Hmmm… It Might Be Your Thyroid
Rodney Dangerfield, a friend of mine, had a famous line, “I don’t get any respect.” Same goes for the thyroid. How many times has a doctor told you “Your thyroid is a little low;” but then it gets ignored. The thyroid deserves respect.
THE THYROID IS THE “ORCHESTRA LEADER OF THE BODY.” It’s a major hormone, meaning it regulates the body’s metabolism. It controls the furnace so to speak. It is located at the base of the front of your windpipe and produces hormones.
25% of all women develop permanent hypothyroidism with the greatest incidence occurring after age 34 (not coincidently this is when perimenopause usually starts), which makes sense; when we stop ovulating regularly, there is a decrease in ovarian hormones namely progesterone and estrogen. With this decline, the thyroid has a difficult time doing its job. So how does it manifest?
When you don’t produce enough thyroid, it weakens the immune system which is why people with low thyroid hormone are so susceptible to colds, flu and other viruses.
Low thyroid…low heart rate
Low thyroid…high cholesterol
Low thyroid…dry skin, cramps, headaches, infertility, menstrual difficulties, constipation, cold hands and feet, enlarged abdomen, fibrocystic breast disease.
Everything from blood pressure to breathing to digestion and nerve function can be impacted by thyroid dysfunction, and the effects are profound.
Many women are diagnosed with autoimmune disease such as fibromyalgia, Lupus and MS when actually they have low thyroid. This is because muscle fibers separate due to swelling and reduced enzyme activity in the muscles. This build-up of waste causes a jellylike substance to be deposited in the muscles, ligaments and joints causing pain, stiffness and cramping in areas that are affected, usually the neck, back, feet and hands. The back problems we all get in perimenopause and menopause are symptoms of low thyroid, but most likely your doctor will give you a dangerous drug like prednisone to mask the pain. Natural bioidentical thyroid heals the problem.
When you suspect your thyroid is not functioning properly, you must ask your doctor to check your T4, freeT3, freeT4 and TSH. It’s the ‘free’ part that is important. Remember, you are in charge of your health. You have four times more T4 than T3, but T3 is far more potent and biologically active. Most doctors don’t check for T3; they will simply check for T4 and say, “Everything’s fine.” The body makes a lot of T4 and is supposed to convert it to T3 when needed. Some people fail to convert enough T4 to T3, which can result in the problems associated with thyroid hormone deficit—even when T4 levels are within normal range. When T3 and T4 levels drop too low, the pituitary gland responds by making more TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones). If your TSH is high, it means your thyroid levels are dropping. You need replacement.
Low thyroid function inhibits our ability to make estrogen, creating hormone imbalance which can result in infertility, inability to ovulate and heavy menstrual bleeding. It can also cause severe cramping and irregular cycles. Inadequate thyroid and you will experience a lack of sexual desire and function. About 75% of the iodine in your diet makes its way to your thyroid gland. Iodine is critical in manufacturing both T3 and T4, so iodine deficiency can result in low thyroidism (hypothyroidism). There are also studies linking breast cancer to iodine deficiency.
You can take supplemental iodine or get it from seafood and seaweed such as nori and kelp. If you have severe breast pain, you can have your doctor prescribe Lugol’s Iodine (liquid) and put it right on the breast. It will immediately take the painful cysts down and alleviate the pain. If this is so, it is an indicator that you are severely depleted of Iodine. You don’t want that. You can test for iodine deficiency through an iodine loading test. It is a 24 hour urine test which will detect if iodine deficiency is causing thyroid dysfunction.
The best way of assessing your thyroid status is with a comprehensive thyroid blood test profile. Regrettably, few people have the proper thyroid tests done because they rely on their doctor to prescribe the tests and then interpret the results. Conventional doctors interpret anything within the so-called “normal” reference range as being OK. The problem is that the reference ranges for thyroid are far too broad. This means you may be suffering severe symptoms related to thyroid hormone deficit, yet your blood test result may show that you are “normal.” As a general rule of thumb, you want to be in the upper end of reference range for T3 and not higher than 2.0 (mU/L) for TSH. The easiest way to obtain a comprehensive thyroid blood test panel is through the Life Extension Foundation. Go to the Life Extension link on my web-site. Check out Life Extension Thyroid panel. They offer a comprehensive thyroid panel that checks your TSH, T4, free T3 and free T4 and they have health advisors available by phone to help you understand the results. The cost is $75.00. The price at doctors’ offices is usually much higher.
Sometimes the missing piece of the hormonal puzzle is thyroid. I know it was for me. Everything shifted into place once I was on thyroid replacement. Understanding the importance of the thyroid and what can happen when it is too low or too high will help you avoid many unnecessary pharmaceutical drugs.
And, remember, the thyroid is a MAJOR hormone…so important that if it is too low or too high for too long a period of time you will not live very long. It is that crucial.
I hope this helps.
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While I know many of you have specific medical questions, only qualified experts can advise on individual cases. Use my advice to arm yourself with knowledge to pass along to your doctors. The more informed you are, the better questions you will ask of your health care providers. This will help you determine if your doctor is right for you. If you are seeking professional help, please check the Dr. Resource Guide. If you are interested in bio-identical hormone replacement, click on the Life Extension Hormone Panel to get information on low cost blood work and a referral to a physician who can prescribe natural hormones for you.