Thyroid Gland and It’s Functionality
The Thyroid Gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck just below the Larynx (voice box) and above the Trachea (windpipe). It is part of the endocrine system, which is a network of glands and organs. The main function of the thyroid gland is to produce and secrete Thyroid hormones into the bloodstream, which in turn impacts almost every tissue and organ that we have and helps it work better. It helps regulates critical bodily functions such as regulating metabolism, maintaining body temperature, supporting bone health, regulating heart rate and rhythm and so on.
How does the Thyroid Gland work?
The Thyroid Gland receives a signal from the Pituitary gland in the form of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). The thyroid gland is made up of several thyroid Follicles where a protein molecule called Thyroglobulin (TGO) is generated which is made up of several amino acids including Tyrosine. Additionally, Iodides from the bloodstream are absorbed into the thyroid follicles and converted into Iodine with the help of an enzyme called Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO). This enzyme is also responsible for fusing the iodine with the Tyrosine. The iodised Tyrosine are fused together to form Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). About 90% of the hormones produced are in the inactive form of T4 and they need to converted into the more active form of T3 through further chemical synthesis. Upon production, T3 and T4 bind themselves to a protein transporter called Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG) and through this transported to the various cells and tissues in the body that require thyroid hormones for their functionality. T3 tends have a lesser propensity to bind to these transporters than T4. Free T3 and Free T4 are referred to the thyroid hormones that are not bound to the transport proteins and that are readily available for use or absorbed by the cells and tissues.
As you’ve seen above, there’re several steps involved in the synthesis and production of Thyroid Hormones and a problem in any of the steps could result in the over production or under production of Thyroid Hormones.
One of the most common Thyroid disorders is Hypothyroidism which is indicative of an underactive thyroid gland and therefore results in the under production of Thyroid Hormones. People with this condition typically tend to have elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) levels and low levels of T3 and T4.
The converse disorder is Hyperthyroidism where the Thyroid Gland is overactive and is throwing out more thyroid hormones than the body requires. People with this condition typically tend to have low levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) levels and high levels of T3 and T4.
Yet another common thyroid disorder presents itself in the form of Goiter. It’s a condition where the thyroid gland is enlarged due to the increase in the number and size of thyroid follicles. This typically occurs when the body is deficient in Iodine which is a key ingredient in the synthesis of Thyroid Hormones. In the event of an iodine deficiency, T3 and T4 levels drop, TSH levels go up, but with little or no iodine, thyroid synthesis comes to a standstill and instead the thyroid hormone follicles grow larger in size and volume to be able to make the most of the iodides available in the body.
Thyroid Nodules are lumps that form within the thyroid gland that can be solid or fluid filled. They can be a single nodule or multiple nodules. 95% of these nodules are benign and only a small percentage tend to be cancerous. They are more prevalent in women than men. Some of the causes of Thyroid Nodules include Thyroid Adenoma (increase in the number of thyroid tissue), Thyroid Cysts, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Multinodular Goitre to name a few.
Autoimmune Conditions of the Thyroid Gland
When the body is invaded by a foreign body, the immune system jumps into action and starts producing antibodies to attack the foreign bodies. Sometimes these antibodies end up attacking the healthy organs and their tissues and this is said to be an autoimmune condition.
As far the thyroid gland is concerned there are two Autoimmune conditions – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease where the antibodies damage the thyroid gland. These could cause the thyroid gland to become over active or underactive and be the cause for any of the above-mentioned Thyroid Disorders – Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Goitre, Thyroid Nodules etc.
Hashimoto’s is a condition where the antibodies from the immune system attack a critical enzyme (Thyroid Peroxidase) that is vital to the production of thyroid hormones. This inhibits the production of Thyroid Hormones and results in Hypothyroidism
Grave’s Disease is one of the most common causes associated with Hyperthyroidism. In this case the body produces antibodies that mimic the Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH). This causes the Thyroid gland to produce more T3 and T4 resulting in Hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders
Different thyroid conditions present themselves in different ways. If you’re experiencing fatigue, sudden weight gain or weight loss, swelling in the throat, sensitivity to cold or heat, it’s always a good idea to get your thyroid levels tested for these are some of the classic symptoms of a thyroid disorder. The table below gives a brief overview of the symptoms for some of the most common thyroid disorders.
