Thyroid Problems

The thyroid has been called the “treacherous masquerader” because the range of symptoms from a dysfunctional thyroid are those not traditionally associated with low thyroid function. This article will address those hidden symptoms so that you can re-visit this issue with your health care practitioner even if he/she has advised you that your lab results were within normal range!

First of all make sure that free T3 was tested when you have your thyroid values checked by your health care practitioner. This value shows the amount of thyroid hormone that is “free”, unbound and therefore available for your body to use. If only T3 is tested and it shows up to be a normal value, you could in fact have suboptimal free T3 levels, meaning low free and available thyroid hormone for your body to use.

The second thing to insist on including in your thyroid blood test is thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), which is a test for thyroid antibodies. This is not a routine test so be sure to ask that it is included. Individuals suffering from any form of chronic inflammation, such as:

  • chronic fatigue
  • lyme disease
  • allergies
  • immune sensitivities
  • sluggish digestion
  • chronic constipation
  • migraine
  • anxiety
  • heart palpitations
  • numbness
  • dizziness
  • acid reflux
  • joint pain
  • night blindness

and environmental sensitivities should make it a point to have this tested. When the immune system becomes overly active and inflammatory processes become chronic, the body can develop antibodies to one’s own thyroid. When his happens, the antibodies you produce to your own thyroid will bind a significant portion of your circulating thyroid hormone, leaving you with suboptimal functional thyroid hormone for some tissue systems. This is the catch, not all tissues systems will suffer low thyroid! Uncommon symptoms associated with low cellular thyroid hormone absorption could result and become chronic and undiagnosed as a result.

What is a dysfunctional thyroid?

The classical picture is where the tests described above prove to be suboptimal. However, one can have a “normal” functioning thyroid gland, that excretes a normal range of thyroid hormones, but your cells in some parts of your body are incapable of absorbing the hormone and using it. Many metabolic systems of the body need a certain amount of thyroid hormone absorbed cellular to function. Suboptimum cellular absorption results in symptoms in those metabolic systems that are an indirect result of insufficient cellular thyroid hormone. The overall level in the blood of circulating thyroid can be normal, but the absorption level in the brain, or in mitochondria ravaged by chronic lyme infection or chronic fatigue viruses can make that metabolic system hypothyroid per se without making the entire body’s level of thyroid hormone deficient. Therefore, we need to look at thyroid hormones not just from serum levels. Unfortunately there is no system in place yet to measure thyroid hormone levels in different tissue systems, heart, brain, bone, muscle, cartilage, nerves etc.

What are some of the uncommon low thyroid symptoms to consider that can result of insufficient cellular absorption of thyroid hormone?

  • Depression, or depressed mood
  • elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • retention of body fluids, bloating
  • difficulty thinking and remembering
  • anemia
  • osteoporosis
  • recurrent infections that may require antibiotics
  • recurrent upper respiratory and sinus infections
  • excessive fatigue
  • cold limbs, or sensation of being cold
  • chronic candida infections
  • problems with low blood sugar and sugar regulation
  • chronic viral infections, including Epstein Barr
  • dry coarse skin
  • dry stools, or constipation
  • weakness
  • coarse hair, thinning hair, falling hair
  • memory impairment
  • slowed speech, not want to talk faster
  • weight gain or hard to maintain weight
  • muscle cramps, they can be severe, especially at night
  • long-standing low back pain
  • loss of blood cell mass in CBC panels
  • coagulability problems
  • easy bruising
  • rheumatic pains, stiffness
  • paresthesias in hands and feet
  • vague muscle and joint pains, worse in the morning
  • knee pains and/or swellings
  • loss of night vision
  • puffy skin
  • water retention
  • non-pitting edema around eyes, hands, ankles, feet
  • inability to sweat
  • slow wound healing
  • nails grow slowly
  • brittle and weak nails
  • increased blood pressure
  • loss of appetite
  • gaseous distention, colicky pain, indigestion, even vomiting
  • low stomach acid secretions, food sits there
  • increased SGOT, LDH, CPK and serum amylase
  • decreased intestinal motility
  • decreased brain circulation, slow witted
  • increased irritability
  • sleepiness
  • paranoia
  • slurred speech or hoarseness
  • vertigo
  • hearing loss, meniere’s disease
  • dry ears
  • chronic sore throats, problems with swallowing
  • chronic nasal congestion and headaches
  • decreased libido in women and menstrual irregularity
  • chronic undiagnosed infertility and multiple miscarriages
  • decreased sperm count
  • chronic pancreatitis, resulting in insufficient digestive enzymes
  • increased acid indigestion from decreased pancreatic bicarbonate production, needed to alkalinize the small intestine
  • slow drug metabolism
  • joint instability worse in the morning
  • increased uric acid levels and increased sedimentation rate
  • iron deficiency anemia

The more realistic way to think of thyroid dysfunction in terms of insufficient synthesis of thyroid hormone to grades of insufficient absorbstion on a cellular level of thyroid hormone. The question should not be, “ am I hypothyroid or not?” but could I have a degree of cellular mal-absorption going on. Mal-absorption and low thyroid synthesis onset is slow and progressive and does not always follow the same set of symptoms. As more is being uncovered about how thyroid function impacts may metabolic functions in the body it becomes more clear that normal serum values do not necessarily mean that tissue receptor sites in some parts of the body are able to take up and use thyroid hormone uniformerly, thus the above symptoms can strike one aspect of the body only and not be seen as hypothyroid symptoms per se.

