Fatigue is one of the most common problems addressed by Naturopaths. It can often be tracked down to a poor functioning thyroid. Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits astride the trachea, just below the larynx. It controls metabolic rate. Metabolism is the rate at which normal chemical processes occur in the body and the speed at which the body burns its fuel (food and oxygen). The thyroid is responsible for the proper working of every cell, every organ, and every process in the body, it is essential for health and well being. The way the body reacts and deals with illness and disease depends on a healthy and vigorous metabolism.
If you have been advised that you may have Jersey ‘Island Fever’ look closely at the thyroid symptom questionnaire, it may well be that the thyroid is playing a role in your condition.
Thyroid and Metabolic function.
These functions have an important impact on health, energy levels and sleep. The thyroid gland is the regulator of body metabolism. It is ‘paired’ with the adrenal glands; they in turn are governed by pituitary gland function.
Thyroid hormone is necessary for oxidative processes to take place throughout the body – energy production. Nearly all of the cells of the body have their metabolic rates controlled by the thyroid hormone. The only organs whose metabolic rates are not directly controlled by thyroxin are:
It’s easy to see that a change in thyroid function creates a wide variety of effects throughout the body. It is possible to override a low thyroid condition by increasing adrenal stimulation, exercise and stress etc – all this usually manages to achieve is a short term reduction in symptoms and often leads to the depletion of the adrenal system. Low functioning thyroid is commonly encountered, although it is frequently overlooked, primarily because most physicians are looking for blood pathology (low thyroxin levels).
Functional hypothyroidism will not generally show up on standard diagnostic tests. Read Dr. Broada Barnes’ books, Heart Attack Rareness in Thyroid Treated Patients and Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness.
- Are you gaining weight in spite of dieting?
- Do you have a decreased appetite?
- Do you tire easily?
- Are you tired all of the time?
- Are you sleepy or drowsy during the day?
- Are you sensitive to the cold?
- Do you have dry or scaly skin?
- Are you constipated?
- Are you mentally sluggish?
- Is you frontal hair falling out or thinning?
- Do you wake up with a headache?
- Have you lost your drive and initiative?
- Are you grumpy first thing in the morning?
- Can you face eating breakfast?
- Do you suffer from PMS?
- Do you wake up tired?
- Do you have cracks in the skin of your heels?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate?
- Do you find it difficult to concentrate- does your mind wander?
If you answer yes to more than five of these questions, you should consider doing the Barnes test. In adition you should question your diet, are you a vegan or follower of an ultra low fat diet? So when confronted with a possible hypothyroid condition, you should consider asking these additional questions:
- Do you eat when nervous?
- Do you have an excessive appetite?
- Are you hungry between meals?
- Do you get irritable between meals?
- Do you get shaky when hungry?
- Does eating relive fatigue?
- Do you get light headed if you miss a meal?
- Do you get a pounding heart if you miss a meal?
- Do you get headache in the afternoon?
- Do you have a poor sleep pattern?
- Do you crave sweets and or coffee in the afternoon?
- Do you get mood swings or the blues Do you crave sweets or biscuits and breads?
- Do you have a short attention span?
- Do you have short term memory loss?
- Are colleagues complaining that you are forgetting things?
If you answer yes to 5 or more of these questions, there is a possibility that you are hypoglycaemic.
These are just some of the questions I ask during a consultation. If you you find yourself relating to a significant number of them I would recommend that you seek the appropriate naturopathic/medical help.
If you have a body temperature of less than 98.6 F. and some of the symptoms in the questionnaire you may have Wilson’s Syndrome. This condition involves a disorder where the cells of the body are unable to convert the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, into the more active hormone, T3. Wilson’s Syndrome itself does not alter the thyroid hormone tests. It may exist in association with true hypothyroidism. The presence of the syndrome can often explain the problem of having ‘thyroid symptoms,’ yet the blood test is within the accepted reference interval.
The syndrome is clinically identified by the following:
- Subnormal Body Temperature. Usually 1 – 1.5 degrees low
- Thyroid test often “Normal”
- Irregularities of T3 / T4 thyroid hormone conversion
Wilson’s Syndrome appears to be a survival adaptation, lowering metabolic processes to deal with famines and other problems of food availability, at the expense of some enzymatic efficiency. Under normal circumstances, the body resumes normal functioning when food supply is restored and/or stress removed. The disadvantage of the body going into ‘survival hibernation’, is that not all enzymatic pathways operate at optimal rates during this temporary low nutrition period. In a portion of the population, once the body has entered this “conservation state”, it may stay there for years. If the state persists too long, chronic fatigue, allergy and immune problems, and other “poorly defined” health complaints may become common.
You may be susceptible if you have been subject to:
- High stress
- Death of loved one
- Extreme family or job stress
- Other acute or chronic occupational stress
You may be susceptible if you have A family history of:
- Scottish Ancestry
- Irish Ancestry
- Russian Ancestry
- American Indian Ancestry
- Holocaust Survivors
- Chronic Dieters
- Sufferers of Candida and other yeast problems
- Persons having hypoglycaemia
- Persons with eating disorders
- Persons with sleep disorders
Depression is one of the factors that can accompany low thyroid and AFS (Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome). Deficient levels of dopamine activity in the brain can often be responsible.
Dopamine Deficient Depression (DDD) is experienced uniquely by each individual but the common symptoms/feelings are low energy, lack of motivation and a feeling of grouchiness. A severe case of DDD can leave a person praying to go to sleep and never wake up again, this feeling of life has no point is common but the DDD individual lacks motivation or energy to do anything about it. The DDD state and symptom picture can look very similar to hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxin or is suffering from Thyroxin resistance. Interestingly the neurotransmitter dopamine and the thyroid hormone thyroxin are made from the same amino acid, L-Tyrosine. Taking L-Tyrosine can actually help both conditions. For the pure DDD case thyroid support often helps due to the L-Tyrosine and supporting vitamins, minerals, in the case of a pure thyroid based condition iodine, selenium, iron would be the co-factors of choice.
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