Are You Fatigued? Do You Have Low energy?
Your thyroid hormone, T3 (the active thyroid hormone), has many functions. One of these is to increase the number of mitochondria (power plants) in your cells. Your mitochondria are intracellular organelles that produce ATP molecules. Your ATP molecules are the currency of energy. They provide the energy for every action in your body that requires energy. For example, every time your muscles contract – including your heart – you use large amounts of ATP. So, if you are fatigued or feel low energy, your T3 levels may not be sufficient (optimized) and so you may not be producing enough mitochondrial power plants and ATP energy currency.
Are You Depressed? Anxious? Have Panic Attacks?
“What? Really? Hypothyroidism can be the cause of these?” The answer is an emphatic yes! Many studies show a relationship between hypothyroidism and each of these disorders. Depression is a major symptom of hypothyroidism and many of the symptoms of depression are the same as hypothyroid symptoms. And when antidepressants alone don’t work adding thyroid hormone can often improve depression, even in patients with normal thyroid tests. Anxiety and panic attacks are also symptoms of hypothyroidism and there is a significant relationship between Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (a cause of hypothyroidism) and anxiety. This is not to say that if you are depressed, anxious or have panic attacks, hypothyroidism is necessarily the cause, but, if not the cause, it can contribute. If you are depressed, anxious or have panic attacks, you may be hypothyroid even, if in the past, you have been told your thyroid tests are normal (see below).
Are You Cold Intolerant? Do You Have Cold Hands? Feet? Does Your Body Temperature Run Low? Are You Heat Intolerant?
As noted above, T3 increases the number of your mitochondria. I can’t express just how important to your health just this one function of your thyroid (T3) is. How it effects your temperature is twofold. How it effects your temperature is twofold. Your mitochondria are not only the power plants of your cells (and thus your body) but they are also the furnaces! Every time ATP energy currency is produced in your cells, heat is also produced. So, first, your body heat is increased simply by increasing the number of your mitochondrial furnaces. But secondly, T3 also stimulates production of “uncoupling protein” in your mitochondria, which produces even more heat (and burns more fat!). You are probably thinking, “Why is all this heat so important?” Well, every function of your body is exquisitely designed to work optimally at a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit! So, if your body temperature runs low, there is a good chance you are hypothyroid. Interestingly, if you are heat intolerant, this can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism because thyroid is needed for sweating and sweating is needed for evaporative cooling of your body.
Have You Noticed Difficulty With Your Memory? Concentration? Has Your Thinking Slowed? Do You Feel Foggy-headed? Are You Easily Distracted?
One of T3s important functions is to increase the energy for your brain to perform, but it also increases your brain’s “clock speed”. Clock speed is how quickly things get done in your neurons (brain cells) and therefore how quickly you are mentally able to process information. If T3 is not at the correct level for you, it can contribute to slowed brain function.
Are You Overweight? Do You Have Trouble Losing Weight?
We first must identify what causes fat accumulation. This occurs primarily from the conversion of unused (excess) blood sugar to triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver. Every carbohydrate that is not fiber that you eat gets absorbed as sugar. If you eat more carbohydrates than you burn, which often happens eating processed carbs, you will produce more triglycerides & cholesterol, which will then be deposited in your fat cells. If you are hypothyroid, your T3 won’t produce as many power plants (mitochondria) to burn the carbohydrates (sugar) and use it up. You won’t produce as much uncoupling protein, which increases the burning of both sugar and fat. You also won’t have as many power plants to produce enough energy for you feel like exercising and so you will be less likely to exercise to burn up excess sugar. And since your muscles burn mostly fat when you are sitting, the less muscle you have, the less fat and sugar you will burn. And one pound of muscle burns approximately 20x the calories as a pound of fat – AT REST!
Is Your Cholesterol Elevated? Your Triglycerides?
From the paragraph above, you can see that if you don’t burn excess sugar, it will go to the liver and be converted to triglyceride and cholesterol. Since modern day processed foods are packed full of carbohydrates and sugar, if your T3 is low or even not optimal, you will more likely have excess sugar being converted to cholesterol and triglycerides and when it no longer gets stored well in your fat cells (as in insulin resistance), your blood levels increase and your doctor says, “STATIN – STAT!” And before there were tests to measure TSH, T4 & T3, your blood cholesterol and triglycerides were the test used to determine if you were hypothyroid! If they were elevated, you were hypothyroid and treated with thyroid replacement until they were lowered back into the normal range!
