What and Where is the Thyroid Gland?
Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in the front of your neck. The thyroid plays an important role in your body’s energy and metabolism. The thyroid gland takes up trace minerals, such as iodine, selenium and tyrosine, and uses these to make thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones circulate through the liver, brain and several other organs in the body as part of the endocrine system. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, you can develop health problems.
If you have the following health concerns – It could be your Thyroid:
The Major Thyroid Hormones
To properly treat hypothyroidism, you must know all your T’s. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is secreted from the pituitary gland in the brain. Its’ primary function is to tell the thyroid gland to secrete additional hormones, T3 and T4. When the levels of the active hormones (T3 & T4) drop, or the gland stops responding adequately, TSH levels go up as the body tries harder to stimulate the thyroid. This is why hypothyroidism is characterized by high levels of TSH.
Thyroxine is the thyroid “storage” hormone. T4 is the most abundant hormone that is produced by the thyroid gland. T4 is made from the amino acid tyrosine combined with 4 atoms of iodine. Selenium and zinc are also used during the chemical reaction. Deficiencies in any of these four nutrients will lower the output of T4 and impair thyroid function.
Triodothyronine, or T3, is the thyroid “energy” hormone.” For the body to use T4, it must first convert it to the active hormone T3, giving energy to every cell in the body.
The problem with T4 is that it is a very weak hormone or otherwise, “inactive”. So if the majority of T4 is not easily converted into T3 in sufficient amounts for the body, low levels of T3 will result in symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Reveres T3 (rT3) is a critical hormone acting as the body’s “emergency brake.”
Reverse T3, is naturally made in small amounts by the body from T4. However, when the body encounters acute stress (illness or starvation) in order to conserve energy, the body will start converting more of the available T4 into reverse T3. This causes T3 (our energy hormone) levels to plummet. Not only will T3 levels start to fall, but the reverse T3 will bind to cell receptors and prevent the little T3 you do have from fueling all the cells in your body.
There are multiple antibodies that may implicate healthy thyroid function including TPOAb (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody), TGAb (Thyroglobulin Antibody) and TSI (Thyroid-stimulating Immunoglobulins). Elevated levels in these areas may indicate an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ Disease that could otherwise go unnoticed. In many Hashimoto’s cases, TSH, T4, and T3 remain within “normal” ranges.
If you have concerns about the state of your thyroid health, experience any number of symptoms discussed here or are trying to start a family, consider a Comprehensive Thyroid Panel. Sure, you have most likely had your TSH tested and perhaps landed within the normal range between 0.30 and 5.0 mU/L. That would be fine… if you felt fine!
However, proper thyroid function is dependent on optimal levels of multiple hormones, not just TSH. The optimal range of a healthy TSH is really between 1 and 2 mU/L and you should feel great.
If I suspect an individual to have hypothyroidism or early stages called “subclinical hypothyroidism”, I will order a Comprehensive Thyroid Panel (TSH, freeT4, freeT3 and TPOAb). Each individual and their constellation of symptoms along with history will help determine if any other testing should be considered (further thyroid markers of rT3 and TgAb, Adrenal Stress Index Test, 24-hour Iodine Challenge Test, 25-OH Vitamin D Screening, Heavy Metal Testing, etc).
Your Involvement is Key
After our initial visit and review of health concerns and tests results, coupled with an in-office thyroid exam and a basal metabolic read, we create a treatment plan together. There are many different ways to treat an individual with low thyroid function. Treatments can range from correcting nutritional deficiencies to botanical support to thyroid hormone replacement. Treatment with any thyroid hormone medication, or otherwise, requires careful monitoring and a partnership between doctor and patient. So it’s important to stay in touch with me and let me know how you’re feeling. A few monthly follow-up visits and retesting should get you back to feeling better again!