Thyroid Dysfunction – The Undiagnosed Dilemma
Apr 15, 2011 12:53PM
● By Dr. Robert Zembroski
People today seek quality of life in the midst of chaos and pollution that is a result of an onslaught of chemicals found in our water, food and cosmetics. We live in a society which is constantly in search of answers to solve our health problems, in a confusing world of medical opinions. Now more than ever, it is imperative for people to keep themselves focused on optimal health, a state of being that is based on a foundation of balanced hormone levels.
Excess stress, too much exercise, crash diets, and birth control have caused people to experience hormonal decline at an earlier age. Hormonal imbalance is showing up in men and women who are only in their late 20's. Many people in their 30's and 40’s are in unrecognized hormonal decline that causes allergies, fatigue and weight gain regardless of diets and exercise. These same individuals complain of pain, irritability, memory loss, poor concentration, cold body temperature, sugar cravings, chronic depression, and poor sleep and insomnia.
A recent study indicated that nearly 13 million Americans may be undiagnosed for low thyroid function. This is in addition to the approximately 20 million individuals who are receiving thyroid replacement treatment for hypothyroidism. Why the large discrepancy in diagnosis? One reason may be inadequate testing for thyroid hormone levels, and the sole reliance by medical practitioners on these lab tests despite the individuals’ specific health complaints.
Traditional physicians answer their patients’ symptoms with the prescription pad, without addressing the more deeply rooted causes. Unfortunately this adds even more chemicals to the pile without addressing the causes of these symptoms. The traditional medical establishment’s failure to address hormonal imbalance simply means that people who want to live a long, happy, disease-free life will need to intervene on their own.
The thyroid is a small gland at the base of the neck. It forms a link to the other (hormone) glands in the body with a specific function to help regulate cellular metabolism (building and breaking down), and energy production. The thyroid receives information from the pituitary gland in the brain in the form of TSH (thyrotrophin stimulating hormone). This pituitary hormone directs the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones T4, and T3, from iodine, protein, and the amino acid tyrosine.
Once T4 is converted to T3, it is taken up by our cells. Once inside, T3 activates certain pathways to increase energy production and metabolism, protein production and the breakdown of fat and carbohydrates, mineral exchange within cells, and insulin production (a hormone that regulates blood sugar). In fact, T3 activates over 100 enzymes to produce a multitude of bodily functions. This is the main reason that altered thyroid production and/or function has such a broad range of negative effects on people's behavior, moods/emotions, energy level, and physical well-being. In fact, the brain, heart, lungs, intestines, sex glands, muscles, and adrenal glands owe much of their function to normal thyroid function.
Before laboratory testing, most doctors used their clinical experience and then made a judgment based on the patient’s history of complaints and physical examination indicators to diagnosis hypothyroidism. Today, the diagnosis of a hypothyroid condition is based not only on an individual’s symptom, but also on a laboratory marker called TSH. Most doctors consider this to be an absolute for thyroid dysfunction. This rigid interpretation is leading to many undiagnosed cases of thyroid function!
When someone is under chronic stress, i.e., mental, physical and chemical, they constantly release the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands into the body. This is needed to deal with the stressful event. With prolonged stress, the adrenal glands that produce cortisol, burn out. With “adrenal fatigue” there are low levels of cortisol, which can create a hypothyroid situation. A hypothyroid condition is also caused by estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, high cortisol, zinc and selenium deficiencies.
What you can do if you suspect hypothyroidism
- Obtain a thyroid panel that includes a high-sensitive TSH, Free T4 and Free T3.
- If your TSH number is above 1.5 then low thyroid may be an issue. The higher your TSH numbers are to 5.5, the greater the chance your thyroid is under functioning.
- Make sure your free T4 and free T3 numbers are in the upper 2/3 of normal range.
- If you are currently on synthetic T4 (Synthroid or Levoxyl), consider switching to a combination formula (Armour Thyroid, or Nature Thyroid) to better supply T4 and T3.
- Increase consumption of thyroid-enhancing nutrients (more to come).
- Obtain an Adrenal Stress Profile from your physician to assess cortisol levels.
- Avoid or reduce consumption of foods that decrease thyroid function (more to come).
- Work to reduce stress in your life by getting adequate rest, sleep, exercise, and avoiding stimulants such as cigarettes, caffeine, and diet pills.
If you suffer from chronic low-grade depression, unintentional weight gain, poor stamina, low energy levels, dry hair, dry skin, constipation, high cholesterol, brain fog, digestive problems, cold hands and feet, chronic illness, joint or muscle pain, thinning hair, thinning of the eyebrows, dry flaky skin, abnormal menstrual periods, and a poor sex drive, you may be suffering from a hypothyroid condition.
Dr. Robert Zembroski is a board certified chiropractic neurologist and the director of the Darien Center for Integrative Medicine. He’s maintained a successful private practice for 15 years in Darien CT. For more information, www.DarienIM.com.