It’s estimated that as many as 27 million Americans have a thyroid problem such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease, and half of them have no idea that they do. Hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, accounts for 90% of all thyroid disorders.
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the center of the front of your neck, is the master gland of metabolism. How well your thyroid is functioning is inter-related with every system in your body. If your thyroid is not running optimally, then neither are you.
10 Signs of an Underactive Thyroid:
1. Fatigue after sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night, or needing to take a nap daily
2. Weight gain or the inability to lose weight
3. Mood issues such as mood swings, anxiety, or depression
4. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, irregular periods, infertility, and low sex drive
5. Muscle pain, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis
6. Cold hands and feet, feeling cold when others are not, or having a body temperature consistently below 98.5
7. Dry or cracking skin, brittle nails, and excessive hair loss
9. Brain issues such as brain fog, poor concentration, or poor memory
10. Neck swelling, snoring, or hoarse voice
How Does Your Thyroid Gland Work?
Thyroid hormone production is regulated by a feedback loop between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the thyroid gland. Hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulates pituitary thyrotropin, or thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) synthesis and secretion.
In turn, TSH stimulates production and release of T4 and T3 from the thyroid gland. When enough T4 is produced, it signals to TRH and TSH that there is enough thyroid hormone in circulation and not to produce more.
About 85% of the hormone produced by our thyroid gland is T4, which is an inactive form of the hormone. After T4 is made, a small amount of it is converted into T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone.
To complicate matters, T3 also gets converted into either Free T3 (FT3) or Reverse T3 (RT3). It is the Free T3 that really matters in all of this, since it’s the only hormone that can attach to a receptor and cause your metabolism to rise, and keep you warm, your bowels moving, your mind working, and your other hormones in check. The role of Reverse T3 is not well known, however, I do see it elevated in people who are under extreme stress and those who have mercury toxicity.
Why is Hypothyroidism Underdiagnosed in the USA?
Many symptoms of thyroid imbalance or a thyroid problem are vague and most doctors spend only a few minutes talking with patients to sort out the cause of their complaint.
Most conventional doctors use only one or two tests (TSH and T4) to screen for problems. They don’t check FT3, RT3, or thyroid antibodies.
Further, most conventional doctors use the ‘normal’ lab reference range as their sole guide. Rather than listening to their patients’ symptoms, they use ‘optimal’ lab values and temperature as their guide.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common form of hypothyroidism and its numbers are rising annually. An autoimmune disease is one in which your immune system attacks a certain organ or tissue as a foreign invader, rather than as your own tissues.
In my clinic, I routinely screened all of my patients for autoimmune thyroid disease by ordering Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb).
Which Lab Tests are Best to Determine if You Have A Thyroid Problem?
I checked the below panel for each of my patients. Make sure your doctor does the same for you. In my book, The Thyroid Connection, I discuss the optimal levels for each of these blood tests and explain in greater detail the importance of completing a full thyroid panel to help address thyroid problems.
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
- Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
What are the Optimal Lab Values for Thyroid Tests?
In my practice, I found that these are the ranges below are the ones in which my patients thrive. Another important factor to take into consideration is how you actually feel. I always took how my patients were feeling into account when assessing their thyroid levels and determining how to address their thyroid problems.
- TSH 1-2 UIU/ML or lower (Armour or compounded T3 can artificially suppress TSH)
- FT4 >1.1 NG/DL
- FT3 > 3.2 PG/ML
- RT3 less than a 10:1 ratio RT3:FT3
- TPO – TgAb – < 4 IU/ML or negative
What are 10 things you can do to improve your thyroid function?
1. Take a high-quality multivitamin with iodine, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins.
2. Ensure your multivitamin contains sufficient levels of iodine to help with the FT4 to FT3 conversion. I custom-formulated The Myers Way® Multivitamin to include all of the essential nutrients for thyroid function.
3. Give up gluten. If you have Hashimoto’s, try going completely gluten-, grain-, and legume-free. Additionally, it’s best to eliminate foods that cross-react with gluten, such as dairy, corn, and oats among other foods. Once your body identifies gluten as an invader in your bloodstream, as long as a molecule’s structure is similar enough, your immune system registers it as an invader and attacks.
4. Deal with your stress and support your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands and thyroid work hand in hand. I recommend restorative yoga and adaptogenic herbs such as those in my Adrenal Support so your adrenal glands can cope with stress.
5. Get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Many of your hormone receptors are geared to your circadian rhythms, which may be governed by clock genes that evolved to keep your body adjusted to the daily, seasonal, and annual rhythms of the planet.
6. Have a biological dentist safely remove any amalgam fillings you may have.
7. Watch your intake of cruciferous vegetables. There is a bit of a debate surrounding this. These veggies contain goitrogens. A goitrogen is a compound that suppresses the thyroid gland by inhibiting the uptake of iodine.
8. Banish fluoride, bromide, and chlorine from your diet and environment.
9. Heal your gut. A properly functioning digestive system (gut) is critical to good health.
10. Find a functional medicine doctor in your area and have that person run the above laboratory tests. She or he can work with you to find the root cause of your thyroid imbalance.