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The Thyroid Gland is located in the very front of your neck that sits just below your voice box. It is very small and often described as being “butterfly-shaped”. It is composed of many tiny, single lobules that are covered with loose connective tissue, which allows the gland some mobility when we swallow. These tiny lobules have follicles that store the hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 and T4 are secreted by the thyroid gland and work together to regulate metabolism, heart rate, digestion, brain development, body temperature and many more vital body functions.
The thyroid also produces calcitonin which helps with your bones by controlling how your body uses calcium. Iodine is essential for producing these hormones. The pituitary gland and hypothalamus, located in the brain, help control the thyroid gland by keeping an optimal proportion of hormones in your bloodstream. The hypothalamus delivers TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone) into the pituitary gland and stimulates the pituitary to release TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone), which stimulates the release of thyroid hormones. This cycle perpetually occurs and is important for maintaining overall homeostasis.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is when the gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. An overactive Hyperthyroidism is when the gland produces too many thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland itself can also become enlarged (goiter). This can lead to a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms of thyroid gland dysfunction can be vague and may be similar to those found in other conditions. These include:
Swelling of the thyroid gland
Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Unexplained weight loss
Irregular menstrual cycle
Factors that can negatively affect thyroid health
Stress, chronic inflammation, iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, environmental exposures, medications
Traditional Approach to Treatment
Traditional course of treatment in cases of hypothyroidism, doctors prescribe a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone to replace what your body isn’t producing called Levothyroxine or Synthroid. While these medications may help normalize your hormone levels and help you start to feel better, they can cause many negative side effects that can put your health at risk and do not do anything to address underlying health issues that could be causing your thyroid dysfunction. In cases of hyperthyroidism, treatment options typically include anti-thyroid drugs, like carbimazole, radioactive iodine, beta blockers or in some cases surgery.
The Functional Medicine Approach to Thyroid Hormonal Balance
By utilizing functional medicine strategies, such as low-risk diet and lifestyle changes we can get to the root of the issue. An in-depth evaluation including blood tests with consideration of individual specific diagnoses, pre-existing conditions, hereditary conditions and other relevant factors will be included to create a valuable insight for potential treatment direction. Overall, your thyroid health can be improved by addressing chronic stress, systemic inflammation and limiting your exposure to toxic substances in combination with a personalized approach. Restoring specific nutrients in your diet with focus on anti-inflammatory foods can help with enhancement of thyroid function, for instance iodine and iron are needed for your thyroid to produce hormones and zinc and selenium are needed for T4 to be able to convert to T3. Intravenous Therapy and herbal supplementation can be useful for boosting thyroid function and come with less dangerous side effects. Ashwagandha root extract is being studied for its potential benefit to thyroid health. Gut health will also be addressed with thyroid health like any other condition when coming from a functional approach. If you are suffering with or suspect you may have a thyroid issue, you can rely on Dr. Wulff’s expertise to balance your thyroid hormonal health while addressing the cause so you can have better insight and enhanced treatment options.
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