Thyroid deficiency

The role of the thyroid gland

The thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is responsible for making thyroid hormones, which control the metabolism of all cells in the body

The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and partially wraps around the windpipe. The two primary thyroid hormones are T4 (Thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine). T4 is inactive and comprises about 80% of thyroid hormone production; T3 is the active hormone that the body uses to function. T4 is converted into T3 when thyroid hormone is needed

Thyroid hormones regulate how slowly or quickly the body uses the fuel that is consumed – in particular, carbohydrates and fat. This helps to control the body temperature and fat percentage.

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is produced by the pituitary gland and released when low circulating levels of thyroid hormone are detected by the hypothalamus, which instructs the pituitary to release TSH. When sufficient amounts are circulating, the hypothalamus communicates with the pituitary to stop or slow down release. High levels of TSH in the blood often mean that the pituitary is trying to stimulate thyroid hormone production, but the thyroid gland is not responding.

 Function of thyroid hormone

  • Regulates temperature, metabolism and cerebral function
  • Increases energy, body temperature and warmth
  • Increases fat breakdown, resulting in decreased weight and lower cholesterol
  • Protects against cardiovascular ailments
  • Improves cerebral metabolism
  • Supports cognitive function
  • Relieves symptoms of thin sparse hair, dry skin and brittle nails.

Thyroid disease

An estimated 6% of people suffer from thyroid disease, yet the majority are completely unaware that they have it. Women are estimated to be six to eight times more prone to thyroid disease than men.

Because the symptoms can be very subtle, they are often overlooked or mistaken for other health issues. Symptoms include:

  • Thin, dry hair
  • Eyebrows may curve straight down on outer edges
  • Hair missing on outer edge of eyebrows
  • Lower eyelashes missing or sparse
  • Dry skin
  • Puffiness around the Adam’s apple.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Symptoms

  • Slow metabolism
  • Listlessness
  • Lowered body temperature
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Muscle soreness
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue, depression
  • High cholesterol
  • Painful joints
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss.

Treatment

Depending on the symptoms, lab tests and physical examination, the doctor will decide on a combination of T3 and T4 that is most suitable. By compounding the exact individual dose of T4 and T3 that it needed, he/she will work towards normalising the TSH and maintaining the thyroid hormone levels to as close as possible as the body would naturally function.

Causes

Hypothyroidism is a very common problem and there are many reasons for it, including drinking chlorinated and fluoridated water, and eating brominated flour. Chlorine, fluoride, and bromine are all in the same family as iodine, and can displace iodine in the thyroid gland. Many people simply aren’t getting enough iodine in their diet to begin with.

Elevated reverse T3 levels will see their levels revert back to normal after undergoing chelation with EDTA and DMPS, which draw out cadmium, lead, mercury and other toxic metals. In essence, heavy metal toxicity can cause a functional form of hypothyroidism.

‘It’s very well-known that lead and cadmium interfere with testosterone production,’ Dr Jonathan Wright says. ‘What’s not so well-known is that reverse T3 is stimulated by toxic metals, so up it goes. In effect, we can have levels that are so high, they way outnumber the regular T3. You’re functionally hypothyroid even if your TSHs and free T3s happen to be normal.’

Diagnosis

The conventional approach is to only consider the laboratory tests to determine hypothyroidism, where the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and the T4 levels are evaluated to determine thyroid malfunction. This does not consider the conversion of T4 to T3 (the active thyroid hormone) and the possibility of reverse T3, which is produced particularly at times of stress and inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3.

An integrative practitioner will consider the physical signs of thyroid dysfunction. This includes symptoms such as dry skin, thinning of the outer margins of the eyebrows, subtle accumulation of fluid in the ankles, constipation, lack of sweating, weight gain and high cholesterol.

Taking the body temperature every morning before getting out of bed might also be suggested – if it is low, it is an indication of an under active thyroid.

The laboratory tests, which should include thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), total T4, free T4, total T3, free T3, and reverse T3, will be used to support the diagnosis.