thyroid function - the highs & lows...

Do you have a tendency to fall asleep during the day? Is your concentration as good as it was five years ago?  Is your short-term memory as sharp as your long-term memory? Do you experience muscle cramps, aches, pains or stiffness in muscles or joints?  Do you suffer from digestive problems or constipation? Are your blood fats or cholesterol level high?  How is your sex drive – not great? Do you cope badly with stress?

Answering ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions suggests that you have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). If your blood tests for thyroid function are normal but you still keep answering ‘yes’ you may have a more subtle form of hypothyroidism known as euthyroid sick syndrome (ESS), low T3 syndrome, non-thyroidal illness   NTI), functional hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism.

What is interesting is that patients with high (hyperthyroidism) or low (hypothyroidism) thyroid function can complain of the same symptoms – fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, insomnia, heart palpitations, irritable bowel, muscle weakness, menstrual irregularities. The patterns of cause and effect between hypothyroidism and its symptoms are complex. Probably the most debilitating symptom of all is the deep-seated tiredness experienced as the result of the slowing down of all body systems and organs.

In his address at the 14th International Symposium of Functional Medicine (May 2007), Alan B McDaniel, MD, stated that in many cases blood tests for thyroid do not ‘show that there is nothing wrong with you’, instead they ‘don’t show what is wrong with you’. A blood test is not always a reliable indication of functional hypothyroidism. A temperature consistently lower than 36.6 degrees Celsius indicates that your thyroid is not functioning optimally and requires further assessment.

The thyroid gland requires very specific nutrients to be able to make thyroid hormones – iodine, iron, L-tyrosine, manganese, vitamins A, B1, C and E. Without these nutrients thyroid hormones simply cannot be produced adequately.

If liver function is compromised thyroid hormone production will not be optimal. An enzyme called 5-deiodinase is needed for the active thyroid hormone to be produced. This enzyme is inhibited by numerous factors including stress, infection or fever, chronic illness, severe dieting, low-protein diets, carbohydrate withdrawal and heavy metal toxicity (especially cadmium, lead and mercury). In addition for the enzyme to function it requires certain nutrient co-factors. These are selenium, zinc, copper and vitamin D.

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