You might have heard that dysfunction of your thyroid gland can cause all kinds of problems—weight gain, digestive problems, fatigue, infertility—you name it.
It’s no surprise that doctors of natural medicine, like myself, are quick to consider thyroid problems for nearly everyone. But here lies quicksand.
Doctors have incentive to find what is wrong with you. And, understandably, you want something to be wrong—to explain your suffering.
But what if the perceived illness was actually your body doing exactly what it should be doing under the circumstances? What if one hundred-thousand years of adaptation and survival led you to the very expression that is now being termed “mild hypothyroid” and “fatigue?”
It was a pleasure to be on a mastermind panel at the 2015 Paleo f(x)™conference in Austin Texas and speaking on this very topic. My message is the What if: What if your body were doing exactly what’s right? What if a lower T3 (activated thyroid hormone) were perfectly adapted to allow you to tolerate strenuous exercise. What if a slightly lower thyroid activity were specially selected for individuals with a propensity toward physical activity in warm climates. With the right guidance from a healthcare provider who understands primal health—your diet and fitness lifestyle are the conduit to your vibrant health and energy.
Let me share with you the ways your thyroid activity slows down to brilliantly accommodate your environment and preserve your dear capital. Citations can be found in The Blood Code: Unlock the Secrets of Your Metabolism. [An important medical reference: If TSH (the pituitary hormone that stimulates thyroid hormone secretion) is >6uIU/mL and if FreeT3 (your activated thyroid hormone) is below 1.9 pg/mL, medical treatment is probably required—The following studies refer to the “mild” and borderline hypothyroid states.]
Diet—Low calorie intake slows your metabolism to preserve energy.
1800 calorie diets substantially reduce T3, as compared to 2400 and 2800 calories. 1500 calorie diets resulted in substantial T3 reduction within 48 hours of initiation and remained low through the duration of the study.
Exercise—Increased metabolism from exercise can replace thyroid activity.
Intensive exercise, such as strenuous interval training, results in significantly lower T3 that persists over 24 hours. Even moderate exercise, for more than 20 minutes, results in lower T3 levels, and warmer environments cause lower T3. Fortunately, as you get fitter, the hypothyroid effect of exercise is reduced. It is this reason that I have everyone with hypothyroid, whether on medication or not, exercise briefly every morning to physically “start the engines”.
Stress—It’s best to preserve energy during times of stress.
Under stressful situations, the body lowers T3. As physical fitness improves, stress doesn’t affect thyroid and other endocrine function as much.
Age—In older individuals, weight maintenance is a sign of strength & health.
Over 65 years of age, lower T3 is linked to longevity and longer life is linked to higher TSH, a sign of slightly lower thyroid activity.
We as medical providers are too quick to tell you what is wrong with your body, rather than what is right. Your thyroid doesn’t need to become the next scapegoat—and I hope this piece gets you thinking about the brilliant compensations your body makes to help you thrive in your current environment. Reading the studies above, it is more likely that improving your fitness will help your thyroid rather than hurt it. Your body has been evolving for hundreds of thousands of years to prepare you for this moment; prescription hormones have been around for barely a hundred. We should use them with caution and respect our natural health and vitality.
Your take-home message
Mild or subclinical hypothyroid may not be the disease you think it is—your metabolic system might be doing “all-right” given the circumstances. You may need to search deeper into what is causing your fill-in-the-blank (fatigue/constipation/weight gain/insomnia/brain fog). To start, get The Blood Code. Do the Discovery Panel blood test thyroid discovery panel and become the master of your metabolism. See TheBloodCode.com for links to SaveOnLabs to access direct labs.