Could your thyroid have an effect on your weight loss efforts? Even if your doctor says it's normal...
You bet it could. Underactive, sub-clinical hypothyroidism is one of the most missed diagnoses in medicine,
and is responsible for an awful lot of unhappiness. It also affects eight times as many women as men. The
symptoms of a low thyroid are often vague and generalized — they can include weight gain (or great difficulty
losing weight), depression, fatigue, bloating and often a malaise and lack of energy, not to mention things
like cold hands. Because a lot of these symptoms overlap with those of so many other conditions, the thyroid
is often not suspected, and goes untreated until much damage has been done. Understanding why it often goes
unrecognized why mainstream medicine often overlooks it can help you figure out if this is something that
affects you and if it warrants further investigation.
The thyroid, an endocrine gland located in the neck, is a big player in determining metabolic rate. It puts
out several hormones, but for our purposes the important ones are T3 and T4. Of these two hormones, T4 accounts
for about 93 percent of thyroid hormone and T3 accounts for the other seven percent, but it's T3 that is
the active one. (This is important to remember because most mainstream doctors who prescribe thyroid hormone
will give you Synthroid, which is basically T4). Under ideal conditions, the body converts the inactive T4
to active T3, and it has always been assumed that this conversion takes place just fine in healthy people.
Unfortunately, it may not. The body needs the mineral selenium to perform the conversion properly, a mineral
that is amazingly low in the American diet and in which huge numbers of people are deficient. In any case,
even though there may be enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, it may not be getting to its target cells
where it can do its metabolic work.
Mainstream medicine usually takes blood levels of T4 and T3, and if they're "normal," they assume everything's
just fine. But there are further tests that may reveal a problem that doesn't show up in the basic test. Like
all endocrine glands, the thyroid output is regulated by an intricate system of checks and balances. I think of
it as a big system of air-traffic control at an airport. Different people watch different sections of the airfield
and monitor who's coming and going, sending radio signals to a supervisor who sits in the tower and listens for
the reports of who's coming in and who's going out. Based on the information the controller is getting, he or
she tells the airplanes where to taxi. The system works fine as long as the controller's getting the right
messages from the guys beneath who are actually monitoring the runways themselves. If the radio signals are
jammed, however, and the controller doesn't know it, she may be giving out the wrong information to the
airplanes. It starts with the hypothalamus, which signals the pituitary to put out a hormone called TSH
(Thyroid Simulating Hormone). When thyroid stimulating hormone levels are high, the body thinks it needs
more thyroid hormone. A test for TSH that reveals a high level means that the body "thinks" it needs more
thyroid, so it's sending out a "distress" signal saying "give me more, give me more." That's why the
TSH test is a better indicator of what's going on than the basic T3/T4 test.
Even the TSH test may not be enough to tell us everything we need to know. According to thyroid expert Raphael
Kellman, M.D., we may need to look one step further up the chain at the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is like
the chief air-traffic controller. It puts out a hormone called TRH (Thyrotropic Releasing Hormone), which in
turn controls the pituitary output of the TSH (which in turn controls T3 and T4). Kellman maintains that tests
of the effectiveness of this signaling system actually reveal thyroid problems that the other tests don't catch.
It gets more complicated, so stay with me. When T4 (the inactive hormone) is converted to T3, the conversion
actually produces some inactive by-products called rT3. Usually these don't matter as long as the ratio is about
10:1 in favor of the active T3. Sometimes the system goes haywire causing the conversion to produce far more of
these by-products than production of the "real thing." This syndrome, discovered by Dr. Denis Wilson, is known
as Wilson's syndrome, and it's just getting recognized as a real clinical entity. Your mainstream doctor may not
know anything about it yet. Obviously, such metabolic weirdness would never show up on a basic test for T4 and T3.
Why are we seeing a virtual epidemic of under active or low thyroid? Several theories have been put forth, but
one of the most compelling is that toxic metals — like mercury — and other compounds to which we are routinely
exposed, like the by-products of aspartame — get deposited in the thyroid, wreaking havoc on its ability to
function properly. Soy, so universally touted as a wonderful health food may contribute to the mix as well,
since it contains goitrogens, compounds that suppress thyroid function. How ironic that an overweight woman
following mainstream advice to lose weight might be downing large amounts of both diet sodas and soy products
that in turn just might be suppressing the very hormones that she needs to accomplish the task?
There is an old, tried and true "low tech" way of checking your thyroid at home that could give you a clue as
to whether or not it's worth further investigation. The Broda Barnes Foundation, a thyroid-education group, uses
this technique and it's very simple to do. Upon arising, take your underarm temperature. Do it for two or three
days in a row. If it's consistently below 97.8, and you're experiencing any of the symptoms I've mentioned,
it's probably worth checking into further.
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Copyright © July 2006 Jonny Bowden and Low Carb Luxury