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Thyroid Dysfunction


Thyroid hormone helps the body convert food into energy, regulates metabolism, and body temperature.  It also assists in proper function of the brain, memory and mood.  Thyroid imbalances can create a wide variety of problems.

Studies show that currently 52 million Americans are affected by Thyroid dysfunction.  Approximately 10% of the population is not diagnosed with Thyroid dysfunction and suffer from clinical symptoms.  This scenario is described as clinical or subclinical thyroid dysfunction.

There are multiple reasons which cause the thyroid to become imbalanced resulting in a reduction in thyroid hormones such as; chemical exposures, autoimmune dysfunction, age, medication, and nutritional deficiencies.

TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is a test used by all conventionally trained practitioners to determine if thyroid is functioning properly.  This test has been utilized since 1973.  This test actually measures a hormone from the pituitary gland, not the thyroid.  A feedback loop within the body is what determines how much hormone to produce in response to the level of hormone circulating in the bloodstream.

The normal range for TSH has been lowered several times over the years.  Currently, the AACE, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist recommend a TSH level of 0.3-2.0.  Many patients are still not being treated based on these guidelines. Most are being treated based on the old guidelines using a TSH level up to 4.5 or 5.0 as the cut off.  This leaves many people untreated and symptomatic.

If a person suffers from an autoimmune thyroid disease the TSH level can be within the normal range.  The antibodies attack the thyroid causing symptoms of underactive or hypothyroid.  It is estimated that 1out of 5 American’s suffer from thyroid disease.

The human thyroid produces T4, T3, T2, T1 and calcitonin.  For almost 100 years, practitioners have used porcine thyroid to treat the symptoms of thyroid disease.  The treatment was increased until symptoms were relieved.  Today we still use similar treatment protocols, however, caution is taken not to overdose the patient.

In the 1960’s Dr. Broda Barnes proved that when thyroid function was not adequate, cholesterol levels would raise, but once Thyroid hormone replacement was given these levels fell.

Dr. John C. Lowe has documented a clear relationship between fibromyalgia and thyroid function.  Many fibromyalgia patients benefit from thyroid treatment that includes T3 hormone.  It is important for people to receive a combined product that contains both T4 and T3 especially when the body cannot make the appropriate conversion.

The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine from foods and convert it into thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).  Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine.  There is a combination of iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4, these are then released into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body where they control metabolism.  Every cell in the body depends on these hormones for regulation of various metabolisms.

What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is a small gland, normally weighing less than an ounce located in the front of the neck.  It is separated into two halves which are known as lobes.  This gland is situated just below the “Adams apple”.

What does the thyroid gland do?

  1. It is responsible for controlling the rate of which energy is converted from food.  It regulates digestion, oxygen consumption, and mobilization from fat storage.
  2. It is involved in every process conducted by the body.  In a healthy balanced body the thyroid gland helps increase the activity of virtually all organs, glands, and cells.
  3. The Thyroid gland assists in regulating body temperature by regulating heat and energy production.
  4. In children, it assists in controlling the body’s rate of growth as well as brain development.  It has a direct affect in determining IQ.
  5. It assists in regulating mood and emotion by balancing brain chemistry.
  6. The thyroid has an important role in immune function.

What are the major effects of thyroid hormone?

Basal metabolism and temperature regulation is controlled by thyroid function.

Carbohydrate and lipid metabolism is affected by thyroid function.

The Nervous system is affected by the various levels of thyroid hormone produced.

Cardiovascular system is balanced with proper thyroid hormone production.  The hearts ability to pump efficiently is affected by the amount of thyroid hormone produced.

The Muscular system is affected by thyroid production.  When the levels are low, muscle weakness and pain is noted.

In the Skeletal system the thyroid assists in maintaining proper growth and maturation of the skeleton.

The Gastrointestinal system is affected by becoming sluggish or over stimulated depending on the amount of hormone being produced.

The Reproductive system is affected by causing irregular ovulation and menstruation based on the amount of hormone produced.

