Thyroid Hormone – What is it and how can we manipulate it?
We’ve all heard of products that modulate thyroid function, but how many of us truly understand how these products work and what they’re doing in the body? There’s more to it than you may think…
I’ve seen a lot of thyroid guides out there. If I google “how to naturally improve thyroid function,” I run into websites on page 1 that recommend things like “iodine” and “guggulsterones.” Guess what? Not only will these not work, but they are VERY dangerous, with excess iodine actually causing HYPOthyroidism and guggulsterones causing a host of other potential health issues. So I thought it’s time for a guide that’s up to date with the data, not stuck in the 20th century. Here we go…
What is Thyroid Hormone?
So there are actually two thyroid hormones: T3 and T4. They both have the same exact functions, but T3 is considerably more potent than T4 at doing so. Most thyroid hormone in the blood is in the form of T4, and once it reaches its target tissue, an enzyme called deiodinase converts T4 to the more potent T3.
Both of these hormones are responsible for elevating metabolic rate, and if we elevate T4 or T3 with natural means (aka increasing levels of these hormones, but not to extremes), we increase fat loss with minimal effects on muscle loss. Increased levels of thyroid hormone will increase thermogenesis, which means you will also feel hotter. The increased fat loss from thyroid hormone is beneficial for anyone, but it is particularly useful for people who have been cutting for prolonged periods of time, since fat loss is shown to stall after long periods of weight loss due to a compensatory drop in thyroid hormone levels.
In order to better understand how thyroid boosters work, we need to establish a few things. First, thyroid hormone is made in the thyroid gland, but before the gland can release the hormone to do its work, it must first be activated by another hormone made by the pituitary: thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). So more TSH means more thyroid hormone. TSH acts on the TSH receptor…this receptor uses a second messenger known as cAMP to signal the release of thyroid hormone. Therefore, more cAMP = more thyroid hormone. Finally, once thyroid hormone activates its receptor in tissues, it increases levels of the protein known as UCP (short for “uncoupling protein”), which then causes a phenomenon known as “uncoupling” that results in thermogenesis….which means more calories/fat burnt.
How can we boost thyroid hormone levels naturally?
There are a number of ways:
Method #1: Increase cAMP. Since cAMP signals the release of thyroid hormone via the TSH receptor, more cAMP results in more thyroid hormone in the blood.
Preferred Agent: Forskolin is a proven way to increase cAMP. In fact, it has data showing human fat loss and muscle gain.
Method #2: Increase deiodinase levels. Remember, deiodinase converts T4 to T3, and T3 is way more potent than T4. More deiodinase means more T3, which means higher levels of the more powerful version of thyroid hormone.
Preferred Agent: Olive leaf extract is proven in vivo to induce fat loss via increased deiodinase levels.
Method #3: Increase UCP levels. In doing so, the potential pool of UCP that can be tapped into increases: which means thyroid hormone has a higher capacity to stimulate fat loss after binding its receptor.
Preferred Agent: Afromamum melegueta. Human proven compound that increases UCP levels.
Method #4: Reduce prolactin if excessive. Elevated prolactin levels can cause hypothalamic inhibition of the hormones needed to ultimately produce thyroid hormone. Lowering prolactin back to range can improve thyroid function in these cases.
Preferred agent: L-dopa/Mucuna Pruriens, by increasing dopamine, can decrease prolactin release.
Method #5: Use exogenous thyroid hormone. In the case of supplements, this means T2, also known as 3,3 diiodothyronine and 3,5 diiodothyronine. These are extremely weak versions of T3, but sparse data does show that they still may have a very small fat loss effect.
Preferred Agent: 3,5 diiodothyronine has a human study and is supposedly more potent, but it’s also theoretically more suppressive than 3,3 diiodothyronine. Pick your poison.
Method #6: Use a TSH mimetic. This just means that there are natural compounds that act like the hormone TSH in the body, causing the release of more T3 and T4.
Preferred Agent: Bacopa monnieri has in vivo data showing that it acts as a TSH mimetic.
What does all of this mean?
In essence, what you see above is a quick and dirty guide for 6 separate, commonly used mechanisms that supplement companies use when seeking to elevate thyroid function. Based on the current literature, methods #1 and #2 (increasing cAMP and increasing deiodinase levels) appear to be the most effective means for improving thyroid function in humans. Of course, since all 6 of these mechanisms are different, one could theoretically use all 6 with minimal decrease in returns, simply because there is no pathway redundancy. So now that you’re equipped with PROPER knowledge on how to boost thyroid function, if you’re seeking to elevate your rate of fat loss (and ESPECIALLY if you’ve been cutting for a while), go ahead and give these methods a shot.
Feedback on these compounds have been stellar to date, but any further feedback is appreciated!
Until next time…