Hypothyroidism otherwise known as an under-active thyroid is a very common condition, especially among women over the age of 35.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are wide ranging but some of the most common ones are as follows -
Unexplained weight gain
Thinning eyebrows (particularly outer ends)
Difficulty losing weight
Digestive problems such as constipation
Dry skin or hair loss
Feeling tired or fatigued
Cold hands and feet
Poor memory or lack of concentration
Raised cholesterol levels
Slow or indeed even, a fast heart rate.
Like I said, these are the most common but the list goes on!
Sadly, hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed, mainly due to a lack of comprehensive testing within the NHS. It's quite common for a woman to go to the GP, explaining they're perhaps tired all the time, struggling with low mood and managing their weight...quite frankly, just not feeling themselves. Only to have blood's done, be told everything's come back normal, maybe walk away with some antidepressant medication and told to eat less, exercise more. This happens all too often and it's just not good enough.
Your GP will commonly only test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level, this is just one of several hormones involved in thyroid function. Occasionally, they will also check your free T4 levels. There so much more to the thyroid picture and it's just not being recognised.
A little bit about how your thyroid actully works...
TSH tells your thyroid to make more thyroid hormone. Your thyroid responds to this message by producing T4, an inactive form of thyroid hormone. As a general rule, your TSH will increase if the cells of your body are in need of more thyroid hormone and a decrease in TSH may indicate that your cells have been satiated with enough thyroid hormone, howvever this is not always the case. So your TSH level can only really be used as an indicator of how well your thyroid id working. It's only part of a much bigger picture.
Once your thyroid has produced T4, it needs to be converted into T3 before it can be useful to the body. T3 is the active form of your thyroid hormone. T3 is the hormone all your cells are crying out for, this is the hormone that gives you your 'get up and go'. To find out what's really going on with your thyroid its important to test all the levels of all these hormones.
Many people can struggle to convert T4 (inactive) into T3 (active) and so don't get enough thyroid hormone. This can happen for a variety of reasons but two main culprits are stress and nutrient insufficiencies. Those experiencing high stress levels will often produce high levels our a 'stress hormone' called cortisol. If your cortisol levels are raised, this can have a negative impact on the conversion of T4 (inactive) into T3 (active). Being low in certain nutrients key to thryoid function such as iodine, tyrosine, B12 and iron is a common factor. Poor gut health also plays a role as about 25% of your thyroid hormone is made in the gut. These are just a few of the factors I look into when working with clients to help them improve their thyroid health.
Should you have your TSH measured and it comes back with a reading of 4.5 or 5.0 chances are that you will be told that your thyroid is fine despite having symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, many experts in the field of hypothyroidism recommend a TSH of between 1.0 to 2.5. If you have a TSH above 2.5 its likely that you will be suffering from some of the above symptoms listed above.
If you're found to have a TSH above 4.5 or 5.0, it's likely that you will receive a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. In this situation. your GP will probably prescribe medication in the form of Levothyroxine. As a T4 only medication, this for many falls short of a satisfactory treatment. For example, if you are highly stressed with large amount of cortisol in your bloodstream and suffering from impaired T4 to T3 conversion as a direct result of this, you may already have plenty of T4. Taking more T4 in the form of Levothyroxine is likely to a) not make you feel better, b) possibly make you feel worse! It's so important to get to the root cause of why your cells are not getting enough active thyroid hormone and this is here comprehensive thyroid testing can play a key role.
As someone with personal experience of hypothyroidism, I know only too well how rubbish this condition can make a person feel. If I don't keep a handle on my stress levels, this can very quickly impact on my thyroid, causing under-activity. I can go from feeling full of energy and motivation for life to someone who's struggling to get out of bed in the morning. It can also result in me packing on a few pounds, drinking too much coffee to get through the day, wearing a coat despite the sun shining down on me and generally feeling quite apathetic. Not a good place to be!
The good news is, as a practitioner I've learnt exactly what's required to get me feeling my best again and I would love to be able to do the same for you. Don't waste any more time feeling rubbish! Take charge of your health, come and see what Nutritional therapy has to offer in the way of answers.