Thyroid Health

Thyroid Health

What You Need to Know About Your Thyroid Health

This is a complicated subject so I have provided more information than our usual NewStream.  The best thing you can do is educate yourself.  I hope you find this information helpful.  Your thyroid, one of the largest endocrine glands, greatly influences almost every cell in your body. Aside from regulating your metabolism and weight by controlling the fat-burning process, thyroid hormones are also required for the growth and development in children and in nearly every physiological process in your body.

When your thyroid levels are out of balance, so are you. Too much or too little hormone secretion in this gland can spell trouble for your overall health and well-being.

Mounting research shows that 10 to 40 percent of people living in the United States have suboptimal thyroid function.1 Poor thyroid function has been linked to serious health conditions like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, eczema, gum disease, infertility, and autoimmune diseases, which is why it's imperative that you to learn how you’re thyroid works and what can cause it to go off kilter.

The Thyroid Gland: Understanding How It Works

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found inside your neck, right under your larynx or voice box. A two-inch long, brownish red, highly vascular gland, it has two lobes located on each side of the windpipe that are both connected by a tissue called the isthmus. A normal thyroid gland weighs somewhere between 20 and 60 grams.

Your thyroid is responsible for producing the master metabolism hormones that control every function in your body. It produces three types of hormones:

·     Triiodothyronine (T3)

·     Thyroxine (T4)

·     Diiodothyronine (T2)

Hormones secreted by your thyroid interact with all your other hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The fact that these hormones are all tied together and are in constant communication explains why a less-than-optimal thyroid status is associated with so many widespread symptoms and diseases.

Almost 90 percent of the hormone produced by your thyroid is in the form of T4, the inactive form. Your liver then converts the T4 into T3, the active form, with the help of an enzyme. T2, however, is currently the least-understood component of thyroid function and the subject of a number of ongoing studies.

If everything is working properly, you will make what you need and have the correct amounts of T3 and T4, which control the metabolism of every cell in your body. If your T3 is inadequate, either by scarce production or not converting properly from T4, your whole system suffers. T3 is critically important because it tells the nucleus of your cells to send messages to your DNA to rev up your metabolism by burning fat. This is how T3 lowers cholesterol levels, re-grows hair, and helps keep you lean.

Your T3 levels can be disrupted by nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress, and this lead to a series of complications, including thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism, which today are three of the most prevalent thyroid-related diseases.

Now, let's discuss and delve deeper into these thyroid problems.

Hypothyroidism: The Sluggish Thyroid Syndrome

 

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, a condition that is often linked to iodine deficiency.

 

Dr. David Brownstein, a board-certified holistic practitioner who has been working with iodine for the last two decades, claims that over 95 percent of the patients in his clinic are iodine-deficient.

In addition, 10 percent of the general population in the United States, and 20 percent of women over age 60, have subclinical hypothyroidism, a condition where you have no obvious symptoms and only slightly abnormal lab tests.

 

However, only a marginal percentage of these people are being treated. The reason behind this is the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of lab tests, particularly TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Most physicians believe that if your TSH value is within the "normal" range, your thyroid is fine. But as I always say, the devil is in the details. More and more physicians are now discovering that the TSH value is grossly unreliable for diagnosing hypothyroidism.

 

How to Know If You Are Hypothyroid

Identifying hypothyroidism and its cause is tricky business. Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and overlap with other disorders. Physicians often miss a thyroid problem since they rely on just a few traditional tests, leaving other clues undetected.

 

The most sensitive way to find out is to listen to your body. People with a sluggish thyroid usually experience:

• Lethargy - Fatigue and lack of energy are typical signs of thyroid dysfunction. Depression has also been linked to the condition. If you've been diagnosed with depression, make it a point that your physician checks your thyroid levels.

It's essential to note that not all tiredness or lack of energy can be blamed on a dysfunctional thyroid gland. Thyroid-related fatigue begins to appear when you cannot sustain energy long enough, especially when compared to a past level of fitness or ability.

Some of the obvious signs of thyroid fatigue include:

? Feeling like you don't have the energy to exercise, and typically not exercising on a consistent basis

? A heavy or tired head, especially in the afternoon; your head is a very sensitive indicator of thyroid hormone status

? Falling asleep as soon as you sit down when you don't have anything to do

• Weight gain – Easy weight gain or difficulty losing weight, despite an aggressive exercise program and watchful eating, is another indicator.

• Rough and scaly skin and/or dry, coarse, and tangled hair – If you have perpetually dry skin that doesn't respond well to moisturizing lotions or creams, consider hypothyroidism as a factor.

• Hair loss – Women especially would want to pay attention to their thyroid when unexplained hair loss occurs. Fortunately, if your hair loss is due to low thyroid function, your hair will come back quickly with proper thyroid treatment.

• Sensitivity to cold – Feeling cold all the time is also a sign of low thyroid function. Hypothyroid people are slow to warm up, even in a sauna, and don't sweat with mild exercise.

