Thyroid Hormones Part 2: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the thyroid as the primary driver of metabolic function. Metabolism is your body’s ability to produce energy efficiently using the wide array of nutrients and enzymes available, and it also eliminates wastes. People who suffer with thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroid, suffer a great number of debilitating side effects. Some of these are visible (hair loss, thinning eyebrows), others affect physical and mental stamina (low energy, brain fog), and still others are more insidious as the body simply fails to perform essential tasks (eliminate wastes and toxic byproducts).

Because the standard of care for anyone with low thyroid is to take replacement hormones, discussions about thyroid routinely focus on how well the drug is affecting TSH. Or how well the T4s are converting to T3s, or whether the Reverse T3 is actually a better tool for measuring thyroid function, and so on. It’s as if the whole problem of low thyroid is a mathematical formula! What is lost in the process and is the reason why thyroid is completely misunderstood and mismanaged is this: Hypothyroid, including Hashimoto’s, are secondary “downstream” health problems; also, thyroid function cannot be resolved in isolation or apart from an environmental context.

The thyroid gland itself is primarily a fatty tissue that, like breast, heart, or pancreatic organs, becomes a good storage site for toxic waste. Whether it’s mercury toxicity or another type of toxic exposure (radiation, pesticide, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and so on) the thyroid is a particularly vulnerable gland for storing and removing toxins from the bloodstream. One theory about the alarming rise in autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s in this case, is that the thyroid has become so toxic that the body turns against it and attacks the thyroid itself. A simple antibody test will rule this out.

Another upstream cause for poor thyroid function is oxidative stress. The terms oxidative stress and free radicals have become familiar in recent years. Think of oxidative stress as the total burden placed on the thyroid by the constant production of free radicals. To halt this process, the thyroid will slow down to preserve itself and thereby protect its own mitochondria and cell membranes. Remember, every single cell in your body is a self-contained living organism that wants to thrive. When you eat a diet loaded with antioxidants, you are preventing further oxidative stress by cleaning up free radicals.

Lastly, the effects of brain chemistry on thyroid function should not be overlooked. In fact, a doctor cannot properly evaluate thyroid function without considering the brain, which is saturated with thyroid hormone receptor sites. Is it any wonder that low thyroid function causes mental fogginess, low productivity, and forgetfulness? People are discovering the therapeutic power of amino acids, herbs, and nutrients that support the brain’s neurotransmitters. We’re increasingly understanding how the factors that lead to poor thyroid health—bad diet, unstable blood sugar control, adrenal stress, and gut infections—also lead to poor brain health, including brain tissue inflammation and degeneration as well as a deficiency in serotonin and dopamine.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

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For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

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