The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. In the United States, hypothyroidism usually is caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. As with all autoimmune diseases, the body mistakenly identifies its own tissues as an invader and attacks them until the organ is destroyed. This chronic attack eventually prevents the thyroid from releasing adequate levels of the hormones T3 and T4, which are necessary to keep the body functioning properly. The lack of these hormones can slow down metabolism and cause weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and hair, and difficulty concentrating (see table).2 Hashimoto’s affects approximately 5% of the US population, is seven times more prevalent in women than men, and generally occurs during middle age.3
You may find that changing your diet will help. One suggestion is to reduce or eliminate sugar, limit fruit, dairy, and grains, and get your carbohydrates mainly from vegetables. Round out your diet with lean proteins and healthy fats. In addition, eating two to three meals a day, no snacks, and avoiding food after 8 p.m. seems to help balance hunger hormones and blood sugar—and promote fat burning.
Apart from conventional medical treatment of hypothyroidism and changing your diet and eating habits, there are also a variety of alternative therapies that could help treat the condition. Physical fitness programs can help cope with the disease. Studies into the effects of yoga on hypothyroidism patients have supported claims of its health benefits, as the practice was found to be useful in the management of disease related symptoms.
The development of TSH assays led to a dramatic reduction in thyroid hormone replacement dosage and the ability to diagnose with certainty milder forms of hypothyroidism. Discovery of peripheral T4-to-T3 conversion gave a physiologic means to justify l-thyroxine monotherapy. In combination with the concerns over consistency and safety of natural thyroid preparations, synthetic l-thyroxine was perceived as a more reliable therapy. These findings laid the foundation for the clinical practice trend away from natural thyroid preparations and toward l-thyroxine monotherapy at doses to normalize the serum TSH. Later, a subpopulation of patients with residual symptoms of hypothyroidism was recognized. It remains to be determined whether this is due to a trend of attributing nonspecific symptoms to minimal thyroid dysfunction, relatively low serum T3 levels and/or high T4:T3 ratio, or the role of Thr92AlaD2 polymorphism, and whether combination therapy with l-thyroxine plus l-triiodothyronine will be beneficial.
Subacute thyroiditis: This condition may follow a viral infection and is characterized by painful thyroid gland enlargement and inflammation, which results in the release of large amounts of thyroid hormone into the blood. Fortunately, this condition usually resolves spontaneously. The thyroid usually heals itself over several months, but often not before a temporary period of hypothyroidism occurs.
Going “natural” is an evolving trend in healthcare. Even hypothyroid patients are exploring their options outside of synthetic thyroid hormone. One such option is a so-called natural thyroid supplement made from dried animal thyroid glands. These are usually derived from pigs (called Armour Thyroid) but are also sometimes made from dried cow thyroids. (3)
“For women who may become pregnant, during pregnancy, or lactating, the American Thyroid Association recommends taking a daily supplement containing 150 mcg of iodine,”8 says Elizabeth Pearce, MD, MSc, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, and the ATA also recommends against taking added selenium during pregnancy given some concern that there is an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.
*Cassava bears special mention here. You may have heard of it because it is the starchy root vegetable from which tapioca is made, but cassava is also a popular staple food in many Third World countries, where it is eaten boiled, mashed, or ground into flour. Fresh cassava root contains a harmless substance called linamarin, which can turn into hydrocyanic acid (aka cyanide!) when the plant is damaged or eaten. Flaxseeds also contain linamarin. Cyanide is very toxic, so the human body converts it into thiocyanate (which, although it does interfere with thyroid function, is less toxic than cyanide and easier for the body to eliminate).
Whether it is sports, dancing, or yoga that gets you moving, it is important to engage in movement that does not drain your adrenals or your thyroid yet gives you a sense of accomplishment and joy. If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, be sure to be very gentle with your body and don’t do excessive cardio work-outs and switch to light weight lifting, yoga, pilates, gentle cycling, hiking, dancing, etc.
Medications that are used to treat an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) may cause hypothyroidism. These drugs include methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (PTU). The psychiatric medication, lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid), is also known to alter thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism. Interestingly, drugs containing a large amount of iodine such as amiodarone (Cordarone), potassium iodide (SSKI, Pima), and Lugol's solution can cause changes in thyroid function, which may result in low blood levels of thyroid hormone.
Since nutritional supplements are not regulated to the same stringent level as medications, you’ll also want to find a trusted source for any supplement you do take, so you can have some certainty of what you are getting, as you want to avoid any unnecessary or undesirable filler ingredients. For more on this read this EndocrineWeb article: Thyroid Supplements.
The thyroid gland is a 2-inch butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. Though the thyroid is small, it’s a major gland in the endocrine system and affects nearly every organ in the body. It regulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism, respiration, body temperature, brain development, cholesterol levels, the heart and nervous system, blood calcium levels, menstrual cycles, skin integrity, and more.1
Radioimmunoassays for measurement of serum T3 (48) and T4 (49) were soon developed, and it was observed that l-thyroxine monotherapy could normalize both T4 and T3 levels at the expense of a high T4:T3 ratio. In contrast, l-triiodothyronine, desiccated thyroid, thyroglobulin, and l-thyroxine/l-triiodothyronine combination all typically resulted in low or low-normal serum T4 values with usually elevated serum T3 levels, and thus a low T4:T3 ratio (28). Desiccated thyroid resulted in a T3 peak about 2 to 5 hours after administration that corresponded to thyrotoxic symptoms in some patients (50). That a single daily dose of l-thyroxine resulted in stable blood levels of T4 and T3 throughout the day (48) was understood to result from a steady rate of conversion of T4 to T3 (51).
