An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of those are undiagnosed, according to the American Thyroid Association. Though the thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple, it plays a big role in the body’s overall health. If left untreated, thyroid problems can negatively impact all major organs.
Indicators of thyroid problems or disease can include fatigue, memory problems, anxiousness, sore or weak muscles, extreme weight gain or loss, and dry, brittle skin, hair and nails. In women, other symptoms may be irregular menstrual cycles, miscarriage and even infertility. Thyroid issues can include the production of too much thyroid hormone (Grave’s disease), underproduction of hormones (hypothyroidism), autoimmune disorder (Hashimoto’s disease) and cancer. Pharmaceutical drugs or surgery are often the recommended treatments.
Personalized medicine is a patient-centered specialty that takes into account detailed personal history, genetics, environment and lifestyle factors and in-depth cutting edge diagnostic testing to correct underlying issues rather than simply treat symptoms. Instead of fixating on what the issue with the thyroid is, we ask why it is manifesting.
Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) triggers the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH causes the thyroid gland to make thyroxine (T4), which is then converted into the active form of the hormone, triiodothyronine (T3). T3 helps control the body’s metabolism. Primary care doctors routinely test only for abnormal levels of TSH, but this is only one indicator of possible thyroid dysfunction. All permutations of thyroid hormones need to be tested in order to ensure proper function. A lack of iodine, trace elements, selenium or varying vitamins can prevent production of these hormones or the conversion of T4 into active T3. After testing, a functional medicine practitioner may prescribe supplements or dietary changes to boost the presence of these nutrients in the body.
A thyroid problem may also be an indication of deeper issues within the adrenal glands. Without first having proper adrenal function, thyroid treatments will not be effective. Adrenal glands can be overworked due to chronic stress — even stress that people might perceive as positive. For example, a dad who works full time, takes care of his family and then uses what little free time he has to train for a mini-marathon, is putting incredible stress on his adrenal glands. This means the glands are likely to overproduce cortisol, a hormone that regulates blood pressure, controls insulin release and affects immune function.
Most doctors perform tests to detect adrenal failure or toxicity, but there is really a wider spectrum of adrenal issues to examine. The goal should be to get the adrenal glands functioning at optimum levels. Treatments may include detoxification and diet changes, like eliminating caffeine, or lifestyle changes like moderating exercise. This allows the adrenal glands to heal. A customized treatment plan may also include botanical supplements and medication.
The functional and personalized approaches are an evolution in the practice of medicine and can better address the healthcare needs of the 21st century. They are shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to address the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. These specialties offer an innovative, systems-oriented approach to thyroid health and other common chronic conditions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Paige is one of a select group of providers in the country to offer this revolutionary approach to medicine. Building upon the knowledge obtained from his over twenty years as a primary care physician, he offers a unique perspective in his new practice, the Medical Transformation Center. He has obtained a fellowship in Anti-aging, Regenerative and Functional medicine, which he completed with the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine. He is board certified by the American Board of Anti-aging and Regenerative Medicine and has been board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Louisville.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet.