Evaluate Brain Function
Brain function is extremely important in treating the thyroid, as we’ve mentioned previously in other secrets. The brain controls every bodily function. Your pituitary gland drives function of the thyroid gland by releasing TSH which than goes to the thyroid gland to stimulate thyroid hormone production.
The pituitary gland is located in your brain. Another area of the brain called the hypothalamus drives the pituitary gland’s release of TSH. When the cells of the body need thyroid hormone, the hypothalamus is stimulated to release Thyroid Releasing Hormone which goes to the Pituitary Gland stimulating it to release TSH which then goes to the Thyroid gland to drive thyroid hormone production.
Wow, that takes a lot of brain power just to understand!
So, anything that alters brain physiology can alter thyroid physiology. We’ve mentioned multiple times that the brain needs two things to survive and function: fuel and activation. Fuel is properly regulated glucose and oxygen.
As you age, your ability to utilize oxygen decreases by one percent per year for each year after the age of 25. If you are 50 years old, you’ve lost 25 percent of your ability to utilize oxygen in your body. This is called oxidative phosphorylation, which is a big fancy three-dollar term meaning you’re not using oxygen as well as you did when you were younger.
Properly regulated glucose is also important for proper brain function because of its role in neurotransmitter production. Properly regulated glucose is needed for the production of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are what the nerves use to communicate with each other. If you have a blood sugar problem, you will have problems with your neurotransmitters and brain function.
One of those neurotransmitters is called serotonin and it plays a major role in thyroid function. If you have low levels of serotonin production (because of blood sugar challenges, chronic inflammation, stress, etc.) you will have reduced levels of TSH produced. Remember from previous posts, if you have reduced TSH production then there will be less thyroid hormones produced.
In this situation, the person will have low thyroid symptoms, but their lab tests will show their TSH is within lab range so their doctor will tell them they don’t have a thyroid problem. This is another situation where the functional ranges allow us to see a pattern that is often missed. In this situation, the person’s TSH level will actually be functionally low (meaning below the functional range), but above the lab’s range of low.
Many times doctors will see a functionally low TSH with a patient complaining of hypothyroid symptoms and think that thyroid physiology is fine; that the patient is just “stressed out”. The doctor may even prescribe an SSRI to help them manage their stress. Many times the patient will even feel better with the start of the SSRI. The initial boost in serotonin function improves TSH production and improves thyroid physiology.
The down side however, is that for many, the boost doesn’t last. They either find they have to keep increasing their dose of SSRI or switch medications to maintain the benefit. The reason for this is that the underlying cause of reduced serotonin production has never been addressed.
Sometimes patients are given thyroid hormones in this situation, “just to see if it helps”. And initially it may, but if the underlying cause is not addressed the person’s health will continue to decline.
Other factors that can effect brain function can include chronic inflammation, stress, elevated cortisol levels, medications and more.
One of the things we like to do with our thyroid patients is a functional neurology exam (think DUI test- Driving Under the Influence). A functional neurology exam will help to show how well the brain is working.
Many times if brain function is compromised along with identifying the cause, as well as, supporting the person through diet and nutrition, we have to develop a brain based exercise program to help improve and balance brain function.
It is our opinion, that since the brain has such an influence on thyroid function, that a person suffering with thyroid challenges should have a functional neurology assessment.
We know this post got a bit heavy. But to keep it simple – brain function will effect thyroid function! If you have a thyroid condition or thyroid symptoms, as we’ve discussed previously, make sure you have a comprehensive thyroid blood panel performed, as well as, a functional neurological evaluation.
Don’t suffer another minute!
Call Dr. Dranko or Dr. Gorlesky at (919) 556-1033 today.