Hypothyroid affects as many as 5 million Americans. Many people have hypothyroidism without even realizing it. One in ten adult American women have been diagnosed with thyroid disorders and some endocrinologists suggest that as many as 25% of adult American women are presenting with clinically detectable thyroid dysfunction.
Understanding Thyroid Function
The thyroid gland is situated at the base of the throat and is stimulated by the pituitary gland to produce hormones which are important for the functioning and maintenance of all the cells in the body and for metabolism.
The thyroid gland is also the body's thermostat, and regulates body temperature.
If there is an underproduction of thyroid hormones, hypothyroidism will result. Overproduction causes hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid.
Types of Thyroid Dysfunctions
Hashimoto's Disease or Thyroiditis is an auto-immune disease of the thyroid gland, and one of the most common forms of hypothyroidism. With this condition, the body becomes allergic to thyroid hormone, and produces antibodies against its own thyroid tissue. It often occurs in association with other conditions like pernicious anemia, lupus, yeast overgrowth, and rheumatoid arthritis.
A sluggish thyroid gland or thyroid gland inflammation can be caused by any number of things, including:
Surgery or medication.
Dysfunction of the pituitary gland.
Aspirin and other related salicylates as well as anticoagulants like Warfarin (di-coumerol) increase iodine excretion and can induce mild hypothyroidism.
Impaired Adrenal Function
Hormonal imbalnce following childbirth, or during pre-menopause.
Hypothyroid Signs & Symptoms Include:
Chronic fatigue and weakness
Weight Gain or difficulty losing weight.
Milky discharge from breasts.
Blood Pressure Problems.
Coarse, dry hair.
Rough, dry skin.
Intolerance to cold.
Abnormal menstrual cycles.
Decreased sex drive.
Goiter, swelling of the thyroid gland.
The most common of these is fatigue and intolerance to cold.
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by means of a blood test to check TSH levels (the thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland) and T4 levels (the main thyroid hormone).
These levels can vary considerably from person to person and what is 'normal' for one person may not be normal for another.
Because of this, some people may have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (and their symptoms), while blood tests show that their TSH and T4 levels are normal.
It is estimated that millions of people are not being adequately treated for their under active thyroid conditions. This is largely due to the fact that lab tests are not always accurate at detecting thyroid dysfunction. Until recent years doctors treated the thyroid based on the signs & symptoms that the patient presented with during office visits. Presently, however, the TSH test, which tests pituitary hormone has become the sole method of testing for most doctors. There are a growing number of practitioners who are expanding their methods of testing and are committed to treating based on symptoms. However, you will likely have to seek out these providers.
Labs To Request From Your Doctor
It is vital that you get comprehensive labs when testing thyroid function - NOT JUST TSH!!!
Ask your doctor for the following:
* TSH But this lab is only for diagnosis of hypopituitary, NOT to diagnose or dose your hypo by.
* Free T4 and Free T3 (note the word “free”)
* Thyroid Antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb. YOU NEED BOTH.)
* Ferritin (and do stress FERRITIN, not just RBC)
* Reverse T3
It is also a good idea to test B-12, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and adrenal function if you suspect underactive thyroid.
Thyroid Self Test
To test yourself at home for an under active thyroid try the following:
Keep a thermometer by your bedside, and when you awaken, place it under your arm for 15 minutes before getting up. Stay as still as possible during this time so as not to upset your reading.
Record your temperature in this way for 5 consecutive days.
If the temperature is consistently 97.6 degrees F or lower, consult your health care practitioner.
Conventional treatment for hypothyroidism involves a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormones such as Synthroid, or Levothyroxine.
One of the main problems with synthetic thyroid hormones is that they can sometimes result in too much thyroid hormone in the body, resulting in hyperthyroidism.
Another problem is that some people do not have sufficient amounts of an enzyme needed to convert T4 into T3 (its active form). Over time the system is stressed by constantly trying to convert thyroid hormones and this can lead to adrenal dysfunction.
Some doctors therefore prefer to use a form of natural desiccated thyroid such as Armour Thyroid which contains the same hormones that your own thyroid would produce–T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin.
Many people do better with natural dessicated thyroid because it is natural (your body accepts ALL of it), it contains both T4 (as the storage hormone) and T3 (the most active hormone and necessary for every cell in your body), as well as T2, T1 and calcitonin. T2 has an important role in metabolism. Calcitonin is the hormone which keeps the calcium in your bones, and certain doctors have noticed improvement in bone density with patients on natural thyroid.
Treatment of thyroid diseases must take into consideration the other the hormonal systems, including rebalancing of female hormones with estrogen and progesterone, and modulation of adrenal function with natural hormones such as pregnenolone and DHEA.
Useful Herbs & Supplements for Hypothyroid
All thyroid hormones essential to properly functioning metabolism are derivatives of the mineral Iodine,
Seaweeds like kelp are extremely abundant in iodine.
Proper iodine assimilation requires sufficient vitamin E.
Vitamin A and Vitamin C along with all the B vitamins are required to make thyroid hormones.
Essential fatty acids are needed for normal thyroid function.
Natural Remedies to Increase Thyroid Function
Homeopathy for hypothyroid can be useful.
Native Remedies makes a wonderful herbal hypothyroid formula that many people find very effective.
There are steps that you can take to make your condition manageable at home. Try some of these suggestions to help you cope more effectively: