Chronic Stress & Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal glands take the leading role when it comes to managing stress through the production of cortisol. Research shows that adrenal fatigue has an impact on thyroid function. Even at a mild degree of deficiency, adrenal fatigue can negatively affect thyroid hormone conversion, utilization, and production. For example, high stress can cause too much cortisol in the circulation which promotes inflammation around the thyroid, and this reduces thyroid receptor responsiveness. Therefore, when treating thyroid issues with medicine or therapy it’s important to address the adrenals, this connection, and to care for them both effectively.
90% of cases of hypothyroidism are due to an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland by either thyroperoxidase antibodies (TPOAb) or by thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. What this means is that the body creates immune cells that attack the gland so that its function – and a person’s health – declines over time. This condition can be triggered by gluten in gluten-sensitive individuals. Similarly, in these people, gluten avoidance for at least 3 months may help lower antibody levels to a normal range.
Thyroid Conversion Disorder
In some cases, the conversion of T4 into T3 doesn’t function properly due an enzyme issue or otherwise. Test results will show normal levels of TSH and T4 but severely low levels of T3. Commonly, in these cases, patients are often told by their doctors that their thyroid function is “normal” even though they do not feel normal! This is also why some patients who receive medication or therapies that only supplement T4 levels may feel like the treatment is ineffective.
Thyroid Hormone Resistance
Thyroid hormone resistance can be thought of in the same way as insulin resistance is in diabetics. In this condition, the body’s cells are unresponsive to thyroid hormones. In these individuals, T3 and T4 levels can be normal but TSH levels are elevated.
For proper function and the creation of thyroid hormones, the thyroid gland requires the trace minerals iodine, selenium and zinc as well as an amino acid, thyroxine. Deficiency in any of these nutrients can create symptoms of hypothyroidism. Iodine is found in iodized salt and sea vegetables (such as nori and dulse flakes). I have come to find that iodine deficiency is more prevalent than previously given credit for (a 24 Hour Urine Iodine Challenge Test can determine this). The trace mineral Selenium is abundantly found in Oysters and Brazil nuts, and Zinc is rich in pumpkin seeds and beef. Thyroxine is the amino acid building block of thyroid hormones and can be found in most sources of protein.
Heavy Metal Toxicity and Mercury
The thyroid hormone and the heavy metal mercury have strikingly similar biochemistry. The long term exposure of this metal wreaks havoc on the thyroid gland and a person’s health, with these negative effects typically being experienced by dental patients who have currently have or previously had mercury amalgams. Sometimes it is prudent to screen for heavy metal toxicity and high levels of mercury that may be causing thyroid suppression. Heavy metal testing, followed by Chelation Therapy for removal of mercury from deep tissue stores is one naturopathic way to treat the underlying hypothyroid condition.
In rare cases, disorders of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus in the brain may be an underlying cause for central Hypothyroidism (AKA secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism). There are usually other concerning symptoms (beyond the list seen on this page) that would warrant imaging and more advanced hospital testing.