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Category: Boulder Holistic Blog

Bioidentical Hormones: What Women Need to Know

We are hormonal beings. Hormones are powerful and connected to every part of your body in a beautiful, delicate balance. They control many of the body’s essential functions including your mood, energy level, survival instinct, libido, anxiety, and sleep.

For example, when a man’s estrogen goes up, he may get weepy and easily moved to tears. If a woman’s testosterone is too high, she may go into a rage and lose her temper. Unbalanced hormones affect us all and your symptoms are clues to the true cause.

Both men and women have a mixture of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. However, the primary hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone, and in men, testosterone.

A little hormone fluctuation is normal. Estrogen and progesterone have to rise and fall for a woman to menstruate. Testosterone increases during puberty and then levels out in adulthood. These changes are completely normal. But sometimes hormones become unbalanced and the fluctuations irregular.

Bioidentical hormones allow functional medicine doctors like those at Boulder Holistic in Boulder, CO, to balance your hormones so that your body functions optimally. Keep reading to learn more about bioidentical hormones and how Boulder Holistic uses integrative medicine to support you.

What are Bioidentical Hormones?

Hormones are messengers that communicate with our cells. They are created by the endocrine glands and travel through the bloodstream and tissues to control many important functions in the body.

When your functional medicine doctor discovers that your hormone levels are too low or unbalanced, they may suggest you take bioidentical hormones.

Bioidentical hormones are physiologically identical to the hormones found in your body which makes them the perfect natural solution to unbalanced hormones. Many are derived from plants including wild yams, cacti, and soy. The most common hormones synthesized are the three sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Some bioidentical hormones are approved by the FDA and others are not. Bioidentical hormones are compounded or made by a compounding pharmacy. They are a more natural form of hormones tailor-made for you and your unique clinical picture.

How Boulder Holistic Uses Bioidentical Hormones

Boulder Holistic prefers natural bioidentical creams for testosterone and estrogen. The cream mimics your own physiology where the hormones are highest in the morning and slowly taper throughout the day – a smooth curve.

For progesterone, a capsule is often the best option. A progesterone cream doesn’t appear to have the same GABA-energic effects in the brain as the capsule does. Progesterone in an oral capsule binds to the GABA receptors in your brain, leaving you calm and relaxed.

Progesterone and testosterone are generally considered safe when guided by a good functional medicine physician.

Bioidentical hormones for estrogen are used only when absolutely necessary because adding estrogen to the system can increase your risk of disease. The risks and benefits must be weighed carefully with your functional medicine doctor.

Boulder Holistic does not use hormone pellets as the dose cannot be adjusted once they are implanted.

Bloodwork is a necessary part of treating unbalanced hormones because your doctor will need to make frequent adjustments to the hormone dosages. The adjustments help your doctor tailor the treatment to your body and ensure that the hormones are not converting to metabolites that are potentially harmful to your health.

What Are Signs That You May Benefit from Bioidentical Hormones?

Bioidentical hormones are most often used for hormonal imbalances related to perimenopause, menopause, premenstrual syndrome, and heavy, irregular, or painful periods.

The three hormones that your functional medicine doctor will check for signs of an imbalance are progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Keep reading to learn the signs of sex hormone imbalance to see if you might be deficient as well as possible causes of your hormone imbalances.


Progesterone is one of the main female hormones. Together estrogen and progesterone control a woman’s menstrual cycle, with predictable fluctuations during each part of the cycle.

Specifically, progesterone thickens the lining of the uterus to hold onto a fertilized egg. A progesterone deficiency can contribute to miscarriage, menstrual irregularities, and mood swings.

Signs that may indicate a need for bioidentical progesterone include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Impatience
  • Night Sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Painful periods
  • Heavy periods

Progesterone deficiency is most commonly caused by adrenal dysfunction or sustained amounts of stress over a period of time. Two days before your period comes, your estrogen and progesterone peak and then drop off. Low estrogen leads to weepiness and low progesterone causes anxiety and anger.

Premenstrual syndrome (more commonly referred to as PMS) is a common occurrence in the days leading up to your period, but if symptoms last longer than two days, you may want to get your hormone levels checked.

