Last week I made an appointment with a doctor to check up my thyroid levels, something I do about twice a year, since I have stopped taking medicine – I have had a hypothyroid for the last 18 years, and have been on Levothyroxine, until a couple years ago, when I got myself into the right lifestyle, made tons of research and learnt more about my condition and how to bio hack my own body, here is a little post I wrote about how I managed to get off medicine, last year. If you know me, you would definitely know that I don’t necessarily hold a soft spot on my heart for doctors….! I would never go see one unless I REALLY have to, for something major. I do however go twice a year to an endocrinologist to ask for some blood work. I know what I am looking for exactly, so I ask him to prescribe specific blood tests, I do the blood work, ask for the results to be emailed to me and that’s it. This time the endocrinologist I usually go to (who is fairly good, listens to me and tries his best to have a more holistic view that fits me and my philosophy), this doctor was on leave so I did a random google search, and came up with a random name. I figured since I only need specific blood tests that I can ask for, it should be fine. So I go to see this doctor, I tell him about my history with my hypothyroid, and I ask him for the following tests:
And as I am getting ready to say my last required test (Vitamin D), he interrupts me, saying one word, that leaves me astonished! He said: “NO”!!!
Yes, he actually said NO!! he refused to write down those tests I have asked for, and said that a simple TSH blood test would be more than enough. He actually even had the guts to tell me that this was “ancient medicine” and that no one does those tests anymore! I really couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on! What the heck?!! I have lived with my Hypothyroid for the last 18 years! I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis disease- which is actually an autoimmune disease- so how is testing for antibodies ancient medicine when it’s an autoimmune disease that we are talking about?!!! I tried to be as kind as I could (and believe me it wasn’t an easy task; no one wants to deal with an arrogant doctor!!) I thanked him for his opinion, and said that I would be more comfortable if he did write those specific tests for me….He still refused! It’s not as if he were to pay from his own pocket, and even if he was worried about my own pocket, he knew that my insurance will cover the costs, so why not!???? I knew then that our conversation was hopeless, so I thanked him for his time and left his office swearing that I NEEDED to write another post about Thyroid, inflammation and hormones, so women who also suffer from their thyroid malfunction can understand their conditions better, and know exactly what they need to deal with in order to have a normal life. So today I will start a mini-series of posts about the Thyroid gland, how it works, how to fix the root problem and not just the symptoms, and how to have a normal life even with a malfunctioning thyroid.
Usually whenever you go to see an endocrinologist, for anything related to your thyroid, they would ask for a TSH blood test. TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) blood test is used to check for thyroid gland problems. TSH is produced when the hypothalamus releases a substance called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). TRH then triggers the pituitary gland to release TSH. TSH causes the thyroid gland to make two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 help control your body’s metabolism. In other terms, it is the hormone that tells the Thyroid gland that it should work (less or more depending on the body’s needs). Now let’s see how it works:
T3 and T4 are needed for normal growth of the brain, especially during the first 3 years of life. A baby whose thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone (congenital hypothyroidism) may, in severe cases, be mentally retarded. Older children also need thyroid hormones to grow and develop normally. Now that we know these two essential hormones, let’s talk about how they function in our body:
The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine found in many foods, and convert it into thyroid hormones: T4 and T3. Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4. T3 and T4 are then released into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body, where they control metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy).
Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4. So while a very small amount of T3 is produced by the Thyroid gland, the rest of the T3 is produced in a different way. The liver finishes up the thyroid gland’s job, by converting T4 to T3. However, in order to convert T4 to T3, the enzyme 5’- Deiodinase is required, and to activate this enzyme some minerals are needed such as: Selenium.
So, in order to determine if you have a functioning Thyroid gland or not, the process is much more complex than just having ONE blood test done. And that’s JUST the Thyroid itself, without even talking about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease, and needs many other tests to detect it, other than the famous TSH blood test.
In my next post we will talk in details about Hashimoto, and other autoimmune disease related to the Thyroid gland, then on a third post I will be talking about how nutrition CAN reverse many autoimmune diseases if done right.
Almost 90% of the women I know are suffering silently from a hypothyroid, which is a disease that sucks life out of you, and turns you into someone you don’t want to be. It is strongly linked to depression, Lupus, infertility, and many other autoimmune diseases. While doctors only want to cover the symptoms by prescribing a synthetic version of T4 (such as Levothyroxine), the inflammation will still be there destroying every ounce of your thyroid gland, then move to destroy other vital organs. And if your liver isn’t doing a good job converting T4 into T3, you will still have a malfunctioning Thyroid gland even if you are taking your prescribed medicine. Therefore, it is crucial to fix the underlying problem rather than treating the symptoms only.
Stay tuned for Thyroid 101 (Part 2)