Six Types of Thyroid Dysfunction

Welcome to Episode 39. I’m so happy you are here. 

I spend a good couple hours cooking several things last night so I would have food to eat over the next week or so. I’ve been trying to double up on meals when I cook so we have stuff to freeze for nights I don’t want to cook. 

I made two whole chickens on Sunday night so I had leftover meat for making soup and for putting on salads. I made a double batch of chili on Monday and Tuesday was a big batch of Thai Beef Stew, braised cabbage and I tried out a meatless dish of grape tomatoes, garlic, basil, chickpeas and spaghetti squash. If you tolerate legumes it was an okay dish. I was hoping for more flavor from the chickpeas. I just sautéed the tomatoes in olive oil, smashed them, added the garlic and chickpeas and sautéed a bit longer. Then I added the spaghetti squash and basil and mixed it through. 

We are having venison chops tonight with sautéed mushrooms and roasted cabbage. 

What are you making for dinner these days?  Head over to my website and comment on this post to let me know what your cooking. Look for Episode 39. 

Today we are talking about the six types of thyroid dysfunction that cause or result in hypothyroidism so let’s get started. 

The thyroid gland is super sensitive to any changes in the biochemistry in our body. It’s job is to perceive even the tiniest of changes in the body and make up for that by changing how much thyroid hormone is released in the body. 

This is one reason you can see such different lab values over time. 

When these changes in our biochemistry become something that is chronic or constantly happening in the body then there begins to be problems with the thyroid gland and the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. 

Things like constant blood sugar dysregulation, constant or chronic inflammation in the body, deficiencies in nutrients, poor liver function, toxic burden, low stomach acid, intestinal permeability, poor eliminations and even the use of hormones including thyroid hormones can cause thyroid problems. 

Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function can fall into six different types. Some of these may occur at the same time, and it may be that only one of these will require permanent hormone replacement. 

1.Primary Hypothyroidism. 

This is when there is decreased hormone production by the thyroid gland. So it isn’t making enough T4 or T3. One cause and the most common cause in the US is Hashimoto’s. Worldwide the most common cause of Primary Hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency. (ref)  It is also caused by removal of the thyroid gland. 

This is a dysfunction of the thyroid gland and this is the one type of hypothyroidism that needs to be treated with thyroid hormone replacement. 

If you have Hashimoto’s, you may need medication due to the destruction of your thyroid gland but you also need to understand that this condition is an immune system issue first and a thyroid issue second. 

If you catch Hashimoto’s before too much damage is done, you might be able to support your thyroid nutritionally. Sadly, for me, I am still in need of medication.  If you do not have success bringing TSH down with diet and lifestyle changes, you will likely need hormone replacement. 

Your labs might look like this if you have primary hypothyroidism: 

  • high TSH

  • normal or low Total T4

  • normal or low Free T4

  • normal or low Free T3

  • normal Reverse T3

2. Secondary Hypothyroidism

This deals with your thyroid not putting out enough thyroid hormone due to an issue in the pituitary gland. Remember that the thyroid is regulated by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. When these two glands are not communicating and the pituitary doesn’t secrete Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) like it is supposed to. You may find your TSH at or around 1.8 but still having symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

Chronic stress in the body is usually at the heart of this one. Stress fatigues the pituitary and it can cause a failure to signal the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. 

Stress: too busy all the time, not enough sleep, living off of coffee and processed foods, inflammation, viral or bacterial infections. All of these will mess with your adrenal function and your thyroid function and remember those two go hand in hand.

You can also have low thyroid function after pregnancy. This is a stressful time for women who tend to be the ones suffering with most thyroid conditions. Pregnancy in and of itself will put a high demand on the pituitary gland. 

If your blood tests come out normal but your doctor puts you on thyroid medication anyway, it can help you feel better for a couple weeks but then you might start to feel worse. You can develop thyroid hormone resistance at your cells much like insulin resistance. 

So your cells are refusing thyroid hormone because there is too much in the blood and you might be given a higher dose making things even worse. You have all this hormone running through your blood so your pituitary gland gets a message it can stop making TSH or it just stops talking to the thyroid altogether. 

