Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tired, Cold, and Going Bald

These are three very common symptoms of hypothyroidism - a medical condition caused by the decreased production or decreased utilization of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones affect most body tissues through the chemical control of metabolism. Since metabolism is an another word for how fast the "gas pedal" is being pushed in the body, thyroid deficiencies can cause these major symptoms: tiredness, feeling cold all the time, losing hair, not growing fingernails, and gaining weight. There are a complicated number of factors at play in regulating thyroid function. Let me discuss very briefly a few of these:

1. Perhaps the most significant point to start is: are you getting enough iodine? The inactive thyroid hormone (T4) needs 4 iodine molecules, the active form (T3) needs three molecules of iodine. Only about 3% of the iodine needed in the body is used by the thyroid gland. Dietary access to iodine, however, has dropped dramatically over the past 50 years, while the use of elements in the same chemical family as iodine (notably, fluoride and bromide) have increased; leading to higher competition for iodine receptor sites in the body. This situation will lead to iodine deficiency that will prevent the thyroid gland from working properly. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is measured in micrograms, while historically, humans have consumed milligrams. A healthy amount of iodine may amount to 10-15 mg per day.

2. The conversion of T4 (inactive hormone) to T3 (active hormone) takes place in the liver. For a very large number of people, due to the stress of environmental toxins, the liver does not handle the conversion adequately. This leads to a normal amount of inactive hormone being present and an insufficient amount of active hormone. Blood tests may come back normal and yet hypothyroid symptoms still manifest due to the lack of active hormone. Liver cleanses to improve liver functions may improve the conversion rate.

3. Other substances are needed in the conversion process -- tyrosine (and amino acid) and selenium are two such substances.

4. Finally, the thyroid gland itself may just not be working. Typically, this is the one item on this list which will definitely show up on a blood test. To get around this thyroid hormone may be prescribed. Because of the conversion difficulty, many people do lots better with a natural dessicated thyroid product, such as Armour Thyroid or WesThyroid. These two prescription drugs contain both T3 and T4 hormone.

Sadly, many medical doctors do not know about all these issues. They will not prescribe anything (but an antidepressant perhaps) if the person's blood work shows a normal thyroid level. Yet, the person has real hypothyroid trouble. So, arm yourself with this much information and keep looking until you find a doctor who can help you work through the maze of possible problems that are affecting your thyroid function!!