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Welcome to the website for Jim Chialtas, L.Ac., and Laurel Acupuncture Clinic of Functional Medicine, located in San Diego.

Click on the tabs above to learn more about what Functional Medicine is, and about many of the health concerns I specialize in. Or scroll down for my blog. You might find it helpful to use the labels in the lower right column to find topics that interest you.

In addition to seeing clients privately in my clinic, I also offer many of the same services remotely to US residents. Please feel free to contact me to set up a consultation or appointment. Thank you!

8/13/09

The Estrogen / Thyroid Connection

I want to describe to you a rather obscure tidbit pertaining to estrogen and its relationship to thyroid function. Low thyroid function is something that I talk a lot about because it affects a great many people weather they know it or not. Indeed the thyroid gland is very misunderstood and is certainly mistreated through the mainstream approach. But the thyroid gland itself aside, this article is focused on how thyroid hormone activity (not thyroid hormone production) can be hindered due to imbalances in the sex hormone estrogen.

When looking at thyroid hormones, or any hormones really, it is important to differentiate between the protein bound and free forms of the hormone. When a hormone is created by a gland it is immediately bound up with a carrier protein who's job it is to get that hormone to where it needs to go without being destroyed or lost along the way. Once the hormone is where it needs to be that carrier protein is removed and the hormone is "free" to do its job. That is why these hormones are called "free fraction" or "free hormones."

In the case of thyroid hormones there is a specific carrier protein called Thyroid Binding Globulin. It just so happens that when there are elevated levels of estrogen the amount of Thyroid Binding Globulin in the blood also goes up. This increased number of binding proteins hold onto more of the thyroid hormone which works to hinder them from doing their job. Remember, protein bound hormones can't bind to their receptor. They just float around in the blood. So if you were to do a basic thyroid screen you would usually be looking for the protein bound form (generally due to the lower cost of the test) and everything might look fine. The Thyroid is producing plenty of hormone and the paperwork all looks great. But why then is this woman still having trouble losing weight, losing her hair, struggling with low energy, and not pooping very often? These are all low thyroid symptoms which exist even though the actual hormone levels are normal. "Go home, there is nothing wrong with you." Right? Hmmm....

The reason that these symptoms persist is because the elevated estrogen induces a low thyroid state by stopping the free form of the hormone from binding to the receptor. For all intensive purposes this person is low thyroid. The unfortunate part is that the average blood work up won't account for the interplay between estrogen and thyroid Binding Globulin.

A careful history looking for high estrogen conditions like breast cancer, breast cysts, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or hormone replacement therapy for example should all come into play when considering complaints of low thyroid function. This is thinking outside the box of mainstream medicine. These cases are missed all the time which is unfortunate. It is also of course a great idea to have a look at estrogen levels and there is even a test for Thyroid Binding Globulin. These are tests that I can order if your primary physician is unable or unwilling to order them for you. Be prepared for such a response.

This is just another example of how hormone imbalance can have a negative affect on sexual function and health in general. Let's face it... Someone who is experiencing low thyroid symptoms for any reason is generally low energy. And I think that we all know how great sex can be when one or more of the people involved is, "too tired!" Let's be proactive here. Healthy sexual function can translate into great overall health and lend itself to a positive outlook on life. It is as natural as breathing, sleeping and pooping! And when it comes to thyroid health all of the above can be involved. The solution may be a simple as just looking for the right thing.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this article. Aside from natural thyroid supplements I need my female and thyroid-binding retested. It has been 2 years since my last hormone test.

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  2. Jim Chialtas, L.Ac.March 7, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    Hi Samantha,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, considering thyroid conditions and not working up the sex hormones as well is missing a lot! I highly recommend getting that done.

    I can order labs long distance and work on a consultation basis. Do get in touch if I can help you in any way.

    -Jim Chialtas, L.Ac.

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  3. I appreciate the candidness of your article. I can also appreciate the look beyond what main stream medical practice will even consider. Does it have everything to do with big pharma? Why don't you hear more about the real reasons people aren't getting the results they so desparately need? I have symptoms of adrenal burnout as well as hypothyroidism. I have gained 15lbs in the last four months. I do not over eat, don't really evn enjoy eating usually. I have been(but no longer) on some kind of estrogen medicine for 14 years of my life, which led to, I believe, endometriosis and therefore a hysterectomy. I wish I knew then what I know now. I have not sought medical attention because I know the tests will look "normal". My mother and grandmother have been on treatment for hypothyroid conditions for yearsm but yet still have hypothyroid symptoms. Their tests are "normal". It is encouraging to find more professionals looking at Thyroid Binding Globilin.

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