Typically discussion of hormones and women leads right to the sex hormones, especially estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Equally as important to body balance are the often forgotten thyroid hormones. Understanding how they work and what to do when they are out-of-balance can help you feel brand new again!
The thyroid hormones are the master conductors of metabolism in the body, and promote overall cell growth. How they work is a finely orchestrated dance:
TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is made in the pituitary gland in the brain, and sends a message to the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone ? the thyroid gland in the front of the neck makes T4 (thyroxine) -> T4 in then converted in muscle, bone and the liver to T3 (triiodothyronine) -> OR T4 is converted to reverse T3, an inactive substance (more on that later) ?
When the thyroid hormones are low, there is hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms felt are fatigue, constipation, hair loss or thinning, slow heart rate, dry skin, decreased reflexes, weight gain, depression, and elevated cholesterol. When things are too high, it is hyperthyroidism with symptoms of fast heart rate, diarrhea, tremors, anxiety, hair loss, and weight loss.
Understanding the balance of the thyroid can be done by blood testing TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3 and anti-thyroid antibodies (TPO). When the T4 -> T3 mechanism is working well, receptors in the cells are activated to properly work. If T4 -> Reverse T3, then the cell receptors are inactivated and T3 is actually blocked from working. If TPO is high, it means there is some type of inflammation going on – many times a gluten sensitivity.
Treating hypothyroidism involves correcting what part of the conversion is the problem, and typically is a multi-pronged approach:
- Nutritional – phasing out gluten for a period of time, foods rich in B5, B6 and vitamin C. Plenty of green vegetables and lean protein. Eliminating sugar and highly refined carbohydrates.
- Supplements – tyrosine, iodine and selenium can be helpful to boost particular points of the conversion process.
- Prescription medications that target the specific imbalance:
- Levothyroxine (T4) – Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, Levothroid®, Unithroid® in 25mcg to 300 mcg doses.
- Liothyronine (T3) – Cytomel® in 5mcg, 25mcg, 50mcg
- Liotrix (T3: T4 in 1:4 parts relationship) – Thyrolar®
- Dessicated thyroid (T3:T4, in 1:4.22 parts relationship) – Armour® Thyroid
- Compounded combinations for fine, individualized treatment that targets specific conversion problems.
When the situation is hyperthyroidism, the best way to treat is:
- Removal of toxic elements that are increasing metabolism, many times this is too much iodine.
- Blocking thyroid production with prescription drugs such as methimazole or propylthiouracil.
- Slowing down metabolism with prescription beta-blockers.
- Stop the production from the thyroid by radiating the gland itself.
While a little complicated, balancing the thyroid hormones will give your body the energy it needs to perform to perfection. And when energy is good, then taking charge of new year “beginnings” is pure joy.