The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ of the endocrine system. It is located in the front of the neck just above the sternum. The thyroid gland makes hormones that control the way every cell in the body uses energy, and sets our basic metabolism.
These are the hormones we look at when working with a thyroid patient:
- TSH—thyroid stimulating hormone. This hormone comes from the pituitary and tells the thyroid to make thyroid hormone. When TSH is high, the thyroid is generally under-producing thyroid hormone. When TSH is low, the thyroid is over-producing thyroid hormone.
- Free T4—this is the main hormone the thyroid makes. It is not active and is converted to T3 in body cells. It requires selenium, zinc, iodine, and tyrosine to be made and changed into T3.
- Free T3—this is the active thyroid hormone which stimulates our energy and metabolism. It needs cortisol and Vitamin A to work well.
Reverse T3—this is kind of the garbage can of thyroid hormones; we remove hormones from our body by changing T3 into RT3. When RT3 is high it signals there is a stress in the body which is affecting the thyroid, but that stress is not specific. A good physician has to figure it out.
- Thyroid antibodies (TPO, antithyroglobulin, TSI): these lab results are elevated when a patient has developed one of the two auto-immune diseases which can strike the thyroid, Hashimotos, or Graves.
The thyroid can become problematic in various ways but we will just discuss three of them:
1. Subclinical Hypothyroidism—This condition develops when a patient has an elevated TSH, but normal FT3 and FT4 results. She may also oftentimes have an elevated reverse T3 score. This condition means the thyroid is stressed and the pituitary is having to yell at it to produce hormones, but it is producing normal amounts at that time. A patient may or may not feel poorly with these labs and they may or may not indicate the person has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. As a result, the patient may or may not need thyroid hormone. Sometimes, subclinical hypothyroidism can be treated by finding the reason the thyroid is not functioning naturally at a normal level, fixing that, so the thyroid on its own can recover. For example, insulin resstance, can cause subclinical hypothyroidism; if that is reversed, the thyroid can become fully healthy again and the TSH can return to normal. In some cases thyroid medication may be necessary.
2. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis—this is an auto-immune condition where your thyroid is attacked by your own immune system, which destroys it. This is the main cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. On a lab, one would see elevated TSH, and low FT3 and low FT4, and elevated TPO and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. The patient may have a palpable thyroid, and can suffer from common symptoms: weight gain, loss of outer eyebrows, constipation, cold intolerance, increased serum cholesterol, dry skin and hair, problems focusing, heavier periods, water retention, fatigue, depression, loss of hair, etc.
3. Grave’s Disease—this is an auto-immune condition where your thyroid is attacked by your own immune system, which stimulates it to produce a lot more thyroid hormone than is normally produced. Lab values would show very low TSH, very high FT3 and FT4, and TSI antibodies. The patient may have heart palpitations, agitation, lower leg edema, feel hot, lose bone mass, lose weight even with increased appetite.
Aside from looking at lab values, its very common that attentive physicians do a good physical exam of the thyroid, and also consider imaging studies. Those studies include:
- Ultrasound of the thyroid—non-invasive test helps define the structure of the thyroid and any nodules, lesions or cysts on it.
- Radioactive uptake—more involved exam to examine how much iodine the tissues of the thyroid take up, to help give a guide if the tissues are “hot” (normal) or “cold” (perhaps problematic tissue)
- Biopsy—a fine needle aspiration removes some cells from the thyroid to analyze if it is benign or not.
Attentive physicians may also analyze the adrenals, as well. If they adrenals are overactive that can negatively affect the thyroids ability to make T4; if the adrenals are underactive, it can negatively affect T3’s ability to stimulate cellular metabolism.
NDs treat the thyroid via tidying up the diet, decreasing inflammation, healing the gut, modulating the immune system, food allergy testing, addressing unhealthy lifestyle factors, treating adrenals and sex hormones if necessary to rebalance the entire endocrine system systems.
It is very frustrating for many patients with hypothyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s, as standard care sets lab analysis results in general up too high and also prescribes just T4 as the main treatment—Synthroid, Levothyroxine, Levoxyl. Only using T4 is going to ensure many thyroid patients do not feel well. The physicians at AIMS are committed to using natural desiccated thyroid products with their hypothyroid patients, which we strongly feel is the superior medicine for thyroid deficient patients.
Hyperthyroid medications that are used are beta blockers to treat the rapid heart rate and agitation, and either methimazole and propylthiouracil to temporarily suppress the overactive thyroid. Many times these medications are only required for a temporary measure, as many patients with Grave’s disease if properly treated, can go into remission, usually within 1-2 years of onset, and be healed. The physicians at AIMS have had patients go into remission within six weeks of their comprehensive naturopathic care. The physicians at AIMS look forward to working with any patient suffering from a thyroid condition.
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Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions
4657 S. Lakeshore Drive, Suite 1
Tempe, AZ 85282
Mon-Fri: 8:30-5:30 pm
Our office is located near Baseline Road and Rural Road in Tempe, Arizona