By Dr. Jonathan Herbert, Special to the Mirror
As summer approaches, weight loss becomes a large topic in the health and wellness community. In the conversation of weight loss, the topic of thyroid regulation will soon pop up. This article unravels the mysteries of an imbalanced thyroid and provides information on how to identify and restore balance to the thyroid and its hormones.
For most people with thyroid imbalances, the thyroid is not the primary problem, but a secondary problem that is giving off the noticeable symptoms. Thyroid hormones are very sensitive to the health in other parts of the body and the hormones’ effectiveness can be changed dramatically by an imbalance in health in these other areas.
There are two hormones produced by the thyroid that are going to be discussed. The active thyroid hormone, T3, is produced in very small amounts from the thyroid. The inactive thyroid hormone, T4, is produced in much larger amounts so that it can be converted to T3 in other areas of the body, such as the digestive tract. This is one reason why the thyroid hormones are so sensitive to health in the other areas of the body. If the digestive tract is unable to convert the inactive hormone into the active hormone, then the thyroid has done its job correctly, but the symptoms of a thyroid imbalance can still appear. Up to 20 percent of the available active hormone will come from the digestive tract. This may explain why many patients have symptoms of low thyroid, yet their blood work is normal.
Another way thyroid hormone availability can be affected is through stress. When there is a large amount of stress, continuous stress, or both, the body releases cortisol to help. However, cortisol has the ability to reduce the amount of the active thyroid hormone that is converted from the inactive hormone. As most of us know, ongoing stress can be emotional but it can also be physical, such as a nagging injury, or it can be chemical such as a poor diet or a toxic exposure.
The first step for someone with thyroid symptoms is to identify whether the problem is an autoimmune disease or an imbalance in the hormone system. This is done through a blood test that identifies the level of thyroid antibodies. If the thyroid antibodies are high that means the body’s immune system is attacking the thyroid. The immune system is confused and needs to be looked at carefully to see why it has become confused. People with this type of thyroid problem, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, can have either hypothyroid or hyperthyroid symptoms, however, 50 percent-90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have an autoimmune thyroid disease. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common cause for hypothyroidism in the United States.
When the immune system problem has been ruled out, then take a closer look at the thyroid itself to see if it needs nutritional support to help produce the hormones. The health of the digestive system should also be considered, because as we talked about above, this is where many of the inactive hormones are converted to the active hormones.
It is immensely important to know if the problem is immune system confusion or hormone system imbalance. They are two entirely different paths toward proper health and must be identified before moving forward. This is why laboratory testing is so useful, it allows for identification of the underlying problem. Once it is identified it can be resolved it by supporting the body and returning it to a healthy state, instead of addressing only the symptoms.
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