Thyroid, Metabolism and All That Jazz

Kelly asks, “How can my husband jumpstart his metabolism to lose weight? His TSH is ‘in normal limits’ at 1.1 and his Free T3 is low at 2.3, but his doctor won’t treat him since his TSH is normal.”

Well, Kelly, before I launch, let me explain your question to those fortunate enough not to be battling thyroid problems or tests.

The thyroid is one of the crankier parts of the endocrine system, which is the master of our universe. This system probably gave birth to the saying, “All for one, and one for all.” If one part falters, the rest jump in to help. Nothing gets fixed, but it keeps you from crashing and burning. At least for a while.

The endocrine system hopes we’ll jump in and save the day, but helping our endocrine system doesn’t seem to come up in polite conversation, so we don’t know anything is expected of us. Meaning, of course, we do nothing.

Here’s how it goes:
Our hypothalamus rules both the endocrine and nervous systems. It notices when the thyroid is lagging behind and signals our pituitary gland, the leader of the endocrine gang, to tell the thyroid to send out a shot of thyroid hormone.

So, the pituitary releases some thyroid stimulating hormone to, as you might guess, stimulate the thyroid. This hormone is what we know and love (well, not so much actually) as TSH.

When the TSH arrives, the thyroid releases a little burst of thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone has five parts, but it’s mostly T4–which our bodies have to convert to T3 to get any mojo going.

That’s the expected scenario, but the blood tests don’t really tell us whether all is well or not. So results are maybe yes, maybe no.

But let’s assume that the tests are on the money, perfect in every way. And if that’s the case, thyroid meds wouldn’t help metabolism or weight loss here.

But with a good TSH result, why is your husband’s T3 low?

Selecting from a variety of possible answers, I’m thinking the conversion from T4 to T3 might not be all it could be. Which is pretty common.

Why? Oh, goodness, let me count the ways. I’ll talk about three of them.

  • It could be a simple lack of minerals. A mineral deficiency–which affects most of us–can prevent the T4/T3 conversion.
    Low mineral levels come from a poor diet. Over the years, farming methods have stripped the minerals from the soil, and since the soil is where plants get their minerals, it means our fruits and vegetables lack nutrition. They look swell, but they have very little to offer.

So we have to supplement. The common approach of getting a little something here and a little something else there, with no thought of balance or even a peek at the ingredient label, offers scant help, though. We have to figure out what our bodies need and how to provide it–in a full, balanced program that covers all the bases.

  • A lot of what the thyroid does happens in the small intestine. If your digestive system’s typically in an uproar–punctuated with food sensitivities and dashes to the bathroom–that would be a big clue.

The thyroid and the small intestine are what gossip writers call ‘an item,’ and frequently get in trouble together. And they stay in trouble until you heal your small intestine–which medicine can’t do. I describe the process, which is relatively straightforward, but with many parts, in my <em>Moving to Health</em> program.

  • Your liver is a big-time player in T4/T3 conversion. High fructose corn syrup whacks your liver like nobody’s business–and also elevates triglycerides to put your heart at risk, increases uric acid levels so you can flirt with gout, throws your insulin into an unhappy tizzy, causes weight gain, and on and on.

If high fructose corn syrup routinely finds its way down your gullet, chances are you have a punk liver, a common problem nowadays. It’s called fatty liver disease, a form of cirrhosis. Well, there goes any T4/T3 conversion!

Fortunately, livers leap at an opportunity to heal, so as a start, ditch high fructose corn syrup and start a solid nutritional program.

So there you have three big reasons–mineral deficiencies, problems with the small intestine and a whacked liver–for a thyroid to underperform.

And a good example of why we have to consider the whole body, not just one or two body parts, to fix problems.

God is good,
Bette Dowdell

Author's Bio: 

About the author: Bette Dowdell defines determination. In a really deep health ditch, with doctors who didn’t help, she got her Oh-Yeah! attitude in gear and researched her way out. She never intended to be a health expert, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You can subscribe to Bette’s free e-mails on how to solve health problems at