Your thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating your metabolism. The hormones it produces affect the activity of literally every cell in your body – including your brain. An underactive thyroid gland, or anything that interferes with the activity of thyroid hormones, can cause a wide array of symptoms including:
Mental and physical sluggishness;
- Difficulty with losing weight;
- Sensitivity to cold;
- Memory and concentration problems;
- High cholesterol level; and
- Menstrual irregularities in women.
Quite frequently, while reviewing clients’ blood tests, I notice subtle signs of thyroid underfunction that have not previously been recognised. The most common of these is a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone, which is released by the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid gland to release its hormones) level that is higher than optimal, although still within the pathology lab’s ‘normal’ range.
Often, the TSH level has been rising with each consecutive blood test over several years; but until it rises above the upper end of the reference range, it won’t be flagged as ‘abnormal’ by the lab. The standard medical approach is to wait until TSH exceeds the upper limit of the reference range, then prescribe synthetic thyroxine (thyroid hormone).
Rather than waiting until thyroid function is so impaired that treatment with thyroxine is the only viable option, I recommend addressing this problem when it is still in its early stages.
There are many factors that impact on your thyroid gland’s ability to produce enough hormones, and for those hormones to be effective. These include:
- An inadequate dietary intake of iodine, selenium or zinc which variously impairs the production of the main thyroid hormone, T4, and its conversion into the more active T3.
- High levels of cortisol, the hormone of chronic stress, which causes excessive production of reverse T3, or rT3. rT3 blocks the activity of T3 – even if your blood level of T3 appears normal.
- Low vitamin D level; vitamin D is required for thyroid hormone’s ‘message’ to get through to cells.
- Antibodies to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut, which can cross-react with the hormone-producing cells in the thyroid gland, causing them to be destroyed.