Thyroid 101: How thyroid hormones are made and how TSH functions

How the thyroid hormones are made and how the TSH functions

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits to the front of the base of the throat. The thyroid governs metabolism and when it doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones, people feel sluggish, have trouble concentrating, gain weight and feel cold.

Left untreated, thyroid disease can lead to more-serious health problems, including elevated cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility depression, and cancer. Recent studies have estimated some 50 million Americans currently have a low-thyroid condition and over 50% do not know it.

Thyroid hormones are made from the amino acid tyrosine and the mineral iodine. Tyrosine is the “T” in the thyroid hormone designation T-1, T-2, T-3 or T-4. Iodine makes up the numeral designation of 1, 2, 3 or 4 iodine atoms, depending on whether it is T-1, T-2, T-3 or T-4, respectively. T-3 and T-4 hormones regulate the body temperature and metabolic rate of every cell in your body. This correlates to how well you metabolize your oxygen. Cancer is always associated with lower oxygen metabolism and lower thermogenesis (heat production).

T-4 is the storage form of thyroid hormone that circulates in the blood and T-4 levels comprise about 93% of the thyroid hormone with T-3 coming in at close to 7% with T-1 and T-2 present but not measured. Thyroid in the form of T-3 is the bioactive form that crosses into the cell. To convert T-4 (storage form) to T-3 (bioactive form) the body uses a delicate balance of specific enzymes and cofactors, in particular selenium, lithium, zinc and iron. Many things can interrupt this process and jam the receptor sites thereby preventing proper thyroid function.

Thyroid blood tests do not give an accurate picture of what is happening in the cells.

Your thyroid is dependent on the pituitary gland to produce the actual thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that is measured in the blood thyroid test. It is the TSH levels produced by the pituitary gland that tells the thyroid to go to work or slow down, so never assume that high or low levels of TSH levels in the blood indicate a thyroid problem; these levels are just symptoms. You could have a perfectly well and functioning thyroid; but if your pituitary gland is not sending out the correct TSH levels to your thyroid then the thyroid is just obeying the traffic signals sent by the pituitary.

Secondly, TSH counts are generally interpreted by the medical community as “if there are high/low levels of TSH in the blood; therefore the thyroid is defective”. A blood test for TSH is not a good indicator of true thyroid function because you can test normal on all thyroid blood tests and still have low thyroid function. Furthermore, the normal range for TSH is so over-broad that you can be in the safe zone and still feel miserable because of low thyroid function. The test “safe” range for TSH is 0.5 to 5.5, therefore 5.5 is low thyroid and 0.5 is high. Most people thrive between the 1 to 2 range of TSH blood levels and merely survive above that.

I have yet to find a cancer patient with a normal thyroid function.

How test the thyroid is functioning in the cells

The best home test for thyroid function is the Body Basal Temperature Test. For several days keep a medical thermometer by your bedside. As soon as you wake up in the morning put the thermometer in your armpit for ten minutes. You must do this before you get up. If you get up first you will not get an accurate reading. If your temperature runs below 97.8 then you most likely have low thyroid function in the cells. The further below 97.8, the less thyroid function is happening in the cells.(1)

The thyroid gland and its output to the body is not the end-all of thyroid function with many other players affecting cellular performance. The pituitary gland sends out the production orders to the thyroid while the hypothalamus of the brain “tastes” the blood to check balances and write the orders for the pituitary gland to send to the thyroid. The adrenal glands play a delicate balancing act also in this ensemble of hormone producers by ramping adrenaline up and down for the short term demands of digestion and strenuous activities. These are just the front-line players; there are many more.

1) Basal temperature chart for the thyroid: Chart for tracking the morning body temperature readings to assess thyroid and adrenal function

Read more: Thyroid Support: A comprehensive article on thyroid function

Authored by Cancer Nutritionist Craig Stellpflug NDC, CNC Dayspring Cancer Clinic Scottsdale, AZ
Copyright 2011 Craig Stellpflug© Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this article but only in its entirety

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