Hypothyroidism is a widespread condition affecting about 25% of adults.
It impacts most body functions and virtually all body cells.
The severity of symptoms range from mild to severe and include:
- Recurrent infections.
- Puffy features
- Swollen skin
- Dry skin
- Problems losing weight
- Cognition issues like memory loss or lack of focus
- Cold sensitivity
- Weight gain
- General malaise
- Brain fog
Hypothyroid has been traditionally diagnosed when your TSH hormone is elevated, however, new evidence is showing you can have a normal serum TSH level and be classified Euthyroid (or normal thyroid), but still have signs and symptoms of hypothyroid. Just testing TSH is a barrier to getting optimal care, and to have a better picture of your thyroid health, we should test what the other thyroid hormones are doing and if you have produced antibodies against your thyroid.
The thyroid gland makes 2 main hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The numbers on the different hormones represent the number of iodine atoms attached to the hormone structure. Without enough Iodine, the thyroid struggles to make these hormones. T4 is a relatively inactive form of thyroid hormone and needs to be converted into T3 by an enzyme. T3 is way more potent than T4, so its important that this process is working effectively and that there are adequate levels of free T3 circulating in the body.
Why is this important??
Well, a lot of practitioners just test your TSH and tell you that your thyroid is fine, OR if your TSH is elevated and it indicates hypothyroidism, then you may be prescribed medication to normalise your level. The drug of choice to do this is Levothyroxine, which is a T4 replacement. According to Dr Joe Graeden, in 2017 levothyroxine was the #1 prescribed drug in America. However, 15% of patients using this drug, will complain of hypothyroid symptoms even through their TSH is normalised.
A 2015 study discovered gene variability in patients with hypothyroidism. The Thr92AlaD2 polymorphism, that makes it more difficult to convert T4 to T3, so just medicating with T4 will not be the answer for this group (estimated to be about 30% of the population).
There are two main causes of OVERT hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency and the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s. They both have the same signs and symptoms; however, the root cause of the hypothyroidism differs.
Iodine deficient hypothyroidism can be a result of not consuming enough iodine in the diet OR consuming an excess of foods known as goitrogens which block the absorption of iodine. These foods include raw brassicas like kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli, and other foods like soybeans, pine nuts and millet.
Hashimotos is a result of the body producing antibodies against the thyroid. Known as TRABS… antibodies form that bind the enzymes involved in converting T4 to T3, and the TSH receptors, so they don’t respond to thyroid hormone as they should.
You can also have a condition known as SUBCLINICAL hypothyroidism, where the TSH level is high, but the other thyroid hormones appear normal.
Roughly 10% of women develop post partum thyroiditis. When after pregnancy they develop hypothyroidism. This is usually a transient condition, however, can be dangerous if left unmonitored or treated.
Is there a natural treatment??
Of course! Using naturopathy and functional medicine can help restore hormonal balance, rectify nutritional deficiency and support against autoimmune conditions. Depending on what your results are, this can be instead of, or inconjuction with pharmaceutical medicine.
Diet and lifestyle plays a big part in the development of the disease, and can be a major factor in treatment. The foods you consume can help or hinder progress; so working out what’s best for you is essential!
Lots of women have thyroid problems, but a lot of them go on to recover and live amazing healthful lives. Just because you have a funny test result doesn’t mean its game over!