If you are experiencing any signs of low or imbalanced progesterone, talk to your provider at Boulder Holistic so we can find the cause!


Estrogen is the other main female hormone. It regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and supports placenta and fetal development. During perimenopause and menopause, estrogen levels begin to fluctuate and eventually drop off.

Signs that might indicate a need for bioidentical estrogen include:

  • Weepiness and depression
  • Hot flashes
  • Night Sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Tender breasts
  • Trouble concentrating or brain fog
  • Amenorrhea (irregular periods)
  • Painful sex
  • Hair loss
Low estrogen levels are typical prior to and during menopause. But estrogen hormone fluctuations can also occur from thyroid issues, stress, too much exercise, a poor diet, or problems with your ovaries. If you are experiencing signs of imbalanced estrogen, talk to your provider at Boulder Holistic so we can investigate further!

Testosterone for Women

While women’s primary sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone, testosterone is an androgen (male hormone) and important for balance in a woman’s body too. Testosterone levels regulate sex drive, muscle growth, mood, and workouts. If your levels of testosterone are low, you may benefit from bioidentical testosterone cream. Signs that may indicate a woman needs bioidentical testosterone include:
  • Low libido
  • Inability to build muscle mass
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Decreased ability to orgasm in women
  • Increased recovery time in exercise
  • Decreased endurance with exercise

Most commonly, low testosterone is caused by adrenal dysfunction. Testosterone and cortisol (your stress hormone) convert directly to each other. In the presence of sustained adrenal output, or “burning the candle on both ends”, your testosterone will convert to cortisol for you to maintain your cortisol levels.

Because your adrenals are your survival instinct, they take biological precedence. For example, “Forget your libido! The tiger is coming, get up and run!”. If your testosterone is low, your functional medicine doctor will have you do an adrenal panel as well to get to the underlying root cause.

Testosterone levels can also be affected by cancer, pituitary disease, certain medications, alcohol and drug abuse, and testicular injury or infection, although these are rare. If you are experiencing any signs of low or imbalanced testosterone, talk to your doctor at Boulder Holistic so we can investigate further!

Contact Boulder Holistic

Bioidentical hormones are used to balance low or unbalanced hormone levels in both men and women. Functional medicine takes a natural approach to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Your provider at Boulder Holistic will search out the cause of your imbalance and come up with a treatment plan for your unique symptoms.

If you think your hormones might be causing your health problems, contact Boulder Holistic to schedule a consultation!


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Limbic Retraining for Chronic Illness

How Does The Limbic System Function?

The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioral and emotional response. Often referred to as our animal brain, the limbic system is dramatically affected by illness. It responds to illness like a smoke alarm responds to smoke or fire. It activates and stays activated until we are well again. 

In the case of chronic illness or disease, your limbic system could be turned on for months or even years at a time. And because the limbic system suffers so much during chronic illness, it needs extra attention during recovery. 

At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, CO, we’ve seen the negative consequences of an overactive limbic system. Part of our treatment for chronic illness usually involves limbic retraining – strategies to calm the limbic system and turn off the alarm. 

Keep reading to learn more about limbic retraining, including why you should take care of your limbic system when healing from chronic illness and a few life changes to retrain your brain.

The Limbic System Reaction to Chronic Illness

An girl who is in pain and stressed about the impacts of an overactive limbic system with chronic illness

We often hear stories about people whose limbic systems are overactive due to chronic illness without knowing that is the cause. 

People with overactive limbic systems might struggle to go out without a mask and hand sanitizer. They may not feel comfortable going to new places, avoid going outside to avoid tick bites, or stay bedridden for years with a chronic illness. 

The people who have yet to leave their houses since the COVID shutdown or who smell mold in every building that they enter most likely are struggling with an overactive limbic system.

Most people might hear these stories and think that the problem is all in their heads. And while that is partially true (your brain is inside your head after all) the real culprit is physiological, not psychological.

Where is the limbic system located? Your limbic system wraps around the brain stem and contains several essential cerebral structures including the amygdala, hippocampus, and other structures that are located within the brain’s temporal and frontal lobes. 

