Hormones require a fine balance in your body so everything works just right. We live in a society that likes to “spot check” one hormonal gland and treat that gland and only that gland, (and nothing but the gland). However, not only does a hormone need to be balanced within itself, such as progesterone and estrogen from the ovaries, but each hormonal gland will affect another hormonal gland. This is why as in a case of hypothyroidism when the T4 level from the thyroid is low, the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) from the pituitary will increase, as the body is trying to “push” out more T4 production. But these days due to lackluster patient care and insurance regulations, most doctors only perform a TSH reading to diagnose the thyroid condition. If the TSH is high as in this example, then they assume that T4 is low and therefore the total thyroid is low so you need a medication such as Synthroid or Armour Thyroid. If the TSH is low, then it must be so because the T4 is high and steps must be taken to slow down the thyroid. All this is done without taking into consideration what the actual T4 level is, or as importantly (perhaps more), the T3 level, which is the ultimate goal in thyroid production. It is very possible to have a high TSH and a high T4, as well as it is common to have both low. Most of T4 is converted into T3 in the liver, the function of that organ is of utmost importance. The two primary reasons why T4 is not converted successfully into T3 is due to high insulin levels and high cortisol (stress hormone) levels. The T3 is converted into a hormone called Free T3. This can be measured to verify, but rarely is. This gets us into carbohydrate intolerance and adrenal gland function, which must be addressed to treat the thyroid.
So, if I may take this further – here’s a common occurrence. An individual has blood work done for a TSH level. It reads lower than normal. Most likely a T4 level will then be taken, we hope. The T4 level comes back high and steps are discussed to suppress thyroid activity since the individual is making too much thyroid hormone. But, if the T3 level was taken, many times it is low. The T4 is just waiting to be converted into T3, but can’t because the ever-so-common occurrences of carbohydrate intolerances and adrenal stress disorders. The pituitary was smart enough to lower its output of TSH as to not make any more T4 since there’s already enough.
The adrenal glands most of the time are the center of attention when it comes to hormonal balancing. Too much stress increases cortisone levels in the initial stages of the adrenal stress disorder and this will suppress thyroid, pituitary, pineal, and ovary/testes production. In my opinion, and those who practice functional medicine, an adrenal issue is present before a thyroid issue.
Balancing the hormones involves fine-tuning each area with its relationship to the other involved glands. I like to think of one of those street performers who balances ten spinning plates on sticks. After he gets the third or fourth one going, he’s got to go back and get the first one moving again before it falls; then he can go and start the fifth one. He is constantly paying attention to all the plates, keeping them all going, until the tenth one is up and spinning. One spill and it’s all over.