People who have low levels of thyroid hormones experience quite a long list of symptoms because the thyroid hormones direct all the chemical reactions in the body (the metabolism).
Rough or dry skin
Diffuse hair loss
Anxiety or panic attacks
Muscle or joint pain
Slow heart rate
Decreased sexual interest
Cold or heat intolerance
Cold hands or feet
Low body temperature
Hoarse or husky voice
Dry, sparse or coarse hair
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Swollen hands or feet
Dull facial expression
We can provide missing nutrients that are required for the proper manufacture of thyroid hormones and we can detoxify the body to remove intruders such as heavy metals that are inhibiting their manufacture. Heavy metals also attach to hormone receptors and prevent the hormones from doing their job.
We can identify allergens that contribute to the formation of antibodies.
We can also administer the thyroid hormones themselves. This is often necessary in the first instance to achieve health but is not necessarily a lifelong commitment.
Which thyroid hormones to use
The thyroid hormones are a complex of 4. We call them T1, T2, T3, T4 according to the number of iodine atoms in the hormone.
T4 is the main hormone that the thyroid gland in the lower neck makes. As thyroxine, it is the thyroid hormone that is most commonly prescribed in New Zealand and is funded by the health department. It works well for many hypothyroid people but has to be converted to T3 in order to be fully active. People can be hypothyroid when they do not make much T4 and also when they do not convert T4 to T3 very well. Some people remain unwell and have hypothyroid symptoms even when their blood tests indicate that they are taking enough T4.
Some T3 is made in the thyroid gland but most of it is made in the cells of the body. T3 is also prescribed by doctors but is not funded by the health department so costs more than the subsidised prescription of T4. It is provided by compounding pharmacies.
Whole Thyroid Extract
This is desiccated thyroid tissue from pigs. It contains T4, T3, T2 and T1. We know much less about the functions of T1 and T2 which are made in small amounts but studies are showing they do have a role.
May people who do not do so well on T4, feel better on whole thyroid. It is has been described as complimentary medicine and is not funded by the health department but is supplied by compounding pharmacies and can be prescribed by doctors.
The Diagnosis and Monitoring of Hypothyroidism
Blood tests have become the most commonly used way of diagnosing hypothyroidism and monitoring treatment.
However people with hypothyroid symptoms are sometimes told by their doctors after a blood test that their thyroid function is normal when a physical examination would suggest otherwise.
Blood tests are unreliable for several reasons. The levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are not the same as levels inside the cells. For this reason Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) has become the preferred test for diagnosing hypothyroidism. TSH is made in the pituitary. It tells the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone when levels of thyroid hormone inside the pituitary are low.
However TSH is also unreliable because the thyroid hormones cross easily into the pituitary whereas it requires active transport to get them into most other cells of the body. The pituitary can determine that there is plenty of thyroid hormone and it can lower its production of TSH when other parts of the body are deficient and require more hormone to be administered. Therefore a low or normal TSH does not necessarily mean that someone has enough thyroid hormone to be healthy.
While the blood tests are of assistance, they cannot be relied upon to give the final answer. This must come from the full clinical picture: the symptoms of the person, the clinical examination by the doctor and the results of blood test.
T3 is also made by our bodies in the form of reverse T3 which has the same chemical makeup as T3 but is a different shape and is not able to instruct the cells the way that T3 does. In fact, it competes with T3 for the receptors. Reverse T3 can be measured but this test is not available in New Zealand and not funded. We send blood to Australia to measure it and if the ratio of reverse T3 to proper T3 is too high we treat you with T3 only for a period of time. This prevents you from making reverse T3 from T4.
Treatment of Adrenal Deficiency as well as thyroid deficiency
Successful thyroid treatment relies on adequate adrenal hormones.
1. Cortisol from the adrenals is necessary to make the thyroid receptors
2. If cortisol production is poor, then when thyroid hormones are administered the adrenals will spring into action with adequate adrenaline but without the cortisol to balance it and people will feel over stimulated.
Vitamin D activates the thyroid receptors. Thus a vitamin D deficiency may be a cause of poor thyroid activity even though thyroid hormone levels may be adequate. Toomuch vitamin can cause excess calcium in the blood which can result in porr conversion of T4 to T3.
Symptoms of thyroid overdosing include:
· Increased resting pulse rate above 80 beats per minute (when calm & inactive)
· Irregular heart rate
· Increased nervousness or irritability
· Excessive heat production
· Excessive weight loss with increased appetite
· Trembling fingers
· Palpitations (awareness of your heart beating)
Note: symptoms that occur 1-2 days after starting or increasing the dose & are mild and are usually a normal adaptation that subsides after 1-2 days.
Problems with a low TSH when taking thyroid hormones
A low TSH may mean that you are taking too much thyroid and that your thyroid hormone needs to be reduced to prevent the problems associated with hyperthyroidism as above – in particular, those on your heart. Low thyroid function can also cause heart problems.
After menopause our estrogen levels plummet and we do not have the same amount of hormonal instruction to keep our bones healthy. In the absence of estrogen TSH plays more of a role. So there is concern that while your thyroid activity can be good with a low TSH your bone mineral density may not be if you are postmenopausal. Before menopause it is not a problem.
Therefore if you are postmenopausal requiring a low TSH for adequate thyroid function you should also be taking the estrogen and progesterone as prescribed by Karanga Health Centre.
If you have osteoporosis extra care must be taken and we may have to compromise thyroid function to protect your bones.
An Holistic Approach
Hormones work by turning on or off certain genes. The genes then instruct the cell to make a protein. 50% of our proteins are enzymes that drive a chemical reaction and this is how the hormones make things happen.
The enzymes are proteins so it is important to have adequate protein in our diets and also to be digesting it well.
The enzymes have cofactors that are necessary for their proper function and these cofactors are mineral and vitamins. Thus it is also necessary to have adequate micronutrients – mineral and vitamins. Many people are not eating a diet that can adequately supply these things and take supplements to make up for it.
Reasons for Poor Conversion of T4 to T3
§ Deficiency of Minerals: zinc, selenium, manganese, iron, iodine.
§ Deficiency of Vitamins: A, B2, B6, B12.
§ Medication: Beta blockers, Oral Contraceptives, Lithium, Phenytoin, Theophylline, Chemotherapy.
§ Fluoride, Lead, Mercury, Copper, Calcium excess
§ Pesticides, Dioxins, PCBs, Radiation.
§ Stress, aging, xs alcohol, surgery.
§ Inadequate production of adrenal hormones
§ Over supplementation with Alpha lipoic acid.
§ Excessive soy, walnuts, cruciferous vegetables.
§ Low protein, fat or cabohydrate diet.
This is the website of the National Academy of Hypothyroidism and gives scientific reasons for disputing the orthodox information seen on
The website of the American Thyroid Association