How to tell if your thyroid is out of whack

By Dr. Joseph Kaye, Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Boston

The thyroid gland is a small gland in the neck that has an important job: producing the thyroid hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic function. These hormones also help to maintain a variety of physiological functions throughout the body.

A Sluggish Thyroid: Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid imbalance. It occurs when the thyroid gland is under-active and may cause many different symptoms, including:

  • General fatigue
  • Hair loss and dry skin
  • Weight gain (both fluid and fat)
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Low body temperature
  • Digestive problems (i.e., constipation, irritable bowel)

In some cases, hypothyroidism is the result of an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The immune system in people with this condition attacks and destroys the thyroid gland tissue. When damaged, the thyroid gland is not able to produce thyroid hormones at the levels that the body needs.

Low levels of thyroid hormones, overall, are not the only form of hypothyroidism. It’s also important that you body is properly converting the relatively inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3. To do any good in your body, T4 has to be converted into T3. This conversion occurs in the liver and is performed by a certain enzyme that relies on nutrients in your diet. So, if you have liver disease or a deficiency in the nutrients this enzyme needs to convert T4 into T3, you may experience hypothyroid symptoms despite having adequate levels of T4.

Under-diagnosed and Ineffectively Treated

Traditional thyroid tests only check for TSH or free T4 levels — they don’t check T3 levels. If your body is not converting T4 into T3, these tests may come up negative for hypothyroidism, even though you do not have adequate levels of the thyroid hormones your body can effectively use. The only way to evaluate your ability to convert T4 into T3 is to test for free T3 levels, which most physicians are not trained to do.

Many people have been theoretically treated for hypothyroidism but still have very low levels of T3. This is because the typical hypothyroid drugs, synthroid and lethothyroxine, only include T4. Since they still have a T3 deficiency, they continue to experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism. But there are many ways to treat this deficiency — and hypothyroidism, overall. In many cases, you may not even need medication.

Read the full article: Safe, Effective Hypothyroid Treatments

About Dr. Kaye
Joseph Kaye, M.D. received his Bachelors in Science, Magna Cum Laude from Pennsylvania State University and graduated with honors from Jefferson Medical College in 1989. He has completed a Surgery Internship, residencies in both Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and has obtained extensive postgraduate training and board-certification in Integrative and Holistic Medicine. He is a member of the Sigma Xi and Alpha Omega Alpha scientific and medical honor societies, a member of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the American Holistic Medical Association and the Institute for Functional Medicine.

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