Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment
Let’s talk about how to get your thyroid to work better. There are many people that have thyroid problems, and a lot of people are taking medication for it.
But these medications don’t treat the underlying cause, and ultimately that’s what you need to address if you want to resolve your thyroid concerns for good.
Here, we discuss underlying causes of thyroid problems, as well as what you can do to correct your thyroid function and hopefully require less medication (or no medication at all).
In this article, I will cover:
- The fundamentals of healthy thyroid function
- How to find a thyroid problem
- Hypothyroidism due to a hormone conversion issue
- Hypothyroidism due to low thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Other causes of low thyroid function
Healthy Thyroid Function
The pituitary gland is an important endocrine gland in the brain. It releases a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The purpose of this hormone is to tell the thyroid to release T4 and T3. T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone and T3 is the active thyroid hormone, and the T4 actually converts to T3.
We have about 20 times more T4 than we do T3. A good way to think of it is that T4 is kind of like the pre-hormone or the reserve. Then T3 actually does the work in all of the cells. It controls:
- The speed of your metabolism
How to Find a Thyroid Problem
Many thyroid conditions cause a variety of symptoms. So, if you:
- Experience increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- Lose your hair
- Are mentally and physically sluggish
- Experience physical weakness or fatigue
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Lose or gain weight
- Have dry, irritated, or bulging eyes
- Have an increased heart rate
Those are all really common symptoms of poor thyroid function.
Now - the interaction between TSH, T3, and T4 is on a feedback loop from the brain to the thyroid. As soon as the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) tells the thyroid to release T4, there’s a negative feedback that comes up there and tells the pituitary, “I have had enough.”
If you have low thyroid-stimulating hormone circulating in the body, that means that you have enough and that the negative feedback loop is working properly.
On the other hand, if it’s high, that likely means that your body needs more T3 and T4. If that’s the case, then it’s going to increase in order to produce more of these hormones.
Now, there are really two main problems with a hypothyroid condition.
Either you’re not making enough thyroid hormone - usually, you’re low on T4 - or you’re not converting T4 to T3. Let’s first talk about the issue with thyroid hormone conversion.
Hypothyroidism Caused by a Conversion Issue
In order to convert T4 to T3, you need co-factors, or helper vitamins and minerals. All of these nutrients help contribute to this conversion:
- Selenium. This is the most important.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
If you’re doing a healthy ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting - like I recommend in my book - you’re eating foods that are giving you all of these nutrients. Also, when you do healthy keto and intermittent fasting, the need for T3 goes way down. So, its going to help the thyroid overall.
But, even if you’re not doing keto, keep in mind that those are the key nutrients to help this conversion.
Now, bile and the liver also have to do with conversions. 80% of the conversion from T4 to T3 happens in the liver and 20% happens in the kidneys. If there’s a problem with the kidney or the gallbladder (if, say, you’ve had your gallbladder removed) then you’re not going to get the conversion. A really simple solution here is to take purified bile salts. That will instantly improve the conversion.
On the flip side, if you have a hyperthyroid condition - with which you have too much thyroid hormone - you don’t want to take bile salts. It’s going to give you more thyroid hormone and worsen the situation.
Hypothyroidism Caused By Low Thyroid Hormone
As far as the production of more thyroid hormones goes, what’s usually happening is that, if you have low TSH, something is suppressing the function of the thyroid. It’s usually:
- Cortisol: high cortisol that comes from stress. It could also be from medications like prednisone and cortisone shots.
- Estrogen: Estrogen is also a big factor here. This is why you see women (right after pregnancy, for example) with a hypothyroid case. This has to do with the spike in estrogen. If you’re taking birth control pills or you’re on HRT, that can limit the production.
- Insulin: Also, high levels of insulin. If you’re doing a high-carb diet or if you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) for example. That can inhibit T4.
Other Causes of Poor Thyroid Function
Other things that can interfere with thyroid function include:
- High blood pressure medication
- Excessive iron (iron deficiency will create a problem in the conversion, but too much iron can also create a problem with the conversion from T4 to T3).
- Phytic acid. This is in grains and it will deplete zinc and throw off your conversions
- Coffee and tea will deplete you of certain nutrients like B vitamins. If you’re consuming a lot of iced tea or coffee, you better be taking nutrients at the same time because it could be affecting your thyroid.
- Sugar and refined carbs. Keto works because it’s low-carb. Sugar and refined carbs are definitely going to mess up your thyroid.
- Soy will act like estrogen and inhibit the thyroid as well.
- Dairy has many different types of hormones, and that can also influence the thyroid.
Also, for those of you that are new, if you’re on the healthy keto plan and intermittent fasting, the need for T3 will go down. This alone will greatly improve a thyroid function. In fact, you may even find that you need to make adjustments to your thyroid medication because it’s going to start improving and you may require less medication (or none at all).
Now, if you have an autoimmune condition (Hashimoto’s), then check out this link because I did a video on this specifically. But you need vitamin D - at least 20,000 IUs per day. You need to be doing intermittent fasting. You also need to be taking selenium to improve the function of the thyroid. These solutions are mainly going to be for Hashimoto’s, but keep in mind that Hashimoto’s is the majority of hypothyroid cases.
An Overview of The Solutions
Again, the appropriate solution depends significantly on the cause of your thyroid concern.
- If your issue is with converting T4 to T3, consider trying the keto diet with intermittent fasting. Also, if the conversion problem is happening in your liver and kidneys, you can try taking purified bile salts to improve the conversion.
- If you have low TSH, something is suppressing the function of the thyroid. This is usually cortisol, estrogen, or insulin - so you’ll have to identify the source and treat that issue to fix this problem.
- Other lifestyle choices could be interfering with your thyroid function. Again, these have to be explored and addressed to regulate your thyroid.
- If you have Hashimoto’s, it could be beneficial to take at least 20,000 IUs of vitamin D per day.
And remember to always consult with your physician before making a change to your medication or your healthcare regimen.
Up Next: -
- How to Lose Weight with an Extremely Slow Thyroid
- If I Have No Thyroid Do I Have to Take Thyroid Hormones
- Iodine Beyond the Thyroid
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.