Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that rests on the neck and is responsible for regulating metabolic rate, amongst other things. Every cell in the human body has thyroid hormone receptors - therefore it impacts every system of the body. Keeping this in mind, it reminds us that it is critically important to care for the health of your thyroid gland if you want to ensure overall health. Some basic functions impacted by the thyroid are temperature regulation, brain development, bone and red blood cell metabolism, steroid hormone production, liver and gallbladder function, gastrointestinal motility, as well as glucose, lipid, protein, and cholesterol metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the gland’s function is less than what is optimal to fulfill the body’s requirements. When the needed thyroid hormones like triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are either not circulating at high enough quantities within the body or not affecting particular cells within the body properly, it begins to suffer in a number of ways. It is estimated that more than 12 percent of Americans will develop some form of thyroid disease during their lifetime. Sadly enough, that number is on the rise.

Quick look at Hypothyroidism:

Most common presenting symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

How Do You Know if You Have an Underactive Thyroid?

For the average person, there are recognizable symptoms that can clue you in as to if thyroid dysfunction may be an issue. We will cover those in a bit, but it is also important to mention that the underlying cause of hypothyroidism can be very nuanced. Many times, hypothyroidism presents symptomatically as a very nondescript set of low-grade symptoms. For this reason, it becomes even more important to start with the right objective tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

Like most issues with the body, pinpointing the exact reason for the malfunction requires the proper testing. Here at Hill Functional Wellness, we will review your medical history and have you fill out a thorough symptom survey to gain a better idea of your current health status. When  an underlying thyroid condition is suspected, we will have a number of blood tests completed to analyze the thyroid-specific markers of your physiology.

Conventional medical diagnosis relies almost completely on the blood TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels. This approach, as we will see in a second, is very narrow in its diagnostic scope. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland, and it acts to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce active thyroid hormone (T3) as well as a latent-form of thyroid hormone (T4). It acts through what’s called a ‘negative feedback loop’, meaning that as the secretion of TSH increases the production of T3 and T4. This increase will, in turn, decrease the secretion of TSH. This is assuming all is well with the other aspects of the complex thyroid physiology.

(A panel of blood tests can show the likelihood of a thyroid condition.)
(A panel of blood tests can show the likelihood of a thyroid condition.)

What we have found is that much more than a simple TSH test is needed to properly understand the nature of each person’s hypothyroid condition as well as its root cause. Part of our baseline analysis of every patient includes a much more comprehensive look at thyroid physiology:

  • TSH
  • T3
  • T4
  • Free T3
  • Free T4
  • Reverse T3
  • T3 Uptake
  • FTI (free thyroxine index)
  • Thyroid antibodies (when indicated)

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

The direct cause of hypothyroidism can vary. However, the two most common root causes are nutrient deficiency and autoimmune disease (most commonly, Hashimoto’s disease).

The basis of any autoimmune disease is the immune system responding to an insult, and, in turn, attacking healthy tissue. This causes an inflammatory response and potential damage to the cells of the thyroid gland. One common type of offender is toxic heavy metal exposure, which is one area that we focus on uncovering through our Functional testing program. Women are eight times more likely than men to develop Hashimoto’s disease during their lifetime than men.

The other main cause of hypothyroidism centers around nutrient deficiency. Iodine, zinc, and selenium are essential for thyroid hormone production. Inadequate intake of any or all of these trace minerals can spell disaster for the thyroid gland.

Some other potential causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Over-response to hyperthyroidism
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Certain viruses
  • Radiation therapy or radiation exposure
  • Medications (i.e. Lithium)

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

As stated above, the initial stages of hypothyroidism can be difficult to detect and discern. The downside to this is that the longer the condition persists, the more likely other issues can take root and grow as well. A few examples of related issues that can stem from hypothyroidism are: obesity, goiter development, cardiovascular disease, depression, peripheral nerve damage, myxedema, infertility, and birth defects.

(An enlarged thyroid gland can be an indicator of hypothyroidism.)
(An enlarged thyroid gland can be an indicator of hypothyroidism.)

Here is a list of some of those oft difficult-to-detect symptoms to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Treatment and Solution for Hypothyroidism

It goes without saying that knowing how to treat hypothyroidism requires making the correct diagnosis and understanding the driving force(s) of that diagnosis.

At Hill Functional we pride ourselves on creating a personalized plan for every patient that walks through our doors. After identifying your exact issue, thyroid related or not, we will work with you to tailor a healthcare plan that sets you up for success. This includes providing you with the knowledge you need to become less dependent on us for future help.

There are very effective dietary, lifestyle, and supplement-related interventions that have helped our hypothyroid patients find a new healthy status-quo.

Evidence-based treatment is what we stand for, and what is deduced from your test results will guide our steps of treatment. Through these dietary changes, lifestyle-related recommendations, supplement plans, and more therapies, we will guide you toward the ultimate goal of health independence.

Contact us today to tell us about your possible hypothyroidism concerns, and we’ll do our best to meet you where you’re at and help you find what your body specifically needs to thrive!