I have many patients contact my office who are sure they have a thyroid problem. Many have been told by their doctor that their thyroid is normal, yet they still have symptoms of low thyroid function.
Maybe you have symptoms of low thyroid function like weight gain, fatigue, depression, hair loss or fatigue. These are all problems that can be caused by hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). You may even be taking thyroid hormone medication and still have symptoms. There has been a lot of talk about “ideal” hormone levels and there is a lot of truth to this. Your levels do need to be optimized, but in many cases thyroid levels are ideal, yet hypothyroid symptoms persist. With the help of a functional medicine doctor, you can get the support and guidance you need to find out WHY you still have symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the other factors that can interfere with thyroid function or cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, even if levels of hormone are ideal.
Other hormones…estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
For your thyroid hormone to work well you need to have balance of other hormones. If these hormones are out of balance, they can alter how well your body can use your thyroid hormone. Estrogen imbalances for example can cause your thyroid hormone to be bound to proteins; this makes the hormone less available for your cells. It is not uncommon for women to become more “estrogen dominant” around the age 35. This means estrogen is dominant compared to progesterone. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also cause a hormone imbalance that interferes with normal thyroid hormone function. There is much more that could be discussed on this subject, but I just want to make you aware of the fact that your hormones could be interfering with your thyroid hormones and causing hypothyroid symptoms.
Energy production problems
Many of the symptoms and health problems caused by low thyroid function can also be caused by a problem with energy production. It is true that you need thyroid hormone to make energy but sometimes energy production problems are not due to a thyroid problem. The energy your body needs to function properly is created inside your cells. You have small structures inside your cells called mitochondria and their main job is to produce energy. If your mitochondria are not healthy, your cells will not be healthy…and you won’t feel good. Mitochondria are very sensitive to inflammation, toxicity, oxidative stress and poor nutrition. These little powerhouses require optimum levels of various nutrients to accomplish their goal: ENERGY PRODUCTION. If you are lacking in these nutrients, inflamed or not detoxifying well; your energy production and metabolism will be compromised. In functional medicine, we have the ability to test how well your cells are producing energy. If your mitochondria are not happy and healthy, you won’t be either.
So, you might have a problem with energy production and not a thyroid problem.
In my Naperville office, I find inflammation to be a very common problem. Many people are walking around in a chronic state of inflammation and are not even aware that is it happening in their body. Many people only associate chronic inflammation with pain. You can be inflamed and NOT experience pain. So, pain is not a reliable gauge of inflammation levels. In traditional medicine, inflammation is rarely tested for; unless you are in pain. Common inflammation tests are the ESR or CRP / CRP-HS. I always test CRP-HS levels on my patients, but this is only one of many ways to assess inflammation in your body. There are other functional medicine tests that can help identify inflammation in your body and what is causing it.
Inflammation can interfere with many normal processes in your body; including thyroid and mitochondrial function. Inflammation can also cause weight gain, fatigue, digestion problems and poor mental health.
If you have symptoms of low thyroid function, it might be your thyroid. We can run a thorough thyroid panel and determine if you do in fact have a thyroid problem. If it turns out your thyroid levels are optimal, then we need to look at other factors; hormones, poor energy production (mitochondria) and inflammation.
It might not be your thyroid.
I wish you success on your quest for health!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
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