Even though your thyroid is small in size, it plays a major role in many bodily functions and is essential to your overall physical and emotional wellness. Unfortunately, thyroid disease (especially hypothyroidism) is proving to be a much more common health concern than once thought. Poor thyroid health is often overlooked in conventional medicine because of our lab-obsessed society believing if your TSH is “in range”, there is “no concern.” However, as many have found through trial and error, symptoms are almost always the conductor of the orchestra as well as the understanding of lab results which provides further clues.
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 with risk increasing with age. Hypothyroidism, often overlooked, produces a variety of negative health symptoms that are often attributed to other factors or health issues.
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 your health and well-being.
There are two main hormones produced by the thyroid. They are known as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both are very crucial to metabolism and cellular functions throughout your 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 you 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 your thyroid is underactive, it can throw off many functions in your body and have a negative domino effect on your health. When your metabolic rate drops, some of the physical results are low energy levels, feeling cold most of the time and endless fatigue. Mentally symptoms can range from depression to brain fog. Over time your immune system becomes compromised leading to increased chronic illnesses. Other glands in the endocrine system are also affected including the digestive system which is not able to absorb nutrients efficiently. Hypothyroidism is associated with numerous health issues including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic constipation, infertility, heart disease, weight management, and issues with insulin and processing sugar in the body.
DID YOU KNOW? Plasma concentrations of cholesterol and triglycerides are inversely correlated with thyroid hormone levels – one diagnostic indication of hypothyroidism is increased blood cholesterol concentration.
More Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The following symptom list is from thyroid patients who have reported their symptoms to the very informative website: Stop The Thyroid Madness
Important to Note: Certainly some of these symptoms can be reflective of other conditions. However, that fact doesn’t take away that these are symptoms as reported by a variety of hypothyroid-diagnosed patients while on T4-only, which in turn went away when they report being optimal on Natural Desiccated Thyroid. That is very telling! Also, not all people have the same symptoms. Some are more common for a majority; others are not.
- Less stamina than others
- Less energy than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Inability to hold children for very long
- Arms feeling like dead weights after activity
- Chronic Low Grade Depression
- B-12 Deficiency
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Often feeling cold
- Cold hands and feet
- High or rising cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Plaque buildup
- Bizarre and Debilitating reaction to exercise
- Hard stools
- No eyebrows or thinning outer eyebrows
- Dry Hair
- Hair Loss
- White hairs growing in
- No hair growth, breaks faster than it grows
- Dry cracking skin
- Nodding off easily
- Requires naps in the afternoon
- Sleep Apnea (which can also be associated with low cortisol)
- Air Hunger (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
- Inability to concentrate or read long periods of time
- Foggy thinking
- Inability to lose weight
- Always gaining weight
- Weight loss (a small minority experience this)
- Inability to function in a relationship with anyone
- NO sex drive
- Failure to ovulate and/or constant bleeding
- Moody periods
- Inability to get pregnant; miscarriages
- Excruciating pain during period
- Aching bones/muscles
- Bumps on legs
- Acne on face and in hair
- Breakout on chest and arms
- Exhaustion in every dimension–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional
- Inability to work full-time
- Inability to stand on feet for long periods
- Complete lack of motivation
- Slowing to a snail’s pace when walking up slight grade
- Extremely crabby, irritable, intolerant of others
- Handwriting nearly illegible
- Internal itching of ears
- Broken/peeling fingernails
- Dry skin or snake skin
- Major anxiety/worry
- Ringing in ears
- Lactose Intolerance
- Inability to eat in the mornings
- Joint pain
- Carpal tunnel symptoms
- No Appetite
- Fluid retention to the point of Congestive Heart Failure
- Swollen legs that prevented walking
- Blood Pressure problems
- Varicose Veins
- Dizziness from fluid on the inner ear
- Low body temperature
- Raised temperature
- Tightness in throat; sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands
- Allergies (which can also be a result of low cortisol–common with hypothyroid patients)
- Headaches and Migraines
- Sore feet (plantar fascitis); painful soles of feet
- now how do I put this one politely….a cold bum, butt, derriere, fanny, gluteus maximus, haunches, hindquarters, posterior, rear, and/or cheeks. Yup, really exists.
- irritable bowel syndrome
- painful bladder
- Extreme hunger, especially at nighttime
- Dysphagia, which is nerve damage and causes the inability to swallow fluid, food or your own saliva and leads to “aspiration pneumonia”.
