- Are you feeling tired, lethargic and listless?
- Do you frequently experience low moods without good reason?
- Is your digestive system bloated or constipated?
- Are your hands and feet feeling cold?
- Do you have dull hair, dry skin and brittle nails?
…and are you confused because your thyroid result from the doc was “normal”?
If so, this article will help you enormously.
If you’ve read my articles on hormones and hormone balance, your thyroid packs a powerful punch.
Its hormones are responsible for regulating energy production in every single cell in your body.
Because everything, everywhere, depends on energy, if your thyroid hormone levels are low, nothing in your body will work properly (hence the list of symptoms above!)
“Underactive thyroid” is hidden epidemic
The combined effects of certain foods, toxins and stress, millions upon millions of people are walking round with symptoms of “low” or underactive” thyroid.
So-called health foods such as polyunsaturated oils (including flax seed oil), tahini, soy and even green vegetables can all suppress thyroid function.
Toxins such as mercury, plastics and pesticides can interfere with thyroid hormone production and the way in which hormones communicate with cells.
The contraceptive pill can cause thyroid problems due to the way in which it creates imbalances in progesterone (thyroid supportive) and estrogen (thyroid suppressive).
Nutrient depletion – vitamin A, copper and selenium, for example – can interfere with proper thyroid function.
Toxins and nutrient depletion can also lead to poor liver function, which also interfere with thyroid function.
Stress, with its increased cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormone) levels can also suppress thyroid function.
When you understand how your thyroid works, it’s easy to see why so many low thyroid cases go under the radar.
If your blood thyroid hormone levels are low, a signal is sent from your pituitary gland, instructing your thyroid to make more thyroid hormones.
This signal comes in the form of “TSH”, or thyroid stimulating hormone.
Acting on TSH’s instruction, your thyroid makes a couple of different hormones – T4 and T3. You need plenty of vitamin A and copper for this process to work properly.
The primary hormone made by the thyroid gland itself is T4, but T4 doesn’t really do that much in your body – it’s a lot “weaker” in its effects than T3.
What your body does from here is really quite neat – it sends out T4 and converts what it needs into T3, which then floats around sending it “energy production” messages to all the cells in your body.
You convert a lot of T4 into T3 in your liver and plenty of selenium is needed for this conversion to work properly.
Believe it or not, some T4 is also converted into T3 in your gut, by friendly bacteria.
Thus, if you’re not nutritionally depleted, if your liver is overloaded, or your gut bacteria levels aren’t optimal, you can develop thyroid problems!
Problems with common thyroid tests
A lot of underactive thyroid cases go under the radar because standard medical testing for thyroid function is inadequate.
From the brief description of how your thyroid hormones work, above, you’ll quickly see that a proper, functional assessment of thyroid hormones really needs to include TSH, T4 and T3.
In fact, it ought to include other hormones such as rT3 and thyroid peroxidase antibodies, but I want to keep things simple here.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, western medicine tends to focus on tests measure TSH only, or TSH and T4.
This seems crazy to me, because the most active of the thyroid hormones in your body is T3!
Thus, it’s impossible to gauge thyroid function unless T3 is included.
The test example below illustrates what I mean:
This initial thyroid test was performed on Richard, an 18-year old male, who was feeling very tired, listless, and whose hands were freezing cold all the time. Please note that I have removed his name and details out of respect for his privacy and confidentiality.
I knew Richard’s thyroid function was low from his symptoms.
Here’s the interesting part: his medical test for thyroid function had returned “normal” for TSH and T4.
His functional thyroid test, performed at home with a simple finger-prick blood test also came back “normal” (you can see both free T4 and TSH are within the lab reference ranges).
But look at his T3 level – it’s a VERY low 1.6, when ideally I’d like to see it over 3.
(You can also see very low vitamin D levels, which can be added to the finger-prick blood test at minimal cost).
I’m pleased to say that using diet changes and gut repair protocols, we were able to double his T3 levels in just a few months, bringing with it a vast improvement in symptoms.
All this after his doctor had reached a conclusion that his thyroid was healthy and normal.
Alas, I see this pattern over and over again – TSH and T4 look normal in medical lab tests, leading to patients being sent home with the belief there’s nothing wrong with their thyroid (despite their symptoms suggesting thyroid insufficiency). But when we run the T3 marker we see very low levels!
Assessing the complete hormonal picture
Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline suppress TSH levels, suppress T4 production in the thyroid itself and reduce the conversion of T4-T3.
It’s therefore important to look at these hormones in addition to measuring thyroid function.
Reducing stress hormone levels through Hompes Method Basics diet and lifestyle recommendations can often reduce cortisol and adrenaline to the point that thyroid hormones kick back in naturally.
Sex hormone balance also affects thyroid function – estrogen suppresses thyroid function when it’s too high, or not offset by adequate progesterone levels.
