Reverse T3- The Hidden Cause of Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems affect a large and ever-growing number of Australians with estimates suggesting that around 10% of the population have some form of thyroid problem.

Furthermore, the prevalence of thyroid disorders tends to increase with advancing age and since we have an ageing population it is highly likely that the incidence of thyroid conditions will increase significantly in the coming years.

It is also interesting to note that thyroid problems are far more common in women than men with the incidence being about five to ten times more frequent. However, the reason for this remains unknown.

Thyroid Hormones

Green tea and theanine The thyroid gland secretes two thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). In a healthy thyroid gland, about 80% of all produced thyroid hormone is T4, while the remaining 20% consists of T3. Circulating T4 can also get converted into either T3 or its inactive form known as reverse T3 (rT3). This conversion occurs primarily in the liver and kidneys.

Thyroid hormones are essential in maintaining and regulating the body's metabolism. T3 is the most active of the thyroid hormones while T4 is considered a precursor to T3 (i.e., its main job is to get converted into T3). T4 can also get converted into rT3 which is considered an inactive form of thyroid hormone, having only 1% the activity of T3. It acts like a metabolic 'brake', slowing down metabolism and cellular functioning. Under normal circumstances only a small amount of rT3 is produced in the body, however, in some situations an excessive amount of rT3 can be produced. This is a condition known as reverse T3 dominance.

Thyroid Hormone Production Pathways

Problems with thyroid testing

Many people who suffer with symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland (fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and feet, constipation, depression, dry skin, brittle nails, etc. See the table below) will often visit their doctor and only have their TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) level tested.

Sub-optimal Thyroid Symptoms

While TSH levels can provide an indication of thyroid health, when it is measured in isolation it doesn't provide a complete picture of a person's thyroid status. It is quite possible that a person who presents with some of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland may have a normal level of TSH! This is why further, more comprehensive testing is often helpful.

It is possible that in some cases where people have low thyroid symptoms they may have a normal level of TSH and T4 (Thyroxine, 'inactive' thyroid hormone), but have a relatively low-to-normal level of T3 (tri-iodothyronine, 'active' thyroid hormone) and a high level of rT3 (reverse T3, 'inactive' thyroid hormone).

Causes of Reverse T3 Dominance

There are many possible causes of rT3 dominance, with the major cause being stress. High stress levels cause an increase in circulating levels of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has the effect of blocking the conversion of T4 into T3, resulting in greater conversion into rT3.

Other causes of reverse T3 dominance include: inflammation in the body, extreme dieting, nutrient deficiencies (iron, selenium, zinc, chromium, Vitamins B6 and B12), leptin resistance, oxidative stress (an overload of free radicals), insulin resistance, excessive alcohol consumption, liver and/ or kidney disease, and high levels of heavy metals in the body.

Treatment Options for Reverse T3 Dominance

In order to overcome rT3 dominance it is important to not rely solely on conventional thyroid medication to treat low thyroid symptoms. Thyroid hormone is just thyroxine (T4), and as stated already, if someone is suffering from rT3 dominance it just gets converted into more rT3. This is like adding fuel to a fire, placing a further brake on metabolism.

The best approach is to address the cause(s) of the problem. This means dealing with why the enzyme responsible for converting T4 into T3 isn't functioning properly in the first place. Oftentimes it is caused by stress and/ or nutrient deficiencies.

If stress is the cause then the best approach is to try and avoid or minimise stress levels or use strategies to help your body deal with the stress more effectively. This may include using relaxation techniques, performing breathing exercises, meditation, getting adequate sleep, moderate exercise or by using stress-relieving herbs, like Rhodiola rosea, which is available in BCN's Rhodiola Advanced.

If the cause of rT3 dominance is nutrient deficiencies then eating a balanced diet and including foods in your diet that provides all of the required nutrients is essential. In addition, you can take BCN's Thyron. It contains all of the required nutrients for optimum thyroid functioning.

If the problem of reverse T3 dominance persists, even after taking the aforementioned steps, then see your health practitioner about conducting further tests to find out if one of the other causes is a problem for you.

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from Reverse T3- The Hidden Cause of Thyroid Problems

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Here is the complete list of thyroid articles:

Can You Get Off Thyroid Medication?

T3 and T4 Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid Disease Caused By Inflammation

5 Common Thyroid Problems

The Ideal Thyroid Diet For You

Thyroid Diet Foods and Nutrients

The Importance of a Healthy Thyroid Gland

What Causes Thyroid Disease Symptoms?

Do You Have Low Thyroid Symptoms?

Alternative Thyroid Treatments

How Stress Affects Your Thyroid

What is Hashimoto Thyroiditis?

Reverse T3- The Hidden Cause of Thyroid Problems

Should You Use a Thyroid Supplement?

The Causes of Thyroid Problems

Underactive Thyroid and Nutritional Deficiencies

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