The thyroid gland is shaped like a shield and in Latin it means shield or protection. Indeed, that is an appropriate title when one considers the impact it has on human physiology. Every cell in your body has thyroid receptor sites on it which means it can impact every system of the body, every organ, every cell. Indeed the thyroid gland helps set the metabolic tone for your whole body and that impacts a lot more than just your waist size. I would recommend the book “Why do I still have Thyroid Symptoms when my Blood Work is Normal” by Dr. Datis Kharrazian as a detailed explanation into thyroid physiology. I will lay out the basics here in hopes it will help you to understand how today’s average health care practitioner looks at thyroid dysfunction and some of the shortcomings to that approach.
First, let’s review basic thyroid physiology. The Hypothalamus is the part of your brain responsible for sending messages (via TRH or thyroid releasing hormone) to the pituitary gland which then releases TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone to the thyroid gland. Don’t panic, we will break it all down into bite size pieces and promise to make it simple. So imagine you step out of a warm house onto a cold patio. Your body feels cold and that activates the hypothalamus to send a message to the thyroid to “warm you up or get your engine running.” Think of the pituitary gland as the coach of a football team and the thyroid as one of his players. If the TSH levels in someone’s blood panel are high then that means the coach is “yelling” at his player with great intensity. That means that TSH represents the coach’s volume of communication. So, when doctors see a high TSH (coach is yelling at the player) they assume that the thyroid (player on the team) is under performing and they most often prescribe thyroid replacement hormone.
While the intensity of the coach’s communication (level of TSH on blood chemistry analysis) is important to know, it does not tell the whole story. Let’s go back to physiology, the thyroid gland produces two hormones, T4 and T3. T4 has a minimal impact of the body’s metabolic output while T3 really has a powerful impact. Unfortunately, approximately 93 percent of what is produced by the thyroid is T4 and only 7 percent is the highly powerful T3. The good news is that in a normally functioning person, the majority of T4 is converted into T3, approximately 60% in the liver and 20% in the gastro-intestinal tract. The other 20% is turned into something called reverse T3 which is not metabolically active (it is not usable in our body). In order for someone to express good metabolic activity it takes adequate T3 levels. You can have normal T4 levels, and a normal TSH level and still feel lousy and have difficulty losing weight and it would never show up on a typical blood panel. So many thyroid patients who are properly medicated with “normal” bloodwork still suffer with low thyroid symptoms. WHY? Because there are over 23 steps in the thyroid metabolic chain and traditional healthcare only looks at one or two of them. Our program helps address underlying imbalances on a foundational level by bringing the body back into balance.
Written by Timothy Panah, PSc.D.