THYROID: IT’S POWERFUL ROLE IN HORMONAL AND IMMUNAL HEALTH
Today over 27 million American women are diagnosed with Thyroid disorders, while it is estimated that there are 50% more that are undiagnosed. Of those diagnosis over 70% are classified as Hashimotos which is an autoimmune disease that often goes undetected because the proper tests are not ordered.
So why is the thyroid gland so vulnerable and frequently impaired especially in women? What triggers the thyroid to start under or over performing? Is it genetics, environment, diet, or lifestyle mediated? The answer is yes to all of the above but it is not a one size fits all; it is unique to each individual because it involves so many different systems that overlap.
First, what do we know about the thyroid gland? It is a small butterfly shaped organ that weighs about a half to one ounce, about the size of a large walnut. It is almost 2 times larger in women. It is also the most vascularized of all the endocrine glands and it takes about 18 minutes for all the blood of the body to pass through the gland. It is the organ that set metabolic rate (how fast we burn out calories) helps fight infection, supports immune and brain cells and stores and rereleases thyroid hormones. A hefty job for a gland the size of a walnut!!
“I was 48 years old at the time. Every day was a struggle to get going. I was tired. I couldn’t remember what it was like to get a good night sleep and feel refreshed. Every meal I ate made me feel bloated and uncomfortable. My face and eyes were puffy. I looked like I felt — run down. I still had to go to work and care for my family. You just go through the motions and do the best you can.”
One of the prevailing misconceptions in traditional medicine is that when the standard TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones) and T4 come back normal on blood tests then thyroid dysfunction is ruled out. Wrong!! Unfortunately the Big Picture is missing. The thyroid gland makes and converts other hormones such as Free T4, Free T3 Thyroid Antibodies, and Reverse T3. This can only be addressed when a complete Thyroid panel is ordered. Without the whole picture the whole person cannot be assessed.
THYROID AND HORMONES
The thyroid gland is part of the HPTA AXIS (Hypothalamic, Pituitary, Adrenal, Thyroid). It is a dynamic chain of
communication with feedback loops between hormones and neurotransmitters. The end result is the production of Free T3 which is dependent on enzymes in the liver and probiotics in the gut. Free T3 is the only true active hormone. Without optimal levels of Free T3 there is; less hormone production, difficulty losing weight, and a foggy brain to boot!
“My husband and I attended a Young Living seminar on stress. That was the day I met Dr. Sherie Viencek. That day I was given hope. I and an appointment to see Dr. Sherie soon after that seminar. She ordered blood work and tested my saliva. The supplements she gave me made a tremendous difference in my energy. The day the test results came back changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease.”
There has been solid peer review research demonstrating the relationship between optimal Free T3 and Depression. Clinically in my practice I have seen changes in mood, depression and cognition when the Free T3 levels are optimal. As women transition through various hormonal cycles from childbirth to peri-menopause and menopause the HPTA AXIS is churning is new directions. The subtle dance between thyroid and female hormones is one in which Progesterone improves Thyroid Receptors (helping fertility/infertility and respectively Thyroid Hormones (T4 and T3) influence female hormones at their receptor sites. A win –win in the hormonal milieu.
Unfortunately, many women in westernized countries have too much circulating Estrogens; some made in the body, some not fully metabolized and others from the environment like plastics. This is called Estrogen Dominance. In this state high circulating Estrogens can bind with Thyroid receptors thus preventing the Thyroid from getting its own hormone. This is sometimes seen with the use of Premarin and Birth Control Pills.
THE GAME CHANGER
Hashimotos is the game changer because it is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by your own immune system. The triggers set off a cascade of inflammation that damages the gland and reduces the thyroid function. Although women are seven times more likely to develop Hashimotos, males can also develop thyroid disorders and should be tested accordingly. Hashimotos is identified by performing a full Thyroid Panel that includes Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody and Thyroglobulin Antibody. Since the statistics of autoimmune disease are now estimated at “one out of nine Americans” it is crucial to be pro –active and make sure the proper tests are order.
“I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. It’s an autoimmune disease. I had never hear of Hashimoto’s Disease before that day. I wanted to learn everything I could about Hashimoto’s. Most of my symptoms were text book. Dr. Viencek explained that I need to make changes in how I eat for the rest of my life. No more Gluten. Up to that point pretty much everything was eating contained Gluten. After one week of no gluten in my diet I felt like someone “flipped a switch.” I wasn’t bloated after meals. I was sleeping better. I had more energy.”
Specific triggers are: Environmental (heavy metals and chemicals) Mold, Bacteria and Viruses (Lyme), Dietary triggers ( The Standard American Diet- SAD and possibly Gluten).There is a growing body of research from several countries now linking Gluten Intolerance to Hashimotos. Identifying and Eliminating individual triggers is the name of the game for genuine lasing immune change. It certainly is not “the one pill fixes everything model” but it is the only model that squelches the inflammation and stops the progression of immune attack.
The silver lining is that there is a plethora of nutraceuticals, botanicals, hormones, dietary and lifestyle changes that can improve, stabilize and resolve immune attacks. Some tips for management of autoimmune diseases are to: take time to figure out your triggers, utilize specific tests and work with a health professional that is knowledgeable with the immune system. Know your family history, remember that one size or dose does not fit all and live a hormonally balanced life as much as possible.
“My children have and similar symptoms as I had and some I didn’t. They have been tested for Hshimoto’s Disease. I am grateful they didn’t have to wait until they were in their 40’s to know what to do to be healthy. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Sherie Viencek for helping me to have a happier, healthier life.” ~ Jackie Burke