• Low basal temperature - Another telltale sign of hypothyroidism is a low basal body temperature (BBT), less than 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit averaged over a minimum of three days. It is best to get a BBT thermometer to assess this.

Any of these symptoms can be suggestive of an underactive thyroid. The more of these symptoms you have, the higher the likelihood that you have hypothyroidism.

How About If You Have a Hyperactive Thyroid?

 

Thyroxine or T4 is a hormone made by the thyroid gland carried throughout your body in your bloodstream. Many of your cells and tissues depend on thyroxine to work properly.

An overactive thyroid secretes too much T4, causing some of your body functions to accelerate. Physicians may use the term "thyrotoxicosis" instead of "hyperthyroidism." This condition is more common in women – about eight in 100 women and one 1 in 100 men develop hyperthyroidism at some point in their lives. It can occur at any age.

Patient.co.uk lists several symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

·     Feeling restless, nervous, emotional, irritable, sleeping poorly, and as if you're always on the go

·     Difficulty concentrating

·     Frequent bowel movements

·     Irregular menstrual periods in women

·     Weight loss (or weight gain, in rare cases)

·     Rapid, forceful, or irregular heartbeat

·     Lack of menstrual periods in women

·     Protruding eyes or exophthalmos

Some of these symptoms may be unnoticeable at first and then become worse as your thyroxine levels start to shoot up even higher.

Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to heart problems like atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, angina, and heart failure. Hyperthyroid women can potentially have difficulty giving birth.

Diagnosing a Thyroid Issue

 

There are a few ways to diagnose an underactive or hyperactive thyroid, here are a few recommendations.  The following laboratory tests are a good start to get you the real score of your thyroid health:


TSH Test
 
The higher your level of TSH, the higher the likelihood that you have hypothyroidism. The ideal level for TSH is between 1 and 1.5 milli-international units per liter.
 

Free T4 And Free T3
 
The normal level of free T4 is between 0.9 and 1.8 nanograms per deciliter. T3 should be between 240 and 450 picograms per deciliter.
 

Thyroid Antibody Testing
 
This includes thyroid peroxidase antibodies and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. This measure helps determine if your body is attacking your thyroid, overreacting to its own tissues (i.e., autoimmune reactions). Physicians nearly always leave this test out.
 

Basal Body Temperature
 
Although there are a few different protocols, the most commonly used is the Broda Barnes system,4 which is a measure of your basal body temperature at rest.
 

TRH Stimulation Test
 
For more difficult cases, TRH can be measured using the TRH stimulation test. TRH helps identify hypothyroidism that's caused by inadequacy of the pituitary gland.
 

 

4 Things That Wreak Havoc on Your Thyroid

These are some key contributing factors that can ruin your healthy thyroid function:

1. Gluten – Gluten, along with other food sensitivities, is a notorious culprit of thyroid dysfunction, as they cause inflammation. Gluten causes autoimmune responses in many people.

Gluten sensitivity can cause your gastrointestinal system to malfunction, so foods you eat aren't completely digested, often leading to a leaky gut syndrome. These food particles can then be absorbed into your bloodstream, where your body misidentifies them as antigens – substances that shouldn't be there – and then produces antibodies against them.

These antigens are similar to the molecules in your thyroid gland. Because of this, your body accidentally attacks your thyroid. This is known as an autoimmune reaction, in which your body actually attacks itself.

Testing can be done for gluten and other food sensitivities, which involves measuring your IgG and IgA antibodies.

2. Soy - Believe it or not, soy is not the wholesome health food the agricultural and food companies have led you to believe.

Virtually thousands of scientific studies now link soy foods to malnutrition, digestive stress, immune system weakness, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, infertility, and a host of other problems, on top of the damage it causes your thyroid. Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

Properly or traditionally fermented, organic, and unprocessed soy products such as natto, miso, and tempeh are fine – it's the unfermented soy products that you should stay away from, like soy meat, soy milk, soy cheese, etc.

To know more about the evils of soy, read The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food.

 

3. Bromines – Bromines are a common endocrine disruptor. Because bromide is also a halide, it competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland to capture iodine. This will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state.

When you ingest or absorb bromine, it displaces iodine, and this iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk for cancer of the breast, thyroid gland, ovary, and prostate – cancers that we see at alarmingly high rates today. This phenomenon is significant enough to have been given its own name: the Bromide Dominance Theory.7

In addition to psychiatric and thyroid problems, bromine toxicity can manifest as skin rashes and severe acne, loss of appetite and abdominal pain, fatigue, a metallic taste in the mouth, and cardiac arrhythmias.

