Thyroid Health

Overview

Millions of people suffer from depression, fatigue, weight gain, and cognitive impairment, believing that they have no choice but to accept these seemingly age-related declines in quality of life.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid function) is often overlooked or misdiagnosed and can be the underlying cause of these symptoms. Patients often disregard these common signs of thyroid hormone deficiency, mistaking them for normal aging. Thyroid disease occurs about five times more frequently in women than in men, with as many as 20% of women over 60 years old suffering from hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) afflicts fewer people than hypothyroidism, yet the symptoms can be equally disconcerting. Hyperthyroidism compromises bone health, elevates blood glucose levels, and often causes anxiety.

A Brief Review of Thyroid Gland Physiology

The thyroid gland, located just below the Adam's apple in the neck, is filled with an iodine-rich protein called thyroglobulin along with the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and small amounts of triiodothyronine (T3). The production of T4 and T3 in the thyroid gland is regulated by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, both centrally located in the brain.

These two hormones regulate metabolism by controlling the rate at which the body converts calories and oxygen to energy. The metabolism of every cell in the body is regulated by thyroid hormones, primarily T3.

T3 is the biologically active form of thyroid hormone. The majority of T3 is produced in the peripheral tissues by conversion of T4 to T3 by a selenium-dependent enzyme. Increased stress produces cortisol and thyroid activity, while various factors including nutrient deficiencies, drugs, and chemical toxicity interfere with conversion of T4 to T3. Oral contraceptives, pregnancy, and conventional female hormone replacement therapy lower the amount of free thyroid hormone available.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Hypothyroidism produces fatigue, weakness, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, unexplained weight gain, dry skin, hair loss or coarse dry hair, muscle cramps and depression. If hypothyroidism goes untreated, the signs and symptoms could become severe, such as a swollen thyroid gland (goiter), slow thought processes, or dementia. Subclinical hypothyroidism, an often under-diagnosed thyroid disorder, manifests as elevated TSH, normal T4 and normal T3 levels.

In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, significantly accelerating the body's metabolism. Typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism include muscle weakness, sleep difficulties, increased appetite, sudden weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness or irritability. Hyperthyroidism affects about one percent of the population.

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level is the most common test for screening for thyroid dysfunction. In the last decade the diagnostic strategy for using TSH measurements has changed as a result of the sensitivity improvements in these assays. However, while a measure of TSH alone is a useful screening tool in assessing thyroid function, assessment of free T3 and T4 levels provide a more complete evaluation of the thyroid. No single measurement of TSH should be considered absolutely diagnostic due to daily fluctuations at time of testing.

Medical Treatment

Hypothyroidism in America is most commonly diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder named Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The body's immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid tissue and impairs the ability to make hormones. Hashimoto's disease is treated with thyroid hormone replacement drugs. Conventional treatment almost always begins with synthetic T4 (levothyroxine) preparations like Synthroid or Levoxyl. Low doses are usually used at first because a rapid increase in thyroid hormone may result in cardiac damage. Armour thyroid, Nature-throid, and Westhroid are prescription medications that contain desiccated porcine thyroid gland, natural thyroid extracts which have been used since 1892.

Hyperthyroidism is often medically treated by the following methods:

  • Anti-thyroid drugs, such as methimazole or propylthiouracil, inhibit the production of T3.
  • Radioactive iodine, which causes destruction of the overactive thyroid gland.
  • Surgical removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy).
  • Beta-blockers may be used to control the high blood pressure and increased heart rate associated with hyperthyroidism.

 

 

How We Can Help

For 90% of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disease. While Synthroid and Armour may normalize TSH, they do not manage the debilitating symptoms of the body's autoimmune response. Additionally, pituitary and adrenal function play an elaborate role in hypothyroid symptoms. All of these neurological and glandular systems are highly susceptible to toxins and dietary influences. For instance, patients should strictly avoid gluten, which is very strongly linked to hypothyroidism.

Chiropractors do not treat the diagnosis of thyroid problems. Chiropractors exist in the healthcare field as those who address primary prevention and determine the underlying causes of chronic health problems. We treat the entire patient along with their organ and glandular physiology and are, therefore, uniquely qualified to conservatively address thyroid dysfunction.

By understanding functional medicine and the intricate mechanisms of human physiology mentioned above, Divine Design uses lifestyle management and specific nutritional compounds to correct a patient's dysfunctional physiology, allowing the body to renew, restore, and recover its inborn healing capacity.