The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of your neck. The thyroid has two side lobes, connected by a bridge (isthmus) in the middle and secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. Your thyroid commands control of every cell in your body. It helps regulate a vast number of things including your brain, heart, hair, nails, sex drive, and even your metabolism and digestion.
Because the thyroid is the queen of all hormones, it’s also responsible for many disorders that can cause a variety of symptoms such as constipation, depression, nervousness, fatigue, intolerance to heat, fluid retention, and muscle and joint aches. So, it’s no surprise that when your thyroid isn’t working well, nothing is working well.
The thyroid is extremely complex and unique to each individual so there is no “magic pill” for everyone. Different people, different triggers. Yes, one might share the same symptom(s) with another because there are common thyroid disorder symptoms but a comprehensive evaluation to gain insight into why someone is struggling with the symptom(s) is very important.
Here are five hidden common thyroid problems and what approach to take for each one:
- Autoimmune thyroid issues
90% of all cases of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) are autoimmune in nature. The most common autoimmune disease linked to your thyroid is Hashimoto’s disease. Surprisingly, your thyroid is not the culprit in this case but actually the victim. Your immune system is mistaking your thyroid for a virus and attacking it. In functional medicine, understanding the cause determines the solution.
Approach: To naturally manage the condition, you can start by supporting gut health with tools such as the elimination diet in addition to natural compounds such as Baicalin which will help promote regulatory T cell (Treg) and in return, balance the immune system.
- Thyroid hormone resistance
Again, this is not a thyroid “problem” but a cell receptor issue. Resistance to thyroid (RTH) is characterized by reduced end-organ responsiveness of thyroid hormone relative to circulating hormone levels. If cell receptors are blunted because of inflammation or toxins, your body will feel the effects of hypothyroidism despite having satisfactory hormones. In this case, your TSH will be normal but you will feel miserable.
Approach: Nutritional supplements like liposomal turmeric and resveratrol are two recommendations to dampen inflammation.
- Increase in thyroid-binding globulin
This is common with excess estrogen levels and women using birth control. Hormones are transported through the body on protein carriers. The thyroid’s specific transport carriers are known as thyroid-binding globulins (TBG). There can be a shortage of TBG just as there can be an elevated amount. When TBG levels are elevated, an increase of protein-bound thyroid hormones are likely which can’t be used by your body.
Approach: Support your detoxification pathways with herbs such as milk thistle and methylation pathways with methylated B vitamins to clear excess hormones.
- Hypothyroidism secondary to pituitary hypofunction
This is associated with chronic stress levels and chronic infections. Your thyroid only does what your brain tells it to do and in this case, it’s not being told to get to work. The hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis is the communication lines between your brain and thyroid. In this pattern, the pituitary gland that sits at the base of your brain isn’t communicating with your thyroid gland so it is failing to secrete TSH.
Approach: Recommendations would include natural brain-immune support tools, such as astragalus, olive leaf, rubidium, sage leaf, L-lysine, zinc, and vitamin C.
- Thyroid underconversion
Your thyroid gland produces predominantly inactive T4. This means that we must convert T4 to T3, called thyroid conversion, in order to have normal thyroid responses. This conversion takes place primarily in the liver and by the bacteria living in the gut mucosa. Conversion issues also include the conversion of T4 into an inactive hormone called reverse T3. Although inactive, reverse T3 will bind to your cell and block active T3 from doing its job or decrease the clearing of thyroid hormones.
Approach: First, you want to get your adrenal fatigue, gut, and liver health under control. Foods rich in selenium, zinc, and magnesium help make the enzyme needed for healthy thyroid conversion.
In summary, although following a natural treatment protocol involves eating well, taking certain supplements and addressing other lifestyle factors, you should keep in mind that different people will require different protocols. Another thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to taking supplements, different people will also require different dosages. So, it really is important to evaluate everyone on an individual basis and then make specific recommendations based on the findings.
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