Cellular health requires nutrients, oxygen and thyroid hormones. The ravages of chronic inflammation and chronic infection from Epstein Barr, HHV, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, lyme co-infectants such as Bartonella and such will erode cell wall membranes, making nutrient transport and hormone transport inefficient. Those very areas of the body attacked by pathogens can be the first to suffer from low thyroid nutrient absorption and yet the serum levels look normal.

Thyroid hormones impact many metabolic functions. They stimulate oxidative metabolism, helping cells to increase their oxygen consumption. Without sufficient oxygen, brain cells suffer, our ATP synthesis lags and we fatigue from insufficient cellular oxygen. Protein metabolism is thyroid hormone dependent, without which our body struggles in protein synthesis and we cannot maintain our muscle mass even if we work out. Thyroid hormones are needed for the synthesis of sex hormones involving the pituitary and testes and ovaries, and adrenal glands. Optimum adrenal function is impossible with sub-optimal thyroid hormone metabolism. Thyroid hormones are even needed to control the rate of absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract! Slow motility, low stomach acid, ph imbalances all involve proper cellular thyroid hormone absorption.

Proper cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism is thyroid hormone dependent. Optimizing thyroid hormone absorption optimizes good cholesterol levels. How many doctors look at that factor before putting someone on a cholesterol drug?

Thyroid hormone is needed by the eyes to make retinine, a protein that is essential for night vision! Retinine is also needed to repair cell membranes, and nuclei, important for proper nerve and brain health. Is it no wonder why decline in absorption of thyroid hormone in the brain and nerve tissues results in one’s declining ability to regenerate one’s nerves. This naturally will result in increasing degrees of muscle pain, nerve pain and such.

Cellular thyroid hormone absorption is essential to maintain proper water metabolism through the sodium pump. Imbalances will cause isolated areas of water retention (around the eyes, hands, ankles and feet, puffy skin, feeling bloated) as hyalouronic acid increases and binds water. This kind of edema is not pitting and puffiness, bloating, increased blood pressure and weight gain result.

Thyroid hormone is needed for nutrient absorption necessary for repair and growth of hair and nails. Cellular sluggishness results, slow gut motility, loss of appetite, the slowing of cellular function in any area of the body from the brain, the digestive tract, the heart, the immune system, skin, hair, reproductive system, muscle, joints, bones, all cellular repair and regeneration and metabolism can slow, either in isolation affecting one organ system or several. When you begin to realize that every cell system in the body needs thyroid hormone, and you begin to understand that some systems in the body can actually become inefficient in absorbing thyroid hormone, then you can begin to understand that a particular distressing complex of symptoms can originate from insufficient cellular absorption of thyroid hormone, like isolated pockets of starvation.

Medical history that includes history of infections, allergies and lab tests are necessary as a start. A self-administered Barnes Basal Temperature test is also recommended. Before going to bed, shake a thermometer down and put it by your bed table. In the morning, before arising, put the thermometer under your armpit for 10 minutes and lie there and record the reading. Do this 2 days in a row. The temperature should range normally from 97.8 to 98.2. If the temperature is lower than 97.8 then have your health care prescriber provide you some desiccated thyroid and continue to test your temperature every 3 weeks for improvement. Due to the non-uniform cellular absorption of thyroid hormones in different systems of the body already weakened by chronic inflammation, chronic infection and other disease processes, no single test procedure can define the status of your body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone on a cellular level when the thyroid gland itself may be excreting “adequate” amounts of thyroid hormone. Clinical outcome studies have shown that giving patients desiccated thyroid can help increase cellular absorption and eliminate the puzzling symptoms not traditionally associated with hypothyroidism.

To better deal with the degenerative effects of chronic disease and inflammatory processes, we need to be mindful of the challenges each tissue system of the body has to struggle with to absorb nutrients and hormones necessary for optimum function. Labs that simply test the entire body and not a tissue system can easily overlook a thyroid hormone deficiency that impacts that metabolic system in the body. The Barnes Basal Temperature test is crude but it is a helpful element to add to one’s diagnostic skills. And the more one appreciates the subtle but essential function thyroid plays in oxygen metabolism, sugar metabolism, hair growth, nerve regeneration, skin regeneration, wound healing, fat metabolism, digestive motility, energy, mood, speed of thought, water metabolism, immune system strength and such, the better detectives we will all be at getting at the root cause for these perplexing symptoms.

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan