The thyroid gland produces two hormones: tri-iodothyronine (T3), the active, primary intracellular hormone and thyroxine (T4), the inactive, primary extra cellular hormone. Thyroxine (T4) is produced by the thyroid gland in twenty (20) times the concentration as T3. T4 must be absorbed into the cells where it must be converted to T3 in order for the cells to function at a healthy metabolic rate. If T4 is not properly assimilated into the cells or converted to T3 within the cells, then hypothyroidism results. It is not the level of thyroid hormone in the blood that is important, but rather, how much T3 is present within the cells. This is why blood tests are inconclusive and oftentimes do not correlate with a patient’s clinical symptoms. The thyroid hormone, T3, enables the cells to produce and use energy, which is ultimately converted to heat, giving the body its temperature.
As we age the thyroid gland, like all the endocrine glands, produces lower levels of thyroid hormones. Because the “normal laboratory range” of thyroid hormones is based upon a population normal, 90%-95% of all individuals will have thyroid levels that fall within the “normal range”. But many people whose thyroid hormone levels fall within the so called “normal” range do not feel normal or healthy. Young healthy individuals have thyroid hormone levels which are high in the “normal range”. Older, less healthy individuals have thyroid hormone levels which are in the lower end of the “normal range”. Over your lifetime your thyroid hormone levels call fall by 50%, with you experiencing a 50% decline in your energy level, yet your thyroid hormone level will remain in the laboratory “normal range”, the low end of the “normal range”, yet still in the “normal range”. Despite the fact that you may have a host of symptoms of hypothyroidism, due to your decline in thyroid hormone production with age, your doctor will tell you that you are in the “normal range”. But you are not feeling normal because your thyroid hormones have declined as you have aged. You do not want your thyroid hormones to be in the “low normal range”, rather you want to keep your thyroid hormone levels in the “optimum range” so that you have good energy and feel healthy.
Hypothyroidism is a commonly overlooked and undiagnosed medical problem that severely impairs an individual’s quality of life. Hypo means low, so hypothyroidism relates to a medical condition manifested by low thyroid gland function or by low thyroid hormone action in the cells. If left untreated, it can lead to a host of medical illnesses. Thyroid deficiency frequently causes chronic fatigue, recurrent headaches, including migraines, recurrent and chronic infections, skin disorders, obesity, menstrual irregularities and infertility, emotional disorders, hypertension, coronary artery disease, cancer and the complications of diabetes.
Hypothyroidism usually manifests itself gradually over a period of years with the progressive and insidious development of one or several of the following symptoms:
- Weight Gain
- Cold Extremities and cold intolerance
- Decreased mental sharpness (brain fog)
- Slow speech
- Depression or mood swings
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Sluggish bowel function
- Fluid retention
- Muscle pain (fibromyalgia)
- Joint pain
- Tiredness after a full night’s sleep
- Tingling and/or numbness in extremities
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Recurrent yeast vaginitis
- Allergic disorders
- Recurrent infections
- Decreased sweating
The following are physical signs of hypothyroidism:
- The three P’s: pallor, pastiness, puffiness
- Enlarged tongue with teeth indentations
- Loss of hair on the lateral third of the eyebrows
- Decreased body hair
- Thinning hair
- Cold extremities & cold skin
- Dry skin
- Brittle fingernails with ridging
- Low blood pressure
- Slow pulse rate
- Low basal body temperature
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
The most common causes of hypothyroidism are:
some prescription drugs
Hormonal imbalance. Women have hypothyroidism at least four (4) times as frequently as do men. This is commonly due to female hormonal imbalance in midlife which leads to a condition known as estrogen dominance. As the ovaries age, women produce decreasing amounts of progesterone, the hormone of the last half of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone deficiency is the cause of estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes the liver to produce increasing levels of a protein, which circulates in the blood, called thyroid binding globulin (TBG). Even when the thyroid gland is producing sufficient amounts of hormone, TBG will bind to the thyroid hormones, lowering the free, unbound thyroid hormone available for use. This in turn causes a decrease in the metabolic rate, lowering the body’s overall energy level. Birth controls pills, pregnancy and postmenopausal estrogen supplementation all lead to increased TBG. Commonly, women complain that their metabolism changed after one of their pregnancies or when they began birth control pills or supplemental counterfeit estrogen hormones. The male hormone, testosterone, does not increase TBG. In fact, testosterone stimulates the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, to the active thyroid hormone, T3, within the cells. This is why men have fewer problems with low thyroid function than do women.
Autoimmune Thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is another cause of hypothyroidism. In this disease, the patient’s own immune system is dysregulated and produces antibodies to the individual’s thyroid gland and to the thyroid hormones circulating in the blood. This immune system disorder is frequently associated with allergic disorders. Low intracellular thyroid function and allergies travel together like thieves in the night. In my practice we have tested thousands of individuals since 1991 to determine the presence of thyroid antibodies. Approximately 31% of our female allergy patients and 18% of our male allergy patients have Autoimmune Thyroiditis. This is far greater than the 5% of individuals in the general population who have this disorder. Autoimmune Thyroiditis prevents thyroid hormone from being properly assimilated into the cells.
Nutritional deficiencies. Less commonly than the above, hypothyroidism may be caused by nutritional deficiencies. The thyroid gland requires iodine for the normal production of the thyroid hormones. In the past, hypothyroidism occurred commonly in the Midwest and in the Great Lakes regions of the United States and was characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter. This condition was due to low iodine levels in the soil and in fresh water fish. With the advent of iodized salt the incidence of this problem has been dramatically reduced. Goiter areas still exist in many areas of the world. Clinical hypothyroidism may also be caused by a selenium deficiency. Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a critical role in the conversion of the inactive hormone, T4, to the active intracellular thyroid hormone, T3. The soil in the United States is deficient in Selenium. The thyroid gland may produce insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone due to a variety of underlying genetic defects. These conditions are very uncommon.
Another rare cause of the hypothyroidism is pituitary gland dysfunction. The pituitary gland is located in the brain and regulates the thyroid gland by secreting thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When there is not a sufficient amount of thyroid hormone in the blood, the pituitary gland increases the production of TSH. If the pituitary gland is diseased and unable to secrete TSH, then the thyroid gland will not produce thyroid hormone.
Prescription drugs, such as Dilantin, Lithium, and Beta Blockers, used in the treatment of hypertension and heart disease, blunt the effect of the thyroid hormones in the cells of the body, leading to symptoms of hypothyroidism. As mentioned earlier, the counterfeit hormones and horse estrogens, such as Premarin, Ogen, and Cenestin, and birth control pills, which are also counterfeit hormones, raise the level of thyroid hormone binding globulin and prevent the proper uptake of thyroid hormones by the cells of the body.
What is the difference between bio-identical, natural Armour Thyroid and the synthetic T4 thyroid supplements, Synthroid, Levoxyl and Levothroid?
The thyroid gland governs the body’s metabolism and growth through the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones determine our body’s metabolic rate, the rate at which our body’s cells produce and utilize energy. If your thyroid gland were to be removed, and you were not given any supplemental thyroid, then you might live one year. You would slowly unwind like a doll on Christmas morning until your body would cease functioning. The thyroid hormones are essential for life.