Exhaustion, stubborn weight gain, thinning hair, dry skin, and period problems are all tell-tell signs of low thyroid. But trying to figure out why this is happening can be a legit nightmare. Especially if you are struggling with these symptoms but all your thyroid bloodwork comes back “within range”.

Just because your TSH comes back “within range” does not mean something is wrong. Your thyroid plays a critical role in producing hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, growth, and development. Even more than just metabolic function, it even controls your heart, muscle, digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance.

So you cannot just turn a blind eye to these symptoms.

“Within Range” Does Not Mean Optimal Health for Your Thyroid Function

Your symptoms are your body’s way of communicating that something is wrong with and they occur because hormones and systems are disrupted. Symptoms occur even if everything appears normal because your optimal health is often vastly different from clinical reference ranges.

Clinical reference ranges are used to determine the need for pharmaceutical or surgeological intervention. Not optimal health. Even more than this, bloodwork is just a single point in time. It is not tested frequently enough to catch progressions and they often do not order enough tests to assess for all known connections. Also, doctors are not trained to assess bloodwork for progressions or onset towards a disease state or to recommend integrative nutrition interventions ahead of this point.

All of this leaves you frustrated, confused, and struggling with symptoms. Wondering why you have tried “everything” but haven’t gotten any support.

This is why understanding the true root cause of your symptoms and the interconnections of hormones on system health is so important.

Signs of Low Thyroid Function

Low thyroid (known as hypothyroidism or functional hypothyroidism) is a chronic disease associated with the deficiency of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones influence every cell in the body, meaning that disruption in your thyroid function can have wide-reaching impacts.

These hormones are involved in a complex step of checks and balances to keep your system supported. If any of these steps are disrupted, it can wreak havoc on the entire feedback system.

The hypothalamus (involved in the HPA axis) is responsible for overseeing hunger, sleep, and body temperatures. When there is a need for increased metabolic function and energy, it releases Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) to signal the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).

TSH acts directly on the thyroid and stimulates the release of thyroid hormone. To help with this process, your thyroid uses Tyrosine (amino acid) and iodine (nutrient) to manufacture and convert T4 to usable T3.

  • T4: A storage form of thyroid hormone that circulates throughout the blood and is stored in tissues for when it is needed. It does not provide usable energy, it needs to be converted to T3. However, in stress, it can be converted to Reverse T3 which has systemic negative impacts.
  • T3: The Active form of thyroid hormone.

When different parts of the body need active T3, they convert storage T4 to active T3 using an enzyme called deiodinase. T3 can then act on cells to stimulate energy production and regulate metabolism.

Signs of Low Thyroid include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Thinning or dry hair, nails, and skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Feeling cold all the time and decreased body temperature
  • Irregular periods
  • Puffiness or fluid retention
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Fertility problems
  • Low libido
  • Slow digestion and constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Loss of muscle strength and tone

The Thyroid-Hormone Connection

Since your thyroid is such a pivotal part of your health, it should be no surprise that your menstrual cycle and key sex hormones are deeply connected. In fact, they have a complex bi-directional relationship.

Your thyroid hormones influence concentrations of your sex hormone and disruptions in your hormone cycle directly influence thyroid function.

When your thyroid is disrupted, it can influence ovulation, ovulatory function, fertility, and cycle-regularity and can even influence menopause. And when these processes are disrupted it means that the levels of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) are severely disrupted.

Which leads to symptoms and more system damage if not addressed immediately. In fact, this is the reason that women are almost 8x more likely to have thyroid problems than men. Even worse, it is why functional hypothyroidism can be so hard to detect. Because the symptoms are interwoven with cycle symptoms that have been normalized by our society.

But enough is enough. In integrative nutrition, we focus on addressing the root cause of system disruption to take control of our health. When you fully understand the connection between your hormones on system health, we can be proactive in supporting those needs.

The Root Cause of Low Thyroid

To harness the power of your hormones, you need to know what your hormones are doing and when. That’s where my Happy Hormones Blueprint comes in. It will teach you the ins and outs of your cycle and key cycle hormones so you can tune into what your body is telling you.

