Thyroid disease is one of the most commonly treated conditions in our office. After doing thousands of lab assessments on patients over the years, the symptoms and warning signs have become easier to spot: fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, etc.
It wasn’t until we saw how conventional thyroid treatments were failing patients that we dove into the integrative world of thyroid treatment.
More than 12% of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60% of those people don’t even know they have thyroid disease. What’s even more alarming is that women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to develop thyroid disease.
While these numbers sound scary, it doesn’t have to be. The functional medicine approach to thyroid conditions focuses on preventative measures and effective natural treatments. We find that education and understanding is the first step towards healing.
What Does The Thyroid Do?
Situated at the base of the neck, the thyroid gland plays a pivotal role in regulating bodily functions. It secretes two primary hormones, T3 and T4, which are distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream.
These hormones govern various metabolic activities, such as calorie burning and heart rate modulation, collectively known as your metabolism.
But when thyroid disease manifests and compromises the gland’s function, it may lead to insufficient hormone production, resulting in a slowdown of metabolism. This condition is commonly referred to as hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid function.
Symptoms Of An Underactive Thyroid
When operating optimally, the thyroid gland produces T3 and T4 hormones in a balanced ratio of 20% to 80%. However, a decrease in the production of these hormones can result in a sluggish metabolism, leading to hypothyroidism. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, can vary in severity and may include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair loss
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Joint pain and swelling
- Depression or mood swings
- Slowed heart rate
- Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
- Menstrual irregularities in women
- Hoarseness or voice changes
- Elevated cholesterol levels
Causes Of Underactive Thyroid
Autoimmune thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease, is when the immune system makes proteins — anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies (anti-TPO antibodies) — that lead to inflammation of the thyroid gland. These antibodies attack the thyroid the same way your immune system would attack something like a virus or bacteria.
The thyroid gland needs iodine to make thyroid hormone. The body doesn’t make iodine on its own, so you have to get it from the foods you eat. Iodine deficiency can hinder the production of thyroid hormones, as iodine is crucial for their synthesis.
Inadequate levels of protein, magnesium, and zinc can also impair thyroid function, as these nutrients are vital for its proper operation.
Heavy metal poisoning or an excess of chemicals and pesticides in the body may negatively affect thyroid health.
Toxins from root canal teeth can seep into the body, potentially impacting the thyroid gland and contributing to thyroid disease.
Functional Hypothyroidism Treatment
The main focus when treating hypothyroidism or any thyroid conditions is on nutrients needed to support thyroid function. Simple blood testing can help us determine what deficiencies and imbalances exist. While nutritional deficiencies may not solely account for an underactive thyroid, insufficient intake of these micronutrients and minerals can exacerbate symptoms associated with low thyroid function.
Your body needs the following nutrients to support proper thyroid function:
- Vitamin D: Optimal levels are between 50-80 ng/mL; anything below 32 contributes to hormone pathway disruption.
- Omega 3’s: Building blocks for hormones that control immune function and cell growth, are critical to thyroid function, and improve the ability to respond to thyroid hormones.
- Glutathione: Powerful antioxidant which can help in underactive thyroid treatment. It can boost the immune system, reduce autoimmune flare-ups, and protect and heal thyroid tissue.
- Iodine: Necessary for the production of thyroid hormones.
- Selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, and B vitamins
Our recommendation is thyroid screening at least 2 times per year with a comprehensive blood analysis of thyroid hormones and iodine levels. Some patients who we suspect have thyroid disorder may need more frequent screenings.
Test results will provide precise measurements of Free T3 and T4, along with their ratios to each other. If the results indicate, for instance, that the patient’s T3 level is insufficient, a thorough examination for deficiencies in essential nutrients required for hormone production will be completed. Often, addressing these deficiencies can rectify thyroid issues without needing prescription hormones.
It is common to find that while the thyroid produces adequate T4 hormone, it struggles to convert it into the metabolically active T3 hormone. We want this process to be working at 100% because if it isn’t then you will be producing less active thyroid hormone (fueling metabolism, energy, mental clarity, etc).
Approximately 80% of the T3 in your body is created through this conversion process which means it’s very important for thyroid health. This conversion issue can be identified through appropriate thyroid evaluation tests.
Another conversion problem may involve excessive T4 converting into another thyroid hormone known as Reverse T3. Reverse T3 is inactive metabolically and can exacerbate symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
Any source of T4 can be converted into reverse T3 (including thyroid medications like Synthroid and levothyroxine). Your reverse T3 level matters because it usually correlates with how you are actually feeling.
There are so many factors that contribute to the excessive conversion including:
- Weight Gain
- Dieting & Calorie Restriction
- Inflammation levels
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Gut issues
- Lack of Sleep
If you’re having symptoms you think may be due to a thyroid issue, we encourage you to connect with our team. We’ve been helping patients proactively combat thyroid issues and provide effective functional hypothyroidism treatment options for thyroid disease for over 10 years. As the area’s leading thyroid experts, we’d love to help you overcome roadblocks in your health.