Susan Merenstein, Pharmacist/Owner

(412) 586-4678

Thyroid Balance – Your Key to Brain & Body Harmony

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower front part of your neck. Its job is to secrete hormones that control growth/development during childhood, regulate your metabolism and body temperature, and drive the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain. Specifically, the ones that help you feel good and enough have motivation to accomplish your goals: serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

It’s estimated that tens of millions of people worldwide have thyroid problems—anywhere from 5-25% of the world’s population. In the book, Thyroid Mind Power, it’s reported that, “the last 40 years have witnessed a massive increase in the amount of hormone-disrupting synthetic chemicals, finding their way into our air, food and water…The most sensitive and highly susceptible of human tissues turned out to be the thyroid gland.”

Important Thyroid Facts

  • Thyroid gland makes T4 and T3 and T2 and T1
  • Only T3 is biologically active.
  • Thyroid function is intimately tied to adrenal function, which reciprocally acts to stimulate the pituitary where TSH is produced.
  • Excess cortisol leads to decreased conversion of T4 into active T3 and increases reverse T3.
  • Excess estrogen blocks release of the thyroxine from the gland and increases TBG (thyroid binding globulin) which inactivates or binds thyroid hormone

Factors that Inhibit Healthy Thyroid Function and impair conversion of inactive T4 to Active T3:

  • Excess stress and cortisol production
  • Selenium/Zinc deficiency
  • Deficient protein, excess sugar
  • Increased insulin and Diabetes
  • Chronic illness
  • Compromised liver or kidney function
  • Cadmium, mercury, lead toxicity
  • Herbicides, pesticides
  • Oral contraceptives, excessive estrogen production

Synthetic Progestins

  • SSRI’s
  • Aging
  • Growth hormone deficiency
  • Low DHEA
  • High Cortisol
  • High E2 & SHBG
  • Liver Dysfunction
  • Chronic infection
  • Inflammatory cytokines
  • Cancer
  • Stress (trauma, surgery, illness)
  • Depression and SSRI’s
  • Fasting

Thyroid problems are increasing in the population and especially among women, often surfacing after pregnancy and during middle age. It’s estimated that 1 out of 4 postmenopausal women has thyroid imbalances, and according to Ridha Arem, M.D., editor of the journal, Thyroid, nearly 45% of people over 50 have some degree of thyroid gland inflammation, which is an early sign that thyroid imbalance is likely to occur.

Thyroid imbalance is a major cause of depression, anxiety, mental fog, and memory issues:

  • One-third of all depressions are directly related to thyroid imbalance.
  • 80-90% of postpartum depression is associated with thyroid abnormalities.
  • More than 80% of people with low-grade hypothyroidism have impaired memory function.

The two most common thyroid imbalance issues are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism:

  • Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid – when the gland does not produce enough hormone. Symptoms include:
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Brain fog, or “feeling spacey”
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling cold all the time, even when others feel hot
  • A body temperature that tends to be lower than 98.6
  • Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid – when the gland produces too much hormone, causing everything in your body to work too fast. Symptoms include:
  • Feeling jittery, as if you have had too much caffeine
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • A fast pulse
  • Breathlessness
  • Weight loss, despite an increased appetite
  • Feeling too hot for no clear reason

Suspect Thyroid Imbalance?

It’s difficult to know if your thyroid is truly balanced without a simple blood test, which is something that your primary care physician should be willing to provide. The main thyroid hormones—TSH, T3, and T4—all have to be in the right balance for you to feel your best.

Blood Test Checklist

When your doctor checks your thyroid, don’t settle for a TSH test alone—it only measures your thyroid stimulating hormone. TSH levels can be normal, even while you have an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Instead, if you have any symptoms, insist your doctor order the following tests:

  • TSH (according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, anything over 3.0 is abnormal and needs further investigation)
  • Free T3 (active)
  • Free T4 (inactive)
  • Thyroid antibodies
      • Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOab)
      • Thyroglobulin antibodies (TG)
  • Liver function tests (95% of T4 is “activated” in the liver) so having a healthy liver is essential).
  • Ferritin level (ferritin is like the bus that drives the active T3 into the cells for the activity to occur. Ferritin needs to be above 90 for this to occur).

Balancing Your Thyroid

Thyroid issues can be effectively treated with a number of thyroid medications, but your doctor needs to test your levels regularly to assure that you are not taking too much or too little.

There are also a number of natural dietary supplements that support thyroid function, including the herb rosemary, Magnesium, Manganese, zinc, chromium, potassium, iodine, l-tyrosine, vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, Vitamin E, CoQ10, selenium, seaweed, and ashwagandha. Also, make sure to have healthy testosterone, insulin, and melatonin levels.

While these thyroid tests can be helpful, in the final analysis your doctor should treat YOU, not the blood test. We have seen many women with hypothyroidism not treated by their physicians because their thyroid numbers were low but “within normal limits.” It’s a little like saying a vitamin D level of 21 is normal (normal range is 20-80).

How you feel and how you function (e.g., energy, constipation, dry hair, dry skin, cognition, body temperature) is more important in assessing thyroid function than just using arbitrary blood test normal ranges.

At Vital Health Pharmacist we use Blood Spot Testing at home to determine the capillary or whole blood thyroid results vs the venous blood to get a better idea of the tissue level of hormone.

Suggested Thyroid Testing:
Thyroid Imbalance Test Kit
Iodine Test Kit
Combo Test Kit