The amygdala is the “fight or flight” part of the brain responsible for hunger, arousal, and emotional responses. When you are ill, the amygdala becomes hypervigilant. Chronic fatigue syndrome, biotoxin illness, Lyme disease, and other chronic illnesses turn on fight-or-flight. Your body sees the infection as an enemy and reacts to protect you from the perceived danger.

You become emotionally wired to react to certain triggers related to your illness. You might panic in large crowds, cringe when hiking in wooded areas, or flinch at the smell of mold.

The triggers activate a vicious cycle in the limbic system. One whiff of mold and you start to experience symptoms of biotoxin illness – muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, brain fog, anxiety, depression, gut problems, or insomnia. In this example, these symptoms are often seen as limbic systems disorders, rather than a byproduct of an overactive limbic system. 

This reaction will remind you of your illness and make you feel sicker. The limbic system keeps you from healing because it keeps you in a constant state of fear about your illness. Limbic system retraining focuses on healing the amygdala using therapeutic techniques to alter the way the limbic system processes and responds to stressful stimuli. 

What is Limbic “Retraining”?

Commonly referred to as “Limbic System Therapy”, limbic retraining relies on the concept of neuroplasticity – or the idea that we can change our brains. Using limbic retraining techniques, we can “rewire” the way that the brain processes stressful stimuli. 

If you are frozen in fight or flight, the symptoms you feel in response to your triggers are not made up. They are a very real reaction to the trauma of illness. Simply put – you are not crazy, you are simply caught in the limbic system feedback loop.

The structure, functions, and connections made in the brain in response to an illness don’t have to be permanent. Limbic retraining interrupts the cycle of symptoms and illness to help you heal.

Is it Possible to Have a “Damaged Limbic System”?

The reality is, some people are genetically predisposed to a hyperactive limbic system. Others may experience disease, illness, or trauma that activates it. In both cases, the limbic system turns on and stays on. 

Imagine the smoke alarm going off in your house all day while your dog is home alone. They cannot escape the never-ending drone of the alarm and, when you return from work in the evening, your pup will most likely be stressed, shaking, and hiding in a corner. 

The same is true for people with hyperactive limbic systems. They cannot focus on getting better because they are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Their quality of life suffers and they may end up on disability, bedridden, or chronically ill. 


Individual in fight or flight mode which is a symptom of a damaged limbic system

What are common symptoms of a hyperactive limbic system?

A hyperactive limbic system also strains the immune system. The overactive amygdala signals the release of cortisol which suppresses immune activity. Over time, you may become immunocompromised and thus more likely to develop other diseases or illnesses. 

How to Change Your Life to Support the Limbic System

Meditation and yoga are common limbic system retraining exercises

At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine, limbic retraining is an essential part of healing with functional medicine.

We are often asked for limbic system retraining exercises. We first suggest our patients consider the following lifestyle measures to help support optimum brain health:

  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet including high-quality Omega 3s oils and curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • A regular gratitude practice
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Managing stress through breath work techniques like boxed breathing or the Wim Hoff method 
  • Using manual tapping techniques like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to soothe the limbic system
  • Addressing chronic infections and environmental exposures like mold exposure with our qualified healthcare providers. 

There are also several programs that may be used in limbic system retraining, including:

The limbic response to illness is natural and necessary but staying in a constant state of fight-or-flight is not. Limbic retraining helps turn off the limbic system alarm bells so that you can get on with what is important – healing from your illness and living your life. 

Retrain Your Limbic System With Boulder Holistic

Limbic retraining is crucial for anyone recovering from chronic illness – including those with biotoxin illness. The experienced functional medicine doctors at Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, CO, have many strategies to help you turn off the limbic system alarms and move you further down the road to recovery. 

Learn more about limbic retraining and the benefits of functional medicine by scheduling an initial consultation today.

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Boulder, CO 80302

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How to Heal Your Gut using Functional Medicine

A staggering 60 to 70 million Americans suffer from gut dysfunction.

Many people with gut dysfunction don’t seek medical help, preferring to deal with symptoms of bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea on their own. Others simply wait for the symptoms to pass without considering what these signs might reveal about their health.

Gut dysfunction includes many common gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dysbiosis, parasites, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), etc. These disorders not only affect the quality of your life but can lead to more severe health problems in the future.

