Do a google search about low thyroid function (hypothyroid), and you’ll find weight gain on the list of key symptoms. You’ll also find cold intolerance, dry skin, and thinning hair.
In this article, we’ll explore answering the question once and for all. We’ll also explore some other systems that warrant investigating if you want a comprehesive solution.
Is it my thyroid?
If you go to your regular doctor and ask to have your thyroid checked, you’re doctor is likely to order a test to measure thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This test measures the signal from the brain telling the thyroid to do something. Unfortunately, the vast majority of doctors do not order further tests. They will often find a “normal” TSH and tell you that you’re fine.
This is a problem for a few reasons.
First, as mentioned above, TSH represents the signal from the brain to the thyroid. It does not give any indication to how the thyroid responds to the message. As a mother, I think of this as wanting to know if my son’s room is clean and then “measuring” whether or not I told him to clean it. In other words, it doesn’t tell me much.
In order to find out how the thyroid responds to the brain’s request, it’s necessary to measure the actual thyroid hormone – T4. But even this doesn’t give the full picture because T4 is a relatively inactive hormone. The cells of the body activate it by cleaving an iodine, turning it into T3, the real mover of your metabolism.
So at the very least, to better assess thyroid function, you need to see TSH, T4 and T3.
Secondly, the reference range for TSH is probably too broad. Currently it is approximately 0.15 – 4.9 (this can vary slighly depending on the lab used); but I regularly see women with TSH of 3 even though theire T4 and T3 are far below optimal range. I rarely find women feeling great with a TSH above 2.4.
It is possible for your thyroid to work perfectly fine, producing plenty of T4 in response to your brain’s TSH, and for you to still feel the symptoms of low thyroid function.
That’s because some bodies aren’t very good at converting T4 to the active form T3. This enzymatic process requires sufficient amounts of vitamin D, B12, ferritin (the storage form of iron), selenium, magnesium, and other nutrients. This means that you can experience all of the symptoms of hypothyroid simply because you lack the key nutrient necessary to activate thyroid hormone.
how thyroid hormone works (other considerations)
Thyroid hormone does not work in a vacuum. It has a profound influence on your metabolism, but it does this by activating your mitochondria – the intracelluar powerhouse that is responsible for ceullar energy production (ATP).
If your mitochondria lack the nutrients they need to keep the metabolic wheel spinning, sufficient (or even excess) levels of thyroid hormone will not improve weight loss of fatigue.
Worse yet, if you are deficient in mitochondria – which can result from too much oxydative stress – there is nothing for thyroid hormone to activate, and you must address mitochondrial health before you are positioned to achieve your desired results.
FYI – Mitochondrial health can e assessed with an organic acid test.
As I hope you now see, assessing thyroid is more complex than ordering a single simple lab. This is exactly why we order COMPREHENSIVE labs – including thorough blood work, an organic acid test, food sensitivity, digestive analysis, and hormone analysis. If you’re ready to look at all of the interrelated parts of your health, schedule a consult.