimal state.

Many people experience thyroid disorders, however their laboratory blood levels may show them to be in the “normal range”. However, although their thyroid blood panels may not be considered to be in the “pathological range”, and the patient may not be suffering in a “disease state”, they could most likely be enduring functional thyroid imbalances.

Thyroid metabolism is very sensitive to slight alterations in the body’s environment. For example, thyroid hormone synthesis can be altered by sex hormone levels including progesterone, especially during a woman’s luteal phase (the period of time between ovulation and menses); as well as being affected by autoimmune states. The amount of free thyroid hormone directly available for use by the tissues (approximately 1% of thyroid hormone is “free”, vs. “protein bound”) is influenced by essential fatty acid metabolism, testosterone and estrogen levels. Excess binding of thyroid hormone can be caused by external sources of xenoestrogens (chemical or plant based estrogens) that you may not even know about. Interestingly, the thyroid produces mostly “inactive” T4 (thyroxine – 94%), as well as some “active” thyroid hormone – T3 (triiodothyronine – 7%), however, the majority of T3 is converted from T4 in the periphery of the body. This conversion can be altered by cortisol (stress hormone) levels, estrogen, liver dysfunction, and dysbiosis (imbalances of healthy gut microflora, especially within the intestines). Finally, another important consideration for proper thyroid function is determined when the thyroid hormone actually binds to appropriate receptors on cell membranes. Binding of, and response to thyroid hormone can be affected by inflammation, vitamin A and essential fatty acid levels.

So, as you can tell, thyroid function is not just a simple equation measuring primarily a few thyroid markers. It is a complicated orchestration of many bodily functions, hormone balances, and nutrient availability. Dr. Jacqui Slavin, of Functional Wellness in Edwards specializes in Functional Endocrinology, and Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis where she assesses and identifies alterations in the endocrine system that may not yet be in a “disease state”, but that if ignored may lead to pathology down the road. This is done by ‘translating’ the bloodwork from the laboratory’s “normal” range to the true “healthy” range (which is usually a smaller margin within the lab range). Functional endocrinology, is like detective work, identifying patterns and biological markers in an effort to find the main culprit that may be causing the “signs and symptoms” of dysfunction. Functional endocrinology involves understanding and supporting a complex series of vicious cycles that feed each other; therefore, the range of ailments assessed is wide and includes but is not limited to slow working thyroid (hypothyroidism), hypertension to high cholesterol, PMS to perimenopause, menopause to depression, fatigue to fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome to GERD….