But determining the correct dosage isn’t a quick process — you will need a blood test between six and eight weeks after you first start taking your medicine to see if your hormone levels are normalizing. If your doctor thinks you need a dosage adjustment, he or she will do so and recheck your hormone levels after another six to eight weeks. Once your thyroid hormone levels stabilize, you won’t need another thyroid check for six months. (5) Controlled hypothyroidism requires only an annual checkup. (3)
There is an association between vitamin D deficiency and Hashimoto's disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, according to a study in the issue of August 2011 issue of the journal "Thyroid". Fortified milk not only has added vitamin D, but also significant amounts of calcium, protein, and iodine. Because Hashimoto's may also lead to changes that contribute to gut issues like heartburn, foods such as yogurt with good bacteria may help regulate other bacteria, Dodell says.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Extra virgin coconut oil is known to support and stimulate the functioning of the thyroid gland. Coconut oil consists of lauric acid, which possesses thyroid stimulating properties. Extra virgin coconut oil is more effective, as compared to regular coconut oil and is very stable. The oil can be either added to the food while cooking or a spoonful can be ingested as a supplement.
Large predator fish—tuna, swordfish, shark, kingfish, mackerel—often have more mercury than smaller fish, as they’ve lived longer and had more time to accumulate harmful chemicals. Don’t eat more than two to three servings of these fish a week, Blum says. Also, farmed fish like salmon can have higher levels of mercury because they’re often fed the chum of other fish. All fish have a little mercury, so don’t freak out about it. Just don’t order in sushi every weeknight.
A diet low in nutrient-rich foods, especially in iodine and selenium (which are trace minerals crucial for thyroid function), increases the risk for hypothyroid disorders. The thyroid gland needs both selenium and iodine to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. (6) These nutrients also play other protective roles in the body. For example: severe selenium deficiency increases the incidence of thyroiditis because it stops activity of a very powerful antioxidant known as glutathione, which normally controls inflammation and fights oxidative stress. (7) Getting on track with a hypothyroidism diet ensures that you get the appropriate amounts of selenium and iodine in your diet.
Most patients report improvement with a thyroid supplement too, but if you consistently eat a healthy and wholesome diet they are unnecessary. If you still want to try one however (under the supervision of your doctor), see this Thyroid Support Supplement (disclosure: this is an affiliate link). It contains both selenium and iodine for thyroid health, as well as vitamin B12 for improved energy levels. Additionally, it is one of the few available that is 100% vegetarian.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism - Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism; it is a condition in which the thyroid gland is over-producing the thyroid hormones thus causing a hormone imbalance in the body. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with radioactive iodine and/or anti-thyroid medications, both of which are meant to reduce and normalize the thyroid function. In some cases, these treatments can cause permanent hypothyroidism if too much medication is administered.
In humans, a factor associated with response to combination therapy in a large clinical trial is the Thr92Ala polymorphism in the type 2 deiodinase gene (DIO2), wherein the subpopulation of patients with this genetic alteration had improved well-being and preference for combination therapy (7). This has led investigators to consider whether this polymorphism could confer a defect in the D2 pathway, but normal Thr92AlaD2 enzyme kinetics have been demonstrated (73). Only recently has the Thr92AlaD2 protein been found to have a longer half-life, ectopically localize in the Golgi apparatus, and significantly alter the genetic fingerprint in cultured cells and in the temporal pole of the human brain without evidence of reduced thyroid hormone signaling (74). The significance of these studies transcends the thyroid field—this polymorphism has now been associated with a constellation of diseases, including mental retardation, bipolar disorder, and low IQ (75). If hypothyroid carriers of Thr92AlaD2 benefit from alternate therapeutic strategies in replicate studies, then personalized medicine—based on genotype— may have a role.
Many types of seaweed are chockfull of iodine, but the amount can vary wildly, says Mira Ilic, RD, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic. According to the National Institutes of Health, a 1-gram portion can contain anywhere from 11% to a whopping 1,989% of your percent daily value. But since seaweed is especially high in iodine, you shouldn't start eating sushi every day of the week. Too much iodine can be just as harmful to your thyroid as too little by triggering (or worsening) hypothyroidism. To get seaweed's big benefits without going overboard, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, and Health's contributing nutrition editor advises sticking to one fresh seaweed salad per week (in addition to sushi), and steering clear of seaweed teas and supplements.
Heart problems - Hypothyroidism may be associated with increased risk of heart disease, mainly because high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) may occur in patients that have an underactive thyroid. Even mild or early stage hypothyroidism that does not present symptoms can cause an increase in total cholesterol levels and diminish the heart’s ability to pump blood.
11. Methylation: Methylation is a key process that protects DNA, turns on and off genetic traits and helps to detoxify environmental chemicals. Many individuals have certain genetic polymorphisms that limit their ability to appropriately methylate. Methylation plays a very important role in T cell function and poor methylation status is associated with the development of auto-immunity (31).
Before you read on, it’s key to know that 90% of hypo- and hyper-thyroidism results from an autoimmune disorder. (Most people do not realize this, as doctors often don’t take time to explain things.) Most hypothyroid conditions are Hashimoto’s and most hyperthyroid conditions are Graves’ Disease, which means that your immune system is attacking your thyroid. Since the immune system resides in the gut or our intestine (Did you know that?!) a lot of what you will read here is about rebuilding the digestive system.
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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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