Bromine can be found regularly in a number of places, including:


Pesticides, specifically methyl bromide, used mainly on strawberries, predominantly in California
 
Plastics, such as those used to make computers
 
Bakery goods and some flours often contain a "dough conditioner" called potassium bromate
 

Soft drinks, including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sun Drop, Squirt, Fresca, and other citrus-flavored sodas – in the form of brominated vegetable oils (BVOs)
 
Medications such as Atrovent inhaler, Atrovent Nasal Spray, Pro-Banthine (for ulcers), and anesthesia agents
 
Fire retardants like polybromo diphenyl ethers or PBDEs is used in fabrics, carpets, upholstery, and mattresses
 

 

The more you can free your body of the toxic halides, the more iodine your body will be able to hang onto, and the better your thyroid will function. Laura Power, a nutritional biochemist, offers these suggestions for increasing secretion of fluorine and bromine:

·     Increase your iodine and vitamin C intake

·     Opt for unrefined sea salt

·     Have Epsom salts baths

·     Sweat in a far-infrared sauna

4. Stress and Adrenal Function – Stress is one of the worst thyroid offenders. Your thyroid function is intimately tied to your adrenal function, which is intimately affected by how you handle stress.

 

Many of us are almost always under chronic stress, which results in increased adrenaline and cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol has a negative impact on thyroid function. Thyroid hormone levels drop during stressful times, which is when you actually need it the most.

When stress becomes chronic, the flood of stress chemicals – adrenaline and cortisol – produced by your adrenal glands interfere with your thyroid hormones, causing a whole gamut of health-related issues like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or unstable blood sugar levels. A prolonged stress response can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which is also known as adrenal fatigue and which is often found alongside thyroid disease.

But that's not all. Environmental toxins place extra stress on your body, too. Pollutants such as petrochemicals, organochlorines, pesticides, and chemical food additives negatively affect thyroid function.

Iodine: Probably Your Best Weapon Against Thyroid Problems

Iodine is perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to thyroid hormones. It is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. It is essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, and there is increasing evidence that relates low to numerous diseases, including cancer.

Iodine is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-cancer agent. It has four significant roles in your body, namely to maintain your weight and metabolism, to develop brain and cognitive function in children, to optimize fertility, and to strengthen your immune system.

 

Though thyroid health is often what people think of when they think of iodine, other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including your breasts, skin, salivary glands, pancreas, brain, stomach, cerebral spinal fluid, and thymus.

 

Iodine deficiency or insufficiency in any of these tissues will lead to tissue dysfunction. Hence; the following symptoms could provide clues that you're not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:

 


Salivary glands
 
Disables your saliva production, making your mouth dry
 

Skin
 
Results in rough and dry skin and inability to sweat normally
 

Brain
 
Lowers alertness and intelligence quotient (IQ) levels
 

Muscles
 
Produces nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, fibromyalgia
 

 

The Total Diet Study, performed by the FDA, reported an iodine intake of 621 micrograms for two-year-olds between 1974 and 1982, compared with 373 micrograms between 1982 and 1991. During the same time period, the baking industry replaced iodine-based anti-caking agents with bromine-based agents.

 

How to Increase Your Iodine Levels Naturally

Sadly, it's thought that up to 40 percent of the population worldwide is at risk for iodine deficiency. As a matter of fact, iodine deficiency is one of the three most common nutritional deficiencies, along with magnesium and vitamin D.

 

This doesn't mean that you should start popping iodine supplement pills to fix this issue. Ironically, research has shown that taking too much iodine may also lead to a subclinical version of the condition, which is a milder form that is often missed by laboratory tests.

In fact, the American Thyroid Association (ATA) has issued a statement warning about the risks of too much iodine, especially from iodine, potassium iodide, and kelp supplements. According to the ATA, such supplements may "contain iodine in amounts that are up to a thousand times higher than the daily Tolerable Upper Limits for iodine."

Moreover, they advised against the ingestion of iodine or kelp supplements containing in excess of 500 micrograms iodine daily, and noted that ingesting more than 1,100 micrograms of iodine per day (the tolerable upper limit) may cause thyroid dysfunction.

 

A safer and healthier approach that will far outweigh the risk of supplement over dose would be the following:

1. Eat organic as often as possible. Wash all produce thoroughly to minimize your pesticide exposure.

 

2. Avoid eating or drinking from (or storing food and water in) plastic containers. Use glass and safe ceramic vessels.

3. If you have to eat grain, look for organic whole-grain breads and flour. Grind your own grain, if possible. Look for the "no bromine" or "bromine-free" label on commercial baked goods.

4. Avoid sodas. Make natural, filtered water your beverage of choice.

5. If you own a hot tub, look into an ozone purification system. Such systems make it possible to keep the water clean with minimal chemical treatments.

6. Look for personal care products that aren't laced with toxic chemicals. Remember: anything you put on your skin can potentially go into your bloodstream.

7. When in a car or a building, open windows as often as possible, preferably on opposing sides of the space for cross ventilation. Utilize fans to circulate the air. Chemical pollutants are in much higher concentrations inside buildings (and cars) than outside.

If you suspect that you are iodine-deficient, I strongly encourage you to visit your healthcare provider for a urine iodine challenge test.

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