Is Your Thyroid Problem Really Your Thyroid's Fault?Jul 12, 2020
When it comes to optimal thyroid health, it takes a village!
This master gland of yours is powerful by itself, but your thyroid needs support from your whole body to work like it needs to. If your other hormones and body systems aren’t working well, they’ll make your thyroid look bad. And guess who gets the blame?
Yep, your thyroid! Poor guy!
If you’re on a medication to support your thyroid, or think you need one, there isn’t a dose high enough that will help you if you don’t find the root cause…or causes…to what’s actually causing your thyroid to not work like it should.
A slow-functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism, can give you any number of symptoms.
- Depressed mood
- Feeling cold
- Hair loss
- High cholesterol
- Weight gain or the inability to lose weight
- Puffiness in your face
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Digestive discomforts—reflux, “indigestion”, or heaviness after meals
- Menstrual irregularities—heavy periods, absent periods, no ovulation
- Trouble getting to staying pregnant
Yeah, there are a few!
So, if your thyroid isn’t the main cause of its own slow-down, WHAT IS? Here are a few things that could be contributing to your decreased thyroid function.
Your thyroid gland makes mostly inactive T4 thyroid hormone. To fuel your metabolism and every cell in your body, T4 needs to be converted into the active form, T3. Your liver is responsible for a whopping 60% of this conversion!
A fatty or sluggish liver slows this conversion process down, so you won’t have enough active T3 to fuel your cells.
On your lab result, this can be seen as a decreased T4 to T3 hormone ratio.
STRESS & HIGH CORTISOL
Cortisol is a great hormone….when you need it. Your adrenal glands produce a surge of cortisol to wake you up in the morning, and this peak falls gradually throughout your day. When you’re faced with a stressful situation or need to act fast, cortisol surges again to help get you moving. Unfortunately, many of us keep this stress hormone peaking on demand all day long!
Stress comes from more than trying to juggle a jam-packed calendar. Sources of chronic stress can be:
- Nutritional—under-eating, nutrient deficiencies, food allergies or sensitivities
- Emotional—relationship conflicts, fertility struggles, feeling “unexplained” and broken, social isolation
- Mental—financial worries, lack of sleep, health fears
- Physical—over-exercising, infections, inflammation
- Microbial—bacteria, viruses and pathogens that create stress at a cellular level
When stress stays high, so does cortisol. Elevated cortisol decreases your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), the messenger from your brain that stimulates your thyroid to make more hormone. When TSH decreases, this tells your thyroid to stop making hormones. Your body doesn’t know how long you’ll stay in this high-stress, “flight or flight” state, so she protects you by turning down this metabolic driver.
Cortisol also prevents inactive T4 from converting to active T3. Instead, it turns your T4 into inactive Reverse T3. If T3 is the accelerator for your metabolism, Reverse T3 is the brake. Again, your body is trying to conserve your energy and metabolism for this high-needs state you’re in.
On your lab result, this can be seen as falsely decreased TSH, low T4 and/or T3 hormones, or elevated Reverse T3.
Like your liver, your intestines are responsible for converting about 20% of your inactive T4 to active T3. Your beneficial gut bacteria help with this, so when too many unfavorable pathogens take over, this conversion decreases.
Gut inflammation, intestinal permeability, gut infections, and gut bacteria imbalances can all contribute to decreased thyroid hormone conversion.
On your lab result, this can be seen as a decreased ratio of T4 to T3.
Inflammation is like a fire in your body that won’t go out. It might be burning in one particular area, but the affects of the fire are far-reaching. Inflammation can be caused by gut pathogens or infections, food and chemical sensitivities, environmental toxins, and injury or illness anywhere in the body.
In regard to your thyroid, inflammation packs a BIG punch. Inflammation:
- Directly lowers your TSH which means less hormone production and circulating thyroid hormone levels.
- Increases oxidative stress in your body which fuels MORE inflammation.
