Thyroid Health - Everything you need to know about the Thyroid Gland


In anticipation of our upcoming group class Transform Your Thyroid, Transform Your Body, I wanted to share some useful information about  one of the largest endocrine glands in the body - The Thyroid Gland. We’ll show you how to shift your metabolism and emerge from thyroid symptoms like sluggishness, brain fog and weight gain using practical lifestyle tips, starting during the class!  

About The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at front of the neck above the trachea. As part of the endocrine system it produces and releases thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones affect metabolic rate and oxygen consumption of every tissue in the body thus influencing growth, brain function, dental development and bone formation. Due to the influence these hormones have on every tissue in the body, they play a major role in how well we feel physically and emotionally.


Types of Thyroid Disorders

There are various thyroid disorder which can affect a particular person due to various reason which are discussed further.  Here are the types of disorders pertaining to thyroid.

  1. Hyperthyroidism (abnormal increase in the production of thyroid hormones i.e. T3 and T4)
  2. Hypothyroidism (abnormal decrease in the production of thyroid hormones i.e. T3 and T4)
  3. Thyroiditis ( inflammation of the thyroid )
  4. Thyroid nodules


Symptoms of Thyroid dysfunction?

The thyroid gland can either be overactive or underactive and present with very different symptoms as discussed above. Lets look at some the symptoms as per the dysfunction:

Symptoms of under-active thyroid function - Hypothyroidism

  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Cold intolerance
  • Hair loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Carpal tunnel symptoms
  • Dyspnea- shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Menorrhagia- painful menses
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol

Symptoms of overactive thyroid function - Hyperthyroidism

  • Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and the amount and type of food you eat remain the same or even increase
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute — irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or pounding of your heart (palpitations)
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
  • Sweating
  • Changes in menstrual patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Skin thinning
  • Fine, brittle hair


Conventional Evaluation and Testing of Thyroid Levels

Thyroid function can be evaluated through conventional lab testing. It is important to measure not only TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) but also Free T4 (inactive thyroid hormone), Free T3 (active thyroid hormone) and Reverse T3. If you suspect or have an autoimmune thyroid condition, markers of an immune response to your thyroid should be checked such as TPO antibody, Anti thyroid globulin antibodies and thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin.


 Integrated Evaluation of Thyroid Levels

An integrative or holistic approach to evaluate the thyroid includes the conventional testing described above but also explores key nutrients  by doing the micro-nutrient Testing, and lifestyle interventions that can impact endocrine function.  Selenium for thyroid health has been the scientific key nutrient.  Other nutrients such as iron, zinc, B vitamins, iodine, and Vitamin D also play a vital role in thyroid hormone metabolism and absorption in our body.  As integrative medicine providers, we also evaluate adrenal function by measuring DHEA-S and cortisol levels. The adrenal glands and thyroid gland work closely together and must be in balance for both to function optimally.

How we live our daily lives also plays a large role in how much thyroid hormone we make and how it is distributed and absorbed in our body. Exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress levels, diet, exposure to toxins, caffeine and alcohol intake are all important in maximizing thyroid function. During an integrative medicine appointment, these factors are assessed and individual recommendations are made to help support your body.


Treatment- A Better Approach

In a holistic model, a treatment plan would include an individualized plan that addressed lifestyle interventions, supplement recommendations and if indicated prescription medication. There are several choices in thyroid replacement medications, summarized briefly below.

  • Levothyroxine (Synthroid)- synthetic T4 only medication
  • Armour or Natur-thyroid- porcine thyroid gland, contains both T4 and T3
  • Compounded extended release thyroid hormone- contains T4 and T3 in customizable ratio
  • Cytomel- synthetic T3 only

One of our goals is to inspire patients to take an active role in their own health so it is exciting to see this rise in patient self advocacy. Our holistic approach to thyroid disease includes a thorough laboratory and symptom assessment as well as treatment plans that include diet changes, supplements and several different medication options. Depending on the individual patient and lab values, we often find a compounded extended release T4/T3 medication yields great results in patients who have been struggling with hypothyroid symptoms. It is possible to feel great and have this disease!

As an Integrative Nurse Practitioner, I see and treat a lot of patients with thyroid disease. They often come to us after failing to get better with conventional treatment and knowing that there is a better approach to this endocrine disorder. A recent Wall Street Journal article explored the prevalence of patients dissatisfaction with traditional medicine's limited view on hypothyroidism. The article also noted the increase in the number of patients advocating for a more comprehensive assessment and treatment of thyroid disease.

While this a basic guide to thyroid health, we will explore these topics in detail and offer practical lifestyle tips to maximize your metabolism at our group class March 24, 2016. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Here is the powerpoint from the group class. Enjoy! Transform Your Thyroid Powerpoint