It is most common to question the health of the thyroid in cases of fatigue, constipation, weight gain, chilliness, and dryness. However it is also very common in cases of depression, fibromyalgia like muscle aches, gastrointestinal dysfunction and even foggy brain.
The thyroid is one endocrine organ in a delicately and intricately related chain of hormone producing glands. Although it may be one of the easier glands to measure, others in the chain, i.e. the hypothalamus, the adrenal glands and the gastrointestinal system have a major effect on the thyroid’s function.
In the last two weeks alone, I have treated three unusual cases of thyroid dysfunction. One an 8 year old girl with Hashimoto’s an auto-immune disease, another a 22 year old male who looks like a body builder and the third a 14 year old very slender female.
None of them fit the picture…but if you don’t test you never know!
Just Because Your Doctor Says Your Thyroid is Fine Doesn’t Make it So
When testing the thyroid you must test several markers to understand if the thyroid is working properly; TSH, T4 total, free T3, Free T4, T3 uptake, free thyroxine index, and thyroid antibodies.
Laboratory ranges are very wide on thyroid and do not reflect optimal functioning. It is very common for conventional doctors to just order a TSH and say your thyroid is fine when it really isn’t. The reason is most doctors treat all thyroid conditions the same – give enough levo-thyroxin until the tsh blood level is within normal limits. This works for one kind of thyroid dysfunction. There are six different types of low thyroid functions with at least 22 other bodily dysfunctions resulting in low functioning thyroid .
How Other Organs Affect the Thyroid
I will give you a few examples of how other organ systems affect the thyroid. If you have positive antibodies TPO or TGB you really have an auto-immune disease where your thyroid tissue is being destroyed by your immune system. It is estimated that at least 75% of hypothyroid cases are auto-immune. This problem can really be helped by clinicians who understand the relationship between thyroid, gut, immune system and brain. Attention should be directed to these areas.
Food allergies must be eliminated. Vitamin D should be measured and optimized for that patient. Leaky gut must be corrected. Balancing the two arms of the immune system Th1 and Th2 is very important.
Common health food store “immune tonics” such as echinacea and maitake are Th1 stimulators while caffeine is a TH 2 stimulator. If one is Th1 dominant they will frequently complain that echinacea or other Th1 stimulants makes them feel bad. It is important to realize that your individual body may not fit the common marketing scheme that is currently being advocated in medicine or natural health care.
Iodine Can Sometimes Make Thyroid Function Worse
There are other tests such as cytokine testing or TH1 and 2 challenges to get this system balanced.It is paramount to understand that those diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or showing positive antibodies will be made WORSE with iodine supplementation.
Free T3 is the real work horse of thyroid hormones. It is what your cells use, yet only 6% of T3 is made in the thyroid. The vast majority is converted from T4 in the liver and from the bacteria in the GI tract. Can you start to see how important the GI tract is and the importance of fermented foods, pre and probiotics?
Thyroid Problems and Adrenal Dysfunction Usually Go Hand in Hand
It is rare to see thyroid dysfunction without seeing adrenal dysfunction. The adrenals are the glands that deal with stress and in our culture most peoples are just worn out.This leads to under-conversion of T4-to T3. It frequently leads to blood sugar issues which dampen communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid glands.
Shallow Breathing Common in Thyroid/Adrenal Dysfunction
Again, these problems are made worse by people skipping meals, eating low protein diets or vegetarian diets, using stimulants such as caffeine to increase adrenal output of hormones. I always use nutrients and whole food diets emphasizing higher protein and healthy fats for this condition. One of the most important treatments is breathing exercises.
It is common to find people that suffer from shallow breathing when endocrine conditions presents. Shallow breathing is characterized by breathing from the chest up without using the diaphragm.
Put another way, shallow breathing involves breathe without expanding out to allow the diaphragm to create a vacuum in the lungs.
It is impossible in a short article to completely explain the thyroid gland. My goal is rather to show you the many facets of thyroid dysfunction and testing . As in all my writings my goal it is to help you connect the dots between one particular system and its relationship to the whole body. I hope to convey the message that if you are chronically ill and your doctor has only tested your TSH please ask for more. Do not take over the counter formulas for your thyroid unless someone is specifically monitoring your case as what makes one type of thyroid condition better can aggravate another type. Again Iodine is a very individual nutrient for certain thyroid types and not for others!
Dr. Mark Frank has been in private practice in Zephyrhills, Florida since 1981. He has traveled the world studying acupuncture, homeopathy, functional medicine, chiropractic and functional neurology in an effort to understand how the human body heals.