Hypothyroidism – Constipation and Hormones
Unfortunately, those with thyroid issues, especially those with estrogen dominance symptoms, are almost never given the following information. Excess estrogen is cleared from the body by the large intestine through bowel movements. So when one (women & men) is constipated, excess estrogen doesn’t get effectively removed from the body resulting in increased estrogen circulating in the blood. Estrogen also elevates thyroid binding globulin (TBG) which takes up thyroid hormone, making it useless to the body. Not a good thing. Constipation as well as slow bowel transit time promotes dysbiosis which reduces thyroid hormone conversion and leads to less active thyroid hormone being produced and thus lower thyroid function. Lower thyroid function also slows down bile flow. It is bile that is used by the body to bind estrogen before it is sent to the large intestine to be removed through bowel movements. So, in a nutshell, constipation and thyroid dysfunction can go hand in hand in a self-perpetuating cycle that impacts many other organs and systems of 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.
Dr. Jonathan Wright has reported compelling data that iodine, in the form of iodine and iodide such as Lugol’s (liquid) and Iodizyme-HP™ (pill form) can help maintain the correct balance of the three estrogens. Specifically, Dr. Wright has reported that iodine and iodide 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)
Nascent Iodine is iodine as an atom rather than an ion or a molecule. In this state the iodine atom has a large energy potential that is released when the atom is used. It has a well recognized ability to fight infections in this state. Ultimately, a true nascent iodine has two major advantages over nutritional, elemental or other forms of iodine such as Lugol’s solution. The first is the physical phenomenon of diffusion. A vast majority of the body’s iodine is stored in the thyroid, and, as such, the iodide ion has a steep gradient to overcome for diffusion to occur. While the body is well designed to fight this gradient, the simple fact is that nascent iodine is not affected by it. Thus, nascent iodine should be able to diffuse readily and easily into the thyroid without input of additional energy or mechanisms by the body to do so. This has the potential of increasing the speed with which nascent iodine acts within the body.
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 synthetic hormones are mostly in the form of T4 only, and the body is unable to recognize and utilize them as well as natural hormones.
Selenium deficiency: Research now shows, through many studies, a link between thyroid metabolism and selenium deficiency. Selenium acts as a catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormones and is crucial in aiding the body to recycle iodine. A selenium deficiency can also have an effect on the thyroid and lead to hypothyroidism, which in turn causes the sufferer to exhibit symptoms including heart palpitations, emotional disturbance, moisture on the skin, adverse mood states, sensitivity to light and many more secondary effects. Selenium and iodine are the thyroid’s natural partners and if you are taking iodine, it’s a good idea to include a selenium supplement.
Impaired sulfation: Methylation and sulfation are required for many of the systems and processes we all need daily. These processes include:
- Heavy metal elimination
- Immune function
- Cellular/metabolic function
- Gut integrity
- Microbial balance
Stress (cortisol), 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 as well as the adrenal gland.
Poor nutrition: Eating a diet high in junk foods, fat, sodium, and other damaging substances can also wreak havoc with the thyroid. Eating a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and grass-fed protein along with an ample supply of pure water, will keep your thyroid and the rest of your body happy.
Poor liver function: Your liver plays a significant role in hormonal balance, including thyroid function. Keeping it healthy and supported will also impact wellness throughout the body. Healthy eating as well as eliminating refined sugar, alcohol and environmental toxins is a great place to start improving liver health.
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)
Other Environmental Toxins: Cadmium, Mercury, Lead as well as other toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Smoking: Smoking has a significant impact on thyroid function. Thiocyanate, a major component of smoke, derived from hydrogen cyanide, leads to increased excretion of iodine, inhibits iodine uptake by the thyroid, competes with iodide in the organification process (Ermans et al., 1980), and inhibits thyroid hormone synthesis (Fukayama et al., 1992).
Certain drugs: Includes synthetic high-dose lithium, drugs used for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), such as propylthiouracil (PTU), radioactive iodine and methimazole.
Too much soy in your diet: One primary reason for avoiding soy products is because the majority of soy grown in the USA is genetically modified. The GM variety planted in 91 percent of USA soy acres is Roundup Ready which means that it is engineered to survive being doused with otherwise lethal amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Roundup is known to cause endocrine disruption. Goitrogens are also found in all unfermented soy whether it’s organic or not. Goitrogens are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and can interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with thyroid function.
