Functional Medicine Treatment for Thyroid and Hormonal Issues
Conveniently located to serve Denver Metro, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.
Thyroid and hormonal issues can affect the lives of patients in major ways, including their health and appearance. Fortunately, treatment for thyroid and hormonal issues in the greater Denver, Colorado area is available at Spire Health Pathways.
What is the Role of the Thyroid?
The thyroid plays a major role in the overall functioning of the body and can be either underactive or overactive which disrupts the balance of many of the body’s organ systems. An underactive thyroid can result in weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, poor memory or brain fog, depression, constipation, muscle weakness, and frequently feeling cold. Sometimes these symptoms remain even when thyroid function tests are normal because of the presence of antibodies such as in Hashimoto’s disease.
How to Evaluate Thyroid Levels with Functional Medicine
At Spire Health Pathways, we examine a full thyroid panel and explore the nutrients needed to produce adequate amounts of active hormone. In the case of a patient using a thyroid medication, we also look at whether the dosing is optimally meeting the needs at the cellular level. This is accomplished by detailed examination of T3 levels.
For some individuals we determine that they need a combination of both T4 and T3 to resolve their symptoms. We also evaluate the potential that stress is affecting the thyroid hormone levels by looking at reverse T3 and if necessary, directly measuring cortisol. Cortisol has a great effect on the body by itself and one of its effects can be to lower thyroid hormone levels. Without addressing a cortisol issue if present, it is unlikely that the individual will feel completely better, even with thyroid hormone replacement.
Functional Medicine Approach to Thyroid Disease
Functional medicine treatment for a thyroid issue depends on what is established to be the root cause of the dysfunction. A full history and a thyroid panel often combined with a cortisol test are used to determine what the cause is. In many young women there is a lack of nutrients, and particularly if the woman experiences heavy menstrual periods, her iron stores may not be adequate to produce thyroid hormone effectively. Intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables helps to provide those nutrients like Vitamin A that are needed for normal thyroid production. You may need to supplement with Vitamin D in states like Colorado where, despite many sunny days each year, Vitamin D is not well produced in the skin. Or if you eat a vegetarian diet there may be recommendations to increase zinc containing supplements or to take a highly absorbable zinc supplement to help increase T3 levels in your cells which is responsible for creating the energy and cellular effects attributable to thyroid hormone.
If you are found to have high cortisol levels, it will be important to address this issue with meditation, adequate and restorative sleep and possibly herbal supplements to help reduce the body’s response to a busy or hectic life. As with Hashimoto’s sometimes the reason for high cortisol is the body’s response to a food sensitivity as the immune system response is causing a high level of demand and stress on the body. You may need to eliminate potentially inflammatory proteins such as gluten or soy to reduce the body’s attack on your thyroid tissue and allow better function.
Sometimes a root cause is not determined, or the cause of thyroid dysfunction is thought to have been from a previous viral infection that has stimulated an autoimmune response against your thyroid gland. Eventually that process can lead to too little thyroid tissue being present to provide adequate hormone for good function, and you may need to take a medication. Functional medicine providers will consider the needs for both T4 and T3 and makes sure that dosing creates optimal levels of each of these types of thyroid hormones.
By determining the right nutrients for you as an individual and identifying whether an autoimmune response or high cortisol level is lending to your thyroid issues and symptoms, your provider can tailor your treatment and help decide if you require thyroid supplementation along with lifestyle changes to reduce stress, address food sensitivities, and eat a diet that is supportive of your thyroid production.
Why are Hormones important?
Hormones govern all the different functions of the body including mental clarity, mood, weight control, energy production, bone health, cardiovascular function, and reproductive health. They also affect sleep, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, and therefore have a substantial impact on how someone feels daily and whether they develop chronic illnesses. When thyroid or cortisol levels are not optimal the immune system is directly affected leading to potential autoimmune issues, frequent viral infections, or longstanding problems following an infection as seen with Long COVID.
How Hormones Affect Your Health
Functional Medicine’s Approach to Thyroid and Hormonal Issues
The thyroid can be either underactive or overactive, disrupting the balance of most of the body’s organ systems. Sometimes symptoms are not related to the function but rather to thyroid antibodies. Many individuals continue to struggle with symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness, and brain fog/forgetfulness, even though they have had thyroid testing.
By using a more expansive set of thyroid tests, we look at all the dimensions of thyroid hormone including production and transport within the tissues and evaluate for autoimmune issues. Often it is important to evaluate adrenal gland function which can directly affect thyroid hormone production.
Women can face a variety of hormone issues throughout their adult lives including abnormal periods, infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and menopause. Sometimes these issues do require some sort of hormone administration but importantly many of these issues really need to be addressed by looking at hormone production and transport and for women this includes estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone evaluation.
Female hormone production is strongly influenced by stress and the production of cortisol. Adrenal function is evaluated to fully understand what the cause of symptoms may be and is often the main reason women struggle with symptoms in menopause. Sleep, nutrient intake, and toxin exposures are addressed in this evaluation.
Low T (Testosterone) is an increasing problem for adult males in the United States and there are now an abundance of clinics offering Testosterone replacement. However, there is likely a bi-directional causal relationship between Low T and several chronic diseases including diabetes and liver disease or these diseases early precursors, inflammation. At least 50% of diabetic males have Low T and up to 79% of obese men struggle with this issue. Merely replacing Testosterone does not remove the initial drivers of the problem and leaves men at ever increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.
Stress can have a large impact on Testosterone production and adrenal function assessment is a critical part of addressing the problem. By addressing all the causes of stress on the body including inadequate or poor-quality sleep, nutritionally insufficient or inflammatory diet, and toxin exposures, men can continue to produce Testosterone naturally and reverse or prevent the associated chronic illnesses that are present.
Laboratory evaluation includes looking at insulin levels, inflammatory markers, gut health, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol levels. Focusing on the cornerstones of health including sleep, diet, exercise and stress management will help correct the issues around low Testosterone for a lifetime.
The adrenal glands produce Cortisol which is the grandmaster of all hormone production, including thyroid, estrogen and testosterone. With adequate cortisol levels and normal adrenal function, we can handle life’s demands, heal from injuries, and get through the day when sleep is not adequate.
It is not unusual today that people are “running on fumes” and those fumes are cortisol. Without restoration through sleep and community, and when pushing the system even harder with stressors such as poor diet, alcohol and substance use, inadequate rest, and loneliness, we are likely to suffer from adrenal fatigue. Requiring high cortisol levels to get by just day to day begins to disturb all hormone production including thyroid, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone leading to new symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety and being generally unwell.
We examine your lifestyle and habits and help you make the changes necessary to bring restoration to your system. Stressors may also come in the form of infections, microbiome imbalances, and nutrient insufficiencies and necessary testing is designed to evaluate these areas.
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“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison