Prior blog articles discussed the basics of T4 and T3, the primary active hormones of our thyroid gland, but now we turn our attention to the forgotten troublemaker in the family. Reverse T3, like its mirror image T3, has 3 iodines attached to a double tyrosine backbone. (see prior articles for more). The problem arises in that the Reverse T3 is a mirror image of its brother- like a right and left hand. When the receptor for the right-handed T3 crosses paths with a mirror image Reverse T3, nothing happens, in contrast to the normal T3’s active binding.
If Reverse T3 is so ineffective, why do we have any at all? As we mentioned in another article, T4 floats around in our bodies and gets turned into the more active T3 by removing an iodine. If a different iodine is removed, the T4 turns into Reverse T3. This deactivates its effects.
In some conditions, the amount of T4 turned into Reverse T3 increases and thus wastes the T4 produced by the thyroid. These conditions include inflammation, high cortisol (stress response), and some toxins. In some conditions, the T4 is converted into T3 at a slower rate. This can happen when there is low zinc or low selenium or low vitamin D.
While conventional medicine forgets that measuring Reverse T3 helps functional MD’s identify patients who are deactivating too much of their T3. When we see an elevated Reverse T3 in the lab, especially if combined with a low T3, then we suspect one of these conditions above and search for the cause behind the observed high Reverse T3 effect.
We do this because we know that optimizing the T3 – Reverse T3 balance helps relieve hypothyroid symptoms that go unrecognized by conventional medicine only watching the TSH. Functional medicine works to go deeper into hormonal balance and help patients live healthier, more abundant lives.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.