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Thyroid and Hormone Imbalances

Thyroid and Hormone Imbalances

Thyroid disease is one of the most common and most misunderstood medical conditions present in the general population.  At least 12 percent of us will develop a thyroid condition of some type during our lifetimes. About 60 percent of these people are undiagnosed. Thyroid imbalance leads to various conditions including dry skin, cardiovascular disease, low energy, obesity, and complications during pregnancy. 

Estrogen Dominance

One of the less well-known and less recognized reasons for low thyroid hormone production in women is the condition of “estrogen dominance” which can occur early in menopause. Estrogen Dominance is caused by the body failing to ovulate during the menstrual cycle, leading to low progesterone levels. Because there needs to be a balance between estrogen and progesterone, this lower amount of progesterone allows the surplus estrogen to increase production of thyroid binding globulin. This protein in the bloodstream binds up (inactivates) the thyroid hormones T-3 and T-4, lowering the amount available for function, leaving the person with low available thyroid levels, or Hypothyroidism.

Standard Treatment

If all of this makes your brain hurt, you are not alone. Even though thyroid problems are one of the oldest medical conditions we know and thus should be thoroughly understood by medical professionals, this is not the case. Thyroid disease is not the simple, cut and dried disease that many professionals believe. Once a diagnosis is made, the standard of treatment is to use the levothyroxine (T-4) to replace thyroid which is only about 10% as potent in thyroid function as the Liothyronine (T-3). So why would this be? Prior to T-4 becoming the standard treatment, physicians would treat patients with a porcine desiccated thyroid product such as Armour Thyroid.  Unfortunately, in those days, the Armour product was not standardized (although it is now), so the actual amount of thyroid hormone could vary even if the dosage of the desiccated thyroid powder were consistent. Additionally, since the porcine products also contain the T-3 component which is more powerful, some sensitive people experienced symptoms of excess thyroid function such as heart palpitations, anxiety and allergic reactions. All this led to the use of levothyroxine as it was standardized and did not cause these symptoms in most patients. It was believed that patients would convert the levothyroxine (T-4) to the more active T-3 which does happen in most cases, but not in all patients. 

Measuring Thyroid Function

For patients who do not convert the T-4 effectively, they are in a predicament if their physician monitors therapy by measuring only the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Addition of T-4 alone effectively lowers the TSH, making it appear as if the person has proper function; however, if T-4 is not being converted to T-3 at the correct rate, the person is still effectively hypothyroid. This critical conversion can be affected by mineral deficiencies or adrenal problems, as well as several other reasons. If the physician does not actually measure the free T-3 level to confirm it is in the appropriate range the patient will continue to suffer from low thyroid function while the prescriber tells them that the TSH level shows they are fine. 

So, if you have been diagnosed and treated for hypothyroidism yet do not feel quite normal, it is certainly worth digging into a little bit to see if there are some missing pieces of your thyroid puzzle. Let us know if we can help.