Hypothyroidism…Seeing Beyond the Thyroid Gland Alone
One of the most important concepts about thyroid physiology that both doctors and patients often misunderstand is that hypothyroid symptoms are not necessarily caused by a dysfunctional thyroid gland or the level of circulating thyroid hormones in the blood. Rather, hypothyroidism is typically triggered at the cellular level. A concept called Cellular Hypothyroidism. Cellular Hypothyroidism is not a new concept in Thyroid Physiology, just one that has been overlooked by allopathic medicine for the last few decades.
When the cells of your body have insufficient thyroid hormone (or normal homeostasis), the reduced level of thyroid hormone in your cells triggers hypothyroid symptoms. If you struggle with chronic hypothyroid symptoms, there is insufficient T3 (the active thyroid hormone) reaching the nucleus of your cells to support a normal homeostatic state.
You can have hypothyroid symptoms and cellular hypothyroidism for days, weeks, months, or years with normal lab values of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and T4, and with a normal functioning thyroid gland. You see, you can’t measure what’s happening within your peripheral cells with a TSH and T4. By the time you fit the criteria of hypothyroidism with a lab high TSH and lab low T4, you’ve had nearly 90% of your thyroid gland damaged. Meanwhile you’ve probably had symptoms for many years. Due to limited testing, your doctor monitors two tests for years, as you complain, and your thyroid is destroyed. When you finally get diagnosed, 90% of your gland function is gone.
The reason you have symptoms is not the result of poor thyroid gland function, but cellular function. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone in bulk and dumps it into the bloodstream. But it’s the individual cells and tissues that determine how that thyroid hormone is going to be used. It can either be activated or deactivated based on the condition of the cells and tissues. When the net effect of thyroid physiology within the cell favors deactivation, metabolism is slowed, and you develop cellular hypothyroidism and hypothyroid symptoms. This can occur with normal TSH, T4, and a perfectly functioning thyroid gland.
If you have hypothyroid symptoms, you very well may have cellular hypothyroidism, or deactivation of your thyroid hormone at the cellular level.