Symptoms of a poorly-functioning thyroid are becoming more and more common: fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, depression, and digestive issues, to name a few. And although they’re most likely related to something having to do with thyroid hormones, the problem may not originate from the thyroid itself. More often than not, something’s not quite right somewhere else in the body, outside of the thyroid.
A Family Affair
The thyroid is part of a collection of glands known as the endocrine system. Just like in a family, each of these glands has certain roles and responsibilities, releasing certain hormones that help your body feel strong and healthy. But when even one of these glands is not performing as it should, the other family members (glands) can become dysfunctional, leaving you feeling less than your best. Things like excessive stress, hormone imbalances, use of bioidentical hormones, birth control pills or even over-the-counter skin care products can have an impact on how well your endocrine system is functioning, including the thyroid.
The thyroid is unlike the other endocrine glands as it produces two specific hormones – T4 and T3 – both of which are made from iodine. T4 is the primary hormone, making up roughly 95% of the total produced with a mere 5% of T3. But interestingly, T4 is the inactive hormone which, in order to be effective, needs to be converted into the active hormone, T3. And the majority of this important conversion happens in the liver and along the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. When this conversion isn’t working well, you won’t feel well.
The thyroid’s primary job is to produce T4, which it does quite well. Since T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone, symptoms of a poorly-functioning thyroid have less to do with T4 and more to do with the conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver and along the gut lining. Unless a blood test indicates you have extremely low T4, your presenting symptoms are more likely correlated with insufficient T3 as a result of poor conversion in the liver and digestive tract.
Still, conventional medical providers continue to assume that giving T4 in the form of Synthroid or other similar prescriptions is the solution for any kind of thyroid problem. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you genuinely have poor T4 production in the thyroid and the goal is to manage symptoms, this might be a good option. But more often than not, the prescription does not improve the original symptoms and you’re left feeling just as crummy as you were before.
A Better Solution
Finding a better way to have a healthy thyroid starts by finding a practitioner who understands the thyroid from a holistic perspective. He or she will order a comprehensive blood test for you that looks at both T4 and T3 to determine whether the issue lies within the thyroid itself or if something’s not quite right with your T4 to T3 conversion. Even underlying nutrient deficiencies can contribute to a dysfunctional thyroid which, sadly, are not typically mentioned by your medical doctor.
Once your practitioner has all the information in hand, he or she can work with you to develop a strategic plan aimed at addressing the underlying cause(s) to help you feel better and improve your overall health. The time and effort spent investing in your own health will pay HUGE dividends later on. Don’t waste time chasing symptoms or using Dr. Google to self-diagnose. Find someone who understands the issue and then trust them to help you get back to feeling at your very best!