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Thyroid Disease Unraveled

The thyroid gland is so small that a lot of people forget about it and don’t realize how important it is to how the body functions. This little gland weighs less than an ounce and is located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland produces two main hormones—T3 and T4—which control metabolism. When thyroid disease occurs and the thyroid gland is compromised, it may produce too few or too many hormones which can either speed up or slow down the metabolism. These conditions are referred to as underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

 

Detection

Comprehensive thyroid blood tests are the most accurate way to see if you have thyroid disease. This includes testing for TSH, T3 free, T4 free, reverse T3, thyroglobulin antibodies and thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Often, people don’t realize they have thyroid disease. Conventional doctors generally test only the TSH level which is how it can go undetected.

At LifeWorks, we routinely do a test that measures the basal metabolism of the body which is the most accurate measure of thyroid health. Blood tests can be misleading and look normal even when the thyroid is under-producing.

 

Hypothyroidism can be caused by several factors, including:

Iodine deficiency

Amino acid, magnesium, selenium, iron and zinc deficiencies

Heavy metal poisoning along with other environmental residues

Root canaled teeth—toxins leak into the body and thyroid gland and poison it

Autoimmune thyroiditis—the immune system attacks the thyroid gland

 

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by several factors, including:

Graves’ Disease—an autoimmune disorder

Excessive intake of thyroid hormones

Excessive iodine intake

Abnormal secretion of TSH

 

Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid are weight gain despite eating sensibly, feeling cold in warm weather, fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry and flaky skin, unexplained joint pain and sometimes high LDL cholesterol levels.

Signs and symptoms of an overactive thyroid include weight loss despite eating a goodly amount of food, rapid pounding of the heart, anxiety, trouble sleeping, fine/brittle hair, enlarged thyroid (goiter) and irritability.

 

There are three types of

hyperthyroidism which

affect the body differently:

Graves’ Disease. The most common form of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is stimulated to produce too much T4. The antibodies which usually help protect against viruses and bacteria mistakenly attack the thyroid. Occasionally, the antibodies can also attack the tissue behind the eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy) and the skin on the lower legs over the shins (Graves’ dermopathy).

The usual solution to Graves’ disease is either surgical removal of the thyroid gland or ablating the gland with radioactive iodine. LifeWorks has had excellent successes with non-invasive methods at getting the thyroid gland back to normal functioning.

 

Thyroiditis. Sometimes the thyroid gland can become inflamed for unknown reasons causing excess thyroid hormone to leak into the bloodstream. Subacute thyroiditis, a rare form of thyroiditis, causes pain in the thyroid gland. Other types are painless and may sometimes occur after pregnancy (postpartum thyroiditis).

 

Functioning Adenoma and Toxic Multinodular Goiter. A common part of the aging process is for the thyroid gland to become lumpier. These lumps do not produce thyroid hormones and require no treatment. Occasionally, a nodule may not respond to pituitary regulation via TSH and produces thyroid hormones independently. When this occurs, it is called a functioning nodule. If there is more than one functioning nodule, the term toxic multinodular goiter is used. Functioning nodules may be readily detected with a thyroid scan.

 

How is thyroid disease

treated with conventional medicine?

Hypothyroidism. The synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine is normally prescribed for hypothyroidism. The medication is taken orally every day to restore hormone levels to normal and decrease the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Benefits of this include increased energy, weight loss, no more hair loss, etc. However, once you start a prescription medication like levothyroxine, you will have to remain on it for the rest of your life, even when the symptoms have subsided. Also, this synthetic hormone must be converted to the active form of T3 which doesn’t always work properly. When treating the thyroid with levothyroxine, most doctors will check the TSH levels after three months and then again every year. This ensures the correct amount is given to the patient as every patient is different and needs different dosages.

 

Hyperthyroidism. Treatment for hyperthyroidism includes radioactive iodine which causes the thyroid gland to shrink. However, this shrinkage causes the thyroid activity to slow and may ultimately lead to hypothyroidism. Doctors may also prescribe anti-thyroid medications such as propylthiouracil and methimazole which can reduce the symptoms of a hyperactive gland. Unfortunately, these drugs can cause serious liver damage and increase susceptibility to infection.

Beta blockers may also be prescribed to reduce rapid heart rates and help prevent palpitations. Side effects include fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea or dizziness. A radical treatment for an overactive thyroid is a thyroidectomy where the majority of the thyroid gland is removed. This has substantial risks, including damage to vocal cords and parathyroid glands, and the patient will require lifelong treatment with levothyroxine to supply the body with normal amounts of the thyroid hormone.

 

LifeWorks’ Solution

At LifeWorks, we work hard to find the root cause of a patient’s thyroid disease. We order blood tests for the patient including comprehensive thyroid and hormone panels.

 

Deficiencies

The main nutrients that the thyroid needs to function properly are iodine and tyrosine. Too much or too little can affect how the thyroid functions. Unfortunately, in today’s world the soil has become so depleted of iodine that it is rarely present in food. A urine test will reveal iodine levels in the body and if they are low it is important to supplement. Tyrosine is an amino acid which the body gets from protein, so adequate protein intake is important for proper thyroid function.

 

Diet

We advise many of our patients to follow a Paleo lifestyle if they have thyroid disease. Many people are wheat sensitive and this can aggravate inflammation in the thyroid area leading to problems.

 

Environment

There are thousands of chemicals and toxins in the environment that can cause serious thyroid problems. These chemicals bind in the thyroid and prevent it from functioning properly. Your practitioner will order tests to check the chemical and toxin levels within your body and, more importantly, in your thyroid.

 

Hormones

The two key hormones which can disrupt thyroid function are estrogen and cortisol. If the body is producing an excess of these hormones, or if they are not metabolized properly, they can prevent the thyroid from functioning correctly. A comprehensive hormone panel will inform your practitioner of all your hormone levels including cortisol.

 

Dr. David Minkoff is co-founder and medical director of LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the foremost alternative health clinics in the U.S. LifeWorks is located at 301 Turner St., Clearwater. For more information or appointment, call 727-466-6789 or visit LifeWorksWellnessCenter.com. See ad page 2.

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