It seems that all of the experts are offering up their two cents on the thyroid subject. Unfortunately, most of them are only discussing one or two of the important factors that you must take into consideration. Here, we will try to present a zoomed out visual so that you do not miss the forest for the trees. There are many nuances concerning this hot topic that we may not be able to touch on, but just know that obtaining optimal thyroid function is more of a constant journey. You will have to adjust to the twists and turns along your path as you age, have children, change jobs, lose a loved one, sustain a traumatic brain injury, or get exposed to mold. Let’s first look at why the thyroid gland & its hormones are so important to your overall health.
Why do we need thyroid hormone?
Thyroid hormone is needed for life. That is why, when they surgically remove someone’s thyroid gland, those patients must be on medication for the rest of their lives. Circulating thyroid hormone is essential for regulating basal metabolic activity, body temperature, oxygen consumption, fat utilization, bone metabolism, cardiac output, neuronal health & protein synthesis. That list is much longer, but you get the gist. It is pretty important stuff. So, making sure that this hormone is functioning properly is usually a high priority when it comes to the medical care hierarchy, especially during pregnancy.
Symptoms you should look out for:
The following are signals that something may be off with your thyroid expression.
• Unexplained Weight Gain
• Hair falling out
• Outer third of the eyebrows receding
• Thin, brittle hair
• Cold Hands & Feet
• Dry Skin
• Altered Menstrual Cycle
How do we test:
There is an epidemic of thyroid dysfunction in our society. Women seem to be extra susceptible to alterations in optimal thyroid production. Our clinic almost always runs a comprehensive thyroid panel on new patients, especially if they are female, dealing with weight gain, dealing with fatigue, or experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. The ultimate question is whether the thyroid is the root cause of your concerns or is it being influenced by other mechanisms within the body. The situation is usually more complex than it appears which is why asking the right questions is paramount for quality care. The following are markers that we will want to see to get a true picture of your thyroid health status.
• Total T4 & T3
• Free T4 & T3
• TG & TPO Antibodies
• Reverse T3
• Thyroid Binding Globulin (Occasionally)
Why would your body want to shut down metabolic processes? It may feel like there is a threat that needs to be addressed, whether real or perceived. Chronic stress will result in lowered thyroid production, more conversion to Reverse T3, & prevention of release from thyroid-binding globulin. Try to implement stress reduction strategies that you know you can stick to on a consistent basis. It could be breathwork, mindfulness meditation, nature walks, playing sports, yoga, or a gratitude practice. A great way to track your progress is through heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring. Raising your HRV will signal that your body is more prepared & resilient to incoming stressors.
Optimizing your sleep is a key to improving thyroid function. Something like sleep that takes up a third of our lives must have an evolutionary importance so make sure you get plenty of quality shuteye. Sleep is both a time to recover & revitalize your mind, body, and spirit. Prioritize your sleep & you will reap massive benefits in cognition, energy, mood, & productivity.
I should mention nutrition here but I feel like we beat that horse to death in the health space so I will spare you for now. Instead, I want to discuss the topic of light nutrients. We all hear about how vital Vitamin D3 is for overall health, but there are many other benefits from light exposure that are not mentioned or still undiscovered. When sunlight enters your eyes, it soon stimulates your hypothalamus which then sends out further signaling to regulate circadian rhythm, hormones, skin protection, & feel-good chemicals like endorphins. There are different wavelengths of light, some visible & some invisible, & each places some kind of role in your body. This can be compared to maintaining adequate dietary nutrients. Exposing your body to the full spectrum of light will boost your thyroid gland activity.
Cold Exposure is another lifestyle activity that will ramp up thyroid hormone expression. We are not designed to be indoors for long period of time where the temperature is artificially maintained around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. We need to be periodically exposed to temperature fluctuations that force our body to respond appropriately. That involves the thyroid gland if you did not guess already. You do not need to go right into the extremes; start with turning the nozzle to cold for the last 10 seconds of your shower.
Supplementing vs. Meds
Typically, when a general practitioner runs a blood panel, they will include TSH. This hormone is actually produced by your pituitary gland & it responds to the levels of circulating thyroid hormone. They are checking to see if it is elevated or depressed, indicating a possible issue with thyroid hormone production. The key word being possible. For example, perhaps someone has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) & they are having trouble converting T4 to T3. In this scenario, TSH will likely remain in the normal reference range, but you will likely be experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism. Giving levothyroxine to this person would be a waste of time & possibly detrimental to their health. Armour Thyroid will boost T3 so the patient may feel better, although the underlying issue is still unresolved. Addressing the patient’s NAFLD would be the target of our treatment plan. Granted, this patient would most likely not be prescribed medication in this scenario, but you get the idea.
Thyroid hormone consists of the amino acid tyrosine with iodine molecules attached to it. Needless to say, you need enough tyrosine & iodine for proper thyroid hormone synthesis. Selenium helps to protect the thyroid gland from damage & is needed for proper conversion throughout the body. Almost all essential nutrients are vital here since the thyroid gland acts like the canary in the coal mine. If you are using up B vitamins due to chronic stress or not getting enough Vitamin D from sunlight, then your body may want to decrease your basal metabolic rate to compensate. That means decreasing thyroid output. Always remember that what occurs in the human body is way more complex than we could ever imagine so focus on the basics before expanding to more esoteric therapeutic measures.
If you would like assistance on your health journey and you are ready to finally get some answers to your struggles, then contact our office at (727) 789-4020. Dr. Jackson & Dr. Damon make a great team & they work together to achieve the optimal results for each patient. We look forward to meeting you and helping you to be your best self. At Crossroads Chiropractic & Natural Medicine, we are dedicated to finding the root cause of your condition & developing a customized treatment plan designed specifically for you.