Holtorf Medical Group
The thyroid is integral to the body’s health as it affects nearly every cell in the body. Its influence can be seen in how the body relays information, triggers activity, and regulates various substances. More specifically, the thyroid gland produces hormones that monitor the body's metabolic rate which in turn helps control the heart, various muscles, digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance. Thus, the thyroid plays a crucial role in overseeing many aspects of wellness.
A malfunctioning thyroid often results in a cascade of symptoms that can appear nearly anywhere in the body. This is because the interconnectivity of the body means that the areas directly affected by poor thyroid function can reverberate and damage other, seemingly unrelated areas.
It is estimated that thyroid disease affects over 20 million Americans with a large percentage of this group being hypothyroid (where the thyroid is sluggish and does not produce enough thyroid hormone). Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Hyperthyroidism is another common thyroid disorder where the thyroid is overactive and produces too many hormones. Symptoms that vary greatly from hypothyroidism include:
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is thought to be the most common cause of hypothyroidism but usually goes undetected. About one out of every thousand people will be diagnosed with this autoimmune condition, but it is much more common. Of this group, women are significantly more likely to have Hashimoto’s, and it is most common between the ages of 45 and 65. Studies show, however, that most cases of Hashimoto’s cannot be detected by blood work—only the worst of the worst test positive. Symptoms often alternate between hypothyroid and hyperthyroid symptoms and can include:
Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism may develop from a singular trigger, but it is far more likely that there are multiple contributing factors. Some of the most common causes of hypothyroidism include nutritional imbalances (specifically iodine deficiency), exposure to environmental toxins, pituitary malfunction, congenital predisposition, inhibited hormone signaling or transport, and various medications such as antidepressants.
Perhaps the greatest contributor to thyroid disease, including hypothyroidism, is a chronic illness. Conditions such as diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, and Fibromyalgia can disrupt many factors relating to thyroid activity. One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is a chronic autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The disorder encourages the body’s own immune system to attack the thyroid gland, resulting in a serious decline in thyroid function. Another condition linked to Hashimoto’s is Epstein-Barr Virus or EBV, which is a herpes virus (Herpes 4) that has been linked to Hashimoto’s disease and many other autoimmune diseases.
The main difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism relates to the way in which hormone levels are affected. Hypothyroidism leads to a decrease in hormones while hyperthyroidism leads to an increase in hormone production. In the United States, there are 20 million diagnosed cases of thyroid disease with a large percentage of this group being hypothyroid.
As previously mentioned, thyroid hormones facilitate communication between the brain and the gut. When thyroid function is reduced, this communication is limited and can result in digestive issues such as constipation, malabsorption, and dysbiosis, or an imbalance of beneficial bacteria. Moreover, a thyroid hormone deficit can limit muscle and nerve action that facilitates movement in the esophagus, slowing digestion. Furthermore, low thyroid levels are associated with reduced levels of gastrin. Low gastrin levels may cause heartburn, ulcers, reflux, bloating, and inflammation.
As for the metabolism, poor thyroid function often means a reduction in metabolic activity, which contributes to weight gain, an inability to lose weight, and fatigue (in the case of hypothyroidism). Hypothyroidism also inhibits the body’s ability to use fatty acids, meaning that fat cannot be effectively broken down and dispersed as fuel for other cells.
When testing thyroid function, many doctors only test the levels of Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Although TSH is considered the “gold standard” test by many endocrinologists, they do not even agree on the cutoff points for the reference range for this test.
Some endocrinologists consider any number within the reference range (it’s around .40 to 4.0 at many US labs) “normal,” and others feel that TSH must be as high as 10 for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
Therefore, the TSH test is not only limited due to the lack of consensus as to what the actual results mean, but also due to the fact that it does not even test Free T4, and Free T3 — the actual circulating thyroid hormones — or antibodies that detect autoimmune thyroid disease. This means you could have sub-normal levels of T4 and T3, and/or antibodies that show that your thyroid gland is in self-destruct mode, but if your TSH is within the reference range, the endocrinologist may say it’s “normal.”
Moreover, it is far too uncommon for endocrinologists to screen for a patient’s levels of Reverse T3 (RT3). As the mirror image of T3, RT3 is responsible for keeping active thyroid hormone levels balanced and an important of overall thyroid function. However, with stress, dieting, inflammation, and/or chronic illness over conversion of T4 to RT3 can result in severe symptoms of hypothyroidism. Thus, if you would like to check on your thyroid health, it is best to have a full panel screening of your thyroid hormones.
Millions of Americans suffer from some form of a thyroid disorder, many of them may not even know it. While the most common causes of thyroid problems are autoimmune conditions, there are steps you can take to support your thyroid and its various functions:
For people with thyroid disease, there are some important things to know about foods and drinks, and their interaction with the body and medications. Below are some general tips thyroid patients should keep in mind:
Beneficial Foods and Beverages:
Foods and Beverages to Avoid:
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), more commonly referred to as flame retardants can be found in many areas of the modern-day home such as furniture, carpet padding, clothing made of synthetic materials, and the screens of electronic devices. PBDEs imitate thyroid hormone structure and block T4 from being transported in the blood.
Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, ingredients used to make plastic for water bottles, children’s toys, and food storage containers, imitate the structures of other hormones found naturally in the body and disrupt the entire endocrine system along with the thyroid. BPA can change the structure of the thyroid gland and inhibits T3 from binding to its receptors.
Thyroid disorders are common but often misdiagnosed. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some form of a thyroid disorder, according to the American Thyroid Association. However, up to 60% are unaware they have a thyroid issue or have been misdiagnosed with another condition.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our doctors are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to properly diagnose and treat your autoimmune thyroid disease, optimize your health, and improve your quality of life. If you think you are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, contact us today to see how we can help you!
Holtorf Medical GroupThe Holtorf Medical Group specializes in optimizing quality of life and being medical detectives to uncover the underlying cause of symptoms, rather than just prescribing medications to cover-up the symptoms. We are experts in natural, prescription bioidentical hormone replacement and optimization, complex endocrine dysfunction, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease. We’ve dedicated our practice to providing you the best in evidenced-based, integrative medicine that’s not only safe and effective, but provides measurable results.
750 million people have some degree of thyroid disease
Holtorf Medical Group
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