AMERICA'S THYROID EPIDEMIC
Why am I writing a post on thyroid problems? Let me give you an example using Becky (name changed of course), that I just saw last week. The last time I saw Becky, I couldn't help but notice that she had a thyroid problem. Yes; it was that obvious.
At age 60, her eyebrows were totally gone, her hair was falling out, her skin was dry and flaky, she had developed a significant belly, and seemed exhausted to the point that simply moving or talking was a chore. I looked at Becky and gently said to her, "You know you have a thyroid problem don't you?" Her reply was one that unfortunately I have heard over and over again in the years I've been in practice. "My doctor says my thyroid is fine --- maybe a bit on the low side of normal --- but it's good." This post is for all the women (and men) who have lived this scenario, as well as the practitioners who would rather trust a blood test than what they see.
When one begins to look at the actual statistics on thyroid problems here in America, one quickly realizes that using the word "epidemic" to describe what is happening, is not over-the-top hype. It is completely appropriate. In fact, the word 'epidemic' might not be strong enough to convey what is really going on with our nation's collective Thyroid Glands.
Are you sitting down? About one in ten Americans has some sort of thyroid problem. And although our current medical community wants you to believe that they can take care of most thyroid symptoms via hormone replacement therapy; statistics tell us that this hasn't been going as well as planned (it did not work so well with estrogen-based HRT either). Instead of looking at thyroid problems simply as "Thyroid Problems", a better solution might be to ask why so many thyroids are not working properly. It's time to step back and get a better perspective of the problem by looking at the body as a whole organism ---- not just a bunch of loosely related components.
Oh; and like most other ENDOCRINE DYSFUNCTIONS, it is women who are taking it on the proverbial chin. Just like PIRIFORMIS SYNDROME that I treat so much of in my clinic (I have actually been calling it a female epidemic for over a decade), the number one predisposing factor for having abnormal thyroid function is simply being female. We will discuss some of the reasons for this shortly.
Before we continue, let me clearly state that I am not an endocrinologist. I am a small town Chiropractor with a long-standing interest in FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE and its relationship to your overall health. The purpose of this Blog Post is not to bash the standard medical approach to dealing with thyroid or other endocrine problems. It is simply to point out why it might not have proved itself the best option for your particular problem ---- you know; the one you have been struggling with for years, even though you have tried everything they have offered you, without any tangible long-term results.
WHAT DOES THE THYROID GLAND DO?
Wow! Where do I begin? The thyroid gland exerts influence over so many different body systems that when it's function begins to slip, numerous other bodily functions start slipping as well. This further diminishes thyroid function, which in turn suppresses or revs up various parts of the rest of the body --- including the endocrine and immune systems. This can lead to difficulty trying to discern which endocrine problem is primary. A few of the areas of function influenced by the thyroid gland include:
Truthfully, this list could be much longer. However, I think that you are starting to get the point. The point being that the thyroid gland regulates and controls numerous body functions. When it starts to go south, other health problems begin to rare their ugly heads as well.
Here is a list of a few of the various Thyroid Hormones, as well as their functions.
THYROTROPIN-RELEASING HORMONE (TRH): When the body senses that metabolism needs to be cranked up, it sends out a messenger to the brain. In the brain, the HYPOTHALAMUS (communication between the brain and the endocrine system) gets the message and passes it on to the Pituitary Gland. It uses a messenger called TRH.
THYROID STIMULATING HORMONE (TSH): aka THYROTROPIN: After TRH has told the Pituitary Gland that it needs to crank up metabolism, it (the pituitary) kicks into high gear and releases TSH. TSH heads straight to the Thyroid Gland and lets in some iodine. The iodine stimulates an enzyme called Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) and makes a protein called Thyroglobulin, which, when added to either 3 or 4 molecules of iodine and hydrogen peroxide, manufactures the thyroid hormones T4 (inactive version) and T3 (active version) respectively.
THYROXINE (T4): T4 has 4 molecules of iodine attached to it, and is the inactive form of Thyroid Hormone. About 93% of Thyroid Hormone is inactive T4.
TRI-IODOTHYRONINE (T3): T3 has 3 molecules of iodine attached to it, and is the active form of Thyroid Hormone. This is accomplished via an enzyme (tetraiodothyronine 5 deiodinase) whose job is simply to remove one molecule of iodine from T4, which converts it to T3. About 60% of the body's T4 is converted to T3 --- 80% of which occurs in the liver. Interestingly enough, 20% occurs in the Gut ---- but only in the presence of large numbers of healthy ("Good") bacteria. This is why ANTIBIOTIC USE is ultimately going to lead to Dysbiosis and Thyroid Dysfunction.
Although there are lots of different things that can go wrong with the Thyroid Gland, these problems can be broken down into one of three categories.
Although the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists estimates that over 27 million Americans are dealing with a thyroid problem of some sort, many experts say that the real number is closer to 60 million. Much of this discrepancy is due to the fact it is readily admitted that over half of the people in this category are never diagnosed. As always, the question we need to be asking is why?
If it is so easy to simply draw some blood and analyze its hormone content, why is it so difficult to diagnose certain thyroid problems? Even more importantly, why do such a large percentage of the people who are diagnosed, continue to have symptoms ---- even though they are following their doctor's prescribed treatment regimen of synthetic hormones & anti-depressants, and their blood tests fall within normal ranges? If we do not answer the question of why, we will continue to flounder as a society as far as the management of thyroid problems and associated disorders is concerned.
The word "hypo" implies a decreased, lowered, or diminished thyroid function. The majority of people in America suffering with thyroid problems, have diminished function of their Thyroid Gland. What are some of the most common signs of diminished thyroid function?
As you can see, a loss of thyroid function has the potential to cause numerous health problems. Some of these problems are merely cosmetic (hair loss). Some of them are life altering. Because the thyroid is so central to health and metabolism, thyroid problems can literally steal your life!
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).