You’re not just tired, you’re knock-down, drag-out exhausted.
You’re not just irritable, your moods surge in unpredictable highs and lows.
Your menstrual cycle and weight might follow the same miserable roller coaster as your moods. Maybe your hair is thinning and falling out.
Do any of these issues sound familiar to you? Stop blaming aging and menopause, ladies, because the real culprit could be your thyroid.
The thyroid is one of the most misunderstood and mismanaged hormones. In fact, women are up to 8 times more likely to experience a thyroid imbalance than men.
Could you be one of the millions of women suffering from an undiagnosed thyroid imbalance?
It’s our goal through this conversation to help you make connections between your health issues and your thyroid. By the end of this thyroid discussion, I want to give you the tools you need to advocate for your thyroid health.
It’s time to approach your primary physician and say: “Hey, can you check if my thyroid has something to do with this?”
What is the Thyroid Gland?
You might not know much offhand about your thyroid, but now is the time to change that.
The thyroid is one of the most biochemically active hormones in the body. It’s involved in dozens of physiological processes. It’s an especially important hormone in women because it touches or is involved in nearly every body system.
This butterfly-shaped gland sits at the base of the neck. Just like a car needs an engine to produce its energy, your body needs a thyroid gland for the same reason.
Don’t let your thyroid’s small size fool you into thinking it doesn’t matter. The thyroid is closely interconnected with the bloodstream and brain to produce and release thyroid hormones into your body. These hormones provide the energy your body needs to perform essential functions, including:
- Thermoregulation of body temperature between hot and cold
- Energy levels
- Iron production
- Menstrual cycle regulation
As the engine of your body, the thyroid needs fuel. Iodine, a mineral found naturally in food, functions as that fuel. Your thyroid identifies iodine in your bloodstream and extracts it to synthesize thyroid hormones called T4 and T3.
The pituitary gland in the brain works with the thyroid “engine” and iodine “fuel” to accelerate or slow the production of thyroid hormones.
Think of it like a gas pedal and brake pedal. The pituitary gland increases or decreases its production of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) to tell the thyroid gland whether to press the gas or brake pedal on thyroid hormone production.
Signs Your Thyroid Isn’t Optimized
As my residency director always said, thyroid disease is the great masquerader. It can present itself as just about any condition. If your thyroid isn’t optimized, you can guarantee it’s wreaking havoc on your health.
Just like you don’t wake up one morning weighing 200 pounds more than you did the night before, you don’t develop a thyroid condition overnight. Your thyroid function either improves or declines gradually over time.
We see women every day who are considering, debating, and thinking about their thyroid function. Many have mentioned their concerns to physicians, only to be told their levels are perfectly normal. Yet their symptoms persist!
Any of the following issues may indicate that your thyroid isn’t working the way it should:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dry skin and coarse or thinning hair
- Intolerance to the cold
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular periods
My talented partner and Nurse Practitioner, Jen Justus, experienced many of these issues herself, and she knows firsthand how frustrating it can be to feel symptoms that conventional doctors dismiss as insignificant.
“My husband would always comment, ‘Don’t forget your jacket!’ even when it was warm in the spring,” she shares. And Jen’s definitely not the only one. If you need to have a zipped-up parka in a 70-degree room, something’s not right.
Testing Thyroid Levels
What would happen if you told your current doctor that you feel like a walking thyroid disease commercial?
Your doctor would probably run a conventional thyroid test to determine your TSH levels. But this test is often part of the problem, not the solution. If your TSH levels fall within the “normal” range, your doctor will disregard any possibility of your symptoms stemming from a thyroid dysfunction.
TSH levels don’t tell the whole story! So begins the widespread mismanagement of the thyroid.
This is exactly why we test all of our Brentwood MD patients to assess TSH, free T4, and free T3. We never just look at one in isolation.
By taking the time to understand your full thyroid picture, we can understand how to optimize it. After all, we have no interest in merely being “normal”, and neither do you.
Instead, Jen emphasizes: “We’re looking for our best life and we’re looking to feel the best that we possibly can.”
Why Should You Get Your Thyroid Checked?
If you’re still here reading this, then you must recognize a connection between your thyroid function and your overall health or quality of life. Only by having your thyroid levels checked can you confirm if you’re walking around with subclinical hypothyroidism.
Subclinical hypothyroidism refers to a subtle thyroid imbalance that many doctors miss in their rush to move to the next patient or next issue. Women with this condition feel very real symptoms but show “normal” thyroid hormone levels in conventional thyroid screenings.
These women — like you! — get lost in the “middle” between patients with overt thyroid disorders, forcing them to suffer without an official diagnosis or professional treatment. If you have subclinical hypothyroidism, your doctor might tell you it’s all in your head or stick you on antidepressants for an easy solution.
All of this is exacerbated by the fact that most patients get less than ten minutes to visit with their primary doctors each year. Regular doctors are under so much pressure to move quickly from patient to patient that they can’t stop to listen, carefully assess symptoms, and compare lab tests to uncover the truth.
