Thyroid disorders are very common: approximately 200 million people worldwide are affected. Thyroid disease is more common in women and the risk increases with age. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) may affect as many as 1 in 7 adults.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that play a part in many body processes, including growth and development, body temperature, water regulation and metabolism. Healthy thyroid function is important for energy, achieving and maintaining ideal weight and supporting overall health and a general sense of vitality.
The most common screening test for thyroid disease is a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. Many people have symptoms of an underactive thyroid but are told that there is no problem with their thyroid because their TSH level is “normal.” However, there has been a significant change in what is now considered a normal TSH level: in 2003 the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommended a narrower range for a normal TSH level in order to more accurately diagnose hypothyroidism. Most labs have not adjusted their ranges so a TSH test read as “normal” may actually show hypothyroidism. People previously considered to have normal thyroid function now are correctly diagnosed and treated for an underactive thyroid.
When the thyroid gland is underactive, the metabolism slows down and you may suffer from symptoms such as:
- Weight gain, especially in the stomach
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance/cold hands and feet
- Menstrual irregularities/PMS/infertility/endometriosis
- Decreased memory and difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety/panic attacks
- Low sexual desire
- Muscle and joint pain
- High cholesterol
- Swollen legs, feet, hands, abdomen and face
The thyroid predominantly produces thyroxine (T4) which is then converted by the liver to the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3). Hypothyroidism may be caused by an inadequate production of T4, but difficulty converting T4 into T3 can also be responsible. Inadequate T4 production may be caused by nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune thyroid disease, and adrenal stress. Many factors affect the conversion of T4 to T3 including nutrient deficiencies, liver disease, medications, and stress.
It is important to have blood tests that provide a complete picture of thyroid function. We measure levels of T4 and T3 production, assess how well the thyroid uses T3 and check whether thyroid antibodies are present. All these measurements are essential in choosing appropriate treatment.
Most physicians prescribe synthetic T4 for their hypothyroid patients. This may adequately treat some patients. However this approach is inappropriate for patients who have difficulty converting T4 to T3 or a high level of inactive T3. Most patients feel better when both T4 and T3 are replaced. At Tampa Rejuvenation our physicians assess your blood work and symptoms to create an individualized prescription which is then filled by our compounding pharmacy.
In addition to replacing thyroid hormone, it is important to provide nutrients and a diet which help the thyroid function optimally. Some people improve using only nonprescription interventions. Others need thyroid hormone temporarily, while others need long term thyroid replacement. Our physicians will make recommendations to improve your thyroid function and help you feel your best.
The bottom line is that nutrition, stress management, and exercise are the keys to your well-being and optimal thyroid function is not likely without them. Beyond this foundation, you may still need thyroid hormone replacement, and this is something you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Many patients in our practice improve using nonprescription thyroid interventions, but for some, thyroid hormone replacement is absolutely crucial. In these cases we recommend alternative thyroid treatments as a complement, rather than a substitute, for thyroid medication.
Call to schedule your free consultation to learn more about Thyroid Hormone Therapy and whether it’s right for you.