What is a Thyroid? | What does it do? | What can go Wrong? | Hypothyroid | Hyperthyroid | Autoimmune Thyroid | How do I know what I have? | What do I do now? | Print this Page |
The thyroid is an endocrine gland. It produces two primary hormones, T3 and T4. Both hormones require tyrosine and iodine for their production. The normal ratio of T4:T3 is approximately 20:1. The active form of thyroid hormone which binds to receptor sites is T3, and T4 converts to T3. Return to top
- Regulation of the basal metabolic rate including heat generation for the body
- It affects the body’s ability to make proteins to build muscle and heal from injuries
- Regulation of bone growth
- Regulation of protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism
- Assists in regulation of the amount and activity of serotonin, norepinephrine and GABA in the brain.
A thyroid which is not working correctly can lead to
- Increase or decrease in metabolic rate leading to weight loss or gain
- Increase or decrease in basal body temperature, which can profoundly affect fertility
- Altered protein synthesis, leading to slow wound healing, slower recovery from athletic injuries, chronic muscle aching, slower growth rate in children.
- Depression or anxiety due to effects on neurotransmitter function.
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There are 22 physiological pathways which can lead to issues with the thyroid. Some of these are related to only the gland, but most relate to the function of the pituitary gland or the immune system.
The pituitary gland monitors the amount of T4 circulating in the blood stream, and excretes TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more T4 if the level gets too low.
TSH is often the only thing tested to assess thyroid function. If TSH is in the normal range, most doctors determine that there is no issue with the thyroid and look for other causes of symptoms.
However, we talked above about two thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. TSH is ONLY responsive to T4. If a person has normal T4, but is unable to convert T4 to T3, she is likely to have symptoms of hypothyroidism despite normal TSH levels.
If the pituitary is not functioning correctly, it may not respond correctly to changes in T4, which may lead to over or under stimulating of the thyroid gland.
The immune system can produce antibodies against the thyroid gland, and attack the gland. When the thyroid gland is attacked, it dumps massive amounts of T4 into the bloodstream and the patient will show symptoms of hyper thyroid. Over time, the thyroid function will decline due to destruction of the gland tissue, and the patient will show signs of hypothyroid. 50 to 80% of hypothyroid patients have an autoimmune disorder which is destroying their thyroid. Return to top
- Weight gain
- Decreased body temperature
- Difficulty losing weight despite dieting
- Low energy
- Decreased appetite
- Depression or anxiety
- Increased need for sleep
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- Weight loss
- Difficulty maintaining a normal weight
- Increased energy or hyperactivity
- Increased body temperature without illness
- Inner tremors
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When we think of autoimmune diseases, we often think first of HIV, AIDS, or rheumatoid arthritis. However, when the immune system malfunctions antibodies can be made against any body tissue. Antibodies are markers which tell the immune system that something is foreign and needs to be destroyed. When the body produces antibodies against its own thyroid gland, the gland is gradually destroyed by the immune system.
If you have normal weight with symptoms of hypothyroid, it is very likely that your immune system is causing the problem. If you sometimes have symptoms of hyperthyroid, followed by periods with symptoms of hypothyroid, chances are that the immune system is at fault.
I am often asked if an autoimmune attack against the thyroid is an indicator of HIV. The answer is no. HIV is a virus which attacks the T-cells of the immune system, leading to the destruction of the immune system itself. While a person may have both HIV AND an autoimmune thyroid, they are not clinically linked.
The most common autoimmune thyroid diseases are Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease. Approximately 50-80% of people with symptoms of hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Return to top
If you have symptoms which are suggestive of thyroid disease, a blood test can help to determine what the problem is. A full thyroid work-up should include TSH, T4, T3 uptake, and Free Thyroxine Index (FTI). In addition, if autoimmune thyroid disease is suspected, tests for Thyroid Perioxidase Antibodies (TPO Ab) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGB Ab) should be run.
All of these laboratory tests can be ordered by Lisa Nicholson, L.Ac. Return to top
A percentage of thyroid cases require conventional medical care including thyroid replacement medication. However, many thyroid conditions can be easily managed with a combination of dietary changes and supplements. Auto immune thyroid conditions are particularly responsive to nutrition therapy and Chinese herbs.
At Eastern Body Therapy, we can order the appropriate lab tests to determine exactly what is causing your thyroid problems, and develop a customized treatment plan for your specific case. If you are already taking thyroid medication, we will work with you and your doctors to make sure there are no adverse reactions to the combined treatments. Return to top