The thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is a small gland located in the neck, it plays a very big role in many of the body's functions, and can have a significant effect on one's overall well-being. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is under active, and not producing adequate levels of thyroid hormones. Certain factors can cause the thyroid gland to become under active such as: the aging process, autoimmune disorders, as well as certain foods and medications. When thyroid levels are low, it's detected within the brain and the pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which then stimulates the thyroid gland to produce both triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 is considered the ‘primary hormone’ as it affects almost every physiological process in the body, including metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, mood and digestion.
Thyroid function can be accurately assessed by measuring TSH, Free T3, and T4. In addition, checking Thyroid Per-oxidase antibody (TPO Ab) will help diagnose certain autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Often in the case of Hashimoto's, which is a common cause of hypothyroidism, TSH, T3 and T4 may all be normal, and TPO will be the only positive indication of a thyroid disorder.
Optimizing thyroid hormones has been shown to decrease cardiac risk factors, improve mood and mental cognitive function, increase energy levels, help alleviate joint and muscle aches. Adequate levels of T3 are also necessary for the body to metabolize and burn fat, making desired weight loss very difficult for individuals with under active thyroid glands. Thyroid hormone levels can be optimized by supplementing both T3 and T4. Usually a daily dose of a combination T3/T4 supplement or natural desiccated thyroid is preferred for elevating the thyroid hormones to appropriate levels. Commonly prescribed natural medications are Armour Thyroid and Nature Throid. Routine monitoring and blood work is recommended in order to appropriately manage thyroid hormone levels.
There are many signs and symptoms associated with thyroid deficiency: weak, cold, tired, fatigued, thin hair, thin skin, thin nails, weight gain, increased body fat, loss of energy and motivation, loss of cognition, memory, mood, poor sense of well-being. Thankfully, managing thyroid levels can be a very effective and efficient process. If you feel you may have an issue with your thyroid gland, start by discussing your symptoms with a provider, and obtaining the proper lab work.
COMMON SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Fatigue and decreased energy.
- Weight gain, difficult weight loss.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Cold/temperature intolerance.
- Sad or depressive moods.
- Lack of focus "brain fog".
- Thinning hair.
- Dry skin.
Benefits of Thyroid Optimization
- Improve mood and mental cognitive function.
- Increase energy levels.
- Decrease cardiac risk factors.
- Weight control, and ability to burn fat.
- Improve cholesterol levels.
- Help alleviate joint and muscle aches.
- Healthier hair and skin.
- Improved digestion.
Understanding your thyroid labs
TSH - Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, is released by the pituitary gland. When thyroid levels are low, it's detected within the brain and the pituitary gland releases TSH, which then stimulates the thyroid gland to produce both triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Normal ranges for TSH are typically between 0.27 – 4.2. In most cases when thyroid levels T3/T4 are in optimal ranges TSH will be on the lower end of normal, closer to 0.27 for example. When the thyroid gland is under active and T3/T4 are low, TSH will typically be higher, closer to 4.2 or greater.
T3 - Triiodothyronine, is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. T3 affects nearly every physiological process in the body, including growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate.
Free T3 - Free T3 is the ‘free’ or ‘unbound’ form of T3. Our various hormones, including T3 are designated to various functions in the body. Some hormones will be temporarily bound to proteins. These proteins will carry the hormones to their designated function, where they’re released and will help maintain normal functions and actions within the body. These temporarily bound hormones are also referred to as ‘bio-available’. Many hormones will be fully bound to proteins and will become ‘unusable’. That leaves the remaining hormones as ‘free’ and readily available for whatever the body may want or need to use them for, whether it be for immediate changes in the body or more long term management and homeostasis. Therefore, the ‘free’ form of any hormone is the cornerstone of overall wellbeing, making it one of the most important levels to verify.
T4 – Thyroxine (T4), is the most released hormone by the thyroid gland, however in it’s raw form has little action within the body when compared to T3. The ratio of T4 to T3 in the body is around 17 to 1, however T3 is reported to be 3 to 4 times more potent than T4. The body converts T4 into T3, and T3 is responsible for most the action within the body.
RT3 - Reverse T3, simply put is the inactive from of T3. Some percentage of T4 will be converted to RT3 rather than it’s active counterpart T3. While RT3 serves no significant benefit, it can be important as high levels can indicate a problem with the body's conversion of T4 to T3, or also potentially inhibit the benefits of Free T3 within the body, leading to negative symptoms such as fatigue, mental fog, etc.
TPOAb - Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies, when elevated in lab work indicate an active autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s. When the cells of the thyroid gland are attacked during active Hashimoto’s, there will in turn be an increase in TPO antibodies. TPOAb can fluctuate up and down depending on certain factors and varying stages of the disorder.
Related Articles and information
Video: Dr. Neal Rouzier Talks About the Basics of Thyroid Treatment.
Video: Dr. Neal Rouzier Discusses Thyroid Management at American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine Conference.