Weight Gain/Difficulty losing weight
Sensitivity to cold
Weight Loss despite regular or increased appetite
Sensitivity to Heat
Irregular Heart Beat
Shaky hands, Muscle WeaknessNervousness/Irritability
Enlarged Thyroid Gland
Feeling of tightness in the throat
HoarsenessNeck Vein Swelling
Swelling at the base of the neck
Treatment of Thyroid Disorders
Conventionally Thyroid disorders are treated with medication. Traditionally, synthetic thyroid hormone medication such as Levothyroxine is prescribed in the case of Hypothyroidism to bridge the gap between the thyroid hormones being produced and the actual requirement. Anti-Thyroid Drugs or Beta blockers that inhibits the uptake of Iodine and thereby bringing down the thyroid hormone production are prescribed for people with Hyperthyroidism. Goiter and Thyroid Nodules require a lot more attention and the treatments could range from a simple monitoring to invasive surgeries.
Treatment for Goiter and Thyroid Nodules may range from Radioactive Iodine Treatment to Surgery.
This provides for relief in the short run but in the long run, our bodies get so used to the extra support from external medication that it gets sluggish to either produce the required hormones or moderate thyroid hormone production. Also, medication does not address the root cause of the conditions.
Functional Medicine on the other hand is a medical approach that aims to address the underlying causes of illness by focusing on the whole person rather than just treating symptoms. And the intervention is mostly in the form of Diet changes, lifestyle changes, Supplements, Stress Management, Sleep hygiene. Thyroid Disorders can also be addressed with the Functional Medicine.
But before we discuss any further about treating thyroid disorders using Functional Medicine, there’s merit in learning more about the alternative field of medicine called Functional Medicine.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a healthcare approach that aims to find and treat the root causes of chronic illnesses by addressing the whole person, and not just their symptoms. Rather than treating illnesses with medication or surgery, functional medicine practitioners seek to identify imbalances or dysfunctions in a patient's body that may be contributing to their illness. In that sense it’s an upstream approach to health.
This approach to healthcare involves taking a comprehensive view of a patient's health and lifestyle, including factors such as nutrition, stress, sleep, exercise, and environmental exposures. Practitioners use a combination of conventional medicine and alternative therapies to create individualized treatment plans that address the underlying imbalances and help the patient achieve optimal health.
Functional medicine practitioners may use advanced diagnostic testing to assess a patient's physiology, such as genetic testing, hormone testing, or gut microbiome analysis. They also prioritize patient education and empowerment, encouraging patients to take an active role in their health and wellness.
Overall, functional medicine seeks to promote long-term health and wellness by addressing the underlying causes of chronic illness and helping patients achieve their health goals through personalized, integrative care.
READ: How does Functional Medicine work?
Functional Medicine and Thyroid Disorders
We’ve already identified the different types of Thyroid Disorders and the respective treatments for them in Conventional Medicine. Thyroid Disorders can also be addressed through Functional Medicine. And unlike traditional medicine, there is no standard protocol for treating a particular condition. The protocols are personalized to suit the person’s unique environment. The Functional Medicine Thyroid treatment would include the following steps : -
STEP 1: Identifying the root cause: What is causing the thyroid gland to malfunction forms the starting point of the investigation. Could it be Hashimoto’s or is it a case of iodine deficiency? If initial examination points in the direction of Hashimoto’s, the Functional Medicine Practitioner will further examine why the person has Hashimoto’s which is an auto-immune condition. So many factors are at play when an autoimmune condition is present. Is it stress? Is the person sleeping well? Or could there be some nutritional deficiencies? The layers of the onion (figuratively speaking) are peeled to get to the bottom of the condition. Comprehensive lab tests will also be conducted to help in the assessment. And so, identifying where the imbalance lies is the very step in the Functional Medicine scheme of things.
STEP 2: Creating the Personalized Treatment plan: Upon identifying the root cause of the condition and associated symptoms, the functional medicine practitioner puts together the big plan for treating the thyroid condition. The plan would encompass components such as Diet Plan, Lifestyle changes, Stress Management, Sleep Hygiene, Supplements and more. This plan will be prepared after taking into account the person’s unique genetic code, environment – social, mental, medical and more.
STEP 3: Once the plan is rolled out, the FM practitioner or a FM health coach will work closely with the patient to help implement the plan. Read more about the role of a Health coach here.
STEP 4: Periodic assessments are made to check for the progress made by the patient. The plan is fine tuned to accommodate the findings. If needed, further tests are conducted to get a clearer picture. Step 3 and Step 4 are repeated until the patient is well on the path of recovery and reversal.
You can read about Dr. Anshul Gupta’s Hashimoto’s protocol here.
Functional Medicine Thyroid Tests
Thyroid hormone production is a complicated process. And thus checking for its dysfunction is not as easy as ordering just one test. There are so many different parameters that affect thyroid gland functioning.
We need to do a comprehensive evaluation which not only includes thyroid hormone levels, but also the antibodies which affect thyroid gland functioning.
