Thyroid treatment differs from one person to the next. I spent 10 years trying to figure out my thyroid. I tried every thyroid medication and they all made me feel awful. AWFUL. Crying, emotional, hormonal, cravings, PMS symptoms, fatigue. So miserable. Last year I went off my thyroid medicine and decided to dedicate my year to healing my body through alternative medicine and not relying on a little white pill. This Thyroid Treatment series will go throughout the fall so that you get a better grasp as to what’s going on with the thyroid and how you can be in charge of your relationship with you and your doctor- challenging the doctor to run the necessary tests, most of which they neglect to do. The below information is a combination of what I learned throughout the last 10 years of healing my thyroid as well as information from the following Functional/Integrative doctors: Amy Meyer’s M.D., Mark Hyman M.D. and Aviva Rohm M.D., all of whom I truly admire and agree with on many levels. Click on each of their names for additional thyroid information.
What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?
Your thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped glad located in your neck. It’s what I like to call your hormonal power plant because it’s responsible for producing hormones that power up EVERY single one of your cells. That’s right. Your thyroid is a big deal. HUGE. Your cells cannot reproduce, your organs cannot function at their best and your metabolism gets thrown off big-time if you don’t have the right amount of thyroid hormone. Your thyroid creates four thyroid hormones! When you find yourself stressed out or you don’t get enough sleep or you are dealing with a cold or you’re working out a lot, your thyroid is getting pushed to its limits. When you eat inflammatory foods such as gluten, sugar, dairy, soy and processed foods, your thyroid struggles. When you’re pregnant or going through menopause or perimenopause, your thyroid struggles even more.
So, what can we do to combat the effects that we’re putting on our thyroid every single day? Everyone is stressed out about life, not many people get enough sleep and everyone is dealing with the daily stressors of trying to keep up- all while our thyroid suffers. Then one day, it takes a hit and our thyroid starts to give up. That’s when we start to see symptoms pop up….weight gain, exhaustion and many other symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere. But, they didn’t come out of nowhere, your thyroid has just been pushed way TOO much from all you’ve been doing and it’s giving you a sign to slow the heck down and take care of yourself. Not something that’s easy for a lot of us to do! It took me years to figure this out. All the supplements and superfoods in the world won’t heal you if you don’t take care of yourself, eat right, get enough sleep and find time for rest.
Trust me. I tried to beat the system and keep pushing myself while doing every protocol and eating every superfood and taking every supplement. It just doesn’t work.
Let me show you how you can get tested to see if your thyroid is functioning optimally (including tests that most doctors do NOT test for) and I’ll share with you what you can start to do today to prevent thyroid issues from popping up out of the blue.
TSH Range, T3 and T4
When you think of your thyroid, you’ve got tot think about a bunch of glands and organs working together as a team- it’s never just about your ‘thyroid’ when you have a thyroid issue. Thyroid function depends on your thyroid, hypothalamus and pituitary. Your thyroid needs support from all these guys in order to function properly and in order to understand your thyroid treatment plan, you must look at the big picture so that you can heal the root cause of what is causing your thyroid issues in the first place.
Your hypothalamus (in your brain) tells you when you’re hungry, when your thirsty, and how hungry/thirsty you are. It controls your body temperature, your sleep and the production of numerous hormones. Your hypothalamus is like the big guy at the power plant; it’s constantly interpreting data and then it sends out responses to your body. Your hypothalamus is always monitoring the levels of thyroid hormone in your blood and if those levels get too low, your hypothalamus releases TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone) to make sure that some thyroid hormone gets released into your blood. The tricky part is that your hypothalamus doesn’t communicate with your thyroid- it’s got to go through your pituitary first. This is why it’s key to work with a professional that understands the complexities of the thyroid and who realizes that a thyroid imbalance can come from many other places- not just from the thyroid.
The pituitary is a pea-sized gland in your brain and it takes commands from your hypothalamus. It regulates reproduction, stress and growth. Your pituitary releases its own hormone, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and this hormone goes directly to your thyroid, making it release some thyroid hormones in your blood.
When your thyroid gets the TSH, it takes iodine and tyrosine and uses them to produce thyroid hormones- then these get released into your blood. Your thyroid coverts tyrosine into thyroglobulin and then joins to 1,2,3 or 4 iodine atoms which are the 4 thyroid hormones, T1, T2, T3, T4. I recall asking my Functional MD’s about T1 and T2 but no one really seems to know a lot about them. But what we do know is that T3 and T4 are very important.
T4 (thyroglobulin plus 4 iodine atoms) is the guy that’s in charge of the output of your thyroid gland. This is the storage form of the hormone that travels in your blood and is stored in your tissues. The issue is that T4 does not actually every ENTER your cells, so it doesn’t affect your metabolism, your energy or your symptoms, That’s why you need T3, which is the active form of the hormone, thyroglobulin (TGB) plus 3 iodine atoms.
Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
There are two sources of T3- a portion comes from your thyroid but some is also converted from T4. At any time, if your body needs more T3, it can take a bit of T4 out of your storage and convert it into T3. Now, when you don’t have enough T3 in your cells, you get Hypothyroidism, which I have. If you have too much T3, you have Hyperthyroidism (Grave’s Disease).
The main goal is to find out how much T3 is actually available to give your cells energy and how much T4 is available to be converted into T3. So, if your doctor only runs a test on how much total T4 and T3 are in your blood, it’s not telling us how much thyroid hormone is available to give your cells energy because so much thyroid hormone is not free- it’s combined with proteins to help move it through your blood. TBG is the main protein that your thyroid hormone attaches. It’s called thyroxine-binding globulin. T4 and T3 both bind to TBG and other proteins to ensure they’re available for your cells and tissue until your body signals that it needs them. The majority of your thyroid hormone is combined with proteins so your body makes sure it doesn’t run out of hormones.
A healthy TBG level allows your thyroid to function at its best and energize your cells. When you don’t have enough TBG, not enough hormone will be bound and Hyperthyroidism can occur. When you’ve got too much TBG, too much hormone is bound and you can get Hypothyrodism.
So, what effects your TBG?
Ahhhhh. That’s the golden question.
What I learned from having Estrogen Dominance is that having too much estrogen in your body is a big one. So chemicals that mimic estrogen, that I discuss in my book as well as chemicals in our water, air, food and most of our personal care products like deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo. See my book, Eating Clean, for all the detailed information on what chemicals to avoid and what products to choose. Birth control pills and hormone replacements are all effecting estrogen levels so if you’re on those, it’s a good idea to get everything checked so you know what’s really going on.
As you’ll see below in How to Get Your Thyroid Tested, it’s key to test Free T3 and Free T4 because the hormones combined with proteins don’t affect your body–free hormone does, which is why it’s key to get those tested.
I’ll continue the rest of the thyroid conversion process in Part II coming soon…
For now, print this out so you know what tests to ask for when you go to your doctor and how to get started with your thyroid treatment.
How to Get Your Thyroid Tested
I cannot stress enough how you need to know what tests your doctor is ordering in regards to your thyroid treatment. You HAVE to take charge. You need to know that they are ordering the correct tests for you. It took me years to find doctors who could understand how to read these tests!
- TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone): this is the hormone that is released by your pituitary to stimulate your thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. Even though your TSH is produced by your pituitary, it’s an indicator of how your thyroid is functioning. If TSH is too high, your thyroid needs to be boosted.
- T4: This is the storage form of the thyroid hormone.
- Free T4: This is the storage form of thyroid left FREE rather than combined to proteins.
- T3: This is the ACTIVE form of the thyroid hormone.
- Free T3: This is the ACTIVE form of the thyroid left FREE rather than combined to proteins.
- Reverse T3: THIS IS something that Western MD’s do NOT know how to test for. This is SO SO SO IMPORTANT! You must see a Functional MD’s who knows how to test for this and knows how to read it, as well- and understand what to do with your results. I spent 5 years going from Western Dr to Western Dr and none of them ordered this for me after me begging them to order it; they had no idea what this was and it’s such a huge part of the thyroid puzzle. This is a type of thyroid hormone that prevents free T3 from attaching to your cells, which doesn’t allow T3 to do it’s job.
- Thyroid Resistance: This happens when your cells don’t receive free T3. Even if your blood levels of free T3 are ideal, all of the hormone doesn’t actually enter your cells.
- TBG (thyroxine-building globulin): This is the protein that binds to thyroid hormone so that the hormone can move through your blood.
- Physical exam performed by your doctor to check the thyroid glad for tumors or nodules.
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody High Symptoms
High levels of these antibodies indicate the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease is affecting the thyroid. These are produced by your immune system to actually attack your thyroid. These are VERY important and should always be tested when you’re getting blood work done because your body can change at any point! Hashimoto’s symptoms range in every person differently. I have numerous friends and clients who have Hashimoto’s and no two are alike with their symptoms. Work with your Functional M.D. to get to the root cause of what’s going on with your thyroid and address it along with addressing your overall body because everything is connected!
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibiodies (TPOAb)
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
You can read more about Thyroid Symptoms in my previous article from last year. As I’ve mentioned above, every single person is different because what actually caused your thyroid problem is not what caused someone else’s thyroid problem. Yours could be from a break up or divorce or stress at work or a trauma that may have happened while someone else has thyroid issues because they have depression. Catch my drift? This is why you cannot compare your symptoms like Western medicine does. That will get you nowhere. My symptoms were unlike anything doctors saw and so I had to stop googling for answers and look inside myself to heal, which meant eating organic, filtering my tap water and slowing down along with many other things to help heal my thyroid.
Get quiet with yourself, breathe and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Your body just doesn’t start to break down for no good reason. Slow your life down and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. In my case, it was to slow down and rest more and understand past traumas that were affecting my body.
Continue on to Part II.