Once you understand this, you’re ready to put Hormone Balance Nutrition and Strength strategies into action, which is how to use cyclical nutrition and strength training combined with integrative medical nutrition therapies to take back control. Hormone Balance involves working with food, movement, stress, and lifestyle management to live in alignment with your unique cycle needs.

But for today, I am going to focus on how you can decode your symptoms and use targeted hormone balance strategies to uncover the root cause of your thyroid dysfunction. Here are the 5 hidden causes of thyroid dysfunction with targeted strategies you can use to kickstart your healing!

Root Cause 1: Metabolic Down-Regulation

Metabolic Down-Regulation is a term that I have coined to define the disruption of your body’s ability to effectively use energy and produce hormones as a result of chronically undereating (intentional or not). Diet culture has completely skewed your perception of what you really need for optimal hormone function. When you do not consume enough total energy or the right energy distribution this leads to an increase in cortisol production which Cortisol increases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). When cortisol levels are high, it signals the thyroid gland to stop producing as much thyroid hormone. Cortisol also restricts the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3, which is the form of thyroid hormone that cells can use.

How to Support: A cycle-synced reverse diet is a slow re-incorporation of energy and nutrients to your body to help rebuild metabolic function. Doing it slowly ensures your body effectively uses the energy and it specifically times adding in key nutrients that help to support optimal hormone production.

Root Cause 2: Iodine Deficiency

Are you a big fan of sea salt or have you heard that you need to avoid salt at all costs? Iodine is critical for the conversion of T4 to T3, however, more and more women are presenting with thyroid tumors and dysfunction as a result of iodine deficiency.

How to Support: Incorporate iodine-rich foods into your diet daily including seaweed, canned tuna, shrimp, cod, cheese, chicken, eggs, or even table salts labeled “iodized”.

Root Cause 3: Estrogen Dominance

High levels of estrogen in your body trigger the increased production of Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG) from the liver. TBG binds to TSH and deactivates it, which then influences the downstream production of usable thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, most women are estrogen-dominant due to our life, diet, and use of hormonal birth control. If your symptoms are persistent with estrogen dominance, you need to address this first.

How to Support: Improve the function of your gut and liver to help filter out inactive estrogen from the body. Focusing on foods high in indol-3-carbinol such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage helps to increase the filtration rate.

Root Cause 4: Blood Sugar and Insulin Imbalance

Disruptions in your blood sugar, cortisol’s impact on blood sugar, and elevated insulin levels can interfere with the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to the active thyroid hormone (T3) in the body. The availability of T3 is reduced, and T3 is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism and energy levels.

How to Support: Eating at regular intervals (every 3 hours) and incorporating a variety of complex carbohydrates timed around activity can improve blood glucose regulation and update the body. Myo-inositol is also clinically proven to help improve insulin sensitivity.

Root Cause 5: Leptin Resistance and Body Fat

This one can be the most frustrating. As thyroid function slows, fat cell production can increase with weight gain. However, increased fat cells can disrupt the function of leptin (a hunger hormone). In an optimal state, leptin is released by fat cells and tells your hypothalamus you have eaten enough and it stimulates thyroid hormone production to burn fat. In leptin resistance, your body is no longer sensitive to these cues, leading to an increased risk of binge eating, increased fat cell production, and decreased fat burn from the thyroid.

How to Support: Cyclical strength training improves both insulin reactivity and leptin function, both of which help to build lean mass, balance sex hormones, and help improve metabolic function! Timing it with your hormone cycle ensures you do not over-stress your body and get maximum results.

Want to jump on a free discovery call 📞 to see which program is right for you? Let’s do it! Book a call here.

Tasha is an Integrative Clinical Nutritionist, B.S. and Founder of Happy Hormone Health. She has coached 2000 women in reclaiming their energy, living symptom-free and transforming their health through hormone balance nutrition. Start your hormone balance journey with customized hormone balance coaching. 

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