By: Dr. Kim Bruno
January is Thyroid Awareness Month
Many middle aged women present to the clinic with a similar story, the inability to lose weight, insomnia, decreased libido and overall fatigue. They tell me, “my thyroid was tested and it is normal”, but often they have only been given a small piece of the much bigger picture and without peeling away the onion layers, they may not achieve relief from these symptoms.
Thyroid disease is an increasingly prevalent disease which is often misunderstood, leading to a misdiagnosis and mistreatment of thyroid symptoms in women. Most patients are 1. Told they are “normal” or 2. Diagnosed as hypo-thyroid, based solely on the TSH reading, and given a synthetic form of thyroid hormone. One of the problems with this is that the thyroid was looked at as its own individual entity and not seen as a part of a greater whole within the endocrine system. Thyroid symptoms in women are but a slice of the proverbial larger pie.
The thyroid is only a part, albeit important one, of the delicately balanced endocrine system. A more appropriate way to look at thyroid disease is an unbalancing of the endocrine system. In order to achieve the greatest treatment success for the patient, the balancing of the entire endocrine system must be taken into account. Most patients just given synthetic thyroid hormone will not have successful long-term management of their condition.
To look at the thyroid gland and thyroid function one must take into account that many man-made compounds and naturally occurring ones assault the thyroid on a daily basis. It may not be only one of these insults
, but a combination that has caused malfunction in the endocrine system.
Chemicals contributing to thyroid symptoms in women include:
- Anti-diabetic drugs
- Sulfa drugs
- Estrogen-birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy
- Aspirin and salicylate pain killers
- Food additives in processed foods
Alcohol and prescription medication will deplete the body of B vitamins. This deficiency of B vitamins, specifically B6, reduces the availability of iodine for the production of thyroid hormone.
Soy, some nuts and cruciferous vegetables can contribute to low function of the thyroid, hypothyroid, if eaten in large amounts. These include cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, mustard, watercress, lima beans, sweet potato, almonds, walnuts and pine nuts. The soy industry actually acknowledges that soy can reduce thyroid function, but only when there is a reduction in iodine.
Exposure to environmental and dietary compounds such as fluorine, chlorine and bromine will alter the production of thyroglobulin. These compounds will competitively inhibit binding of iodine at the follicular cells which will decrease the quality of iodothyronine hormones produced, or T4 and T3. In this case the patients TSH lab test may be “within normal limits” because the breakdown in the thyroid system is elsewhere. This is a major reason why a complete thyroid panel should be run to ensure the best treatment plan for the patient.
The thyroid can also be impacted in a negative way by dysfunction or imbalance elsewhere in the endocrine system. Cortisol, sex hormones and insulin can all have an impact on thyroid function. Conditions including adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, food intolerances, and decreased sex drive can all lead to decreased function in the thyroid. As stated before, thyroid function is a very complex and delicate part of the entire endocrine system. Imbalances in one area can trigger stress in other areas; it is the health care provider’s duty to determine where the dysfunction has occurred, where treatment should be focused, and to reassure the patient that she will feel marked improvement in a short period of time.
If you are suffering from thyroid symptoms and do not have a thyroid diagnosis, or you are not feeling better while on synthetic thyroid hormone it is time to dig a little deeper and determine the underlying cause for the endocrine dysfunction.