Thyroid 101

Hello and welcome to my blog. Today it is Thyroid 101 and introduction to the thyroid gland and what happens when it malfunctions. 20 million or more people in the US have thyroid issues and many are undiagnosed, meaning there is a lack of understanding in the medical community on this topic.

The thyroid is a gland in the neck which produces hormones that  regulate metabolism so is one of the master glands in the body as so many functions depend on a good thyroid gland.

Untreated or chronically low thyroid leads on or is linked to other illnesses and other hormone imbalances such as insulin resistance and adrenal fatigue. Low thyroid function have cost people their jobs, relationships and happiness as having a non-functioning thyroid is like a giant good mood hoover.  People with thyroid problems are not fun to be around, but it is not their fault.

Symptoms of low thyroid are

  • Fatigue
  • Being cold
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Slow to process words
  • Slow to think of what to say
  • Dyslexia like symptoms
  • Poor coordination
  • Being tearful
  • Pain
  • Slow healing
  • And more

I could write a whole book on thyroid dysfunction as its a big topic, luckily several other people have written great books on this topic. The thyroid is fundamental to healing and health,  like the gut that if there is something wrong with your thyroid hormones it will hinder many other processes in the body, even if you ‘do everything else right’. Thyroid function is key in weight management and this is overlooked by many doctors as they just tell their thyroid patients ‘Exercise more, lose some weight, eat healthily’   or ‘Your thyroid is fine its all in your head’. Many people who work out for an hour a day and eat a sensible diet or a 1000 kcal a day and are still fat often have an undiagnosed thyroid issue. This is becasue lots of doctors do not fully understand how the thyroid and its hormones work, exactly which tests to do or how to treat it. Just giving patients  thyroxine alone doesn’t work a lot of the time. I will explain the ‘Thyroid 101’ below.

When the pituitary gland in the brain senses low thyroid hormones in the blood, it releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which then tells the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. Two of the main thyroid hormones in the body are thyroxine (T4) and the  metabolically active triiodothyronine (T3).

T4 Thyroxine

T3 Tri-iodothyronine Active

T3 Tri-iodothyronine

When TSH tells the thyroid gland to make hormones, it makes about 80% T4 & 20% T3. Over the day a proportion about 50-65% of the T4 (inactive) gets turned into T3 (active and useful). T3 is made in the body, mainly in the liver  by enzymes which convert  T4 into T3 by clipping off an iodine, this process can and does go wrong. Some people have enough thyroxine to pass a thyroid test but are still only functioning at 70% so still feel crap and still have an underperforming thyroid gland. Other people pass the standard TSH T4 test so are told ‘Your thyroid is normal’ but  their bodies can’t covert T4 into the  active T3 so they still get symptoms and feel dreadful. There are other thyroid imbalances that can occur too such as  Hashimoto’s syndrome which is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the thyroid gland, which often goes undiagnosed. T3 is the hormone you need to ‘make and use energy’ in the body so that is the one which matters.

If you think you have a thyroid problem or have Hashimoto’s the very first step is to take a thyroid panel blood test Here are the blood tests you need to have to get a better understanding of what has gone wrong and possible ways to fix the your thyroid problems. In the US it cost about $150,  its more in the UK and less in other countries.

  1. Free T4
  2. Free T3
  3. TSH
  4. TPO antibody
  5. TG antibody
  6. Reverse T3

It is important to measure free T3/4 as if the thyroid  hormones are bound to other molecules then they arent able to do their jobs. TSH is the signal to the thyroid gland to make hormones. High TSH means the brain is shouting for thyroid but for some reason it is not being made.High TSH is also a sign inflammation is high. Low TSH can be the result of starvation (AKA low calorie diet) or too much exercises so the body is preserving energy.

TPO and TG antibodies are to look and see if you have Hashimoto’s.

Reverse T3 or RT3 is an isomer of T3 so it has the same atoms but a slightly  different shape, and acts  like an inactive form of T3. RT3 is  “antithyroid” as it bind to the same receptors as T3, sits there, and nothing happens. So, it blocks the thyroid effect. It is extra information in the puzzle for doctors or functional medicine doctors to help patients with thyroid issues.

Many doctors are not expert in thyroid hormones so it requires some persuading to get a RT3 test, but it provides useful information.

Testing just T4 and  TSH alone do not give satisfactory answers to people with thyroid problems, which is why 100s of millions of people in the world have undiagnosed thyroid problems and just put it down to ‘getting older’ or ‘chronic fatigue’ or ‘slow metabolism’ or ‘moody’, when there is a real hormone imbalance going on.

I will be writing other blogs on thyroid issues and how to fix them so keep a look out if you are interested.  I’ve got a lot more information on how to help the thyroid and heal other systems in the body in my book which will be out in July.


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