An estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, and more than half are undiagnosed. Frequently misunderstood, and too often overlooked, thyroid disease affects almost every aspect of the body. Understanding more about the thyroid and the symptoms that occur when it malfunctions can help you protect or regain good health.
Hypothyroidism is the condition in which the thyroid is underactive--in other words, it is producing an insufficient amount of thyroid hormones. It is the most common thyroid disorder. A condition called secondary hypothyroidism sometimes occurs when a failing pituitary gland stops stimulating the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones.
The thyroid has the only cells in the body capable of absorbing iodine. It takes in iodine, obtained through food, iodized salt, or supplements, and combines it with the amino acid tyrosine. The thyroid then converts the iodine/tyrosine into the hormones T3 and T4. The “3” and “4” refer to the number of iodine molecules in each thyroid hormone molecule. When everything is working properly, 80% will be T4 and 20% T3. T3 is considered the biologically more active hormone — the one that actually functions at the cellular level — and it is several times stronger than T4. When the thyroid releases T3 and T4 hormones, they travel through the bloodstream to help cells convert oxygen and calories into energy.
As mentioned above, the thyroid produces some T3. But the rest of the T3 needed by the body is actually formed from the mostly inactive T4 by a process sometimes referred to as “T4 to T3 conversion.”
This conversion of T4 to T3 can take place in some organs other than the thyroid, including a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, because the thyroid is part of a huge feedback process. The hypothalamus in the brain releases Thyrotropin-releasing Hormone (TRH), which tells the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This TSH circulating in your bloodstream is what tells the thyroid to make thyroid hormones.
There can be many causes for thyroid problems including overconsumption of soy protein (isoflavin) and powders, exposure to radiation, certain prescription drugs, surgical treatments of thyroid, over consumption or shortage of iodine in your diet, as well as an over consumption of uncooked “goitrogenic” vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, kohlrabi, and radishes. Women are at the greatest risk, developing thyroid problems seven times more often than men. A woman faces as high as a one in five chance of developing thyroid problems during her lifetime, a risk that increases with age and for those with a family history of thyroid problems.
Other risk factors include pituitary or endocrine disease, autoimmune disorders, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, menopause, smoking, post pregnancy, Fibromyalgia, and simply being a woman over 60.
Prescription drugs can be used to stimulate the thyroid, but research has shown that bio-identical hormonal treatments work best when a patient is confirmed to have “hypothyroidism”. Dr. Roberts first educates the person about the various options for treatment available, then tests for other hormonal deficiencies that may affect the T3 and T4, and finally bio-identically replace hormones to restore gland function. There are also natural supplements and vitamins that may be helpful in promoting good thyroid and hypothalamus gland health, including certain enzymes.
The goal of treatment is to restore the thyroid gland to normal function, producing normal levels of thyroid hormones. Yearly or biyearly checkups are usually required to ensure the proper dosage of thyroid hormones is taken. A patient usually takes thyroid hormones for the rest of his/her life. Dr. Roberts is one of the best-trained physicians in her area on bio-identical hormone replacement, and would be happy to work with you to optimize your thyroid health and wellness.