Have you checked your tick over?
It may come as a surprise but many of us could have a metabolism that is running a bit on the slow side. There is a host of rather non-specific signs that could suggest a thyroid problem is underlying a general state of low health well before conventional blood tests suggest so. Many patients attend the clinic complaining of fatigue, irregular heart beat, hormonal and menstrual problems, weight and fluid gain as well as recurrent chest infections, poor memory and skin changes. These problems can slowly accumulate over time to a point where a catalogue of complaints prompt a battery of blood tests all of which prove normal. Its only when you consider that a blood test if great for gross abnormalities in gland function but does not offer much help in very early stage illness or when the body is compensation and just getting by. In this situation we have to enter the world of functional medicine, a somewhat fringe area in which the healthy functioning of a gland is considered important not the gross pathological changes associated with overt disease.
One key player in this sphere of healthcare is the thyroid gland. Sitting up in the neck this gland produces vital hormones that maintain the bodies health on so many levels its difficult to find a tissue or organ that is not influences by thyroid hormones. Its main product is a hormone called thyroxine (also known as T4) but it is actually a lesser-known hormone called triiodothyronine (also known as T3) that does 90% of the work in the body. For this reason, T3 is often known as biologically active thyroxine and is made through a conversation process in the body from T4 that takes place in the liver and kidneys. It is a sensitive process and can be influenced by diet and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that include vitamin B2, zinc, selenium, iodine and the amino acid tyrosine. If this conversion is adversely influenced general health can be affected in many ways but conventional blood tests will prove normal since the T4 levels will be stable. The entire thyroid gland is under the control of the pituitary gland. This is the master gland seated just under the brain and releases a stimulating hormone that causes the thyroid to produce more of its hormones. Logically enough, this hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH for short).
The female hormone connection
There is a close relationship between changes in female hormone and the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, and for that matter, vice versa. Even when there are no obvious causes for female hormone problems such as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids and alike the thyroid can have adverse effects on normal tissues to the point where menstrual and menopausal symptoms become more severe than the have to. One of the pioneers behind detecting and treating subtle thyroid problems, Dr Broda Barnes, even went so far as to check the healthy functioning of the thyroid on both partners in cases of persistent infertility of unknown origin.
How to check your thyroid at home
Dr Barnes developed a simple test that, although it never caught on in main stream medicine, forms an important test for those working in the functional medicine area. For women who are still menstruating and prone to temperature changes linked to the cycling hormones, it’s recommended that this test is performed on the second and/or third day of their period. Women who are menopausal and men can perform the test at any time.
Step 1. Shake down the thermometer and leave it on the bed side table
Step 2. On waking, place the thermometer under the armpit.
Step 3. Don’t move for 10 minutes, lie perfectly still!
Step 4. Read off your temperature and note it down.
How is your thyroid?
97.8 – 98.2 F (36.5 – 36.8 C): Normal
Over 98.2 F (36.8C): Over active thyroid or infection
Under 97.8 F (36.5C): Under active thyroid
Despite the controversy surrounding this simple test and its interpretation, simple dietary changes and then use of specific supplements aimed at supporting the gland can help many cases of chronic fatigue, hormone related lethargy and weight gain not to mention support a healthy heart and brain function. If you feel you may have a thyroid that is underperforming rather than medically malfunctioning this test may open new doors to regaining your health.