Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones. This can happen after the surgical removal of the thyroid gland, if infants were born with congenital hypothyroidism, stress or simply if the thyroid gland is tired of working and is not functioning well. If these hormones are not produced adequately, symptoms like cold intolerance, constipation, fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, goiter and even depression can occur. (See Hypothyroidism Symptoms for more symptoms)
From the early 1890s through the mid-1970s, desiccated thyroid was the preferred form of therapy for hypothyroidism (Appendix Table, available at www.annals.org). This preference was reinforced by the unique ability of desiccated thyroid to reproduce a normal serum PBI (33). The predominance of natural thyroid products was illustrated by prescribing patterns in the United States: In 1965, approximately 4 of every 5 prescriptions for thyroid hormone were for natural thyroid preparations (38). Concerns about inconsistencies in the potency of these tablets arose (26) after the discovery that some contained anywhere from double to no detectable metabolic activity (39). The shelf-life of desiccated tablets was limited, especially if the tablets were kept in humid conditions (36). There were reports of patients not responding to desiccated thyroid altogether because their tablets contained no active thyroid hormone. It was not until 1985 that the revision of the U.S. Pharmacopeia standard from iodine content to T3/thyroxine (T4) content resulted in stable potency (38), but by then the reputation of natural thyroid products was tarnished (40).
Avoiding daily installments of ice cream scoops (sigh), fudgy brownies and cookies, and bowls of jelly beans may be a (sad) reality check for your health, in general. But limiting sugar can also help you reduce inflammation—a root cause of chronic illness—in the body, says Dr. Susan Blum, MD, an integrative medicine physician and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. Many studies show an inflammatory microenvironment in your body weakens your immune response toward the spread of thyroid cancer spread in advanced stages, according to the Endocrine-Related Cancer journal.
Rather than giving Synthroid (T-4) alone, Dr. Weil prefers combinations of the two natural hormones (T-3 and T-4), and often recommends the prescription drug Thyrolar. Under normal conditions, the body can convert T-4 into T-3; however, there is some question whether the body can do this optimally when under extreme physical or emotional stress. Giving a combination seems to elicit a more natural response for the body, and may also have a better effect on mood than T-4 alone.
Hypothyroidism is a secondary cause of dyslipidemia, typically manifesting in elevation of low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol levels. It is clear that treatment resulting in the normalization of the serum TSH is associated with reduction in total cholesterol levels (54), but whether total cholesterol is fully normalized by l-thyroxine monotherapy is less well-defined. An analysis of 18 studies on the effect of thyroid hormone replacement on total cholesterol levels in overt hypothyroidism showed a reduction in the total cholesterol level in all 18 studies; however, in 14 of the 18 studies, the mean post treatment total cholesterol level remained above the normal range (>200 mg/dL [>5.18 mmol/L]) (55). These findings suggest that lipid measures are not fully restored despite normalization of the serum TSH (56). Whether the degree of dyslipidemia remaining in l-thyroxine-treated patients with a normal TSH is clinically significant is unknown, given that the benefit of thyroid hormone replacement in subclinical hypothyroidism is itself controversial (57, 58).
Cases of myxedema were reported in the mid–19th century but were not initially connected with a deficiency from the thyroid gland until surgeons identified incident myxedema after thyroidectomy (11). Initial treatment strategies were largely insufficient and primarily symptom directed, including hot baths and institutionalization (12). The significant morbidity and mortality in the absence of efficacious treatment were clear, and thus the need to “replace” the thyroid through surgical transplantation or oral or intravenous routes was established. Thyroid transplant had some early successes, but for many patients symptoms recurred and the procedure even had to be repeated (13). Because of the rapidity and transiency of improvement (12), it was hypothesized that symptoms improved by absorption of the “juice” of the donor gland (14).
To find out if you have hypothyroidism, your doctor will run blood tests to check for levels of the hormones known as T4 (thyroxine) and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Hypothyroidism is diagnosed in your thyroid test when TSH is high. Sometimes, TSH can be high, but the thyroid is still producing enough hormones. This condition is referred to as subclinical (or mild) hypothyroidism.
“We summarized that adequate iodine nutrition of 150 mcg a day is essential for normal thyroid function but that an excessive intake—be it from a variety of sources (eg, fortified salt, supplements, seaweed, seafood)—can have the reverse effect: too much iodine can cause hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism and too little iodine low may lead to hypothyroidism,” Dr. Leung says.
Compounded T3/T4: This is what I personally take, as I have low levels of T3 so taking a medication that only includes T4 would be totally useless to me. In fact, without getting too technical, T4 is not active in the body, it has to be processed and turned into T3. That’s why so many patients don’t find any relief from their symptoms when they’re put on Synthroid. And that’s why my naturopathic doctor put me on a compounded natural thyroid hormone that includes T3. Here’s why I love it: my dose is specifically tailored to my EXACT thyroid hormone needs and can be adjusted as time goes on. Compounded T3/T4 also is made without fillers such as lactose or gluten, or other harmful additives. Compounding pharmacists can also make sustained release versions so that the hormone is released continuously throughout the day, which is more beneficial. This is the most natural option for thyroid medication as it only contains porcine-derived thyroid hormones, which are the most similar to your body’s natural thyroid process.The downside: you have to go to a special pharmacy and it can be pretty expensive. I pay about $90 for a 90-day supply. But I’ve truthfully never felt better. Though I was doing all of the right diet and lifestyle changes to nourish my thyroid, my body still was not producing enough thyroid hormone and so I had lingering symptoms like anxiety, acne and constipation that I just couldn’t shake. Within a few weeks of taking my compounded thyroid hormone supplement, all of my symptoms disappeared and I’ve been totally symptom-free ever since!
60 patients with borderline hypothyroidism were given either 2 mg of soy isoflavones (the amount found in the typical omnivore’s diet) or 16 mg of soy isoflavones (the amount found in the typical vegetarian’s diet). The “vegetarian” dose of soy isoflavones was 3 times more likely to cause patients to convert from borderline (“subclinical”) hypothyroidism to full-blown (“overt clinical”) hypothyroidism.
If you do choose to eat gluten, be sure to choose whole-grains varieties of bread, pasta, and rice, which are high in fiber and other nutrients and can help improve bowel irregularity, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Also be sure to take your hypothyroidism medication several hours before or after eating high-fiber foods, to prevent them from interfering with the absorption of your synthetic thyroid hormone.
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