A comprehensive stool study and food allergy and sensitivity panel reveal many clues about your overall health. The doctors at Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, CO use the results of these tests to heal your gut using a holistic approach.

Functional medicine digs for the root cause of your digestive issues. Keep reading to learn more about how to heal your gut using functional medicine.

Healing Your Gut: The Microbiome’s Role

A picture of the microbiome which impacts your body's ability to heal your gut

To heal the gut, you need to start with the microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome consists of 39 trillion bacteria cells – more bacteria cells than human cells!

The diversity of these beneficial bacteria is critical for optimal health because each strain of beneficial bacteria in the gut has a distinct health benefit.

Experts are slowly learning what each bacterial strain can do. For example, one strain may have something to do with your metabolism, another with mood, another with atopy or allergies, and yet another with immune function.

When it comes to immunity, the microbiome is our biggest immuno-modulator. It increases beneficial immune signaling and decreases immune dysfunction – such as allergies, inflammation, and auto-immunity.

In the functional medicine approach to gut dysfunction, you focus on getting as many strains of good bacteria permanently colonized as possible to optimize your health.

Diagnosing Gut Dysfunction

But first, your doctor needs a clear picture of your overall gut health. Your functional medicine doctor at Boulder Holistic will use both a stool study and a food panel to uncover the root cause behind your gut dysfunction.

The Stool Study: How It Helps In Healing Your Gut

A comprehensive stool study provides a wealth of information to your functional medicine provider. It reveals where your gastrointestinal (GI) tract might be imbalanced using different markers that your doctor uses to diagnose and treat your gut dysfunction.

Some markers show whether or not you have enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break down your food from macro to micro-molecular size. Others show your enzyme levels which indicate how well your body digests food so that your body can absorb them into the system as nutrients. The study also has markers for bile acids that are necessary to emulsify the fats in your diet and take them into the body as food.

More significantly, the stool study shows the diversity – or lack thereof – of your microbiome. It gives your doctor a sense of the levels of beneficial bacteria but also shows areas that need improvement.

Unhealthy overgrowths of yeast, parasites, or disease-causing bacteria indicate a need for a gut reset. Your doctor will also look for markers that point to a more serious problem such as colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, or colitis – all of which require a colonoscopy to rule out.

All of the information in your stool study makes it easier to get rid of the bad stuff and replace it with the good stuff – healing your gut!

Boulder Holistic uses GI effects (Genova diagnostic) or GI Map for your stool study. However, there are many other great options out there.

The Food Panel’s Role In Healing Your Gut

A picture of a table of food to showcase the importance of a food panel in healing your gut

A food panel reveals your food sensitivities and allergies. Both food allergies and sensitivities can cause inflammation, IBS, bloating, and many other uncomfortable gut disorders.

An alternative to a food panel is to try an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, you remove all inflammatory foods for six weeks. Common inflammatory foods include dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, corn, refined sugars, nuts, and legumes.

Once you’ve successfully removed all of these items from your diet for six weeks, you add one back in at a time for five days in a large quantity to elicit a response if you have one, as a diagnostic procedure.

Another common test – separate from a food panel – is the DQ2 and DQ8 genetic test that shows your susceptibility to celiac disease.

Boulder Holistic recommends IgG, IgA, and IgE testing for food sensitivities and allergies. However, there are many other great options out there.

Healing Your Gut: Common Gut Dysfunctions

The functional medicine approach uses the information from the stool test and the food panel to find the cause of your gut dysfunction. Both tests reveal a lot about your health and give your doctor an idea of where they should start treatment.

Each type of gut dysfunction requires a unique approach. Here is how Boulder Holistic treats two of the most common gut dysfunctions: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and dysbiosis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a term used to describe chronic gut dysfunction. You might experience diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, or all of the above.

Essentially, an IBS diagnosis indicates that something is irritating the GI tract but the cause is still unknown. Functional medicine searches out the cause using the food panel, stool study, and other studies to better identify what is agitating your GI tract.

Gut Dysbiosis

Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in the gut flora. The imbalance might be caused by antibiotics, illness, a parasite, or any number of unforeseen life circumstances. But the bottom line is that bad bacteria take over all available space in the colon where the good bacteria were before.

