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Thyroid: The Most Misunderstood Organ in the Body


Thyroid: The Most Misunderstood Organ in the Body

Are you suspicious about having thyroid dysfunction yet your labs are normal?

Are you taking thyroid medication, yet are still symptomatic?

The symptoms: Fatigue, feeling chilled, dry, thinning hair, dry skin, swelling, constipation, depression, muscle/joint pain, elevated cholesterol, low libido.

The prevalence: 1 out of 7 US adults has a low functioning thyroid.

The problems:

Inadequate testing and lack of comprehensive treatment approaches.

Most testing is limited to TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4.
What about the hormone known as free T3? This hormone is 3-5x more active than T4, yet is almost always ignored on thyroid panels.

Synthroid only supplies T4.

In order to have optimal thyroid function, T4 must be able to convert to active T3 (3-5x more active than T4).

In a perfect world this happens. Not always the case since a lot of factors need to be in alignment for this to occur.

This conversion requires sufficient levels of the following:

Iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, tyrosine, progesterone, DHEA, many of which I find to be low on our nutritional assessment studies.

Then there are factors that block this conversion:

Inadequate protein

Chronic illness

Heavy metals

Stress-High cortisol, a main stress hormone, is linked to lowered thyroid function.

Low caloric intake

Hormone imbalance

Certain medications


Infections: Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease has been linked to Epstein Barr, Parvo, Yersinia, and Hepatitis C infections.

According to research published in the European Thyroid Journal: “Thyroid hormone replacement therapy should aim not only at normalization of TSH, but also of serum free T4, free T3 and free T4/free T3 ratio. (Hard to do if it’s never measured!)

How about the ranges:

Most labs consider 4.5 to be the upper end of the range for TSH.

Not accurate based on the research:

January 2003: The American College of Clinical Endocrinologists stated: “Clinicians should consider treatment for patients who test outside the boundaries of a target TSH level of .3-3.04.”

“The conventional range is too wide: Optimal should be .4-2/2.5.”

Where does gluten enter into this?

Those with celiac have a three-fourfold higher risk of thyroid disease. For children, the risk is sixfold.

After 1 year on a gluten free diet, 71% of patients in a study published in the J of Gastroenterology normalized their thyroid function. There is also malabsorption of nutrients that can adversely impact thyroid function in those with celiac and gluten intolerance.  Even in the absence of celiac, it is the case that thyroid antibodies can drop considerably on a gluten free diet.

Nutritional analysis and intervention should be an integral component of any comprehensive approach to thyroid balance.

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