There are many causes of low thyroid function and also many illnesses you probably never realized were caused by low thyroid hormone function. Within my discussions of the thyroid, I’ll examine dietary, non-medicinal and medicinal treatments to correct thyroid hormone function. My thyroid discussions could very well contain answers that you and loved ones have been seeking in order to restore health and feel good again.
The Thyroid Hormone Has Unexpected Functions
The thyroid gland, surrounding your trachea in your lower neck, secretes thyroid hormone, which plays a crucial role in the body’s functions.
First, thyroid hormone determines the metabolic rate of every cell. This includes bringing nutrients into each cell as well as removing waste products. It increases blood flow, heart rate, heat and energy production as well as metabolism. It speeds up thinking, intestinal motility, thirst and urination. It lowers blood pressure, decreases total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and improves HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Thyroid hormone is known to eliminate cellular waste products such as old, defective enzymes. Even your immune defenses against various infections and cancer  are improved by adequate thyroid hormone. Moreover, it enables other endocrine glands to improve their function and become better able to produce their respective hormones, including cortisol and the sex hormones.
In contrast, thyroid deficiency causes a “myxedema” of the tissues. This is essentially mucous waste products outside cells. This leads to a multitude of organ system dysfunction. When a person is thyroid deficient, not one cell in his body is functioning optimally. Subsequently, there is a long list of symptoms and illnesses that can be caused by the hypothyroid state.
Hypothyroidism Classification: Underclassified
Discussion among medical doctors about thyroid disease can be very controversial, and their perspectives often depend on where they received their medical training as well as their willingness to learn more about the thyroid. Therefore, what I write here will probably upset your doctor; that is to be expected.
You see, there are two main “camps” regarding this topic. First, almost all doctors in the United States are taught by endocrinologists ,who are the “authorities” on hormone management. And no family physician wants to be ostracized from his medical staff or local colleagues for practicing outside of the so-called “standard of care.”
Then, there are other doctors in the United States who have learned additional information from European endocrinologists on how to manage thyroid disease. Their standard of care comes from clinical successes and not necessarily from their local hierarchy of professional colleagues. I fit in the latter group. What I’ve learned has proven to make far more clinical sense that what I was taught by mainstream U.S. medicine regarding thyroid hormone deficiency.
According to our U.S. medical system, degrees of hypothyroidism are classified in this manner:
- Primary hypothyroidism (90 percent): Takes place when the thyroid gland itself is responsible for underproduction of thyroid hormone. This occurs due to Hashimoto’s (autoimmune) thyroiditis, radioactive iodine treatment for previous hyperthyroid state and iodine deficiency.
- Secondary hypothyroidism (5 percent to 10 percent): Occurs when the pituitary gland does not secrete enough TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for the thyroid gland to respond and secrete sufficient thyroid hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Examples include pituitary damage caused by tumor, surgery or radiation.
- Tertiary hypothyroidism (less than 5 percent): Occurs when the hypothalamus does not secrete enough TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone) for the pituitary gland to respond and secrete sufficient TSH.
Unfortunately, this classification system misses the vast majority of cases of hypothyroidism in which the thyroid hormone is measured in the normal range but the hormone is not getting into cells to be used, thus resulting in a form of subclinical hypothyroidism. In the perspective taken by European endocrinologists, nearly 50 percent of Americans  have hypothyroidism under this broader classification.
Why Orthodox Physicians Don’t Detect Low Thyroid Hormone Function
Want to know why the diagnosis of low thyroid state is so commonly missed? Well, in part, there is such a huge diversity of related symptoms that only the very few physicians trained by the proper European physicians will recognize it. I didn’t give credence to these many symptoms (which I’ll discuss in my article next week) until recently, when this knowledge came to me by way of a formerly retired U.S. cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. William Pooley.
Pooley came back into practice because he found great satisfaction getting patients well using only hormone restoration and nutrition. I will always thankfully remember his kindness: He openly shared his clinical experience with me and led me to the work of Dr. Broda Barnes and the generations of the Hertoghe family of endocrine physicians from Belgium.
The main impediment to orthodox medicine properly dealing with the thyroid is its over-reliance on thyroid blood tests. We all know that thyroid hormone can be accurately measured in your bloodstream. However, let me share a little secret with you that your doctor does not want to hear: Just because your serum thyroid hormone measurements are in the normal range does not necessarily mean you have normally functioning thyroid hormone in the cells of your body organs and tissues.
The thyroid tests (T4, T3 and TSH levels) are notoriously unreliable for detecting hypothyroidism on the subtle level that contributes to illness. They do not necessarily reflect what is going on with thyroid hormone in the cells of your body. This may explain why you can feel terrible because of low thyroid hormone (the metabolic hormone of the body), yet your blood tests and your doctor say you are fine.
Let me share with you what the European endocrinologists say about the unreliability of thyroid blood tests:
1. The TSH test, which is touted to be the best test for thyroid deficiency, is not sensitive enough. TSH is elevated only in severe primary hypothyroidism and will not be elevated at all in secondary (pituitary) hypothyroidism.
2. Hormones vary tremendously during the day, and these blood tests are only a snapshot in time. Stress, in particular, increases many hormones.
3. The laboratory reference ranges are taken from a basically sick population, replete with all sorts of undiagnosed and untreated endocrine deficiencies, poor nutrition and other health issues. They do not represent values for optimal health.
4. Hypothyroidism is associated with a reduced blood volume and constriction of blood vessels, which causes T3 and T4 levels to be higher than they otherwise would be.
5. There is reduced lymphatic drainage associated with hypothyroidism, resulting in the accumulation of waste products in the connective tissues, including, especially, mucopolysaccharides that present a barrier against thyroid hormone getting to the target cells.
6. There is decreased clearance of thyroid hormone from the blood associated with thyroid deficiency, making the blood values deceptively higher than they otherwise would be.
7. There is decreased conversion of T4 into T3 (the biologically active hormone) in hypothyroidism.
8. There is decreased uptake of thyroid hormone by the target cells of target tissues in thyroid deficiency; and since thyroid hormone works inside the cells, the blood levels of TSH, T3 and T4 should not be expected to reflect what is happening inside the cells.
In my next article I’ll discuss the main reasons for such a prevalent condition, the many symptoms that fit with the diagnosis and a simple way for you to unofficially make your diagnosis without blood tests. I’ll also describe the many prominent chronic illnesses you probably never would have guessed are in large part due to low thyroid hormone function.
To feeling good for life,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
 Schwartz, Samuel: “The Relationship of Thyroid Deficiency to Cancer: A 50-year Retrospective Study,” Journal of IAPM, Vol. VI, No. 1, 1977. As reported by Dr. Schwartz in 1977, they studied the incidence of cancer in 74 thyroid deficient patients over a period of 15 to 46 years. There were two groups of patients: (1) a treated group who received at least 2-3 grains of natural desiccated thyroid hormone and (2) an untreated group who received no treatment at all or less than one grain of natural desiccated thyroid hormone (a clearly insufficient dose for all but small children). In the treated group of 31 patients, there was only one case of cancer for an incidence of 3.2%. In the untreated group of 43 patients, there were 32 cases of cancer for an incidence of 74.4%. This represents about a 95% protection from all cancers in the properly treated thyroid deficient group.
 Barnes, Broda O: Solved: The Riddle of Heart Attacks, Robinson Press, Fort Collins, CO,