Even if you take a probiotic, the bad bacteria will prevent the good bacteria from sticking or permanently colonizing. To rebalance the gut, you need to kill off any pathogenic or bad bacteria. The stool sample is used to find bad bacteria as well as the best herbs to remove them from the colon.

As you kill off the bad bacteria, you add the good bacteria back in. You want to expose the gut to as many different beneficial bacteria as possible during this process. As you do that, the good bacteria stay in the colon, hopefully permanently colonizing, and the gut begins to heal.

Heal Your Gut with Boulder Holistic

Boulder Holistic is a functional medicine practice in Boulder, CO, that uses integrative medicine to address gut dysfunction. Their experienced doctors search out the root cause of your unique symptoms to heal your gut naturally.

Contact our office to schedule an appointment or ask questions about what Boulder Holistic can do for you!

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The Functional Medicine Approach to Biotoxin Illness

What are biotoxins? Biotoxins are toxic substances that come from living organisms. But even though they come from nature, biotoxins are poisonous to humans – especially in large quantities.

The human body has intricate systems to dispose of biotoxins. These systems either metabolize or detoxify the toxins to remove them from the body and maintain health. However, sometimes biotoxins overwhelm those systems and cause biotoxin illness.

Some common examples of biotoxin illness are Lyme Disease, Lyme-associated co-infections, and mold toxicity. Lyme disease – caused by a bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi – releases biotoxins that can result in pain, achiness, joint pain, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and brain fog.

Lyme is one of the country’s fastest-growing infectious diseases, with about half a million people diagnosed in 2018. While many successfully treat their Lyme symptoms, some struggle with chronic Lyme disease for many years before regaining their health.

How is Lyme disease treated? At Boulder Holistic in Boulder, CO, the functional medicine approach is essential to how we treat Lyme Disease and biotoxin illness.

Functional medicine treats the underlying root cause, not the symptoms. We determine the “total body burden” of toxins and bugs. Only a small percentage of people with exposure to Lyme are chronically ill. Our job is to look at the patient’s internal terrain to discover the “why” the infection has remained chronic.

Keep reading to learn more about how Boulder Holistic uses the functional medicine approach to treat Lyme and biotoxin illness, including my personal experience with Lyme and biotoxin illness that inspires my work to this day!

Lyme and Biotoxin Illness: My Personal Journey

My journey with Lyme and biotoxin illness started when my son, Kai, was eight-years-old. My incredibly active, happy, thrill-seeking, and fearless son went from running around and playing soccer to limping and moving cautiously. He ended up in bed for six months in horrific pain, unable to finish his third-grade year or his soccer season.

I was sick too, but like most mothers, I was more focused on my son’s health than my own. Soon, we found out that he had CDC-positive Lyme disease. On the recommendation of my son’s Lyme doctor, we also tested him for mold, and the results were through the roof.

We then tested our home and found out the entire house had three feet of water in the crawl space beneath it. The water was under the vapor barrier and had been there since the Boulder flood in 2013 – which was right about when Kai and I began to show symptoms. We had the house evaluated and the levels of toxic molds were extraordinarily high.



A bucket with holes all over it is a great metaphor for how mold impacts your body's response to biotoxin illnesses like Lyme Disease


Lyme Disease and Mold

Back in 2014, the link between Lyme and mold was beginning to come to light. I learned that mold exposure creates significant immune dysfunction.

Mold can also allow dormant infections to reactivate. These infections quickly start to replicate and can wreak havoc in the system. My son got so sick with Lyme disease because of the massive mold exposure in our home.

After we started a mold protocol and moved out of the house, Kai and I slowly recovered. It took time and patience, but Kai is now 17 years old, playing Varsity soccer and snowboarding on the weekends. He is happy, healthy, and thriving – and I am infinitely grateful.

The whole experience led to my deep curiosity about why some people get chronically ill with infections while other people clear them without a problem.

In the years since my son’s Lyme diagnosis, my passion for using the functional medicine approach to biotoxin illness has grown exponentially. I experienced firsthand how this approach can take someone from being drastically and dramatically ill to vibrantly healthy and happy.

