Taking your medication, but your thyroid is still going haywire?
Hormones are a hot topic amongst women because our hormones tend to fluctuate up and down.
Of course that is natural and normal throughout the month, but what we see and experience is that sometimes those fluctuations can last longer than they are supposed to.
Between the ages of 30-45, when we are still in that prime fertility phase, that we often see a lot of women struggling with maintaining healthy hormones. Stress, finances, family, pregnancy, these life experiences can sometimes leave our hormonal system smoking from overuse.
Because thyroid is typically one of the first suspects when we think of hormone imbalance, I wanted to cover some really basic and simple things that you would want to consider when you assessing thyroid healthy from a natural, functional medicine perspective.
Dealing with the thyroid in conventional medicine, they are typically looking at a value called TSH (which is thyroid stimulating hormone). This value is ran on a blood test. It is actually considered pretty standard when you are doing a regular check up at the doctor’s office these days. The thyroid stimulating hormone is important to look at of course. But really, it’s just one of the eight other markers that you would want to access in effort to get the full holistic view of what’s going on with the whole thyroid physiology.
TSH (the thyroid stimulating hormone) is doing just that…it’s stimulating the thyroid. That hormone is coming from the pituitary gland, signaling to the thyroid and telling it to produce the hormone. But when you are looking at the thyroid you actually also want to access what is coming OUT of the thyroid as well.
So what we would also measure is T3 and T4. Those are hormones that are coming out of the thyroid and talking to the rest of the body.
Now, something to consider when looking at T3 and T4 is that with amount of T3. Did you know that only about 7% of T3 is coming from the thyroid itself!! The other 93% of hormone released from the thyroid itself is T4.
Conversion Factory Tissues
If you are wondering what the difference between T3 and T4 is, T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone whereas T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. That means that the thyroid is only producing the active hormone at about 7% total. 93% of that hormone has to be converted by other tissues in the body. I call those other tissues "conversion factory tissues” which are organs like the kidneys, the liver and the digestive tract. Those are the big players in that conversion hormone factory.
If there is an overwhelm in toxicity going on in the system, if there is an overwhelm of imbalance in the digest tract, it means is that those conversion factories aren’t going to be as efficient in taking that inactive hormone T4 and turning it into active thyroid hormone T3. That is where we see a lot of people struggle with those hypothyroid symptoms even though they are taking their prescription from their doctor.
If you are on medication, you need to stay on it! But those prescription medications are often synthetic T4 (or the inactive form). So if our tissues are overwhelmed with toxicity or other immune challenges, then it’s possible that the conversion process is the struggle causing you to feel “off."
The sluggishness, the feeling of fatigue, the persistent struggle with sleep, the hair loss, thinning eyebrows, the bloating the slowing digestive tract, are all signs that your body is still struggling with hypothyroid issues.
So, if you are doing everything you are supposed to do like eating right and taking medication but you are still struggling… it could be because those conversion factories are a little bit sluggish. It might be worth it to investigate what you could do in effort to optimize the organ health so that those conversion factories can work more efficiently.
There are also a couple of other things you would want to consider beyond just the communication of the thyroid. You would also what to consider what other things could be going on in the body that would mess with your thyroid availability.
One thing is too much estrogen, the other is too much stress or cortisol.
As women, we are sometimes prone to estrogen dominate patterns. This estrogen dominance often comes from toxins that have the ability to act like estrogens in our tissue. The estrogen “dominance” can also come from inadequate amount of progesterone levels.
When there is too much estrogenic substances in the body, we know that there is most always also a subsequent increase in a protein known as the "thyroid binding globulin". That protein goes around and does exactly what the name describes, it binds up active thyroid hormone. Then that thyroid hormone is not available to bind onto the cells to have a cellular response. So, if you have estrogen dominate patterns, you may want it to consider thinking about how you can help you body to get rid of the excess estrogens, especially when you are thinking in terms of toxins that we could be breathing in or even getting in our food, beauty products or body care products.
Some really simple ways that you can support your body in eliminating some of those estrogenic toxins are things as simple as eating cruciferous vegetables. (Think broccoli, kale, Arugula, Cauliflower ect…)
You can also do something really simple like drink citrus oil. Make sure you are choosing an oil that is safe for internal consumption! I love to drink citrus oil every day! I put a drop into 8-10 oz of water (make sure you are using glass!) and then just sip on it all day. It can help with balancing the PH within the digestive tract as well.
If you have gut overwhelm…that is whole topic on its own. But one of the best things you can do just as general support, is to take an enzyme like I talked about in the last blog post. It’s actually the good bacteria in our small intestine that creates a byproduct that acts as a conversion piece to make the hormone go from a T4 to a T3.
Too much cortisol over time can actually cause an increase in a hormone called reverse T3. Reverse T3 can go around and neutralize T3 (active thyroid hormone). So if you need some tactics and tools to decrease cortisol I recommend looking into some herbs that are known to be adaptogenic.
One of my favorite herbs that I have seen work SO well over and over and over again in my clinic is Rehmannia. Rehmannia can be purchased in a tonic form, but you can also purchase it in a powder or in an encapsulated form. If you are using essential oils you can also look into using geranium oil or basil oil. Simply apply it over the adrenals or onto the adrenal reflex point on your feet.
Other ways to handle stress is in your day to day, would be to find something that is going to help you better cope with your day to day stress. If you can get up and go on a walk or a run so that you can physically get your body moving, it is going to help you metabolise and get the excess cortisol back to healthy levels. If you are unable of getting out and move throughout your day, then find something that can calm you down. Maybe drinking relaxing teas like mint or chamomile or lavender teas? Personally I like to diffuse essential oils like lavender or cedar oil, but find what works best for you to help you feel calm.
Those are some really basic things that you can consider if you are looking at thyroid from a holistic perspective. I hope this blog post has been able to over you some additional perspective on this hot topic among women.