The thyroid may be small in size, but it plays a key role in many bodily functions, and a properly operating thyroid is essential to overall physical and emotional wellness. Poor health of the thyroid gland has often been overlooked in conventional medicine, even though it is a much more common health concern than once thought.
The thyroid can be either underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism), but the incidence of hypothyroidism is generally much higher. In fact, an estimated 13 million Americans (probably a low estimate) suffer from an underactive thyroid, with it affecting more women than men, and risk increasing with age. Hypothyroidism can produce a variety of negative health symptoms.
The thyroid gland is often described as butterfly-shaped, and is located in the neck, just behind and below the Adam’s apple. While the thyroid itself is very important, the way this gland interacts with other glands and organs of the body is perhaps even more vital to our health and well-being.
There are two main hormones produced by the thyroid. They are known as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), and both are very crucial to metabolism and cellular functions throughout the body. T3 is the strongest and most active hormone produced by the thyroid, and it primarily affects cellular metabolism, which ultimately impacts how fast or slow the body functions and the amount of energy we have on a day-to-day basis. T4 plays a lesser but still important role, and must actually be converted into T3 to be useful. The thyroid typically produces more T4 than T3 because its life span is shorter than T3.
A structure in the brain called the hypothalamus is also involved in this process. One of its jobs is to manufacture and release Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone (TRH). Then the pituitary gland enters the scene. TRH stimulates the pituitary to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which is the agent that nudges the thyroid to release T3 and T4. So, as you can see, this is a cycle that is dependent on the healthy operation of several different glands and organs.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
If the thyroid is underactive, it can really throw off many functions in the body and have a negative domino effect on our health. When the metabolic rate drops, individuals can suffer physically from low energy levels and fatigue, as well as mentally from depression and brain fog. They tend to feel cold most of the time, and the immune system is also compromised, leading to increased chronic illnesses. Other glands in the endocrine system are also affected, and the digestive system is not able to absorb nutrients efficiently, causing additional health problems. Hypothyroidism is associated with numerous conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, heart disease, weight management, and issues with insulin and processing sugar in the body.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
One of the major causes of an underactive thyroid is insufficient amounts of iodine in the body. Approximately 1.5 billion people, about one-third of the earth’s population, live in an area of iodine deficiency as defined by the World Health Organization. Iodine deficiency disorder is the most common preventable form of mental retardation known.(1)
Dr. Jonathan Wright has reported compelling data that iodine, in the form of Lugol’s (iodine and iodide) can help maintain the correct balance of the three estrogens. Specifically, Dr. Wright has reported that Lugol’s solution will help the body metabolize the estrogens to favor the safer form of estrogen — estriol. Imbalances in estrogen production are associated with weight gain, mood swings and disorders such as diabetes as well as cancer of the breast, ovary, and uterus. Estrogen balance is impossible to maintain when there is iodine deficiency present. (1)
T3 and T4 cannot be produced at adequate levels without enough iodine. Most people need a supplemental form of iodine in order to ensure enough of this critical mineral. Sometimes supplementation with T3 and T4 is necessary too. Be sure to use a natural form, as artificial hormones are mostly in the form of T4 only, and the body cannot recognize and utilize them as well as natural hormones.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include:
Stress, both physical and emotional. Stress management is the best treatment for this. Helpful techniques include regular exercise, stretching, deep breathing, plenty of good sleep, and learning how to relax. Stress of all types is especially hard on the endocrine system, thus directly and indirectly harming the thyroid.
Poor nutrition: Eating a diet high in junk foods, fat, sodium, and other damaging substances can also wreak havoc with the thyroid. Eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables, along with an ample supply of pure water, will keep your thyroid and the rest of your body happy.
Poor liver function: Keeping your liver healthy and supported will also impact wellness throughout the body. Eating well and staying away from junk food, alcohol, prescription drugs, and other toxins is a great place to start improving liver health. The liver plays a significant role in hormonal balance, including thyroid function. Consider a natural liver cleanse regimen on a regular basis.
Fluoridated water: Fluoride is bad for the body in many ways, and one of these is its negative effects on the thyroid. The continual over-exposure to toxic halides — bromine, fluoride, etc. — actually cause iodine deficiency and according to Dr. David Brownstein, “they can poison the enzymes responsible for organifying iodine.”(1)
Certain drugs, including synthetic lithium.
Too much of certain types of soy in your diet.
How Do I Know if I Have Hypothyroidism?
There are blood tests available that measure levels of T3 and T4, as well as other indicators. However, these are usually not as accurate as we would like for them to be, and it can be difficult to get your physician to order the correct tests, as some are expensive and many insurance companies balk at covering them. The following blood/saliva tests are needed in order to effectively evaluate thyroid function:
- Lipid Profile
- Liver Profile
- Thyroid – –TSH (This lab is only for diagnosis of hypopituitary, not to diagnose or dose your hypo by)
- Free T4 and Free T3 (IMPORTANT: note the word “FREE“)
- Thyroid Antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb. You need BOTH.)
- Ferritin (Do stress FERRITIN, not just RBC)
- Adrenals / Cortisol levels / and Estrogen / Progesterone / Testosterone / DHEA – These need to be done through saliva testing using a Hormone Saliva Testing Kits. DO NOT ask the doc for these tests as testing serum (blood) does not give the accuracy that is needed.
- Reverse T3
- Vitamin D – Specifically 25(OH)D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D
- Histamine Levels
- CRP – c-reactive protein (They may be resistant about this test but insist on it!)
- Iron Profile
There is a fairly accurate home test you can use. All you need is a mercury thermometer. Take your temperature (under the armpit is best) at exactly the same time four mornings in a row. Do it immediately upon wakening, before you get out of bed or move around. If your average temp is less than 97.8, there is a good chance your thyroid is underactive.
Stop The Thyroid Madness
Iodine Why You Need It Why You Cant Live Without It — 4th Edition by David Brownstein, M.D.(1)
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