The Integumentary system is balanced with proper hydration based on the amount of hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of Hypothyroid (Low Thyroid) may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Dry, rough pale skin
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Decreased libido

Types of Thyroid Replacement

The oldest type of thyroid supplement is desiccated thyroid, commonly known as Armour Thyroid.  This thyroid replacement contains T4 (Thyroxine) which has four iodine atoms per molecule, and Free T3 the (unbound) portion of triiodothyronine which is believed to be responsible for the biological action. Approximately 20% of T3 is produced by the thyroid gland with the remainder produced through conversion of T4 in the body.  In order for this conversion to be effective the body needs trace minerals and iodine.

Various nutritional deficiencies, medications and diseases can interfere with conversion of the T4/T3 process.  The following chart is an example of things that affect this conversion process.

Nutritional Def. Medications Other
Chromium Beta Blockers Aging
Copper Birth Control Pills Alcohol
Iodine Estrogen Lipoic Acid
Iron Iodinated contrast Diabetes
Iron Lithium Fluoride
Selenium Phyenytoin Lead
Zinc Steroids Mercury
Vitamin A Theophylline Pesticides

T4 is a common thyroid supplement which has been used in conventional practices for over 40 years.  Each of these products should be standardized.  The common drug names for these products are Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, and Unithroid.  These products contain Inactive ingredients which include cornstarch, lactose, and dyes which contain Aluminum Lake.

Studies show that replacement with T4 known as levothyroxine may not be effective.  If a person cannot convert T4 to T3 patients treated with Levothyroxine have a tendency to be left with many of the symptoms they had prior to treatment.  People may need a combined T4/T3 for optimal management of symptoms.

Products which contain combined T4/T3 are Armour, Naturthroid, Thyrolar, and Westhroid.  These are glandular products that have been around for over a 100 years.   The inactive ingredients include cornstarch.  People with corn sensitivity may not tolerate these natural thyroid products.

Glandular thyroid replacement is a controversial treatment because it was believed to have inconsistent results in controlling the TSH level.  Armour had a dextrose base making it a good sublingual dosing product until 2009 when it was reformulated to contain a cornstarch base.

Cytomel is the most commonly used T3 supplement.  It is not the best T3 supplement because it has a short half life, 95% of the drug is absorbed within four hours.  Therefore it should be dosed three to four times a day to obtain consistent blood levels.  It contains talc as a base which has been known to cause cancer when used in higher amounts.

The Holistic Approach to diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism

Differs from standard conventional model where we rely only on blood tests.  This approach consists of a complete blood panel which includes TSH, T2, T4, and Thyroid Antibodies.  A complete medical history is taken and patients are asked to obtain a minimum of three to four body temperatures so they can be averaged.  If the temperatures are below normal with symptoms the diagnosis for hypothyroid can be made.  A physical exam looking specifically the signs of hypothyroid disease is conducting along with an evaluation of nutrient deficiencies.

Physical signs of hypothyroidism

  • Lack of Eyebrow growth, known as the “Sign of Hertoghe.”
  • Periorbital edema
  • Diminished sweating
  • Cold skin
  • Thick tongue
  • palpitations
  • Slow speech
  • Headaches
  • Coarse hair
  • Ridges on nails
  • Pale skin
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of hair
  • Swollen feet

Individualized Hypothyroid Treatment

Patients who suffer from autoimmune thyroid feel better on a non-corn derived source.  Patients with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia do better on a non-corn derived source.    Patients who suffer from depression respond better to higher T4 preparations.

Nutritional support is necessary when treating patients with thyroid disease.  The following are the basic nutrients needed.

  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • B-vitamins-non synthetic source
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A-not Beta Carotene
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium –non carbonate unavailable calcium adds to hypothyroid

You now have the basic information to assist your patients in restoring thyroid function from a functional medical approach.  Can you imagine helping half of the 52 million people who are currently not treated properly with thyroid disease?  What would that mean to your practice, your revenue, your reputation?  Functional and Nutritional Protocols can be utilized in those patients who are not properly treated for thyroid disease.

If this type of approach interests you but you feel that you need more information on thyroid dysfunction you can either download my MP3 “How Your Thyroid Works” or sign up for my free teleconference on Thyroid disease or attend my seminar “Staying Ahead of Thyroid Disease. ”

Midwest June 3, 2010

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