December 19, 2014

Dr. David Clark, DC – Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill thyroid expert, explains how cytokines affect thyroid hormone receptors and cause Low Thyroid symptoms.

Hidden Cause #20 why you still have low thyroid symptoms even though your lab tests look normal and even though you may be taking medication is…

Elevated inflammatory cytokines blocking &blunting thyroid hormone receptor sites 

Let’s review for a second.

You can take thyroid hormones, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will get any benefits of the hormone. Why?

The hormone has to bind/dock on the receptor…AND…the receptor has to then RESPOND to the docking.

T3 comes along and docks on the receptor—and then the receptor makes the machine inside the cell do what it’s programmed to do.  This system depends on a receptor that is unblocked, unblunted and responsive.  

Cytokines can block, blunt and make the thyroid hormone receptors un-responsive. This causes low thyroid symptoms.

Cytokines are immune system messengers (example: interleukin 2, interferon gamma). We all have cytokines in our body, but people with inflammation, inflammatory conditions or autoimmune conditions have A LOT of cytokines.

If you have a condition such as

  • Hashimoto’s
  • Vitiligo
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • IBS
  • PCOS
  • Endometriosis

….chances are you have a large amount of cytokines. And that can affect your thyroid hormone receptors and cause low thyroid symptoms (even if you’re taking medications like Synthroid®, Armour® or Cytomel®)

What causes high levels of inflammatory cytokines?

Here’s a partial list:

  • Psychological stress
  • Food sensitivities
  • Infections: viral, bacterial
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Chemical sensitivities

Cytokines can shut down the receptors for T3, making you FEEL hypothyroid and actually FUNCTION as hypothyroid–even though your TSH, T4 and T3 lab numbers are “normal” and within the lab range.

You WILL have low thyroid symptoms like these:

  • Hair loss (scalp, eyebrows, body hair)
  • Weight gain — even though you’re eating a low calorie diet, even though you may be exercising like crazy
  • Brain fog–slow thinking, memory problems, can’t think of words
  • Sleeping excessively in order to feel like you’re even normal
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin, dry hair, nail problems. 
  • Infertility
  • High cholesterol

High cytokines can make have any or all of those low thyroid symptoms.

This is a hidden cause mainly because the lab numbers really are “normal.” This can confuse your well-meaning doctor.

If your TSH and T4 are clearly abnormal, the answer is easy: prescribe thyroid hormones.

But if your labs are normal and you have low thyroid symptoms….what does your doctor do? Usually, he/she says you’re depressed and recommends an anti-depressant.

What if you’re already diagnosed hypothyroid AND taking thyroid medication BUT you still have low thyroid symptoms?

The thyroid medication can make your T4 levels look normal–but if you’ve got something that’s suppressing the receptors, you will NOT get the benefit of all that T4 floating around in your blood. 

I hope that makes sense. 

You can have a ton of  Synthroid® circulating, but it’s all for nothing if cytokines are blocking or blunting your receptors.

You will feel like you’re NOT taking any medication because you will still suffer low thyroid symptoms.  And this chain of events will really confuse most doctors because they just don’t know about cytokines and how they affect hormone receptors.

There’s another possibility with cytokines and receptors…you never even get diagnosed hypothyroid because your numbers look normal. The receptors are the problem.

Unfortunately there are NO lab tests that can tell us what’s going on with the receptors.

Women that suffer high cytokines and screwed up receptors but normal lab tests…these women wander in the medical wasteland forever. 

 They’ll see chiropractors, MDs, DOs, acupuncturists, Functional Medicine practitioners…and they’ll get prescribed everything from serotonin to Armor to iodine…but none of it works because that’s not the problem. 

The problem is cytokines and receptors.

Typically, she’ll see 10 or more practitioners before she finally finds someone who understands this point:

“Look, none of these other approaches have worked.  All these other mechanisms are not what’s going on with you.  Maybe it’s inflammation, cytokines and recptors.”

In my practice, I see this EXACT scenario in about 25%  of my new thyroid patients.

How do you deal with high cytokines and blocked/blunted receptors? 

You’ve got to find out what’s causing the inflammation. 

For example, is Hashimoto’s the cause of your high cytokines and blocked/blunted receptors? Hashimoto’s is an inflammatory autoimmune condition featuring high levels of cytokines.  You CAN have both of these mechanims happening at the same time. 

There’s no rule that says you can only have one thing wrong.  You could have Hashimoto’s and the cytokine/receptor problem. I see it all the time.

  • Is it the fact that you’ve got some other autoimmune condition? 
  • Do you have a leaky gut or GI dysbiosis–a gut infection that’s causing inflammation throughout your entire body?
  • Do you have a food sensitivity? Chemical sensitivity?

You’ve got to have somebody that knows how to look for all these factors AND understand that cytokines can block/blunt receptors…AND know what to do correctly address the cytokine problem.  

If you don’t find a doctor who knows these concepts, chances are you’ll go to doctors 16, 17 and 18, and they’ll just offer you slight variations on what all the other doctors tried that didn’t work.

Your doctor has to think outside of that “normal box” and consider that cytokines are shutting down the receptor—even though the lab tests may look normal—even though you might be taking thyroid medication already—but you can STILL have this problem.

© 2014 David Clark. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The contents of this site are for educational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice. Nothing here is a substitute for actual medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional.

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