What’s Wrong with your Thyroid?
Dr. Natasha Turner explains the science behind the thyroid-weight connection.Finally! Your answer to the age old question: is thyroid imbalance the cause of your weight gain or inability to lose weight?
We know that driving a car without gas in the tank is futile. Sure, you may last on fumes for a few miles, but in the end it will be very difficult to get to your destination. Your thyroid is no different when it comes to weight loss. According to the Canadian Thyroid Association, an estimated that 200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. Recent studies indicate that 30% – over 10 million people – suffer from a thyroid condition of one type or another. That means one in every three Canadians has a thyroid disorder, and of those, as many as 50% are undiagnosed.
Thyroid hormones regulate our metabolism and organ function. They directly affect heart rate, cholesterol levels, body weight, energy, muscle contraction and relaxation, skin and hair texture, bowel function, fertility, menstrual regularity, memory, mood and other bodily functions. Without enough thyroid hormone, every system in the body slows down. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism feel tired and tend to sleep a lot. Their digestion is slow and weight gain typically occurs. They can also experience extremely dry skin, hair loss, even slower mental processes. In fact, without enough thyroid hormone, attaining your perfect weight is almost impossible.
What’s really slowing your thyroid down?
- In order to boost your thyroid, we need to understand what’s causing the problem in the first place. Hypothyroidism is a complex disorder that can stem from a number of different causes, including:
- The thyroid may fail to produce enough thyroid hormone as a result of an autoimmune response against the thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or other problems with the function of the thyroid gland itself.
- Toxic levels of mercury, typically resulting from mercury fillings in the mouth or consuming large amounts of mercury-laden ocean fish, may inhibit thyroid gland function.
- High levels of estrogen or a converse deficiency of progesterone inhibits thyroid function. Many menopausal women using estrogen replacement therapy may develop the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Menopausal women who are already taking medication for hypothyroidism may also need to increase their dosage if they choose to use hormone-replacement therapy (HRT).
- High levels of stress hormone cortisol may prevent the activity of thyroid hormone in the body. It also prevents the conversion of thyroid hormone from the inactive (T4) form to active (T3) form.
- The excess consumption of soy-based foods and beverages may decrease the activity of thyroid hormone in the body.
- Nutritional deficiencies may prevent the proper manufacture or function of thyroid hormone in the body. For example, iodine and tyrosine are necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone, while selenium is necessary for the normal function of thyroid hormone. Many individuals with decreased thyroid hormone levels also have a zinc deficiency.
Symptoms to Watch For
The symptoms of underactive thyroid disease can vary, and not all individuals will show the same signs. If you, however, experience two or more of the following symptoms a thyroid imbalance could be at the root of your health concerns:
- Frequently feeling cold or having an intolerance of cold temperatures
- Dry skin, brittle hair and splitting nails
- Lack of or diminished ability to sweat during exercise
- Hair loss
- Irregular menses or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Poor memory
- Decreased libido
- Unexplained fatigue or lethargy
- Unexplained weight gain or an inability to lose weight
- Many individuals with hypothyroidism have associated iron-deficient anemia and/or high cholesterol
How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
It’s almost impossible to have a low body fat, let alone optimal health or fertility, with an improperly diagnosed or managed case of hypothyroidism. And four tests – TSH, Free T3, Free T4 and thyroid antibodies – are required to accurately assess the function of the thyroid gland, our master gland of metabolism. An optimal TSH should be less than 2.0, not the currently accepted 4.7 reported by most labs. T3 and T4 should be in the middle of your lab’s reference range and your thyroid anti-bodies should be negative.
Here is the catch: Many people experience thyroid symptoms even though their thyroid blood tests are reported to be “normal”. For instance, patients with weight gain, chronic low iron, hair loss, irregular periods and constipation even though their TSH is 2.64 (within the normal range), their Free T4 is 9.4 (normal range 7 to 21) and T3 is 4.2 (normal range 3.5 to 5.7) aren’t uncommon. Unfortunately, because there are so many factors influencing the production of thyroid hormone and activity of thyroid hormone in the body, it can be quite common to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism even with normal blood findings. Ultimately this means it is imperative for your doctor to treat you, versus simply your blood tests.
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