- Increases your conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. This might sound good, BUT another inflammatory chemical blocks your cells from using the active T3. Even with enough T3, your cells can’t use it.
- Converts your T4 into inactive Reverse T3 instead of active T3. Like I mentioned above, Reverse T3 is like a brake for your metabolism. Your cells and tissues won’t get the fuel they need, slowing your cellular metabolism and leaving you with all the symptoms.
- Prevents thyroid hormone from entering your tissues. This can show “normal” lab results despite your myriad of hypothyroid symptoms. When thyroid hormone stays in your blood, the feedback mechanism tells your brain to lower TSH. “Don’t stimulate the thyroid because we’re good out here!” But if T4 and T3 can’t get INTO your cells and tissues where it needs to be, “normal” lab results don’t mean a thing!
- Increases cortisol. On top of the fire of inflammation, that’s a double whammy to your thyroid! Go back to everything you read previously about cortisol.
Inflammation ignites a dangerous combination of actively lowering TSH, decreasing thyroid hormone production, and preventing thyroid hormone from entering your cells and tissues. Despite “normal” lab results, you feel everything but normal.
Your thyroid needs many nutrients to function optimally. Each nutrient deserves its own article, but for now, we’ll cover a few basics. The most important nutrients for your thyroid are Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, Iron, Vitamin D, and the amino acid Tyrosine.
ZINC plays a BIG role in every aspect of thyroid health. Zinc is needed to:
- make TSH.
- regulate the enzymes that make your thyroid hormones.
- convert inactive T4 to active T3 hormone.
SELENIUM deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in people with hypothyroidism, especially Hashimoto’s. That makes sense when you consider that your thyroid gland has the highest selenium content per gram of tissue among all your organs. Selenium is key for thyroid health since it:
- helps convert inactive T4 to active T3.
- Works with iodine to protect your thyroid cells from oxidative damage when T4 converts to T3.
- Can actively reduce thyroid antibodies and anxiousness that comes with Hashimoto’s.
IODINE is a crucial nutrient for thyroid health. In fact, iodine deficiency is the primary cause for hypothyroidism worldwide. But don’t be too quick to supplement!
Your thyroid needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. While iodine deficiency can contribute to a lack of these hormones and hypothyroidism, excess iodine can cause the same problems, and sometimes worse! This makes iodine is one of the trickiest to balance when it comes to thyroid health. This is definitely one to look deeper into with testing before you supplement more than what might be in your multivitamin.
Iron is essential for your thyroid to:
- Create thyroid hormone
- Convert inactive T4 to active T3
- Use iodine effectively
VITAMIN D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid disease. Checking your levels of both 25-hydroxy vitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D will give you the most complete picture of your vitamin D status so you know if and how you should supplement.
TYROSINE is an amino acid that you make inside your body from another amino acid called phenylalanine. Along with helping you reduce stress, enhance sleep, and boost mental focus and performance, tyrosine combines with iodine to make thyroid hormone. Without consuming adequate protein, you might not have enough of this building block to make adequate thyroid hormone.
Being deficient in any of these nutrients alone, and especially in combination with each other, can cause your thyroid to not work as well as it should.
If you’re taking supplemental thyroid hormone, all these factors apply as well. So, if you’ve started on a thyroid medication, but still don’t feel like you should, you need to keep looking for the reason. More meds may not help if your thyroid isn’t the one who has the real problem.
As far as supplements go, don't start a new supplement or change your current regimen without first talking with your health practitioner.
If your thyroid isn’t functioning like it should, is it really the one to blame? Keep looking at your body as a WHOLE to see what could be causing the trouble.
If you're looking for a trusted practitioner to help guide and support you in your journey to better thyroid health, click here to set up a FREE strategy session with me. I'll listen to your biggest challenges and we'll talk about the next steps that would be best for you and your thyroid health.
In joy and health,
This information is not intended to be personal medical advice. Never start a supplement, change a medication, or make any other modifications to your health regimen without first consulting with your physician or appropriate health practitioner.
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