“Estrogen dominance” is common in both men and women. It’s an anti-thyroid situation, so understanding the balance of these sex hormones and subsequently creating balance can also boost thyroid function.
Thyroid treatment problems
Whilst numerous options exist for treating low thyroid, none of them address the reasons why thyroid problems develop in the first place.
The majority of medical interventions for low thyroid function focus on giving you synthetic T4 medications such as thyroxine.
Whilst you may feel some improvement from these medications, they’re not really focusing on increasing your T3 level and in my experience it’s important to find the right individual balance to support both T4 and T3.
You’re going to see suppressed thyroid activity and T4-T3 conversion problems when:
- Your body is overloaded with stress, because your stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline directly slow down thyroid hormone production and conversion.
- You’re eating too many thyroid-suppressive foods such as polyunsaturated oils and soy.
- You’re taking chemical contraceptives.
- Your gut is not working properly due to the damaging effects of gluten and bad bugs (parasites, bacteria and fungi).
- You’re nutritionally depleted (remember that vitamin A, copper and selenium and others are needed for ideal thyroid function).
- Your liver is overwhelmed with toxins, preventing proper T4-T3 conversion.
Thus, taking thyroid meds without addressing the above root causes of your thyroid dysfunction isn’t going to give you optimum benefit.
Restoring thyroid function
It’s not uncommon for my clients to double their T3 levels in as little as 90-days by following Hompes Methods Basics, and there’s an example of this below.
Because your thyroid and its hormones are dependent on a variety of factors, it’s important to look at thyroid-healing programs holistically:
- Follow Hompes Method Basics to optimize food intake by removing bad, thyroid-suppressive foods, and eating more good thyroid-supportive foods.
- Take necessary steps to support healthy blood sugar balance, which brings down stress hormone levels.
- Optimize cortisol, adrenaline, progesterone and estrogen balance using the Basics program and Testing Toolkit.
- Remove bad bugs and restore ideal digestive function.
- Support your liver to ensure optimal detoxification and T4-T3 conversion.
- Address your individual nutrient imbalances by manipulating your diet and taking targeted supplements, where indicated by the Testing Toolkit.
Let’s take a look at this process in action.
Charlotte is my Operations Director, and one of the reasons she decided to come and work with us was the vast improvements in health she achieved as a patient.
Her initial thyroid test showed “normal” T4 (1.2), low T3 (1.7) and high TSH (3.1).
I’ll discuss the TPO marker, below, under “thyroid antibodies”.
In her 90-day retest, you can see the T4 level is similar (1.3), but her T3 is up to 3.2 (a 90% improvement) and her TSH has come down (1.8), which is what we want to see.
During this 90-day period Charlotte experienced significant improvements in her sleep, digestion and energy levels, which is exactly what I’d expect.
All we did was optimize her nutrition, and use a specific supplement program to support her liver and improve certain key nutrient levels (we found various glaring deficiencies in key nutrients from her testing).
There’s a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. It’s an autoimmune condition, meaning that the immune system gets confused and mounts a response against its own tissues.
In the case of Hashimoto’s, it’s the poor old thyroid that comes under fire from the immune system.
You’ll notice in Charlotte’s labwork, above, that she initially had very high levels of a marker called TPO.
TPO means “thyroid peroxidase antibodies”, and is a sign that her immune system was “attacking” her thyroid.
You can also see on her retest that the TPO value had halved. It was still too high, and we’re working on bringing that marker down.
What induces high TPO?
Scientists are not 100% clear on what causes elevated TPO and autoimmunity against the thyroid.
But one thing’s for sure, it’s nearly always to do with bad stuff being in the body and inadequate good stuff.
Gluten, chronic infections with certain bacteria such as Yersinia and H. pylori, toxins such as mercury are a likely to play a role in certain cases.
We also see improvements in TPO levels when people improve nutrient status, particularly vitamin D, selenium and liver supportive nutrients.
Hompes Method Thyroid Tests
Using a simple finger-prick blood test that is sent to your home, we can analyze the following thyroid markers in a comprehensive panel:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- TPO (antibodies)
You provide the sample in the comfort of your home, and simply send the sample back to the laboratory for analysis.
Results are usually reported within 7-10 days.
The finger-prick blood test is incredibly flexible – let’s say your T3 is low in the initial test and the other markers all look “normal”.
Well, when you come to retest, you can just order the T3 marker, saving money.
In the same finger-prick blood test, you can also add other important markers such as vitamin D, insulin and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).
Ordering a comprehensive thyroid panel
If you are a new customer you must first complete, sign and return the Hompes Method client intake paperwork.
If you are an existing customer and we’ve recommend you run a thyroid panel, simply click here or fill in the form below to place your order.