How do you heal your Thyroid?
What causes your thyroid gland to not function properly?
- Do you have a nutrition problem?
- Do you have an Immune system problem?
- Do you have an Inflammation problem?
- Do you have a Food allergy or food sensitivity problem?
- Do you have a Digestive system problem?.
Could it be any or all of these things?
This is where the help of a functional medicine doctor can take you to the next level of health and get your thyroid gland working the best that it can.
If you look at my Functional Medicine Health Pyramid you will notice that Thyroid is at Level #6.
Your thyroid gland is a very sensitive organ and it can be damaged or caused to function poorly when lower levels of the pyramid are out of balance.
Let’s consider hypothyroidism (low thyroid function); a very common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. If you look at the pyramid you will see that Immune System is at Level #5. So if you have Hashimoto’s, you would need to address the immune system before you would have any impact on your thyroid health. There is another thyroid autoimmune disease called Graves’ disease; this causes hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone)
If you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ then you will also have an immune system problem and you will need to fix any problems below Level #5 on the pyramid.
You can also have hypothyroidism and NOT have an autoimmune disease. Here are the basics of normal and healthy thyroid function:
Pituitary gland (TSH) >>> Thyroid gland (T4) >>> T4 >>>T3
Your pituitary gland is located in your head and it releases TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). This signals your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone (Thyroxine) T4. What most people don’t understand (and unfortunate many doctors) is that T4 is what we call a “prohormone.” This means it is a hormone that gets turned into another hormone; in this case T4 gets converted into T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 is the truly ACTIVE form of your thyroid hormone. So what can interfere with this conversion process?
- Lack of vital nutrients
- Poor digestive system or liver (detoxification) health
- Stress and poor adrenal gland function
The most common medication for hypothyroidism is T4; but how much good will you get from this medication if you can’t convert it into T3 very well? Remember that T4 is a prohormone. When testing the thyroid it is important to run tests that will help pinpoint problems with not only TSH and T4 but other aspects of thyroid function and health.
These tests might include:
- TPO Ab
- Thyroglobulin Ab
In our office we order all of the necessary thyroid tests so that we can see where thyroid function or medications are failing to do their job.
Stress and Inflammation
Another common problem I often see is that the pituitary gland is not making enough TSH. When this happens, insufficient thyroid hormone will be produced. So on labs this would look like a low TSH and low T4/T3. This is often the result of chronic inflammation and poor adrenal gland function. When your body is “stressed” the pituitary will often pull back on TSH production; resulting in low thyroid hormone levels. So this is a “thyroid problem” that is not a problem with the thyroid.
Sometimes poor thyroid function is not because of a thyroid problem. This is where Hormones come into the picture. You will see that Hormones are at Level #7 of the pyramid and they are above Thyroid. When I speak of hormones, I am referring to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Thyroid problems can lead to hormone imbalances. So it is important to get the thyroid in balance first. Then address any remaining hormone problems. Now there are
circumstances that can alter this order such as taking hormones, ovary removal, etc. The reason these other hormones are important is because they can affect how well your thyroid hormone will work. A common situation we find is that estrogen / progesterone imbalance will make more of your thyroid hormone unavailable to your cells for use. This kind of imbalance can reduce the level of what we call “free” thyroid hormone. Your thyroid hormone needs to be in a free state for it to work properly. It is not uncommon for women between the ages of 35-55 to have an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. If you are not taking hormones, then most hormone problems improve as you move up the pyramid. If you are taking hormones, then you have altered normal function (which is necessary in some instances) and that would need to be taken into account.
As you can see, the thyroid is somewhat complex but it is dependent on the lower levels of the pyramid. Once these lower levels are addressed, the thyroid is permitted to function the way that it should. Contrary to common belief, thyroid health is NOT just about having a normal TSH and T4 on your lab tests.
In my next article I will be covering Hormones which I have placed at Level #7 of the FMHP.
I hope you have found value in this information.
I wish you health, happiness and a better quality of life!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.
This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.