Thyroid Dysfunction (low thyroid)
The adrenals and thyroid are part of your HPATG axis or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid-gonadal axis. This very intricate and complex system doesn’t work like a one way street but has numerous interconnected channels that are in constant communication with each part of the system. If one part of the system is working overtime due to chronic stress (adrenals) this will affect the output of the thyroid as well.
Cortisol in your blood signals to the regulators in your brain (hypothalamus and pituitary) to slow down. This is called a negative feedback loop. This in turn causes brakes to be put on the release of thyroid hormone.
The conventional medicine approach to evaluating thyroid function is to order a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) made by your pituitary. If the TSH value is within the VERY broad reference range then your doctor will say your thyroid is functioning just fine. Assessing the function of your thyroid goes beyond TSH. From a functional medicine perspective it involve all of these other values:
- TSH – thyroid stimulating hormone
- Total T3 – active hormone that is bound to protein
- Total T4 – has to be converted to T3
- Free T3 – active hormone that is unbound to protein
- Free T4 – has to be convert to free T3
- Reverse T3- inactive form, usually goes down this pathway due to stress
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies – auto antibodies created towards your thyroid gland
- Thyroglobulin antibodies- auto antibodies created towards your thyroid gland
- Thyroid binding globulin – protein that carries the thyroid hormones
These lab tests can be done with serum (blood) through most conventional laboratories. Your conventional medicine physician may not be able to fully interpret a expanded thyroid panel. Traditional medical training usually doesn’t cover expanded thyroid interpretation.
1. Food First – Research shows that there is a correlation between gluten intolerance and autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s for example). If your body is reacting to gluten it will make antibodies to it. The gluten molecule (gliadin to be specific) resembles proteins on your thyroid. Therefore, the antibodies made to gluten mistakenly attack your thyroid creating autoimmune thyroid disease.
- Try to do an elimination diet, 100% gluten free for a minimum of 4 weeks to see if your symptoms and/or labs results improve.
- Consider getting advanced gluten/wheat sensitivity blood testing done.
2. Treat leaky gut – Stress contributes to and worsens your gut barrier function causing leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability). When your gut is leaky your body is more likely to make antibodies to food. It takes a minimum of 23 days to clear this antibodies down by half their levels.
- Consider doing an autoimmune paleo nutrition protocol for a minimum of 4 weeks
- Add in gut healing and sealing supplements such as glutamine
- Replenish your microbiome by adding in probiotics
- Consider getting blood levels of leaky gut markers and/or stool testing of your microbiome
3. Stress Management – Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing to bring more oxygen to your organs and tissues. Start a 5 minute mindfulness meditation practice using apps such as Head Space or Insight Timer. Work your way up to 20-30 minutes of meditation in a day or at night. Take care of your social, emotional and spiritual needs by attending a place of worship, praying, and counseling to deal with underlying psychological stressors.
- Limbic system retraining – www.retrainingthebrain.com
- EMDR therapy
- EFT therapy
4. Exercise – Where is the time you ask? Start with a 1 minute morning rebounder workout (jumping on a trampoline) and work up to a 5-7 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) work out in the comfort of your own home. Look for 7 minute workout apps. If you have stairs at home or work go up and down the stairs several times as a form of exercise. Exercise is one of the most anti-inflammatory activity you can do for your body. Sitting is the new smoking, so get up and stand or walk around for 10 minutes every hour.
5. Supplements – Supplements are just what they sound like, supplemental to a food as medicine program. Nutrients that will help support your body’s ability to make thyroid hormone include: iodine, selenium, zinc and iron.
6. Thyroid hormone replacement – As a last resort when all other options have failed, you may need thyroid hormone replacement. The following are some options for thyroid medications:
- Glandulars – desiccated bovine or porcine thyroid glands that contain both T3 and T4
- T4 only
- T3 only
- T3 + T4
Your organs don’t work in isolation, they are in constant communication with each other and work together as a complex well oiled machine. Adrenal dysfunction can effect thyroid and sex hormone production. Treating the adrenals can often autocorrect thyroid and sex hormone dysfunction. It is important to consider other root causes of fatigue such as sleep disturbances, vitamin deficiencies, mitochondrial dysfunction etc.