Your hypothalamus is an almond-sized part of the brain that connects your nervous system to your endocrine system, with your pituitary gland acting as a go-between. The job of the hypothalamus is to release hormones that then cause the pituitary gland to release (or stop releasing) pituitary hormones. This hormonal process controls the body’s temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleep cycles, and daily cyclical rhythms. Cells in the hypothalamus take up the inactive form of thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine) and convert the T4 into the active thyroid hormone, T3 (triiodothyronine.) The T3 then stimulates the production of TSH, which then regulates thyroid hormone production.
When this feedback loop between the hypothalamus and the pituitary becomes dysfunctional, it affects the thyroid. More specifically, dysfunction can affect your thyroid’s ability to take up T4 and convert it to T3. At the same time, hypothalamic obesity disorder can develop. In this situation, your nervous system continues to react as if you are starving, and you continue to gain weight. The weight gain does not respond to even drastic changes in diet or exercise.
Hypothalamic dysfunction can also occur in people who have a dysfunction in their leptin and melanocortin systems, which affect appetite, energy expenditure, body temperature, insulin levels, and overall metabolism. Even with severe caloric restriction, if you have hypothalamic obesity disorder, your metabolism is so impaired that it focuses on storing calories, rather than burning them, causing continued weight gain. In hypothalamic obesity disorder, there can also be an overproduction of insulin, which can further contribute to obesity.
Common symptoms include: fatigue, temperature dysregulation, weight gain, changes in sleep, pain (especially in trigger points), mood disorders, and low libido.
There are multiple causes for hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction. Diet is a strong contributing factor as yo-yo dieting, eating disorders such as anorexia, and unhealthy eating habits can all lead to systematic dysfunction. Other causes include: problems with blood vessels in the brain (such as aneurysm, pituitary apoplexy, and subarachnoid hemorrhage), genetic disorders (such as Prader-Willi syndrome, familial diabetes insipidus, and Kallmann syndrome), as well as immune system issues that lead to infections and chronic inflammation. Additionally, there is evidence that exposure to environmental toxins can also trigger this condition.
Various tests can be conducted to uncover a hypothalamic-pituitary disorder. Blood or urine tests to determine a patient’s levels of cortisol, estrogen, growth hormone, pituitary hormones, prolactin, testosterone, and sodium can indicate dysfunction of the hypothalamus and the pituitary.
Holtorf Medical Group has been addressing hypothalamic causes of obesity in patients for a number of years. Contact us today to learn about our treatment methods.