The Role of Normal Vs. Optimal Thyroid
“Normal” is a dangerous word. It sounds positive: you’re just like everyone else, hooray! In reality, “normal” indicates that you merely fall within the standard margin of the average unhealthy adult. If the average adult is overweight and borderline diabetic, do you really want to stay in the same lane as them?
No, definitely not. That’s why there’s such a dramatic difference between normal thyroid function and optimal thyroid function.
“Normal” thyroid function is imperfect. It keeps you chronically operating at 70% of your best self. Sure, you can survive like that, but it’s not how you want to live your life.
There’s no single “perfect” thyroid level. Everybody is different, which is the beauty of what we do as we individualize treatments. With that said, most women usually feel better with natural thyroid-free T3 levels between 4 and 4.4 pg/mL.
Women usually don’t experience significant hair thinning and hair loss until they hit their fifties, at which point it’s assumed to be the result of androgenic alopecia. Androgens are metabolic byproducts of testosterone that have a toxic effect on hair follicles.
But wait… how can we blame a woman’s hair loss on androgens when most women age 50 and older are about to hit menopause and aren’t producing hormones anymore? The “androgen-sensitive hair loss” theory goes right out the window.
It’s far more likely that suboptimal thyroid function is causing brittle, thin hair. This means that optimizing your thyroid levels may help to restore and improve the quality of hair.
Jen speaks from experience as she started taking Armour Thyroid, a bioidentical hormone therapy, for an underperforming thyroid. “On a personal level, my hair was very thin five years ago when I moved to Nashville. Even my stylist was like ‘Gosh, let’s try Biotin! Let’s try a special shampoo!’” she explains. “Here comes Armour Thyroid and now my hair is thicker than it’s ever been. That’s a confidence booster!”
If your thyroid isn’t functioning at optimal levels, your symptoms start to build on each other. Ongoing fatigue leads to irritability which leads to depression symptoms. You feel defeated — like you’re trying to sprint, but your body is stuck in quicksand.
We speak to patients coping with these issues every day.
They’ll say, “I’m active, I work out, but I don’t have the energy, I have to force myself. I just don’t feel like I should.”
Natural thyroid optimization restores the thyroid’s ability to regulate your body’s metabolic rate, body temperature, and brain function. This helps you break through that glass wall of fatigue and finally feel revitalized.
Most people wouldn’t think to make a connection between thyroid function and heart disease, but the research is clear. According to the Rotterdam Study, women with subclinical hypothyroidism have twice the risk of developing hardened arteries, heart attack, and stroke.
The simple act of optimizing your thyroid function with bioidentical hormone therapy may literally cut your risk of heart disease in half!
So not only does optimizing your thyroid make you feel great by increasing your mood and energy, it prevents a doubling of your cardiovascular disease risk profile. If that doesn’t get your attention, what will?
Take Action to Optimize Your Thyroid (and Your Life!)
You have two choices: allow your “normal” thyroid function to diminish your quality of life, or take action to optimize your natural thyroid right now.
It’s easy to take control of your thyroid and improve your health. The answer can be found in bioidentical hormone therapy.
Bioidentical hormones like Armour Thyroid and Nature Thyroid are exactly the same as the thyroid hormones your body produces. They’re compounded in compound pharmacies using the exact molecules and ratios found in the body.
As soon as this natural thyroid replacement works its way into your system, it helps to optimize your active thyroid and rapidly eliminate unwanted symptoms.
Here at Brentwood MD, we have hundreds of women (and some men too!) who have successfully optimized their thyroid activity using Armour Thyroid or Nature Thyroid. If you want to experience the same revitalization, empower yourself with these action steps.
First, find a provider who’s willing to listen! You need and deserve a doctor who does more than strictly check your TSH levels and send you home. Choose a doctor who will check all of the right lab levels and consider how you feel when creating your treatment plan! You’ll know you have found the right doctor when he encourages ongoing conversation about your progress, symptoms, and feedback.
Second, get your levels checked, specifically TSH, free T4, and free T3. These tests are simple: no fasting required! You can get them any time. In fact, you can go right now. Advocate for yourself and make sure your labs reflect TSH, free T4, and free T3. Once you have your results, begin a conversation with your doctor about their meaning and underlying trends.
The truth is, subclinical hypothyroidism is never obvious. It needs to be hunted. If your doctor is doing their job well, they’ll understand that hypothyroidism hides and must be found using a combination of holistic techniques.
Many doctors see 40 patients a day and don’t have time to “hunt”. Those aren’t the doctors you need. They only have time to put out major fires, so unless your thyroid is burning down your body, it’ll be overlooked.
The thyroid is such a complex topic that the conventional model of physician care doesn’t provide enough time to tackle its depths.
I hope this gives you a glimmer of hope and shows you that there is a real, tangible reason you feel as exhausted and defeated as you do. You have so much room to improve once you get aligned with a provider who is willing to have this conversation with you!
Dr. Aaron Wenzel is a concierge physician specializing in the care of fast-moving entrepreneurs, executives, and public figures in the Nashville, TN area. Dr. Wenzel’s diverse life experience and extensive training in family medicine, emergency care, nutrition, and hormone replacement therapies give him the unique platform to provide unmatched care for his patients.