The Importance of Thyroid Supplementation 

for Age-Related Thyroid Decline

eeling tired? Mentally dull? Depressed? Perhaps a little constipated? Are you cold when everyone else is warm? Gaining weight? Losing your hair? Have dry skin? Brittle nails? Do your joints ache? Slightly high cholesterol? Have you lost interest in sex?

If any of this sounds like you, you may have age-related thyroid decline, or an underfunctioning thyroid.

As we age, the functioning of our various endocrine glands, including the thyroid, slows down. Age-related thyroid decline means that your thyroid gland, which sits like a bow tie in the front of your neck, just below the Adam's apple, is churning out less thyroid hormone than the body requires.

Thyroid hormones help regulate virtually every cell in the body, including the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, skin, and bone. Among their most important functions is to control the rate of metabolism, affecting thermogenesis and oxygen consumption. If cellular metabolism drops too low, the result is widespread dysfunction that can manifest in a variety of ways, including depression; cognition and memory impairment; loss of hair, hearing, and muscle tone; weight gain; heart disease; and, in extreme cases, psychosis and even death. Without thyroid hormones, we would not survive.

Many cases of age-related thyroid decline go undiagnosed and untreated, primarily because conventional doctors are not generally trained to look for it, or because age-related decline of any sort is considered "normal" and thus not a problem requiring attention. On this basis, doctors or patients may dismiss signs or symptoms of an underactive thyroid as "just part of the aging process." As a result, the problem can go undiagnosed in many people. Clinical endocrinologists have estimated that about one in 20 Americans, or 13 million people, have a thyroid disorder of some kind, but about 8 million of them do not know it.

Another important reason why an underfunctioning thyroid may go undetected is because traditionally trained doctors rely on standard thyroid laboratory tests for diagnosis. Even though the patient may have symptoms, in many cases test results appear normal (but often "low normal") and may preclude any indication for treatment as far as the doctor is concerned. According to some estimates, as many as 15 to 20% of women over the age of 60 may have subclinical hypothyroidism. This means that their symptoms are sufficient to warrant thyroid supplementation but are nonetheless not treated because of "normal" test results. Each year, 5 to 15% of these women develop more serious symptoms, some of which may contribute to a shortening - entirely preventable - of their lives.

Natural thyroid preparations contain all the thyroid hormones - T4, T3, T2, and T1 - and most closely resemble natural human thyroid hormone. At the proper dose, natural thyroid hormones work well and are preferred by nearly all "natural" or "alternative" physicians. Most synthetics (Synthroid® for example), on the other hand, consist solely of T4. Not surprisingly, most conventional physicians prescribe synthetic products containing just T4. Whether it is superior (or even as good), however, is open to serious question.

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