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What is Thyroid Disorder?

Case Study: T.T. first noticed something was off when her periods changed. She had always been regular with PMS symptoms starting 4-5 days from the start of her period. But then she started to notice a few months in a row with heavy periods and PMS symptoms starting up to 9 days from the start of her period. She was also more fatigued during the day all month, needing a nap most days. Her gut was getting sluggish too. It was difficult to lose weight, even with a calorie deficit that would usually do the trick, but now it wasn’t enough. She was 30 lbs overweight and missing the days when clothes fit her nicely and she felt more comfortable in her own skin. Her PCP had done labs but only looked at basic blood work and a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), no other thyroid labs, and said everything looked normal; there was nothing wrong showing up in the blood work. T.T. tried to eat less sugar and processed foods, get more sleep, and walk more, but after a few more months, nothing was getting better, so she decided to find another provider in functional medicine to help her get answers. She was tired of not feeling like herself and was starting to resign herself to “going downhill” and “getting older.” She needed to find someone that would help her turn things around. It wasn’t going to get better on its own.

T.T. came to me as a referral from another one of my clients. She told me her story, and we dug into when it all started, what risk factors she had in her past, and her family history. It turns out her mom had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism in her 40s, though her symptoms had started in her 30s. We ran more blood work with a full thyroid panel, and there it was: autoimmune hypothyroidism. It was early, so the TSH wasn’t out of range yet, but it was still high from a functional medicine standpoint. We started T.T. on treatment with a holistic approach addressing diet, supplements, exercise, stress, sleep, and medication. Within three months, she was a whole new person. No longer just surviving, she was thriving!

According to the American Thyroid Association: “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.”

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Despite its small size, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s overall health and function.

The primary function of the thyroid gland is to produce hormones that regulate various metabolic processes in the body. The two main hormones it produces are:

  • Thyroxine (T4): This is the primary thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It contains four iodine atoms and is relatively inactive. However, it acts as a precursor to the more active hormone, triiodothyronine (T3).
  • Triiodothyronine (T3): This is the more potent thyroid hormone, containing three iodine atoms. It is formed from T4 through the removal of one iodine atom. T3 is the hormone that directly influences the body’s metabolism, energy production, and overall cellular activity.

The thyroid gland’s function is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are parts of the brain. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH, in turn, signals the thyroid gland to produce and release T4 and T3 into the bloodstream.

The thyroid hormones play a crucial role in maintaining the body’s metabolic rate, heart rate, body temperature, and energy production. They affect nearly every organ and tissue in the body and are essential for proper growth and development in children and the maintenance of normal bodily functions in adults.

When the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormones, it results in a condition called hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, and heat intolerance.

Conversely, if the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, it leads to a condition called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include fatigue, weight gain, cold sensitivity, and depression.

Various factors, including genetics, autoimmune conditions, iodine deficiency, and certain medications, can affect the thyroid’s function. If there are concerns about thyroid function or any related symptoms, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management.

Thyroid blood tests are used to assess the function of the thyroid gland and to diagnose thyroid disorders such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and autoimmune thyroid conditions. The most common thyroid blood tests include:

  • Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Test: TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and regulates the thyroid’s hormone production. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the pituitary releases more TSH to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce and release more thyroid hormones. Conversely, if thyroid hormone levels are high, the pituitary reduces TSH production. A TSH test is often the first step in evaluating thyroid function.
  • Total or Free Thyroxine (T4) Test: This test measures the total amount of thyroxine (T4) in the blood. T4 is the primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and it circulates in two forms: bound to proteins (total T4) or unbound and free (free T4). 
  • Total or Free Triiodothyronine (T3) Test: Similar to T4, this test measures the total amount of triiodothyronine (T3) in the blood, and it is available in both bound and unbound forms. Free T3 is the active form of the hormone, while total T3 includes both bound and unbound forms. Free T3 is the active thyroid hormone form that affects all the cells in your body = symptoms.
  • Reverse Triiodothyronine (rT3) Test: T4 can be converted to rT3 in peripheral tissues. 95% of rT3 is produced this way. Reverse T3 is thought of as the “brake” on thyroid action as it binds to the same receptor sites as T3 but does not kick off any cellular reactions as T3 does. This results in decreased thyroid functioning in the body, so the theory goes. How much or how little rT3 is produced in the body is subject to many different stressors, the main one being adrenal stress. This is one way acute or chronic adrenal stress can cause a lowering of thyroid function.
  • Thyroid Antibody Tests: These tests are used to identify autoimmune thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. Common thyroid antibody tests include Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb).
  • Thyroglobulin Test: Thyroglobulin is a protein produced by the thyroid gland and is involved in the production of thyroid hormones. This test is often used to monitor certain thyroid conditions or to detect the recurrence of thyroid cancer after treatment.
  • Thyroid Ultrasound: While not a blood test, thyroid ultrasound is an imaging procedure that uses sound waves to create images of the thyroid gland. It helps to evaluate the thyroid’s size, structure, and the presence of any nodules or abnormalities.

It’s essential to remember that specific thyroid blood tests and their reference ranges may vary depending on the laboratory and the healthcare provider’s training (Western “sick” Medicine, or Functional Medicine). Additionally, the interpretation of these test results should always be done by a qualified healthcare professional, as thyroid disorders can be complex and require careful evaluation and management.

If you have concerns about your thyroid function or any related symptoms, Antigravity Wellness can help. We take a Functional Medicine, holistic approach to the care of our patients and specialize in hormone disorders such as those affecting the thyroid. 

Check out the Thyroid Support supplement protocol in FullScripts here and get 25% off MSRP and free shipping over $50. Always consult your doctor and/or pharmacist before starting any new supplements.

Check out this FREE meal plan designed to balance your hormones naturally with food. Food is the best medicine!! Also, check out the matching prep guide here.

Be your own advocate and take charge of your health!

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