Health-e-Solutions comment: This excellent article by Dr mark Hyman on hypothyroidism may be helpful to you if you have hypothyroid. There is an increased risk of hypothyroid in people with autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
What is Hypothyroidism?
When you have hypothyroidism your overall metabolic gas pedal slows down because the master gland that controls it, your thyroid gland, is not functioning at full speed. If your thyroid slows down, every other organ and system in your body slows down, including your brain, heart, gut, and muscles. The thyroid hormone is like a master switch that turns on the genes that keep every cell running.
This problem affects men and women of all ages. And it is very common because of all the stressors in our environment, including toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic stress, all of which interfere with our thyroid function.
This is one of those gray areas in medicine, but doctors tend to think in black and white — you have it or you don’t, sort of like being pregnant. Well, you can’t just be a little bit pregnant, but you can be just a little bit hypothyroid. And it can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your life. Yet most doctors don’t view it that way.
This problem is further compounded by the conventional belief that you can diagnose hypothyroidism only through one blood test, called TSH, and that you only qualify for treatment if your blood level is over 5.0.
Unfortunately, this view ignores a whole group of people who have what we call subclinical hypothyroidism. It is called that because doctors have a hard time diagnosing it.
Subclinical hypothyroidism may trigger many low-grade symptoms, such as fatigue, trouble losing weight, mild depression, constipation, and more. Yet it causes just slight changes in your blood tests. In fact, it often only shows up in tests that most doctors never perform. Low thyroid function may seem subtle, but it can have serious consequences. Hypothyroidism doesn’t just make you a little tired — it can lead to more serious problems, including heart attacks and diabetes.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
One of the most important factors that leads to hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function.
In fact, one study found that as people lost weight they released pesticides from their fat tissue. This then interfered with their thyroid function and caused hypothyroidism. The toxins created a slow metabolism and prevented them from losing more weight.
This study highlights the importance of overall detoxification. It is quite a significant finding that shows exactly how toxins interfere with thyroid function. Heavy metals such as mercury can also affect thyroid function because they interfere with normal thyroid function.
The other big factor that interferes with thyroid function is chronic stress. There is an intimate interaction between stress hormones and thyroid function. The more stress you are under, the worse your thyroid functions. Any approach to correcting poor thyroid function must address the effects of chronic stress and provide support to the adrenal glands.
The next major factor that affects thyroid function is chronic inflammation. The biggest source of this chronic inflammation is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oats. Gluten is a very common allergen that affects about 10 to 20 percent of the population. This reaction occurs mostly because of our damaged guts, poor diet, and stress.
Eating so-called “Frankenfoods,” such as hybridized and genetically modified grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick. Our bodies say, “What’s this? It must be something foreign. I’d better create antibodies to this, fight it, and get rid of it.” This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function — and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.
Lastly, nutritional deficiencies play a big role in thyroid dysfunction. These include deficiencies of iodine, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, and the B vitamins.
Signs and Symptoms Hypothyroidism?
Your thyroid is the master metabolism hormone that controls the function and activity of almost every organ and cell in your body — so when it is sluggish or slow, everything slows down.
The first step is to find out if you have any of the chronic symptoms of hypothyroidism or any of the diseases associated with hypothyroidism. Ask yourself if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Sluggishness in the morning
- Poor concentration and memory
- Low-grade depression
- Dry skin
- Hoarse voice
- Thinning hair
- Coarse hair
- Being very sensitive to cold and having cold hands and feet
- Low body temperature
- Muscle pain
- Weakness or cramps
- Low sex drive
- Fluid retention
- High cholesterol
A body temperature below 97.6 degrees F may be a sign of hypothyroidism. Other symptoms include fluid retention, a thick tongue, swollen feet, swollen eyelids, an enlarged thyroid gland, excessive earwax, a dry mouth, coarse skin, low blood pressure, or decreased ankle reflexes. If the outer third of the eyebrows is gone that is also a physical symptom.
Most doctors just check something called the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which doesn’t give a full picture of the thyroid. In fact, even the interpretation of this test is incorrect most of the time. The newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anybody with a TSH level over 3.0 as hypothyroid. Most doctors think that only anything over 5 or 10 is worth treating. Unfortunately, this leaves millions suffering unnecessarily. There are also other tests, including free T3 and free T4 and thyroid antibodies, which are essential.
Look for associated problems such as gluten intolerance, food allergies, and heavy metals, as well as deficiencies of vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, zinc, and omega-3 fats.
There are many things to consider in a careful approach to hypothyroidism. Treating it properly makes a big differences in quality of life. Unfortunately, by using the old guidelines and thinking, conventional medicine misses millions who suffer with hypothyroidism.
In fact, in one study, researchers tested everybody who walked through the gates of a county fair with conventional thyroid testing. They found that according to even conservative conventional standards, half of all the people who had hypothyroidism were undiagnosed, untreated, and suffering.
How You Can Overcome Hypothyroidism
Once you have confirmed that a sluggish thyroid is contributing to your symptoms, the good news is that there are many, many, many things you can do to help correct thyroid problems. Take the following steps to rebalance your thyroid:
- Make a thorough inventory of any of the symptoms mentioned above to see if you might suffer from hypothyroidism.
- Get the right thyroid tests including TSH, free T3, free T4, TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies.
- Check for celiac disease with a celiac panel.
- Consider heavy metal toxicity.
- Check your vitamin D level.
Seven-Step Plan to Address Hypothyroidism:
- Treat the Underlying Causes — Identify and treat the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, like food allergies, gluten, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, and stress.
- Optimize Your Nutrition – Support your thyroid with optimal nutrition, including foods that contain iodine, zinc, omega-3 fats, selenium, and more.
- Minimize Stress – Eliminate adrenal exhaustion and minimize stress by engaging in a comprehensive stress management program.
- Exercise – Engage in thyroid stimulating exercise, which boosts thyroid function.
- Supplement – Use supplements to help enhance thyroid function, including all the nutrients needed for proper thyroid metabolism and function.
- Heat Therapy – Use saunas and heat to eliminate stored toxins, which interfere with thyroid function.
- Thyroid Hormones – Use thyroid hormone replacement therapy to help support your thyroid gland.
A comprehensive approach is needed to address chronic thyroid issues and to diagnose them.