Prescription medications for hypothyroidism are very common in the United States. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists studies have shown that as many as 10 percent of women and 3 percent of men have hypothyroidism (low thyroid activity). The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck below your Adam’s apple. It secretes thyroid hormones that have pronounced effects on the cells of your body.
The two main thyroid hormones include T3 (liothyronine) and T4 ( L-thyroxine). Another thyroid hormone known as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates the secretion of T3 and T4. This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland when it senses blood levels of thyroid hormones are getting low. It also receives messages from the brain (hypothalamus) that influences TSH secretion. When the hypothalamus senses blood levels of thyroid hormones it signals the pituitary gland to release more TSH. It is secreted by the pituitary and then signals the thyroid gland to release more of T4 and T3 hormone.
Thyroid hormones control the metabolic activity in every cell. This is important for temperature control, weight regulation, heart rate, and energy production. Thyroid activity even influences one’s mood and neurotransmitter balance and affects the balance of other hormones in the body. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is under active. This leads to a shortage of thyroid hormones. The most common cause is a disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.This is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system produces antibodies to the thyroid gland. This attack on the thyroid gland leads to the suppression of thyroid hormone production and secretion. Other reasons for hypothyroidism may include iodine and other nutritional deficiencies, stress, pregnancy, medications such as lithium or estrogen therapy, and an under functioning pituitary gland.
Hypothyroidism is most common in middle-aged and older women. It can occur at any age though, including infants and teenager. Untreated hypothyroidism can be life threatening.
It is Dr. Stengler’s experience that many cases of hypothyroidism are undiagnosed. A common scenario is the patient who has several hypothyroid symptoms but no abnormal blood test results. Their doctor refuses to treat the patient for hypothyroidism without abnormalities in their tests. Many of these patients are what is termed sub-clinical hypothyroidism. That is to say they exhibit symptoms of low thyroid but their blood tests have not revealed a deficiency. Many of these patients’ symptoms improve tremendously from thyroid support with natural therapy (including nutritional supplements) or carefully monitored bio-identical thyroid hormone replacement.
For more information on treating low thyroid with natural therapies, read Dr. Stengler’s article, “Could you have low thyroid and not know it?”
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, intolerance to cold, and poor memory. Since thyroid hormones affect all cells of the body there are many other signs and symptoms including:
Dr. Stengler recommends that when your thyroid hormone levels are being assessed that you get a complete thyroid panel. Many doctors only order a TSH test. While it is used as a general screening it fails to detect many cases of hypothyroidism. A thorough thyroid panel would include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Do note that many holistic doctors and emerging studies are showing that an optimal TSH level to be 0.3 milli IU/L to 2.0 milli IU/L.
Testing one’s body temperature is important too. It is best done immediately upon awakening with as little movement as possible. Record the readings on three consecutive days. For women still menstruating, it is best to test on the first three days of your cycle. If the average temperature is less than 97.8 F then you may have hypothyroidism.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Alcohol and nicotine are enemies of the thyroid gland and should be avoided.
Regular exercise is important to normalize stress hormone such as cortisol that can impair thyroid function. Fifteen to thirty minutes five times weekly. Consult with your doctor first before beginning a program. Avoid excessive consumption of soy foods. While there is no conclusive human evidence that soy foods or soy supplements suppress thyroid function, it is advised those prone to low thyroid use soy products in moderation until further research is completed in this area.
Various supplements are used by Dr. Stengler including iodine, thyroid glandular, ashwagandha, selenium, and others.
BIO-IDENTICAL THYROID HORMONE REPLACEMENT
Bio-identical thyroid hormone replacement
For patients requiring hormone replacement Dr. Stengler prescribes bio-identical thyroid hormone replacement. The advantage of these medications is that they contain both of the dominant thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). In addition they contain the other thyroid hormones known as T2 and T1. Most synthetic medications contain only thyroxine (T4). Triiodothyronine (T3) is the most dominant thyroid in the human body and often is not a component of conventional thyroid hormone replacement.