I am fortunate to have a job as a Naturopathic Doctor where I get to work with people who are very motivated to take proactive lifestyle measures to be healthy. It is true that there are lots of different body types, and that “healthy” comes in all shapes and forms (so does unhealthy), but there is nothing wrong with wanting to see some changes in your body shape from your hard efforts. I frequently have women come into my office feeling frustrated that they aren’t seeing any changes in their weight or body shape. I really believe that it shouldn’t be that difficult, and most often there is a reason for it. I first look at their diet, and the type of exercise they are doing, but it is also worth looking into whether a thyroid imbalance, insulin resistance, or chronic stress (or a combination) is be at play. I am going to address each of these topics as separate videos. Today I am going to talk about what you can do to check if your thyroid is functioning optimally.
When I ask patients if their thyroid has been checked, their response is often that their medical doctor has told them that everything is fine. When I request a copy of their blood work though, I often see that only the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH has been checked. From my perspective, that only shows me part of the puzzle though. I’m going to go into a brief physiology lesson to explain why that is…
The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is produced in an area in your brain called the pituitary gland in response to how much T4 (or thyroxine) hormone is being produced by the thyroid gland. If there is a lot of T4, then less TSH is produced. If there is too little T4 present, then more TSH will be made to try and increase activity. So, it is true that in overt hypothyroidism, the TSH level will be high, and in hyperthyroidism, it will be low.
That T4 then needs to be converted into T3, which is the active thyroid hormone. That conversion requires nutrients like zinc, selenium and iodine. Stress, hormonal changes, blood sugar imbalances and illness are also factors that can affect how the that conversion happens.
There are other factors at play too – for various reasons, your immune system can produce antibodies against you, instead of protecting you against outside pathogens. There are several autoimmune antibodies that can be made against the thyroid. If they bind to the thyroid receptors, then they will prevent the T3 from binding and being active, even if adequate amounts of it are present.
A lot of the patients I see have normal TSH blood levels, but still have many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, including difficulty losing weight, cold body temperature, hair loss, dry skin and/or constipation. It’s like the thyroid isn’t revving their engine enough. That can be because there is too little T4 getting converted into T3 or because there are antibodies present against the thyroid. The thyroid panel that I like to run on patients includes: TSH, as well as T3, T4, and anti thyroperoxidase antibodies.
Once that testing has been done, then you have much more information to determine if the thyroid is functioning optimally or not. If the T4 level is good, but T3 is low, then you can take more of those converting nutrients. If antibodies are present, then I have seen dramatic changes by using herbs that can help break them down, and by eliminating food sensitivities and healing the gut. If stress or blood sugar are issues, then they also need to be addressed. You can quickly see how complex our bodies are, and that things don’t work in isolation.
If some of you feel after hearing this, that this may be an issue for you, then I recommend seeing a Naturopathic Doctor to run the blood work, and see what can be done to help you. You also need to make sure that you are doing what you can do eat a balanced diet, exercise in the right way, and manage your stress. I created the “Your Best Life” one program as a way to help people more easily incorporate these lifestyle elements that I see are fundamental to helping patients feel their best - both physically and emotionally. The next group will be starting June 5th, if you would like to join. The link with more information will posted in the comments. I really hope you have found this information useful.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Sign up for "Your Best Life"