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Could undiagnosed thyroid function be the missing link to unexplained infertility?

Could undiagnosed thyroid function be the missing link to unexplained infertility?

If you have been trying to conceive for over 6 months and wondering why it is taking so long, then it is worth getting your thyroid checked properly. Often standard blood tests for thyroid can be misdiagnosed in 80% of cases of infertility. So let’s explore why it is commonly missed in Australia and how you can keep your thyroid hormones in tip top shape.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ that is located within the front of the neck and responsible for controlling hormones required for optimal cell function. The thyroid controls your metabolism, so if you are prone to weight gain this could indicate a thyroid imbalance. Not only does it control weight, but it is also connected to ovarian function and period health. Up to 70% of PMS sufferers have low thyroid levels. This can drastically reduce your ovaries of cellular energy needed for ovulation and impair chances of fertility.

The thyroid makes two important hormones known as T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). T3 is the more active hormone that controls ovarian hormones and metabolism. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is the head guy that makes the thyroid hormones. If the T3 or T4 are too low in the body then the brain will signal TSH to make more thyroid hormone and this is when the butterfly starts going haywire. The body gets confused and thinks it has enough thyroid hormones, and then can in fact slow down its production leading to period problems, lowered progesterone and infertility.

So why is the average thyroid test flying under the radar?

The test ranges for hypothyroidism is huge. The test for TSH which is the first test performed for thyroid function is between 1 and 5mlU/L. So even if you have super obvious symptoms of thyroid imbalance and family history, it may be overlooked. In America if TSH levels are over 2.5 this is considered hypothyroidism according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Also if you have a figure under 2.5 with obvious symptoms of a thyroid imbalance, it may be due to inflammation which warrants further investigations. A more accurate measure includes Reverse T3. If you can imagine T3 is like the accelerator of the car, whereas reverese T3 is like the break. If T3 is normal, but reverse T3 is high, then your thyroid will be “slow”. This is why it’s important to look at all parameters of your thyroid, not just TSH.

Can stress affect thyroid function?

It’s no doubt that if you have been riding the fertility rollercoaster of emotions that stress has made a guest appearance. Stress increases cortisol which in turn reduces production of TSH thyroid stimulating hormone. If TSH is lowered, then the thyroid receptors are reduced by 50% meaning the cord for fertility hormones isn’t plugged in the right socket. But there’s no need to stress about stressing! A naturopath can help to support your adrenals through this challenging time. Taking up meditation or yoga can also help to increase calmness.

What nutrients or herbs to can support thyroid production?

Tyrosine and Iodine are needed to make thyroid hormone, but rather than just supplementing these we need to explore the finer co-factors that can ultimately aim to restore thyroid function while balancing our fertility hormones too.

Selenium is a trace mineral that protects the thyroid from inflammation and conversion of T4 to T3. Nowadays we are surrounded by toxins including pesticides, chemicals which lead to depleted minerals in the soil. It is difficult to obtain adequate levels of selenium from the soil through our diet. A study showed a correlation with low T3 and T4 in selenium deficient animals. Foods that contain selenium are Brazil nuts, sardines and grass fed beef. ABC nut butter is a great way to get your daily selenium intake. Be careful not exceed 200mcg daily.

Zinc is a fantastic mineral not only for the production of progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, but also helps production of Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH). Ensure you have adequate levels of zinc. It is worth noting that zinc deficiency decreased levels of T3 in blood by 30% in a study (Dahia V, 2016)

Withania herbal mixture can help boost thyroid function, reduce levels of anxiety, and help cope with stress especially around fertility.

Here are some hints to check if your thyroid is going cray cray

Your body temperature may be lower than 36.5 degrees. The best time to check is first thing in the morning. Take your temperature for 3 consecutive days and remain still while doing so. If your temperature remains low and hardly changes within the 3 days then this can be a sign of subclinical hypothyroidism.

What are your energy levels like? Do you feel flat all day, hard to get motivated, and crave caffeine or sugar? These are classic symptoms of hypothyroidism. People with subclinical thyroid may complain of dry skin, weight gain, swelling, hair loss, poor memory, and depression. One of my patients had a few symptoms including weight gain, stress, and irregular periods had her urinary iodine tested. This was low and she is now gaining energy back and losing weight after supplementing with the right dose of iodine (we never recommend taking iodine willy-nilly. Always see your healthcare provider).

Check for Goitrogens in your diet – No, it’s not the loch ness monster!

Goitrogens, (seriously can this name be any more weird)! are found in certain foods and can interfere with the normal function of the thyroid. Foods included are soy, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, mustard greens, and strawberries. The jury is out whether these are harmful or not as most of them contain highly nutritious antioxidants and vitamins. It is best to lightly steam your broccoli, cauliflower, or kale before you consume them.

So if you think you may have some thyroid symptoms and you would like to investigate your thyroid further then give us a call to have a complimentary 10min phone chat to see how we can help you along with your fertility journey.

Alysia Raftery has a special interest in natural fertility and preconception care for couples. Each individual is unique, so it is important to find out what she can do for you, in a naturopath consultation to help you on your road to a happy and empowered fertility journey.

1. Dahia V 2016. Alchemy of the mind. Busybird publishing, Australia
2. Briden L 2015 Period repair manual, Lara Briden
3. Thurgood A 2011, Reverse T3 When thyroid function test looks fine but the patient is not. ATMS news, Australia


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