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Hypothyroidism and Functional Medicine

The thyroid gland produces hormones that influence many different processes in your body. These hormones affect nearly every cell type. Maintaining proper levels of these hormones is important to your overall health and functioning. They help the body use and produce energy, and if your body is not producing the proper amount, it can lead to thyroid conditions, such as hyper- and hypothyroidism, which can have many adverse effects on your health and wellness.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the thyroid problem associated with an underproduction of thyroid hormones. In general, this will result in lowered energy levels, but hypothyroidism has many symptoms.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Trouble with brain function, such as memory loss or difficulty concentrating
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Poor circulation
  • Cold intolerance
  • Puffy face and swollen eyelids, particularly bags under the eyes despite getting enough sleep
  • Swelling of the feet, legs and hands
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure

Types of Thyroid Hormones

  • T3. T3 is the active thyroid hormone. It affects all of the aforementioned symptoms and the functions related to them.
  • T4. The T4 hormone is the inactive thyroid hormone. It doesn’t do anything on its own; it waits to be turned into a T3 hormone.
  • Reverse T3. Instead of being converted to T3, sometimes the body will convert the T4 hormone into a reverse T3 hormone. This hormone will not do any of what the regular T3 hormone does, and in fact, it may limit the conversion of T4 to T3.
  • Free and bound. When T3 or T4 hormones are being circulated, they can be considered either free or bound. A free hormone means that it is active and able to do whatever it needs to do—such as deliver oxygen and energy in the case of T3, and convert itself to T3 in the case of T4. If a hormone is bound, it’s unable to perform those functions.

Possible Causes of Hypothyroidism

Inadequate Free T4

An inadequate amount of free T4 can be due to deficiencies of zinc, copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C.

Inadequate Free T3 or Too Much Reverse T3

This can be due to increased adrenaline, aging, low calorie consumption, diabetes, toxic metal exposure, prolonged illness and stress. Too much Reverse T3 often happens as a result of yo-yo dieting or fibromyalgia.

Lack of T4 to T3 Conversion

Many medications can affect this, including beta blockers, birth control and oral estrogen. As well, it can be affected by nutrient deficiencies, such as deficiencies in iodine, iron, zinc, selenium and Vitamins A, B2, B6 and B12. T4 to T3 conversion can also be affected by dieting habits, diabetes, fluoride, aging, radiation and stress.

Treating Hypothyroidism with Functional Medicine

To begin treating hypothyroidism, Dr. Waller will first want to eliminate whatever is causing the issue before going on to replacing and restoring balance to your thyroid levels.

Eliminating the Causes

  • Detecting and correcting nutrient deficiencies.
  • Decreasing stress through meditative techniques, support groups or psychotherapy.
  • Improving your diet. This diet should be anti-inflammatory and low in carbs.
  • Starting an exercise routine.
  • Chelation therapy to remove heavy metals.
  • Eliminate offending medications.
  • Detoxification. That is, getting rid of any and all offending toxins inside of the body.

Once those steps have been taken, Dr. Waller can begin hormone replacement therapy to restore your thyroid levels to their optimal level.

Suggested Reading

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