Feeling fatigued, can’t seem to lose weight, or your hair might be falling out and you don’t know why?
Maybe your doctor has run a TSH test on you based on your symptoms but it came back in the “normal” range. They then put you on an anti-depressant because you are stressed, tired, and don’t have much motivation. This happens so often these days, especially when tests are within range and doctors are limited in the time they can spend with a patient – they move on. The Thyroid Gland is called the canary in the coal mine, meaning that it is an early warning sign that something else is going on in the body that needs to be addressed. The main things that cause the thyroid gland to not function at optimal levels include stress, toxins (including medications), infections, and estrogen dominance. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Stress causes the Thyroid Gland hormone called T4 to be converted to a hormone called T3 Reverse, essentially putting the brakes on the thyroid. This is good when you are being chased or you need to fight off an attack. It is not good when you are sitting in traffic or work at a job that causes constant stress. Essentially, stress is turning off the thyroid as an adaptation.
Next, one needs to determine if you are converting your T4 thyroid hormone into the active form called T3 – which is done in the liver. If the liver is being bogged down by toxins or you have a fatty liver issue from eating too many refined carbs, you will not convert to the active form very well. We look at a Total T4 and Total T3 to see if you have an issue with conversion. Liver enzymes and GGT lab tests are also useful in determining if you have this issue. Another concern is when someone is placed on a T4 medication – T3 levels are rarely checked to see if they are actually converting the medication over as they are supposed to.
Infections are an often overlooked cause of hypothyroidism. One of the big infections is the Epstein Barr Virus, otherwise known as the Mono Virus. It is said that 95% of the population carries the virus. The virus has been found in biopsy’s of the thyroid gland, meaning that the virus sets up shop in your thyroid. Your body still recognizes this as being a virus, so it sends antibodies to attack it. When your body attacks your thyroid, it also raises your thyroid antibodies which can lead to an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. Getting your thyroid antibodies checked would be a great way to see if you have this issue going on. We also like to run a CBC with Differential to see if you have an infection going on in your body.
Lastly, too much of the hormone Estrogen (think birth control as well) can slow down the conversion of thyroid hormone in the liver. As we saw earlier, this lack of conversion if often missed and is an early sign that something is occurring in the body. Getting your hormones evaluated with a DUTCH test is a great way to see how your liver is breaking down estrogen.
All of the above factors will affect your ability to lose weight. Many people continue to gain weight and go undiagnosed with hypothyroidism even though their labs say they are “normal”. Addressing the root cause of hypothyroidism is key – whether it is stress, chronic infections, or estrogen toxicity – you can help your body function better. It is not necessarily just about moving more and eating less. Now, don’t get me wrong – if you are sitting on the couch, not moving much and eating processed food all day – you need to start there. But, if you are still having trouble with weight gain after your diet is cleaned up and you have been getting in your steps, then looking deeper is key. Much of this is rarely talked about by many doctors. Patients suffer for years until their thyroid is finally so out of function that their TSH rises to an out of range (abnormal) level. Having your thyroid evaluated by someone who will look at the whole picture is key to finding out what is wrong.