You might need medication after enough damage has been done between the communication of the pituitary and the thyroid.  

If you have Hashimoto’s but it doesn’t get addressed, this can become you.

Your labs might look like this: 

  • 1.8 or less TSH

  • 6 or less T4

  • symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

3. Your T4 is not converting to T3

This happens when you have tons of chronic stress and high cortisol. So you are making T4 but your body isn’t converting it to T3 which is what your cells need. When cortisol is high, you will likely have some of this going on. 

If your body is dealing with infection or inflammation your cell walls can be damaged by that which also affects T4 to T3 conversion. 

You need to damper the inflammation or infection and support your body in dealing with cellular stress (free radicals). 

T3 levels won’t affect your TSH so your labs might look like this: 

  • Normal TSH

  • Normal Total T4

  • Normal Free T4

  • Low T3

  • Low Free T3

  • Low or normal Reverse T3

4. Your conversion of T4 to T3 is too high.

This would mean you have too much T3 being made and you also have less thyroid binding globulin (TBG). 

Too much T3 will overwhelm the cells and you find yourself in thyroid hormone resistance again. It is common in women with insulin resistance and PCOS. It is often caused by too much testosterone in the body.  If you have developed Type II Diabetes and are taking insulin for this, you may also find yourself in an over conversion of T4 to T3.

If you are using a testosterone cream you can over convert T4 and T3. 

You will have hypo symptoms with this one. 

A big help here will be to reverse the insulin resistance to reverse the thyroid hormone resistance and begin to feel better. 

You may have labs that look like this: 

  • Normal TSH

  • High or high normal Free T4

  • High or high normal Free T3

  • Normal Reverse T3

5. High Thyroid Binding Globulin

Thyroid Binding Globulin is a protein that carries thyroid hormones to the cells so they can use them.  You can develop antibodies to this protein in Hashimoto’s. 

You can find yourself in this situation if you take hormonal birth control or estrogen replacement therapy. 

If you are on birth control, you may have high levels of estrogen you will make too much TBG and thyroid hormones are carried to the cells on TBG so if you have too many TBG proteins in the blood bound to them, you can have less thyroid hormone getting to your cells. 

You have to work to get the excess estrogen out of the body. 

Your labs might look like this: 

  • Normal TSH

  • Low Free T4

  • Low Free T3

  • Normal Reverse T3

6. Thyroid Hormone Resistance

Again, similar to insulin resistance with a root cause being stress. Your pituitary gland and thyroid gland may be making just the right amount of hormone but it just isn’t getting into the cells. It feels like hypothyroidism to you and it is the high amount of cortisol in your body that is causing your cells to resist the thyroid hormone. 

You absolutely must manage your adrenals with this one. 

Your labs might look like this: 

  • Normal TSH

  • Normal Free T4

  • Normal Free T3

  • Normal Reverse T3

You have to make sure your labs are being tested regularly in all cases. 

Ok. That’s it for me. 

I want to remind you all that I have openings in my practice for a few more clients right now so if you are needing help navigating diet and lifestyle changes head over to Help For Hashimoto’s and fill out the contact form. You can also get my report on Five Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Hypothyroidism. 

One last thing, part of the diet and lifestyle changes are to look at what you are putting on your skin. I found Beautycounter to be a trusted source for skin care and make up for me. They ban over 1300 chemicals in their products while the US only has a ban on around 30 ingredients. So, you don’t have to think about safety with their products and I really like that so I became a consultant last year. I don’t work too hard at selling it because my focus is really on nutrition but if you have any interest in checking them out go to beautycounter.com/stephanieewals to shop. I would sure appreciate your support. 

I’m still on a social media break and have no desire to get back on anytime soon. I’m checking the Help For Hashimoto’s facebook group once a day. You can join that if you would like but all the action is in the newsletter which you can sign up for on my website. 

I’m grateful to you all. Please leave me a rating and review on iTunes so more people can find the show and get help. 

Until next time.