Your Functional Medicine practitioner will ask you to first get a simple Thyroid Panel done which would include Free T3, Free T4 and TSH levels.
The thyroid produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). If your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, you may experience symptoms such as weight gain, lack of energy, and depression. This condition is called hypothyroidism and when your thyroid produces too many hormones, you may experience weight loss, severe anxiety, tremors, and feeling high. It is called hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism and Functional Medicine testing: If the initial test results are indicative of Hypothyroidism, 2 further tests called Anti TPO and Anti TGO are done to determine whether Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is at play.
Hyperthyroidism and Functional Medicine testing: If the initial test results are indicative of Hyperthyroidism, a further test called TSH Antibody Receptor is done to determine whether Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is at play.
Certain generic markers such as CRP test, Homocysteine or Cortisol may be prescribed to check for levels of inflammation, Stress etc
Functional Medicine Thyroid Levels
Different labs provide different reference range for the various thyroid parameters. Based on extensive research on this topic, Dr. Anshul Gupta recommends the following Functional Medicine Thyroid Ranges
|Parameter||Optimum Functional Medicine Thyroid Range|
|1||TSH||1.5 – 3 uIU/ml|
|2||Free T3||2.0 – 3.00 pg/ml|
|3||Free T4||0.8-1.7 ng/dl|
|4||Reverse T3||9-24 ng/dl|
|5||Anti TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody)||<9 IU/ML|
|6||Anti TGO (Thyroglobulin Antibodies)||<4 IU/ML|
|7||TSH Antibody Receptor|
It is not only important to get complete thyroid testing done, but also important to know thyroid function medicine thyroid range. Very often all the tests are not being performed to completely evaluate the thyroid gland, this leads to improper management of thyroid hormone replacement.
Functional Medicine Thyroid Doctor
A Functional Medicine Doctor acts as a detective and finds the root cause of your medical condition and then helps to fix it. A functional medicine specialist works with patients to identify and address the underlying causes of their health problems, using a holistic approach that takes into account a wide range of factors, including genetics, environment, lifestyle, and nutrition.
Functional medicine doctors work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that address their individual health needs. These plans may include a combination of conventional medical treatments, as well as alternative therapies, such as nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, and lifestyle changes.
Research has now shown that Functional Medicine doctors outcome with their patients is better than conventional care.
READ: Why should you see a Functional Medicine Doctor?
How to find a Functional Medicine Thyroid Doctor near me?
If you’re looking to find a Functional Medicine doctor near, then search for Functional medicine doctors near you. The search should yield a list of Functional Medicine practitioners operating in your area of preference. Look out for the providers medical training
Doing your research on whom to see will help you find someone you feel comfortable with, and you know has the experience to help you.
In closing, Functional Medicine is a holistic, whole-body based approach to medicine that focuses on the person and that seeks to the identify the root cause of the illness and treat the patient from inside out. It is preventative in nature and the idea is to not only reverse a condition but also put the person on the path of health and vitality.
Literally everyone can benefit from embracing the Functional Medicine approach. But it is especially beneficially to people suffering from lifestyle disorders such as Type 2 Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ Diseases, Leaky Gut, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue syndrome and more.
As is the case with every discipline, Functional Medicinal also has its pros and cons. You need to weigh your options before taking a call. While Functional Medicine in the short run might seem time consuming and expensive, in the long run it’s proven to bring relief and reversal.
If you’re interested in working with a Virtual Functional Medicine Practitioner, Dr. Anshul Gupta MD is a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician, with advanced certification in Functional Medicine, Peptide therapy and also Fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine. He specialized in Thyroid and related disorders and is known to be the world expert in Functional Thyroid Medicine.
As a result of any underlying thyroid problems, you may face a varied range of symptoms ranging from most common fatigue to a few other more specific symptoms
The commonly stated symptoms include
and much more…
The best way to know how to cure the thyroid permanently is to follow an integrative approach with a functional medicine doctor.
Ever wondered why it’s always TSH & sometimes T4 tests that always determine your thyroid health status?
Is it even a complete diagnosis?
What if your test results fall in that pre-defined normal range but you still face thyroid symptoms?
Some mostly ignored thyroid symptoms include brain fog and fatigue.
So, the healing approach of thyroid function medicine doctors does involves not just analysis of lab numbers but understanding a complete picture of your overall health.
Sometimes even immune and hormone tests are taken to get a clear diagnosis of your health and analyzing the primary reason for the imbalance.
We help you to fix thyroid problems naturally by following an integrative approach to aid you to regain your complete health while mitigating your thyroid symptoms without any side effects.
Stop masking your thyroid symptoms.
Cure it inside out with a thyroid functional medicine doctor.
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