Cholesterol and your thyroid gland

by | Jul 26, 2023 | Functional Medicine, Heart Health | 0 comments

Dr. Ronald Lavine practices chiropractic in New York City and Princeton, NJ

If you’re concerned about having high cholesterol, or any other imbalance in your fat metabolism (“dyslipidemia”), poor function of the thyroid may be a contributor.

Producing thyroid hormone is the main way your body controls how quickly your metabolism is running. Low thyroid function (“hypothyroid”) contributes to many other illnesses, and is a known cause of dyslipidemia and high cholesterol.

When your thyroid is way out of whack, it will be picked up with routine blood tests. But those in the functional medicine world are concerned that many patients have diminished thyroid function even when their basic blood tests are normal.

There are complexities to the chemistry of thyroid hormone that don’t show up on a routine screening. For optimal thyroid functioning, three steps are needed:

  • Producing the hormone in the first place. That’s the T4 form of thyroid hormone, secreted by the thyroid gland.
  • Converting T4 to T3. This takes place inside each cell. The T3 is the active form that actually gets into the cell’s nucleus to create most of the effects of thyroid hormone.
  • Activation (by T3) of receptors inside the nucleus to change the rate of DNA transcription. More transcription of DNA into working proteins means that the cell will perform more metabolic work more quickly.
Basic thyroid testing only measures your level of T4. For many people, that’s enough information to be confident that your thyroid system is running smoothly. But this test only determines how well your body performs Step 1. For those with hidden problems in Step 2 or Step 3, the basic test for T4 doesn’t yield adequate information. If you have a concern, there are two other types of test that you can have:

Comprehensive thyroid panel

A more comprehensive blood test of thyroid function that measures T4 plus four additional things:
  • T3
  • Another form of thyroid hormone called reverse T3
  • TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone, which triggers the thyroid to do its job), and
  • Antibodies to thyroid hormone. These will be elevated in those who have autoimmune disorders affecting the thyroid gland.

Basal body temperature

Many in the functional medicine world believe that taking your temperature is the most useful test of all, since it’s a direct measure of how hot or cold your overall metabolic systems are running. You simply take your temperature orally when you first wake up for 3-5 days. If your body temperature is consistently low, you could have a thyroid problem requiring further investigation. Experts differ about the exact level at which your body temperature counts as “low”, but many use a cutoff point of 97.5º F.


The allopathic medical model has brought us many, many health benefits. But it doesn’t offer a complete approach to improving health. In the case of a common health problem – elevated cholesterol, for instance – the allopathic model often suggests the long term use of pharmaceuticals. Perhaps that’s the best answer for some people. But sometimes it pays to look deeper.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


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