Have You Had Problems With Infertility? Miscarriage? PMS? PCOS?
If you have had problems with any of these conditions, hypothyroidism may be causative or at least contributory. The explanation for these associations are a bit more complex, however, just remember that for your ovarian cells (and all of your cells) to work correctly, they need adequate levels of T3. To work at peak efficiency, they need optimal levels of thyroid. In order for all your other hormones, including sex hormones, to function optimally, your T3 has to function optimally. And it’s not just women that are affected! Men, low thyroid can decrease your fertility as well. There are several ways thyroid can affect this, and one is making sure there are enough mitochondrial power plants and ATP energy currency for your swimmers to go the distance.
It used to be that patients with hypothyroidism were fairly easy to identify. That’s because only patients who were severely hypothyroid were diagnosed. They had large tongues, thick and slowed speech, swollen bodies (myxedema), and they were mentally slow. Today, these patients are picked up early and treated and so it is rare for any patient to have the classic findings of hypothyroidism. However, today patients who have much more subtle symptoms similar to those described above are often missed because their “thyroid tests” are “normal”.
“What is normal for thyroid tests?” Well, that is a very interesting question! To answer that, let’s look at how “normal” is determined. The way most labs determine “normal” is by taking a group of “healthy” volunteers and testing their thyroid hormones. They average all the measurements, go 2 standard deviations above and below that average value and say that is “normal”. Since 2 standard deviations above and below the average includes 95% of all those measured, the definition of “normal” is “the 95% of all those measured closest to the average of all the measurements in a ‘normal’ population”. This has nothing to do with disease or health or your symptoms! What this says is that only 2.5% of patients are allowed to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Do you think it makes sense for someone to tell you “your thyroid is normal” just because you aren’t in the 2.5% of outliers on the low side, if you have the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Additionally, the “normal” range for TSH from 1970 to 1985 was considered to be less than or equal to 10mIU/L. From 1985 to 1990 the range went from 0.35 to 5.5 and from 1990 to the present they are 0.35 to 4.5. However, in 2002, the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) released new guidelines stating that when more sensitive screening was done “normal” TSH was between .4 and 2.5. And in January 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists backed NACB’s guidelines, saying doctors should “consider treatment for patients who test outside the boundaries of a narrower margin based on a target TSH level of .3 to 3.0.”
How did they determine this new “normal” range? What did they mean by “more sensitive screening”? They “excluded people with thyroid disease” – people who were hypothyroid but were undiagnosed! How did that happen? Doctors were using the “normal” values for TSH to base their diagnosis on and not patient’s symptoms! What range are labs using for their normal levels at the present time 10 years after these recommendations were made? 0.35 to 4.5!
So, you can see that if your TSH was 7.0 in 1972 you weren’t considered to be hypothyroid, but in 1992 you would be. And if your TSH is 3.2 your doctor will most likely say you are “normal” even though you have symptoms and the most appropriate reference range only goes up to 2.5!
Finally, you may have “normal” thyroid hormone blood levels but still have symptoms. Then what? One of my medical school professors said, “Listen to the patient. They will tell you what is wrong with them if you listen well and long enough.” If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, there is a reason for it and we will find it.
One more example of how T3 affects essentially everything is its effect on orgasm. Remember above when we talked about “clock speed”? Well, T3 also affects the clock speed of your orgasm. Orgasm is manifested through nerve impulses and thinking sexual thoughts. So, if you have decreased T3 and decreased neural clock speed, what do you think happens to your ability to achieve orgasm? That’s right, it is slowed and if T3 is low enough, it can be difficult to achieve orgasm at all. The opposite can also be true. With elevated T3, premature orgasm and premature ejaculation can also be a problem.
You can see that Thyroid Hormone (T3) is extremely important to your health and how you feel. Low thyroid is not the only thing that can cause the various symptoms above, but when you begin to have a number of them together the case for hypothyroidism increases greatly. There are many, many other symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as disease states it leads to from diabetes and heart failure to migraines to name a few.
To see a fairly complete list go to: Signs & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
To see if you may be hypothyroid download, complete, save and return Hypothyroid Risk Questionnaire to [email protected]. Or call 727-202-6807 for questions or an appointment. If you are unable to fill this form because you have Word 2007 or before try downloading the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint Open XML File Formats.