Is There a Cure For Lyme Disease?

The functional medicine approach starts by finding the root of the problem. In my son’s case, mold exposure triggered his Lyme symptoms. If we had not tested for mold, he might still be sick.

For patients with Lyme disease, your journey back to vibrant health begins with your diagnosis. We recommend testing through Igenix and other specialty labs, as Lyme tests through regular labs have a high false negative rate.

Gratefully, the functional medicine approach doesn’t stop at the diagnosis. Instead, it tries to figure out what made you ill in the first place.

A little detective work helps to reveal what is making your illness chronic. We explore the “total body burden” of bugs and toxins and work on the body’s terrain to make it inhospitable to these chronic infections.

A few well-known triggers make your system more susceptible to Lyme, its co-infections, chronic reactivation of viruses, etc. Those triggers can tip the balance in your system, allowing the bugs to reactivate or remain chronic. Mold toxicity, high heavy metal loads, gut dysfunction, and chronic sleep deprivation are some examples.

Common Triggers for Lyme Disease 

Mold exposure is a surprisingly common trigger when it comes to Lyme, it’s coinfections, and the chronic reactivation of viruses. Mold weakens the body’s immune system making it more susceptible to infections like Lyme.

Thankfully, mold is treatable. A good, targeted mold detoxification protocol can work wonders! Often, this is all that’s needed to restore health.



Mold is one of the many triggers for Lyme disease that "tip the balance"


Other triggers that tip the balance include:

  • Heavy metals
  • High environmental toxin loads
  • Gut dysfunction (70% of your immune system lives in your gut)
  • Unknown food allergies
  • Parasitic infections
  • Cavitations
  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • Yeast overgrowth

Is Lyme disease permanent? Functional medicine works to clear the terrain so that you can get rid of toxins and return to health. Once the trigger is identified, the functional medicine treatment is straightforward. Remove the trigger, detoxify the body, and rebuild the systems weakened by your illness.

Why Visit Boulder Holistic



A person happy after using functional medicine to help treat Lyme disease and other biotoxin illnesses


The functional medicine approach does not only apply to Lyme and biotoxin illness. It identifies and treats the underlying problem, digging deep into what is causing your illness. Then it systematically detoxes and rebuilds your systems so that you come out the other side stronger and better informed about how to care for your body.

Want to see what functional medicine can do for you? Contact our office to schedule your initial consultation today!

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What Causes Thyroid Problems?

According to recent estimates, about 10 million Americans suffer from an under-active thyroid. This condition, called hypothyroidism, causes several tell-tale symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, constipation, low mood, and temperature intolerance. What causes low thyroid? These symptoms are related to inadequate or imbalanced thyroid hormones, including high reverse T3.

Diagnosing hypothyroidism is difficult without the experience of a medical professional as many of the symptoms are also common indications of other illnesses. 

I Dr. Terri Fox of Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, CO – recommend checking a full thyroid panel and a functional medicine approach to help you diagnose and address thyroid imbalances. Keep reading to learn more about hypothyroidism including why your reverse T3 levels are high and how to get tested.

The Dysfunctional Thyroid

The thyroid is a large butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for secreting certain hormones to regulate your metabolism, energy, reproduction, growth, and responses to injury, stress, and emotional state. 

The hormones made by the thyroid gland are mostly thyroxine (T4) and a little triiodothyronine (T3).

The secretion of thyroid hormones begins in the pituitary gland – often referred to as the master gland. Your pituitary gland makes the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that tells the thyroid when to make more T3 and T4. 

When T3 and T4 levels are low, the pituitary gland produces more TSH, and the cycle continues.


T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone which influences the many bodily systems controlled by the thyroid. When T4 is released into the tissues and cells, ideally the body converts it into T3.

Sometimes, the cycle is interrupted and your body no longer creates T3. Instead, it produces reverse T3.

Thyroid Graphic 2

The absence of T3 in the body will trigger more TSH and more T4, but if the problem is not addressed, the system will continue to create more reverse T3. 

