Are you feeling sick and tired from low thyroid?

© 2014 Dr. Sharon Norling

Do you have fatigue, weight gain, constipation, fuzzy thinking, low blood pressure, fluid retention, depression, body pain, memory loss, weakness, dry hair, dry pale skin, hair loss, cold intolerance,  rheumatoid-like pain and swelling in joints, muscle aches and cramps, irritability, memory loss, abnormal menstrual cycles, decreased libido, or slow reflexes? You may have low thyroid function.

Additional symptoms can be elevated cholesterol (generally seen in as LDL cholesterol increases), fibromyalgia, and easy bruising. I can personally attest to the relationship of low thyroid and high cholesterol. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol with no apparent reason or risk factors. My thyroid levels were borderline low and my doctor didn’t think it was necessary to treat the lower thyroid function because my numbers, although low, were in the reference range “box”. When I persisted and was placed on thyroid, my cholesterol dropped 50 points without any other changes.

According to American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist (AACE) President Richard A. Dickey, M.D., “Patients who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol should ask their physician about having their thyroid checked. If they have an underlying thyroid condition in addition to their high cholesterol, the cholesterol problem will be difficult to control until normal levels of thyroid hormone is restored.”

Maybe you have had your thyroid tested and it is “normal”. Many times hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is misdiagnosed. Let’s look further.

In healthy people, the thyroid makes just the right amounts of two hormones, T4 and T3, which have important actions throughout the body. These hormones regulate many aspects of our metabolism, eventually affecting how many calories we burn, how warm we feel, and how much we weigh. In short, the thyroid “runs” our metabolism. Optimal thyroid function affects every cell in our body. On a cellular level, there can be no optimal nutrition absorption, detoxification of wastes or stimulation of oxygen consumption without adequate thyroid balance. T3, the active thyroid hormone, is created from T4 (inactive) in the liver so a healthy liver is important.

The first step is knowing your exact TSH level, and other key thyroid levels such as free T4 and free T3. Keep in mind that a doctor telling you your TSH is “fine” is not enough, because if your doctor is using the old standard normal range of .5 to 5, you could have a TSH of 4 and be told that you are “normal” but, in fact, your thyroid is not functioning adequately. Many doctors today are following the new, recommended TSH range of 0.3 to 3.0.  Free T4 and free T3 should be in the mid range of the reference levels instead of the low end for optimal thyroid function. Thyroid auto anti-antibodies are important to measure and evaluate in order to evaluate and balance the person.

Iodine is an essential element that enables the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. The body does not make iodine, so it is an essential part of your diet.

Selenium is a component of the enzyme that helps convert T4 to T3 so deficiencies of selenium may impair thyroid function and promote hypothyroidism.

Another important step is to determine if you are on the right drug for you. The majority of thyroid patients are started out on levothyroxine, synthetic T4 drug, usually the Synthroid brand. But if you are not feeling well on Synthroid, or whichever brand you are on, you may want to ask your doctor about trying a different brand. The brands all have different fillers and binding ingredients, and some are more easily dissolved/absorbed than others, so some people find they do better on one brand versus another. Common natural brand names include Armour Thyroid and Nature-throid. These are FDA-regulated, prescription drugs — not to be confused with over-the-counter, non-prescription thyroid glandulars that you can buy at the vitamin store. Armour Thyroid is a type of hormone that differs from other replacement therapy in that it provides both of the key thyroid hormones T4 and T3.

Can you head on down to the local health food store, pick up some supplements, make a few dietary changes, and fix your thyroid problem yourself ?  Probably not. Your thyroid hormonal balance is complex. Thyroid hormone is related to and interacts with many other hormones and neurotransmitters. High levels of Cortisol and inflammatory markers have been associated with decreased thyroid function. High levels of Cortisol  can directly lead to suppression of pituitary TSH secretion, and impair conversion of T4 to T3, and can impair serotonin function. Thyroid function and serotonin activity are highly linked. In hypothyroidism, serotonin production is reduced. Adequate serotonin production is necessary to maintain thyroid hormone levels. Both need to be addressed to optimize function.

Written By: Dr. Sharon Norling, MBA