Prescribing thyroid hormone (Synthroid, Armour, etc.) is becoming more and more popular among doctors when treating patients with fatigue, memory loss, cold hands and feet, muscle and joint pain, depression, high cholesterol, hair loss, constipation, and other general symptoms that are difficult to manage with traditional medical treatments. These individuals tend to respond well to thyroid hormone initially (2-3 months) but then the benefits seem to diminish and higher doses need to be prescribed. Furthermore, many of these patients report symptoms such as dry eyes, dry and bleeding nasal passages, and dry hair and skin. Some also report an increase in hair loss. Here is a more in depth list of some of the side effects seen with taking Synthroid (levothyroxine).
Now for a quick overview (I’ll try not to bore you to death) of what you should know about thyroid hormone: The thyroid gland makes two types of thyroid hormone, T4 and T3. T4 is not very active in the body but T3 is the active form. So you must be able to convert T4 into T3 in order to use thyroid hormone. The healthy person takes the inactive T4 and transforms it into the active T3 in other areas of the body, such as the liver, gut, and other peripheral tissues. T3 is the thyroid hormone that works to increase an individual’s metabolism thus giving them energy. Basically, you must make enough T4 AND be able to convert that mostly inactive T4 into the active T3 in order for proper thyroid function to occur.
Certain nutrient deficiencies, environmental toxins, dysfunction in other body systems and stress can all lead to a decreased production of T3 or an increased production of Reverse T3 (rT3). Reverse T3 is not usable by the body and if you have an overabundance then it can lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism. People may also develop a resistance to thyroid hormone. This simply means that even though you are making enough T3, you cannot get that T3 into your cells because something (usually another hormone such as cortisol) is blocking the hormone receptor for T3 on those cells. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include, but are not limited to:
- Weight gain/Difficulty losing weight
- Hair loss
- Brain fog
- Cold intolerance
- Low mood
Dysfunction in other systems can also lead to less available thyroid hormone and therefore lead to hypothyroidism. Some of these include estrogen dominance (female hormone imbalance), adrenal fatigue, intestinal dysbiosis (overgrowth of harmful bacteria), high/low blood sugar (dysglycemia), low testosterone and a dysfunctional immune system. In fact, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition, is the number one cause of hypothyroidism (accounting for approximately 90% of cases). Unless you address the dysfunctional immune system, your symptoms will never resolve. The thyroid gland itself is very rarely the problem. It is usually another organ or system that causes the thyroid to go awry.
This is the beauty of functional medicine. Instead of solely looking at the thyroid, figure out what is causing the thyroid to act erratically. When it comes to hypothyroidism, other systems need to be evaluated in order to get to the bottom of the problem. Remember, the thyroid gland itself is rarely the problem. Something else (dysregulated adrenal glands, dysglycemia, dysbiosis, etc.) makes it act funky. So instead of just having your labs look good, let’s get you feeling good as well.
If this approach makes sense to you then give our office a call to schedule your functional medicine consultation. We look forward to working with you.