Fitness Monday - A Closer Look At The Metabolic Hormones - Thyroid Hormones

9:17 AM Posted by jo

In my last post I discussed insulin and today I will go over the thyroid hormones.

It is not uncommon to have thyroid problems, and it is estimated that 27 million people are affected. Symptoms  like changes in energy, mood, and weight are also similar to other conditions. According to Dr. Brownstein, a regular blood test doesn't always show a thyroid imbalance.

Location and function
The butterfly thyroid gland is located just below the Adam's apple on the neck. It is only about two inches, but if it gets inflamed a bulge will show on the neck. 
The thyroid hormones have many functions in the body.They control the heart rate, the amount of oxygen the cell uses, overall mood, fertility, overall growth, fertility, body temperature, digestion, and the rate the body burns calories.

The thyroid is dependent on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces the thyroid stimulating hormone TSH to jump start the thyroid. The thyroid itself grabs iodine out of the blood to make its hormones. Thyroxine, T4, is the largest amount of hormones, but it needs to be converted into T3, which is the metabolism boosting hormone.

Conversion of T4 to T3
This is when it gets tricky. The success of the conversion of T4 to T3 is dependent on what is happening in the body. Stress, pregnancy, being sick, exposure to environmental toxins, eating habits, and aging influence how successful the conversion is. These factors  influence the amount of T3 that is available in the body. If your body doesn't get sufficient amount of calories the pituitary stops producing enough THS, and the thyroid slows down the production of T4 which means less T3. With less T3 in the body the metabolism slows down. As you can see, a very restrictive calorie diet, or skipping meals do not lead to weight loss in the long run. This creates a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Since the thyroid hormones are involved in so many functions in the body, chemical reactions all over the body are thrown off balance if the hormones get imbalanced. 

Under-active thyroid
For example, if your thyroid is under-active, the energy is lowered, and you gain weight.When the thyroid is underactive it is called hypothyroidism. Sluggish feelings and unexplained weight gain not related to diet or lack of exercise may occur. Hashimoto's is the most common condition of hypothyroidism. Foods that support the thyroid so it can burn fat will be discussed in future posts. 

Over-active thyroid
Grave's Disease is caused by an over-active thyroid. When the thyroid is over-active it speeds things up and it is not a good thing. In Grave's the heart can race, weight loss can occur, intolerance to warm weather increases, and people can get very tired.
Certain foods, extreme dieting, vitamin deficiencies, menopause, genetics, environmental toxins, pregnancy, medications (especially lithium and amiodorone), and stress are some things can mess up the thyroid hormones.

Signs that may indicate too little thyroid hormones
Some signs that you may have too little thyroid hormones are weight gain, puffy eyes, loss of hair, intolerance of cold, high blood pressure, difficult swallowing, dry skin, lump on neck, coarse hair and skin, brain fog, muscle cramps/stiffness/and pain, exhaustion, constipation,  confusing, forgetfulness, droopy eyelids, and slow pulse.

Signs that may indicate too much thyroid hormones
Some signs that you may have too much thyroid hormones are sweating, pounding heartbeat, emotional instability, fatigue, irritability, low blood pressure, fast pulse, dizziness, extreme hunger, hyperactivity, light or skipped periods, weight loss, prominent eyes, nervousness, increased hair growth and excessive body heat. 

Don't self diagnose, always check with a health  practitioner before assuming you have a condition. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to prescribe or diagnose.

Conventional medicine
As mentioned, it is more difficult to discover thyroid problems since many of the symptoms can be caused by other problems as well. Conventional medicine performs TSH blood test in order to determine hypothyroidism. They use products for T4. The problem is that the test is very sensitive to T4, and if T4 is elevated the TSH levels will fall. So, if only blood tests are used to diagnose hypothyroidism the patients are mainly given T4 products.

Blood test alone is not enough
The problem occurs if they body is unable to convert the inactive T4 to active T3, since many symptoms of hypothyroidism can be present even though the TSH blood test is normal. Dr. Brownstein says relying on blood tests alone is not enough since it doesn't give the whole picture. The fact that TSH is controlled by not only how much T3 and T4 are in the circulation, but also how much T4 is converted into T3 is important. People with normal T4 and TSH levels can still have signs of hypothyroidism and low levels of T3.

Basal body temperature testing
Dr. Brownstein suggests to do basal body temperature testing to see if the cells are producing enough heat to produce a steady and normal body temperature. It is measured in the morning upon awakening. It is recorded five days in a row. A doctor should also pay closed attention to the physical exam signs, in addition to evaluating a blood test. 

Dr. Brownstein
I really recommend that you to read Dr. Brownstein's books because he has some amazing information about using natural hormones. His books are an eye opener to how important iodine is in our lives. He shares how many chronic conditions like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia can be linked to thyroid imbalances and lack of iodine. He corrected his father's long time heart problems by adjusting the hormone balance in the body. 

As always, this is for educational purposes only and it is not meant to prescribe or diagnose. Consult with a physician if you suspect that your thyroid hormones are imbalanced. This is especially important since some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.

Stay tuned for my next post about estrogen and progesterone.

Thanks for visiting!


Johanna is an aromatherapist and an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils and Nature's Sunshine. She is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. 
She also runs Naturally Sports & Wellness together with her husband.  
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information. Don't forget to explore her new aromatherapy new blog.
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