At the throat area is a butterfly shaped gland called the thyroid that is responsible for metabolism.  The degree of its ability to produce energy depends on how well it receives commands from the pituitary, the master hormone gland of the body located in the brain, and how well it is able convert that energy and deliver it throughout the body. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist estimates that 27 million Americans are affected by thyroid dysfunction, half of which go undiagnosed.  The chances of women developing a hypothyroid are one in five.

Dr. Datis Kharrazian, author of, Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? states, “Every cell in the body has receptor sites for thyroid hormone” as a result the thyroid can have a major impact on every aspect of the body’s ability to function optimally.  Hence one can understand the signs and symptoms associated with low thyroid function such as: depression, poor mental function, fatigue, needing lots of sleep, morning headaches that subside as the day progresses, feeling cold, especially at the hands and feet, muscle cramps, constipation, digestive problems, itchy, dry skin, dry hair, hair loss, loss of outer third of eyebrow, low body temperature, and weight gain despite low calorie intake.  Again, “every cell in the body has receptor sites for thyroid hormone.”

Without proper thyroid hormone stimulation the digestive track can become sluggish, leading to constipation, which in turn can yield yeast and bacterial infections, plus inflammation. It can also lead to malabsorption of nutrients and increases the risk of developing food sensitivities.

Hypothyroidism can lead to anemia.  Low thyroid function can decrease the amount of stomach acid produced consequently diminishing the absorption of nutrients including iron, folic acid and the assimilation of B12 vitamin, setting the stage for anemia. Folic acid, B6, and B12 nutrient deficiencies can lead to elevated homocysteine contributing to early heart and blood vessel disease. Additionally, research is making a connection between elevated homocysteine levels and the increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Low thyroid hormones can impact the liver and gallbladder. Low thyroid hormone can cause congestion of the gallbladder that may form gallstones. Since 75% of cholesterol is made in the liver and the slowed metabolism is not burning fat, the outcome of this is elevated total cholesterol, bad LDL’s and triglycerides, and a decrease in the good, HDL cholesterol.

There is a strong correlation between a deficiency of neurotransmitters, (a messenger of neurologic information from one cell to another) and thyroid health.  Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, stimulates the brain’s hypothalamus that in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which is a measure of how well the thyroid is working.  The result of low dopamine levels are decreased mental alertness and poor memory.

Another outcome of low thyroid is how blood sugar levels are metabolized. The brain uses lots of glucose and when glucose metabolism is poor it affects the brain.  Low thyroid function will slow the absorption of glucose into the brain cells.  It’s an absorption issue, not that there isn’t enough sugar in the diet.  The symptoms are that of fatigue, irritability and light-headedness.

While the cause and affect of poor thyroid metabolism goes on and on, the point it that the thyroid gland influences every cell of the body, from head to toe.  No organ system or body part is an island; the biochemistry of the body is a network of checks and balances.  When one system is stressed or compromised it can have a trickle down cascade, eventually causing a vast range of symptoms.  In this case the question arises of what to address first, the thyroid imbalance or the symptoms it produces?