Dr. Steve Jepson with the Utah Dermatological and Medical Procedures Clinic weighs in.
How many of you have gone to your doctor convinced that there was something wrong with your thyroid? You had symptoms that might have included worsening fatigue, unexplained weight gain, increased fluid retention, puffy eyes, feeling cold all the time, hair loss, and dry nails. You may have a family member or a friend with low thyroid and you saw a lot of similarities between your symptoms and theirs. And so you asked your doctor to check it. And he did. But then you received a call a few days later, and you were surprised to find out that your thyroid was fine. Nothing was wrong – just exercise a little more and stay away from the pastries (that you were already staying away from).
This is an all-too-common scenario that I see played out all the time as I consult with women about their hormones. But just because you are told by your doctor that your thyroid is fine, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. In fact, thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common mis-recognized metabolic problems by the medical community.
Our thyroid is a gland that sits at the base of our neck and sends out a chemical messenger – thyroid hormone – to the rest of our body. This messenger triggers our body’s cells to adjust their metabolic rate. Too little thyroid, you slow down, store fat, get cold. Too much thyroid, you speed up (anxious), burn too much fat, feel hot. It goes without saying then, that your body is going to function best and you are going to feel best, if your thyroid sets your body’s metabolic rate just right.
But the thyroid gland and the hormone it produces are exquisitely sensitive to multiple environmental and genetic factors that can reduce the production of thyroid hormone, or prevent thyroid hormone from sending the right metabolic signal to our body’s cells. Consequently, thyroid dysfunction is quite prevalent, especially in women. Here are 5 ways to ensure that your thyroid is functioning optimally.
1. Ensure that you get a complete thyroid evaluation. Most doctors test only a screening thyroid test called a TSH. This is only an indirect measure of thyroid function and will not give a complete picture of your thyroid status. Direct measurement of the two thyroid hormones T4 and T3 will provide a clearer picture of your thyroid status. Often you have to ask your doctor specifically for these tests.
2. Get your other hormones balanced. Even if your thyroid levels are perfect, your cells will not pick up on the thyroid’s signals appropriately if your other hormones are out-of-balance. All of our body’s hormones work together like the instruments in an orchestra. If even one is off, the others won’t work nearly as well. Proper thyroid function depends on normal levels of progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol to work appropriately at a cellular level. My segment last month was about the importance of natural hormone balancing and saliva hormone testing, and more information about that can be found on my website.
3. Ensure that you are being treated with the correct type of thyroid hormone. Most doctors will prescribe the less active form of thyroid hormone called T4 (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine). It is then up to your body to convert it to the more powerful hormone T3. But many people don’t make this conversion effectively. I prefer to prescribe either a T4/T3 combination (such as Armour Thyroid) or straight T3 hormone compounded by a compounding pharmacy such as Jolley’s. This point is especially important for people who are already on thyroid replacement but still symptomatic. You may not need a higher dose of T4 – you may just need some T3 instead.
4. Consider supplemental iodine replacement. Proper iodine levels are essential for proper thyroid function. Thyroid hormone is made out of iodine by our thyroid gland. However, most people in the United States are iodine deficient. The main dietary sources of iodine are fish, seaweed, and iodinized salt. Americans for the most part do not eat enough fish, don’t eat any seaweed (which is a staple in the thyroid-healthy Japanese diet), and are using less and less salt. Proper iodine supplementation is an ideal way to jump start your thyroid gland naturally but should be done under the supervision of a doctor familiar with iodine. Too much iodine will cause an overactive thyroid.
5. Take a high quality multi-vitamin with minerals including selenium and zinc. We do not get enough vitamin and minerals in our highly processed American diet. When it comes to your thyroid, you can think of vitamins and minerals like the oil in your car’s engine. If you don’t change your oil, your car’s engine will still run, but not nearly as efficiently and after a while the engine will probably break down. Vitamins and minerals in the proper amounts will help your body’s thyroid machinery work more effectively and efficiently, and proper levels of the two minerals zinc (30mg daily) and selenium (200mcg) daily are especially important for proper thyroid function. I personally recommend a locally-manufactured multivitamin called Nutriex Health which is available at my office or at www.Nutriex.com.
For more information about hormone balancing visit:
or call: (801) 281-002
Dr. Steve Jepson will also be hosting an upcoming Biodentical Hormone Conference.
Bioidentical Hormone Conference
Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
South Jordan Library (located at 10673 South Redwood Road)