There are so many articles out there about an improperly functioning thyroid, it is hard to know where to begin! Let’s start at the top. How many of these symptoms describe you?
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight gain
- Muscle aches
- Rapid hair graying
- Decreased libido
- And too many other “little issues attributed to aging”
These little issues could be caused by a small gland with some big responsibilities. That gland is your thyroid.
The thyroid gland produces and stores hormones through an integral and complex pathway that is directly linked to your hormones and adrenals. The thyroid plays a part in EVERYTHING AND EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY. It is butterfly-shaped and is found in the lower part of the neck, wrapped around the trachea.
Hypothyroidism: A Common Condition, But Frequently Misdiagnosed
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the body, for various reasons, doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone or is unable to utilize the thyroid at a cellular level. No matter what the cause, this diagnosis has debilitating and frustrating consequences.
Being diagnosed with hypothyroid myself in 2002, I have spent the last 13 years researching, studying,
and understanding the complexity of this “little gland.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 4.6 percent of the U.S. population (approximately 18 million people) age 12 and older has hypothyroidism. As prevalent as hypothyroidism is, most people are not correctly diagnosed when they first present symptoms to their doctors because there is not a standard interpretation criteria for screening tests—meaning that one doctor may think a slight dip below the normal range is acceptable while others would argue otherwise.
Your thyroid can be affected if your adrenals are not balanced or if your hormones are constantly fluctuating. Due to the minute-to-minute variability of ALL the hormones in your body, patients are often under-diagnosed.
A single thyroid level test is insufficient to make the determination of hypothyroidism.
Many other thyroid levels also need to be checked. These could include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody, Thyroglobulin Antibody, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin D, Hormones and Cortisol.
A patient who self-educates and self-advocates is in the best position to work collaboratively with his or her doctor to determine the best course of treatment for the symptoms and diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Self-advocacy is much easier when you choose a doctor who has experience in recognizing the symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as other hormonal conditions such as diabetes and adrenal gland issues.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Once hypothyroidism is diagnosed, there are many treatment options that need to be considered. Synthetic thyroid (Synthroid or Levoxyl) medication is not the only option. There are T3-only medications such as Cytomel or combination of T4 and T3 medications such as Armour Thyroid or Nature Thyroid. Patients even have the option of having their thyroid medication compounded with an accredited compounding pharmacy.
Hypothyroidism is not a cookie-cutter diagnosis and neither should be the treatment.
It is extremely important to work closely with your physician to monitor symptoms and continue to regularly check your thyroid levels.
The discussion of thyroid disease is more extensive than I can capture in a single blog post. In my 15 years of practicing primary care, I have diagnosed and corrected misdiagnoses of many patients with hypothyroidism. I understand and have experienced every symptom you may be having. I know the frustrations, I understand the suffering and I continue to live with this diagnosis everyday.
If you are suffering from any symptoms that are interfering with your life, Please contact our office today to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.
Hormones can have a major affect on your hair, skin and nails. Skin, the single largest organ in the human body readily tells the story of what is really going on beneath those layers.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Hair loss in clumps or strands
- Slow or no hair growth
- Thinning eyebrows
- Sparse eyelashes
- Brittle or cracked nails
- Nail ridges
- Dry skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Eye circles
Contrary to popular belief, these symptoms are not from getting older. While aging causes a decline in hormones, environmental and dietary factors also have a hand in speeding up the aging process. While we can’t control our biological clock, what if we could get a handle on things we can control? It starts with our endocrine system.
The endocrine system is comprised of eight main glands:
The glands, located in separate areas of the body, must work in perfect alignment and synchronize to achieve optimal balance. If any part of the pathway “short circuits,” the body immediately signals its distress and begins the healing process. The symptoms you experience are nothing more than indications of the dysfunction occurring at the cellular level.
So why do we develop these symptoms and what can we do to reverse them?
Good question. The reasons are many. The most important thing to identify is WHY you are having the symptoms? For example, the emotional impact of hair loss is likely the same for everyone, but the cause of why it is occurring is starkly different for each individual.
Here are some of the most common causes of endocrine imbalance and its effect on the hair, skin and nails.
- Declining Estrogen. Estrogen stimulates collagen production and blood flow and contributes to the smooth, firm appearance of skin. As estrogen levels drop, so does collagen production. Without adequate collagen, the skin loses its elasticity, hence developing the appearance of wrinkles.
