Optimal thyroid hormone functioning in the body extends beyond just the functioning of the thyroid gland itself. It starts in the brain with the Hypothalamus gland. The Hypothalamus senses when the metabolism needs to be “stoked” and will communicate with the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then sends a message to the thyroid (via Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH) to ramp up the production of thyroid hormone. Inside the thyroid gland, thyroid hormone production is kicked on. The thyroid focuses on two types of thyroid hormone , T4 (the majority) with some T3. T4 needs to be converted to T3 (active) to exert its metabolic effects on the body.
How do you know if hypothyroidism is an issue for you? Common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, feeling cold even when others feel fine. Fuzzy or foggy thinking and bowel movements that occur less than once per day.
When assessing thyroid function, it is important to not only check TSH levels, but one should also assess T4 and T3 levels (the actual thyroid hormone in the blood). Subclinical hypothyroidism often will show normal T4 and T3 but will have TSH levels that are high (>2.5 mIU/L)
Thyroid hormone dysfunction then can occur on many levels. It might be a breakdown of communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary, or the pituitary and the thyroid. It can be linked to actual dysfunction of the thyroid where thyroid hormones are not being produced. It can occur from issues where conversion of T4 to T3 is not happening well. This conversion takes place in the liver and the cells of the body. It can also be from poor gut flora. Approximately 20% of the conversion of T4-T3 takes places in the gut. With the absence of healthy microflora, this conversion is hampered.
Dr. Daniel Amen describes the way hormones of our body interact with each other, comparing it to a symphony with the brain as the conductor. The different hormones, produced by different glands, all interact to produce a song. When one hormone gets out of balance, it can affect the “song” played by another. Cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, thyroid….they all affect each other.
Again, one of the most powerful mechanisms to bring hormones back into balance, including thyroid hormone, is to learn to manage our stress better. Do you take time daily to exercise your body? It is important to find the balance between enough exercise and excess exercise. Too much will stress the H-P-A access of the body and backtrack your progress. Do you take time to meditate and relax the body? Guided visualization, deep breathing, and yoga are other great practices to teach one how to relax the body, slowing down the heart rate and breathing.
Good nutrition is also important. Copper, zinc, selenium, iron, and vitamin A and Vitamin D are important nutrients for thyroid help. Be careful of iodine. If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, iodine will actually aggravate the autoimmune response. If you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis it is imperative that you avoid gluten, as this is a trigger for the autoimmune response. Some people may need more help to overcome their diminished thyroid function. This might include thyroid glandulars such as Armour, or prescriptions of T4 or T3 or T4/T3 combination. Work closely with your physician to determine the right dose for you.
Rachel Haines is a certified Body Code practitioner and also a registered dietitian. She works via phone consults and also video streaming with clients all over the US. Using applied kinesiology, she determines energetic imbalances that are contributing to diminished physical or emotional health. If you feel stuck and would like to delve deeper into an issue with your thyroid, or any other physical or emotional issue plaguing your life, contact her at email@example.com to set up an appointment. God bless you in your efforts!
(first published March 2015; picture from ronnyallen.com)