Reverse T3 is a competitive antagonist to free T3. Elevated reverse T3 blocks thyroid function, creating the same low thyroid symptoms, such as fatigue and weight gain. You can have normal free T4, free T3, and TSH levels but have elevated reverse T3 which leaves you functionally hypothyroid. Without a full thyroid panel, critical thyroid dysfunction might be missed.

Many conventional medicine doctors will prescribe T4 for people with thyroid disorders. But you can see that adding only T4 does not address the cause and, in many cases, only exacerbates the problem.

Factors That Cause High Reverse T3 Levels

1. Mineral Deficiencies (iron, zinc, iodine, selenium)

Your body is made of minerals, many of which are only available in your diet. However, soil depletion due to modern agricultural farming methods has made food less nutritious than it was in the past. 

Supplementation is becoming more and more necessary to ensure you have all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Some of the crucial minerals for thyroid function include iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, vitamin D, ferritin, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and vitamin A.

2. Adrenal Dysfunction

The adrenals are two glands found on the top of the kidneys. Like the thyroid, the adrenals are a part of the endocrine system, responsible for secreting hormones into the body. 

The thyroid and adrenals work synergistically to supply the body with hormones. A hypoactive thyroid strains the adrenals and vice versa. In functional medicine, we test the adrenals to see what role they might be playing in the health and function of your thyroid.

3. Mold Toxicity

People who have been exposed to mold are much more likely to develop issues with their thyroid. Mold dysregulates the immune system, interrupting communication between the cells. It creates undue stress in the body which can lead to hypothyroidism and elevated reverse T3. 

Mold is one of the top environmental triggers for thyroid problems that will also exacerbate current conditions. However, many everyday products contain harmful substances that severely affect the function of your thyroid including some plastic bottles and containers, detergents, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.

4. Illness and Infection

Chronic illness and infection are other risk factors for thyroid dysfunction. These serious and prolonged problems cause stress to every organ system in the body, including the endocrine system. A compromised endocrine system eventually leads to insufficient levels of thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones.

Thyroid Testing & Why It’s Important

A full thyroid panel is crucial to determine your course of treatment. For your panel, you need to make sure you get free T4 and T3 levels, instead of total thyroid hormone levels. Free T4 and T3 levels indicate the thyroid hormones that are unbound and able to enter and affect the body’s tissues. 

A full panel should include:

  • Free T3 and T4
  • Reverse T3
  • TSH levels
  • Thyroid antibody levels

All of these levels reveal something about the overall health of your thyroid. Low levels of free T3 or free T4 indicate hypothyroidism while high levels might suggest hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). TPO antibodies indicate Hashimotos, an auto-immune thyroid disorder.

If you are feeling any symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, your functional medicine doctor can help you interpret the results of your test to see if your thyroid is indeed contributing to your health woes.

Natural Treatments For Thyroid Dysfunction

Conventional medicine doctors often prescribe T4 for patients with symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. However, adding T4 to the body does not fix high reverse T3 or address whatever is causing the imbalance. Sometimes you need to stop taking T4 and take T3 by itself in order to reverse thyroid dysfunction. 

I also recommend supplementing with a bovine or porcine glandular supplement that contains both T3 and T4. These supplements are made from the glands of a pig or cow and contain enzymes and hormones that your thyroid needs to function. You may also take a T3/T4 pharmaceutical.

People with Hashimoto’s disease require a specific course of treatment. Too much iodine is harmful to people with Hashimoto’s since it can damage the thyroid or increase hypothyroid symptoms. I recommend supplementing with selenium which may help reduce thyroid antibodies.

Hashimoto’s disease is also exacerbated by gluten. Gluten may trigger thyroid dysfunction and contributes to gut dysbiosis which can lead to autoimmune disorders like Hashimotos. Eating a gluten-free diet is associated with lower thyroid antibody levels and reduces overall inflammation.

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Boulder Holistic is a functional medicine practice in Boulder, CO, that uses integrative medicine to address hypothyroidism. They search out the root cause of your unique symptoms to address – not only your physical health – but your emotional and mental health as well. 

Contact our office to schedule an appointment or ask any questions about what Boulder Holistic can do for you!

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Boulder Holistic

2355 Canyon Blvd.   |   Suite 102   |   Boulder, CO 80302

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