Thyroid Problems

The thyroid gland converts iodine and the amino acid tyrosine, found in our food, into the thyroid hormones: thyroxine and triiodothyronine which are abbreviated to T4 and T3 respectively.

Thyroid cells are the only ones in the body that can absorb iodine. Unless we obtain these two elements in our diet regularly the thyroid may begin to malfunction.

Look at the dietary sources and try to include them into your food. For example Iodine is found in seaweeds (kelp). Tyrosine can be synthesized in the body from the essential amino acid Phenylalanine which is found in many high protein and dairy products.

The Thyroid Hormones

The thyroid gland releases T3 and T4 into the blood stream where it is then transported throughout the body to control metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy). We would quickly die if the thyroid were to be removed and the hormones not replaced.

The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4. Within the brain the hypothalamus, releases a hormone know as Thyroid Releasing Hormone.

This alters the level of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone released. It can be viewed like a thermostat. As levels of T3 and T4 rise the thermostat kicks in and shuts of TRH, which reduces TSH and then tells the thyroid to cut it’s production of thyroid hormones. If this delicate hormonal balance should falter the thyroid can become under active (or overactive).

Thyroid Problems and Hair Loss

The most common pattern of hair loss we see with an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) is a diffuse pattern of loss (general thinning across the top of the scalp). However it is common in alopecia areata too, so needs to be excluded if you have these patterns of loss.

The least invasive way to check the thyroid is by measuring basal temperature. The logic being that when thyroid function is normal, temperature and pulse rates will be in a given range. When temperature falls below the ideal range, it is often indicative of hypothyroidism, so further investigation is needed.

A blood test can measure the levels of the thyroid hormones and if the body is producing antibodies against its own thyroid (Hashimoto’s Disease). However some doctors have found that the cells may not be taking up the hormones efficiently and that the blood hormone levels can be in normal range, but the patient still exhibit signs of under-activity.

The temperature test is a quick non invasive test, however it is advisable to follow this up with more thorough tests if you suspect an underactive thyroid.

How To Do A Basal Temperature Test

Before going to sleep, shake down a glass thermometer to below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and place it within easy reach. Do not use a digital thermometer because they are often not as accurate as the glass version. First thing in the morning make sure you take your under arm temperature before getting out of bed. The temperature should be recorded after ten minutes. The correct range should be 97.8 – 98.2. However a couple of things can alter this: women’s temperature can rise around 1 degree at the point of ovulation. This needs to be factored into the reading. More importantly, in female hair loss it is wise to see if your temperature does actually rise at ovulation because it can indicate a hormonal cause to your hair loss.

Treatment For Under-active Thyroids

If your thyroid is found to be under-active the conventional treatment is thyroid hormone replacement. This is where you are given a drug that resembles the body’s thyroid hormones.

Certain drugs contain only T4, while others contain only T3 and yet others a combination of both.

There are basically two different approaches: thyroid replacement started with desiccated pigs thyroid and was dominated by the brand Amour.

Synthetic versions were then developed and marketed and are more popular these days.

What is extremely important to note is that these drugs are extremely potent and should only be taken with strict medical supervision.

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