I have had quite a few requests with regards to thyroid problems and therefore decided to share some information about Thyroid disorders in general starting from hypothyroidism. I believe that a holistic approach is the best solution agreeing in that with what dr. Brwonstein and prof. Lustig.
What is hypothyroidism?
In simple terms, it is a situation in which thyroid gland is releasing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone.
What are the symptoms?
There are many different symptoms among which these are the most prevailing:
- Cold hands and feet
- Cold intolerance
- Brittle nails
- Dry skin
- Chronic fatigue
- Hair loss
- Eyelid swelling
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness
- Poor memory
- Throat pain
As we can see, many from these symptoms are nonspecific which means that they can be a sign of many other illnesses as well, and unfortunately if they are misdiagnosed, the true illness won’t be discovered and an appropriate treatment may be delayed. It doesn’t mean of course that we should neglect any of them. In case of any doubts, I would always recommend not to try to treat it by yourself but go and see a medical specialist and undertake all the necessary objective tests.
Two words about thyroid gland
The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). Both of these hormones actively work inside the cell influencing the metabolism of the cells. An ideal situation is when there is an adequate amount of thyroid hormone, because all of the intracellular metabolism functions without a fail. However, when thyroid gland releases inadequate amounts of hormone, the metabolism of the cells will decline and we have hypothyroidism.
Because thyroid gland along with the entire endocrine system, influence directly and indirectly whole our body, it is quite right to say that it has major influence on all body’s functions and may lead to illness if dysfunction occurs.
Diagnosis may be divided into the conventional medicine approach and a holistic one. The conventional approach mainly relates to the measurement of a single blood test which is the thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH test). If this level is elevated, it means that pituitary gland “sees” a low thyroid hormone level, and TSH is secreted to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone. This mechanism works as a negative feedback where TSH secretion is declined by thyroid hormone (precisely speaking by a local concentration of TF3); so we can say that excess of thyroid hormone causes depletion of TSH secretion, and on the other hand: insufficiency causes excess. Unfortunately, when the level of TSH is within the normal range, many doctors will automatically exclude hypothyroidism.
Fortunately, these days there are many clinics where appropriate, objective tests are taken and physicians do not limit themselves to TSH level only, which may be misleading or incomplete, and in order to obtain a full picture of the condition they also make an USG of the thyroid gland, antibodies test or biopsy. Simply saying it is recommended to test the thyroid hormone and conduct an USG test, and other tests will depend on the results and diagnosis of the physician. For an experienced endocrinologist TSH test and USG test may give a lot of information on the condition (e.g. in case of the Hashimoto), however many specialists will strongly recommend to do T4 and T3 tests as well.
THS normal range is usually referred to these measurements:
TSH normal level: 0.4-4.5 mIU/L
TSH deficiency: >4.5 mIU/L
Holistic approach to hypothyroidism embraces a lot more information than just a blood test checking TSH. It usually includes all of the above mentioned tests, a detailed history of the patient’s illnesses, basal body temperatures, and other physiological features. It is good to remember, that TSH influence T4, inactive form, from which an active form T3 is being metabolised.
It is worth mentioning, that many times there is a situation where the process of activation of T3 from T4 is disturbed, which in turns leads to hypothyroidism; despite the normal level of TSH! Factors that may cause this process are nutrient deficiencies (i.e. low levels of chromium, iodine, iron, selenium, zinc, vitamins; A, B2, B6, and B12), medications (beta blockers, birth control pills, steroids), and also stress, alcohol, Lipoic Acid, Fluoride, Lead, Mercury, diabetes, obesity, pesticides, radiation, just to mention the most significant ones.
An important factor which can be monitored, to some extent at least, is feeling of cold hands and feet. As I wrote above, an adequate production of thyroid hormone influence the right metabolism of the cells. One of the “by-products” of this process is heat. Thermal regulation is extremely important for keeping an adequate body temperature; we remember that particularly during winter! Unfortunately, in case of hypothyroidism, metabolism also slows down. Because of that, persons suffering from hypothyroidism often complain of being cold, particularly cold feet and hands. Maintaining fairly stable body temperature is one of the most important functions of the thyroid gland. Appropriate functioning of many enzymes, absorption of vitamins and minerals, and biochemical reactions depend on the accurate body temperature.
Sometimes we can observe an “external”, physical signs of hypothyroidism, like: poor eyebrow growth, especially the outer bit of it, or periorbital edema, or swelling under the eyes.
In the light of the above information, it's quite vital to diagnose hypothyroidism not only with regards to TSH blood test! It is important to include other objective tests, conduct an appropriate medical history check, seek for physical signs and symptoms in order to obtain the right diagnosis which will lead to the appropriate treatment.
In the conventional treatment, the main focus is to use a synthetic form of T4, like Levothyroxine™, Synthriod™, Levothroid™, Unithroid™, Euthyrox™, or Eltroxin™. Unfortunately, there are many side effects.
The holistic approach seems to be a much better solution; where every effort is to support the body in a natural restoration of homeostasis and elimination of the causes of the hypothyroidism. This natural approach is much better way than forcing thyroid gland by applying synthetic T4, mostly for life, hoping that this will force thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
Apart from iodine therapy (appropriate in some cases), other natural, desiccated thyroid glandular products (porcine derivatives) are used, e.g. Armour Thyroid which contains both T3 and T4, Westroid™, or Nature-Throid™.
I will always emphasise that hypothyroidism should be treated by a specialist, medical professional; it is not advised to do it “on-your-own”. This disease is complex and requires specific knowledge and experience during treatment.
This is, I guess, in a nut shell how a hypothyroidism looks like. There are, of course, much more information to be taken under consideration and we could spend hours discussing them. I will write more about thyroid treatments in next articles including controversial iodine treatment, objective tests (including USG, anti-bodies test, or thyroid scintigraphy), thyroid enlargement, thyroid inflammation, norms of thyroid tests, thyroid diseases in pregnant women, Hashimoto disease, Grave-Basedof disease.
Adam Przygoda, ND
Article written by Adam Przygoda - Northampton
Adam Przygoda, ND
TCM and Orthomolecular Medicine specialist. I have begun medical study from an Acupuncture course completed at the Open International University in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Next got back and continued studying integrated medicine and graduated from the International University, College for Naturopathic Medicine in Sri Lanka. Postgraduate study is being... [read more]