Have you been wondering about your thyroid? Where it is? What it does and why it is s important?
I’d love to clear a few things up for you because chances are if your thyroid is not affected, some one near to you will be. Especially as the older we get the more likely it is to become underactive.
Just a little bit of anatomy and physio….
You thyroid is responsible for a few things primarily metabolism (mood, metabolic rate and some hormone connection). With a full functioning thyroid you will feel active, alive, happy and not struggle with weight.
If you have any of the following you may have an under active thyroid:
– low moods
– weight gain
– cold hands and feet
– hair loss
– dry skin (often itchy)
– burn out
This is a typical goitre which can be a sign of an under active thyroid.
The subtler signs of an under active thyroid are tightness around your throat (ie necklaces can become tight), feeling like you are swallowing a ball or around an object, weight gain, lowering moods, hair loss.
What happens to our thyroids?
Our thyroid has lobes and these can become inflamed, destroyed, infected and told to switch on or off (by stress hormones).
If you go down the mainstream route these are some tests you may be offered:
1. Blood testing
2. Ultrasound (to determine if there are nodules, cancer etc)
3. Fine needle biopsy (maybe suggested when nodules are detected)
If you take yourself to a doctor they will measure the hormone that is released from the pituitary gland (in your brain) called the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).If you fall in the bell curve of what is deemed normal you will be told äll is ok”but there are definite shades of grey.
Apparently TSH normals are adjusted a few times over the year. Pathology companies gather a sample of 100 blood test tubes and will determine the “normal TSH level”of the day. Over the last 10 years, the range of “normal TSH”has ballooned. So inherently testing of the thyroid is haphazard.
Other ways of determining thyroid status is from the active hormones that the thyroid produces: T3 and T4. Doctors will not measure this unless your TSH is out of the normal range.
Here is the slip… sometimes your TSH will be in he “normal range”for the doctor so you will be told “all is ok”. BUT it may not be.
In Australia the ranges for TSH are currently 0.5 – 5 as acceptable normal. BUT anything over 2 is problematic.
This is my understanding of TSH (more an analogy). TSH goes to the thyroid and knocks on the door and says “get out of bed, it’s time to work”but often (especially if the thyroid is swollen, infected, or contaminated with toxic matter and radiation) will need more stimulus. Therefor the brain will secrete more TSH! So your TSH will go up. It is the rise in TSH that doctors look for and unless it is close to 5 you will be told all is ok. But in functional medicine we like the TSH to be less than 2.
In my clinic, I tend to treat the person in front of me and the tests are incidental ( not ignored but certainly they are kept in context).
The tricky thing with thyroid disease is that hormones are really misleading. T3 and T4 might be very low despite good TSH levels. And there is another twist in that T3 can be reversed (therefor show up as normal on standard testing but in actual fact be useless).
Doctors may test for thyroid anti-bodies which will help diagnose an auto-immune disease called hashimotos which is reasonably common. BUT to be honest, I think labelling of diseases can be useful and inhibitory. If you come back with anti-bodies you will be sent to an endocrinologist who will manage the thyroid hormone component and possibly start thyroxine. BUT the real way out of hashimotos is with functional medicine (find the cause eg stress, give yourself co-factors, change your diet, change a few things).
I like helping people with thyroid disorders as they have lots to gain from little things. Its really good when the person’s doctor works with us and sees the benefits of stress management etc.'(stress is often a big issue for people with under or over active thyroids – this maybe a physical stress and burn out, or a psychological stress).
I also make sure co-factors are all accounted for. These are little vitamins and minerals that bring the whole thyroid function together and include:
– Vitamin D
– Co Q 10
Often it is worth trying to de-stress (seek professional coaching if you need) and ensuring your co-factors are all topped up.
Leave your comments, questions and tips below. Thyroid disease affects many people. It has even affected me, so share so that others will be educated about thyroid disease and how to approach it.