Treatment: Topical estrogen use has shown some improvement in appearance, but the risks of estrogen outweigh the benefits. Although not a permanent solution, some temporary options to enhance collagen stimulation include:
- Vitamin C
- Alpha hydroxy acids
- Chemical peels
- Laser resurfacing
- Elevated Androgens. Estrogen dominance results when estrogen is higher in RELATION to progesterone. Although the absolute value of estrogen declines, the estrogen/progesterone ratio favors estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes estrogen to convert to testosterone. Elevated levels of testosterone triggers a chain reaction which ultimately leads to the typical “male pattern baldness” in both men and women.
Treatment: Balance estrogen/progesterone ratio with natural compounded progesterone. Restoring depleted progesterone levels helps decrease estrogen dominance and thereby decreases conversion to testosterone.
- Bacterial/Fungal Infection. Any compromise to the immune system can weaken hair follicles and dermal layers of the skin. While treating the infection is important, it is even more important to identify WHY an infection is present. Infections are red flags that there is something more going on.
Treatment: Oral Nystatin may be used to treat if there is any suspicion of a systemic fungal infection. Antibiotics for bacterial infections must be used with caution and only given once a definitive cause is identified. Developing antibiotic resistance only worsens the problem. Use with caution.
- Everything is blamed on the thyroid. Whether the thyroid gland is under functioning (Hypothyroid) or over functioning (Hyperthyroid), the wrath it leaves on the hair and skin is emotionally scarring. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THYROID LEVELS ARE TESTED IN ITS ENTIRETY. Too often the diagnosis of thyroid disease is missed due to an inadequate testing of thyroid panel. To fully evaluate a thyroid condition, the following levels should be done: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Total T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies, Thyroglobulin Antibodies, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iron levels.
Treatment: Once an accurate diagnosis of Hypothyroid or Hyperthyroid is made, appropriate treatment is given and monitored. If hair and skin continues to be effected after thyroid is in balance, LOOK FOR ANOTHER CAUSE.
- Medication Side Effects. Answers we seek the most often sit right under our nose. Always, always assume a medication can cause side effects, until otherwise proven. Even if the symptom is not listed in the package insert, don’t assume that is can’t happen. Simple to identify and simpler to reverse.
Treatment: Revisit all medications and ALL SUPPLEMENTS.
- Leaky Gut. This requires a whole article in itself. GI health and “Leaky Gut” are single handedly catapulting modern medicine to all new heights. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THE GUT. LET ME REPEAT………HEAL THE GUT…..HEAL THE BODY! Foods we consume are infested with hormones, antibiotics and other unknown chemicals. Going up against the food industry to change their habits can leave us frustrated and defeated. But changing OUR habits can leave us complete and empowered. As the gut flora is disrupted, it creates a “hole” in our ozone in the gut. This leak causes release of many known and unknown cytokines. The inflammatory nature of the cytokines triggers a disruption in the normal hormonal pathway. As mentioned above, we can now understand what happens when hormones are not aligned. Assume even the healthy foods you consume contribute to the leak.
Treatment: Navigating through the lumen of the GI tract is a winding tortuous ride to unknowns. Begin by decreasing consumption of high reactive foods: gluten, sugar, dairy, non-organic meats and produce. To track your body’s response, maintain a food journal and monitor any physical or emotional improvements. You can also restore the gut’s natural flora with a pro-biotic. You may also consider having an extensive food sensitivity panel testing done. The MRT Leap test measures 150 of the most common food sensitivities.
The complexity of the endocrine system and its effects on the body is quite extensive and many entities are still unknown. The points discussed here are only a mere entry point into the depths of what lies within our cells. Skin is that glorious organ that blankets and shields us from the daily trauma we endure. Waiting around for science to discover the answers will only leave us feeling more impatient and confused. But taking charge of our own health proves to be our greatest ally.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! THE SYMPTOMS YOU EXPERIENCE ARE YOUR BODY’S ATTEMPT TO GET YOUR ATTENTION. Every symptom is just as important as the next. Don’t ignore when your body is talking to you. It could be the most important conversation you will ever have! If you are listening to your body and ready to move forward with healing, contact our office today!