The Thyroid Debacle

We are keen to keep things simple.  Computer programs have “yes” and “no” and none of the grey in-betweens.  Have you ever tried to answer a questionnaire with a “yes, but” and there is no space allotted for your answer?

You arrive at your practitioner’s office with dozens of low thyroid symptoms: weight gain, hair loss, chronic constipation, low body temperature, pale skin, overly flexible tendons, and the list goes on.  Your practitioner is inspired to order a “thyroid” test for you which is really a pituitary hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).  If your practitioner is even more daring, he may add a free T4 (a hormone made by the thyroid gland and unbound from its carrier protein).   And if you are lucky to have significantly abnormal results, your practitioner may agree to help you by feeding you thyroid hormones (i.e., giving you a prescription for thyroid hormones). Thus, in a relatively direct manner, you start to feel better.


If that happy situation has not happened for you, it is time to go into a deep dive and pick up a copy of “The Thyroid Debacle” coauthored by Drs. Eric Balcavage and Kelly Haldeman.   In part one, Dr. Haldeman details the methods and thinking of conventional medicine for thyroid assessment. She also points out when reason is lost in the concepts embedded firmly into our medical systems.


Things turn topsy turvy.  A study by Robert Naviaux *opens the idea that hypothyroidism (or other chronic conditions) doesn’t always start in the thyroid but within every cell in our bodies. He names this the “cell danger response”.  As Dr. Balcavage writes, conventional thinking does not account for the cell danger response and what he calls intracellular hypothyroidism. Individual cells respond when they sense danger provoked by the dangers of microbes physical, biochemical, and emotional stresses, toxic substances, oxidative stress, electromagnetic frequencies and more.   Cell metabolism is shifted from normal function into self defense.  Self defense includes signals that down regulate thyroid function both at the thyroid and within each cell.

Let’s focus in on the intertwining of the effects of thyroid and sex hormones.  Women gain weight using birth control pills because the synthetic, usually, ethynyl estradiol inhibits iodine available to thyroid cells to produce thyroid hormones (composed of tyrosine and various amounts of iodine)

Excessive estrogens whether occurring naturally or added from an outside source increases the amount of two hormone carrier proteins SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) and TBG (thyroid binding globulin).  In the case of SHBG, large amounts inhibit androgen (testosterone-like) hormones.   With TBG, the absorption of thyroid hormone into the cell is lessened, thus making the cell more hypothyroid. Finally high estrogen levels decease the enzymes (deiodinases) activity associated with thyroid hormones controlling converting thyroid to more active forms.

Conversely, low intracellular thyroid can cause low production of estrogens and androgens.  Some of the hormone disorders associated with low thyroid activity are cycle disturbances, PCOS, infertility, miscarriage, sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, and prostate disorders.

Dr. Balcavage takes us on a tour of body systems and the uniqueness of the cells affect on thyroid functioning. Once this is completed, you will need to have your highlighter or sticky notes to mark the solutions and plan a scourse of action.  This isn’t a one and done book.  Keep it on your shelf and use it as a reference as you take charge of your health journey.

Yes, we like to keep things simple.  We prefer to use a flow chart to determine “if this, then that”.  In truth, our bodies are created with startling complexity.  It’s time to abandon a paradigm that for decades have kept many people miserable and discover how wonderfully our bodies are equipped to handle the challenges of living in the modern world.

*Naviaux, R “Metabolic features of the cell danger response”  Mitochondrion 16 (2004)7-17

Aside:  Dr. Eric Balcavage  helped develop Sulforaxym as a master antioxidant formula.  Although not covered already, cellular oxidation is part of the cell danger response leading to downregulation of thyroid activity.  This is one of the many solutions to return the cell to normal responses.

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