What is Thyroid Hormone?
Thyroid is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland that regulates the body’s metabolism – how it consumes energy, reacts to other hormones, and its production of proteins (example: hair and nails). The thyroid gland has an impact on energy levels, weight regulation, skin, hair, and nail quality, body temperature regulation, as well as many other factors that affect quality of life.
There are two main thyroid hormones, Thyroxine, also known as T4, and Triiodothyronine, also known as T3. T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone that is stored in the body until it needs the active form T3, at which point a healthy functioning metabolism will convert the proper amount of T4 to T3. Both hormones are produced by the thyroid gland, however it is thought that only around 20% is the active form T3, which is not sufficient to meet the body’s needs. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough T4, or when the body doesn’t properly convert T4 to T3, symptoms of hypothyroidism begin to present themselves.
The most common type of thyroid dysfunction is due to a condition called “hypothyroidism”, in which the thyroid gland is either not producing enough thyroid hormone T4, or the body is not properly converting the hormone to its useful form T3.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by a number of factors, including nutrient deficiencies (specifically Selenium, Iodine, and Zinc), adrenal imbalance (high cortisol caused by excessive stress, poor diet, toxic exposures, etc.), high estrogen, low Vitamin D, and low progesterone.
Notably, women are far more likely than men to be afflicted with thyroid problems. The great majority of these women suffer from hypothyroidism, which leads to fatigue, weight gain, depression, high cholesterol and other symptoms. A fraction suffer from hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men, probably because hormonal imbalance acts as a trigger for thyroid problems. Women’s bodies have a delicate balance of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which can be upset when your body is under stress and not receiving enough support. Perimenopause, menopause, and pregnancy are times in a woman’s life when hormonal imbalance is particularly common, and are also associated with hypothyroidism.
In addition to hormonal imbalance, other conditions often cause or contribute to hypothyroidism. This is why it is so important to look at the body as a set of interconnected systems, rather than isolating the thyroid as a single entity.
The Thyroid and Weight Gain
Because patients with an underactive thyroid tend to have a very low basal metabolic rate, one of the most noticeable symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain and difficulty losing extra weight. A minority of women with hypothyroidism don’t gain weight. The difference arises from their individual biochemistry, the quality of the calories they consume, and how they use those calories.
Often the “metabolic burn” continues to fall as calories are reduced when dieting. That’s why some women with low thyroid can have weight gain even when they severely restrict calories. In order to fix your metabolism, you have to understand your entire health picture, not just your thyroid.
More women than men suffer from hypothyroidism, and many more women than men with thyroid issues have problems with weight gain. Most thyroid problems occur within the gland itself and often don’t reveal themselves until a broader pattern of hormonal imbalance develops. That’s why thyroid issues, menopause and weight gain often appear together.
The adrenals and Insulin
There are so many symptoms of adrenal imbalance that are similar to thyroid disorders that this often leads to confusion in distinguishing between the two. There is speculation that adrenal stress impairs thyroid function because it causes overproduction of cortisol, blocking the efficient conversion and peripheral cellular use of the thyroid hormones at many levels. We don’t have data on this, but this seems to be what we observe in clinical practice. For this reason we evaluate and, if appropriate, test for adrenal function in combination with thyroid testing.
Similarly, insulin resistance presents many of the same symptoms as hypothyroidism, is often found to coexist with it, and may play a role in contributing to its development. Insulin resistance is itself tied to poor nutrition, which impairs thyroid function. Women with hypothyroidism symptoms should also be evaluated for insulin resistance.
As you can see, thyroid imbalance can be the result of a variety of imbalances including low Vitamin D, low iodine, low iron, high estrogen, insulin, high cortisol, and low progesterone. Without accounting for and adjusting all of these factors to their proper balance, it is difficult to treat thyroid imbalance even with medication. If these other factors are not addressed, it is highly possible to be on thyroid medication and still retain the symptoms of thyroid imbalance.
If you’re looking for a better way to better health, the Divinity Wellness Clinic is for you. We believe in providing clinically proven treatments and care that put your wellbeing ahead of out-dated thinking and pharmaceutical company profits. Through ground-breaking hormone replacement therapies, as well as comprehensive women’s health services, we have helped thousands of women and men to regain their physical and mental vitality. Call for an appointment today.