Content Library Articles Fat, Tired and Inflamed – Could it be your Thyroid?

Fat, Tired and Inflamed – Could it be your Thyroid?

Fat, Tired and Inflamed – Could it be your Thyroid?

Balancing all of your hormones, including sex hormones, adrenal or stress hormones, and thyroid hormones, becomes crucial if you want to heal. They are all interconnected; they interact with one another like a musical symphony. When any instrument in the symphony plays out of tune, problems arise.

In this blog, I want to focus on your thyroid, and why an out-of-whack thyroid can stall your metabolism and create many other problems.

To overcome diabesity, you must identify and treat thyroid imbalances, because your thyroid controls your metabolism. If it is working slowly, your metabolism slows and your risk of diabesity goes up.

Thyroid disease affects one in five women and one in ten men, yet 50 percent of people with thyroid disease go undiagnosed. Many who are diagnosed become treated inadequately with medications such as Synthroid®. A vicious cycle erupts because undiagnosed thyroid disease worsens insulin resistance, and insulin resistance worsens thyroid function.

To make matters worse, many patients on thyroid hormone replacement are not adequately tested. If your thyroid is low, you can’t adequately balance your blood sugar and your cholesterol or lose weight. That is why using a whole foods diet, nutritional supplements, and optimizing thyroid hormone replacement becomes critical to resolve diabesity.

How the Thyroid Gland Functions

To understand why an optimally functioning thyroid becomes crucial for metabolism and so much more, we need to briefly look at how this tiny yet vital organ works.

The thyroid gland is a small gland located in your neck that is part of your endocrine or hormonal system. It produces two major thyroid hormones:

  • About 7 percent of your thyroid hormone is T3, the “active” version, which acts on special receptors found on the nucleus of your cells that sends messages to your DNA to turn up your metabolism to increase the fat burning in your mitochondria. T3 is critical to making every system in your body work at the right speed.T3 lowers your cholesterol, improves your memory, keeps you thin, promotes regrowth in cases of hair loss, relieves muscle aches and constipation, and even cures infertility in some patients.
  • T4 (about 93 percent) is the inactive form of your thyroid hormone that, if everything works as designed, your body will convert into T3.

Many dietary factors, along with lifestyle and environmental factors, affect this process. The main role of thyroid hormone is to stimulate metabolism, and it affects almost every function of the body. That’s why it can cause so many different symptoms.

Remember earlier I said your hormones interact? Thyroid hormone “cross-talks” with all the other hormones in your body, including insulin, cortisol, and your sex hormones. The production and release of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland are regulated by a feedback system in your brain— the hypothalamus and pituitary glands— that make thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), respectively.

If you produce too little T3, or the T4 you produce is not properly converted into this active thyroid hormone, your whole system goes haywire. Your metabolism and mitochondria don’t get the proper signals, you gain weight, and you suffer from miserable symptoms.

You also become more inflamed, develop additional problems with your insulin levels, and have a more difficult time metabolizing sugar in your blood, all of which further compromise your health and your ability to lose weight.

One study showed that subclinical hypothyroidism, more on this later, causes high levels of C-reactive protein and elevated insulin levels, further indicators that the stability of your thyroid can have a dramatic impact on your health. (1) This wouldn’t be such a concern if thyroid disorders could be readily diagnosed and treated.

The problem is they can’t. And here’s why…

Hypothyroidism: An Undiagnosed Epidemic

Hypothyroidism, the name for the production of too little thyroid hormone, is a vastly under-diagnosed health problem in this country.

Why is it so difficult to diagnose and treat low thyroid function? The main reason is that the symptoms are not very specific and are often present for many reasons besides thyroid disorders.

Look at it this way. Anyone can diagnose a heart attack because we typically see someone who is pale and sweaty and clutching their chest while complaining of crushing pain in the chest and down the left arm.

Thyroid problems are completely different. Even if you have all the symptoms of food allergens (particularly gluten, the protein found in wheat, barely, rye, spelt, and oats. Gluten is a very common allergen that affects about 10 to 20 percent of the population. This reaction occurs mostly because of our damaged guts, poor diet, and stress. I also think eating so-called Frankenfoods, such as hybridized and genetically modified (GMO) grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick. Our bodies say, “What’s this? Must be something foreign. I’d better create antibodies to this, fight it, and get rid of it.” This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function — and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.

  • Nutrient deficiencies. Lastly, nutritional deficiencies play a big role in thyroid dysfunction. These include deficiencies of iodine, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, and the B vitamins.
  • How You Can Overcome Hypothyroidism

    If you suspect hypothyroidism, I encourage you to take the following steps to rebalance your thyroid:

    • Make a thorough inventory of any of the symptoms that I mentioned above to see if you might suffer from hypothyroidism.
    • Get the right thyroid tests. Ask for a full-spectrum thyroid test that includes TSH, free T3, free T4, TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies.
    • Check for celiac disease with a celiac panel.
    • Consider heavy metal toxicity testing.
    • Check your vitamin D level.

    Once you have confirmed that a sluggish thyroid is contributing to your symptoms, the good news is that there are many, many, many things you can do to help correct thyroid problems.

    In part two of this blog, I will present a six-strategy approach to treat hypothyroidism. I want to emphasize that getting the right tests and working with your Functional Medicine doctor are crucial. Once you have determined your thyroid is malfunctioning, taking the comprehensive approach I will discuss can ameliorate your condition.

    Wishing you health and happiness,
    Mark Hyman, MD.


    (1) Tuzcu A, Bahceci M, Gokalp D, Tuzun Y, Gunes K. Subclinical hypothyroidism may be associated with elevated high-sensitive C-reactive protein (low grade inflammation) and fasting hyperinsulinemia. Endocr J. 2005 Feb; 52( 1): 89– 94.

    (2) Chevrier J, et al. Body weight loss increases plasma and adipose tissue concentrations of potentially toxic pollutants in obese individuals. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Oct;24(10):1272-8.

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