The Thyroid – The Engine of our Vehicle
The Thyroid and it’s optimal or otherwise functioning, is beginning to land centre stage in my understanding as the driving force that is tipping the balance between optimal health and chronic disease.
The thyroid gland is in our throat and is interconnected with our endocrine system, metabolic processes and drives core vitality. It is central to governing the speed of our basic metabolism which drives the body core temperature levels and dictates the rate of our whole hormonal, circulatory and immune system functioning. Thyroid hormone gets us up in the morning, warms our toes at night and fires our immune system to fight cancer cells. The thyroid is our bodies engine and the more it revs the warmer and livelier we will be. So, is it working properly, are we testing it properly and are we treating it properly ? Well no, is the answer, not even close unfortunately, and with dire consequences to our nations health.
The list of symptoms associated with hypothyroid is long and commonly seen and often ignored, fatigue, weight gain, high cholesterol, cold extremities, slow movements, low libido, recurrent infections, joint stiffness, low basal temperature, hair loss, dry skin, constipation, migraines, IBS, high blood pressure, PMT, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and poor concentration. A long list for sure but it doesn’t stop there if you also look at the rising incidence of autoimmune disease which underlies so many chronic diseases.
The pituitary gland monitors thyroid hormone levels and produces TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, that stimulates the thyroid to produce T4, inactive thyroid hormone, that then gets converted to T3, active thyroid hormone, by the liver. But T3 is what the bodies thyroid hormone receptors actually need and want to join up with to ignite metabolic activity. So logically, if we apply scientific principle, we would wish to optimise our T3 level, to optimise our thyroid function and thereby derive all the health benefits from optimal metabolism. However, it doesn’t seem to work like this.
Your doctor, whilst trying to access your thyroid function, will only test for TSH, only test for T4 if your TSH is out of range and only test for T3 if he can get written consultant approval to do so.
This may well be ok apart for the now increasing substantiated fact that TSH, even if inside the normal range, is not a reliable indicator of normal thyroid function and unfortunately neither is a normal range T4. There are many factors that can adversely influence the TSH and T4 levels and co relation with optimal T3 levels is an absolute guessing game. T3 is king and only T3 levels will really tell you what’s going on – your doctor could do this privately for you for about £35.
So having established your under-active thyroid, what to do next ? Well your doctor will likely try and give you pharmaceutically synthesised T4, inactive thyroid hormone – levothyroxine. This is basically what I call ‘squiffy’. It’s not quite straight, slightly not bio identical to the bodies own natural hormone and often doesn’t work properly as it doesn’t quite fit the bill. Modern doctors like Dr Peatfield and Dr Brownstein more commonly recommend Armour or Erfa thyroid which is porcine thyroid glandular extract, available from the states which offers bio identical T4 and T3 in about the right proportions.
But taking HRT basically is also really not quite good enough alone, as we have an interdependent physiology and often the adrenal glands have to be supported first before taking thyroid hormone using perhaps bovine adrenal extract and other considerations should be taken into account, like tyrosine, selenium and iodine that need to be integrated into the correct protocol.
The first thing to do though, before you panic, is get a thermometer and test your early morning temperature in bed, before tea. It should be 37 C, or 98.6 F. Most of you will find it is in the low 36’s or some even as low as in the 35’s. This indicates hypothyroidism and I would get your TSH T4 and T3 tested and look at the following websites on the net. www.nahypothyroidism.org www.thyroiduk.org.uk www.tpauk.com