How Can I Know if I Have Hypothyroidism?
The short answer is to always go by symptoms and proper lab testing evaluation. The following blood/saliva tests are absolutely needed in order to effectively evaluate thyroid function:
- CMP – (Magnesium, Potassium) The RBC magnesium is said to be most accurate since it can provide an earlier indicator of a deficiency than serum/blood magnesium.
- TSH (only to discern hypopituitary)
- Lipid Panel
- Liver Panel
- Free T4 and Free T3 (IMPORTANT: note the word “FREE“)
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid Antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb. BOTH are needed.) TSI can be added for the Graves antibodies–some profiles do all three.
- Ferritin (Do stress FERRITIN, not just RBC)
- Adrenals / Cortisol levels / and Estrogen / Progesterone / Testosterone / DHEA – These can be done through saliva testing using convenient a Hormone Saliva Testing Kit. Testing hormones through serum (blood) does not give the accuracy needed.
- B-12 and Folate
- Reverse T3
- Vitamin D3 & D2 –Specifically 25(OH)D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D
- Histamine Levels
- MTHFR Mutation
- Iron Profile
RELATED: How to Interpret Your Results
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 and lab testing is highly recommended.
If any of your lab work indicates other imbalances, be sure to address these issues with your healthcare practitioner.
Solutions for Hypothyroidism
Once your lab tests are in-hand and your symptom list has been made, you should be able to determine (along with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner) if your thyroid is actually causing or is part of your health concerns. If a thyroid medication is indicated, using a dessicated thyroid medication (containing T3 and T4) such as Nature-Throid usually provides the best results.
12 Natural Solutions for Healthy Thyroid Support
1. Eliminate Gluten and A1 Casein – The most common allergies and food intolerances today come from wheat and dairy products because of the hybridized proteins of gluten and a1 casein. These proteins are notorious for causing leaky-gut which in turn can cause inflammation of the thyroid as well as affect its function.
2. Environmental Toxins – Environmental toxins can disrupt your endocrine system and affect your thyroid. Many toxic chemicals found in everyday personal care products are also considered endocrine disruptors. Always read labels and research ingredients. Use skincare products that contain non-toxic ingredients.
3. Check Your Iodine Levels – If your iodine levels are low, I suggest using nascent iodine.
4. Heavy Metal Detox – Herbs can be effective for detoxing heavy metals. Good ones are Milk Thistle, Turmeric, Chlorella, and Cilantro. I also recommend the Optimum Chemical & Heavy Metal Cleanse.
5. Selenium – Make sure you’re getting enough selenium in your diet, but also don’t go overboard. Foods that include selenium are Brazil nuts, salmon, sunflower seeds, beef, mushrooms, garlic and onions. However, because of soil conditions and certain growing practices as well as digestive and absorption concerns, you may not be able to get enough selenium from foods. Taking about 200 mcg (micrograms) of selenium every day works for most people, but check with your healthcare provider.
6. Adaptogen Supplements – Can help lower cortisol levels and improve thyroid function. An adaptogen doesn’t have a specific action. Instead it helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions. Ashwaganda, Astragalus Root, Licorice Root, Rhodiola and Ginseng are considered adaptogenic.
7. Amalgam Removal – If you have amalgam fillings, speak with a biological dentist for proper removal.
8. Lower Carbohydrates – Replace refined sugars and grains with healthy fats such as coconut oil, coconut milk, avocado, avocado oil, olive oil, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, chia, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.
9. Liver, Gallbladder & Digestive Tract Cleansing – Keeping your liver, gallbladder and digestive tract in tip-top shape will not only support your thyroid, but also your immune system. When the sewer system is backed-up, it has a negative affect on the rest of the body.
10. Moderate Exercise – Rebounding is one of the easiest, cheapest and effective way for lymphatic drainage (removing toxins) and healthy weight support. Moderate exercise also supports a healthy mood.
11. Probiotics – Probiotics help to keep your gut balanced with healthy flora. A large part of your immune system is located in the gut so it just makes sense to keep it balanced.
12. Stress Reduction Techniques – Stress is a silent killer. Exercise, meditation, listening to soothing music, reading, hobbies, talking to friends, a leisure walk, etc. all help the body to relax, refresh and repair.
Research & References
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