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
Almost 5 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has some form of hypothyroidism. (1) Some estimates suggest up to 40 percent of the population suffers from at least some level of underactive thyroid. Women — especially older women — are the most susceptible group for developing hypothyroidism. People who are elderly or who have other existing autoimmune diseases — like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, for example — are also at a higher risk.
Some findings suggest that many people with Hashimoto’s disease (the most common type of hypothyroidism) have lower levels of vitamin D compared to the general population . That’s bad news, since low D is tied to higher levels of thyroid antibodies. “The antibodies activate the immune system to attack the thyroid tissue, which creates inflammation and makes it harder for the thyroid to do its job,” explains Lisa Markley, RDN, co-author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.
“Excess iodine is generally well tolerated, but individuals with underlying thyroid disease or other risk factors may be susceptible to iodine-induced thyroid dysfunction following acute or chronic exposure. Sources of increased iodine exposure include the global public health efforts of iodine supplementation, the escalating use of iodinated contrast radiologic studies, amiodarone administration in vulnerable patients [amiodarone is a drug used to treat heart rhythm problems], excess seaweed consumption, and various miscellaneous sources.” [Leung]
Caffeine has been found to block absorption of thyroid hormone replacement, says Dr. Lee. "People who were taking their thyroid medication with their morning coffee had uncontrollable thyroid levels, and we couldn't figure it out," she says. "I now have to be very careful to tell people, 'Only take your medication with water.'" You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before having a cup of joe.
Hypothyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces an abnormally low amount of thyroid hormone. Many disorders result in hypothyroidism, which may directly or indirectly involve the thyroid gland. Because thyroid hormone affects growth, development, and many cellular processes, inadequate thyroid hormone has widespread consequences for the body.
You must take synthetic thyroxine every day in the morning on an empty stomach. Wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking (with the exception of water). Skipping doses can cause your thyroid to go off balance. If you do miss a dose, be sure to take it the next day according to your regular schedule. Don’t double up on your dose by taking two pills at a time, because this can increase your levels by too much.
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).
There are also certain risk factors for hypothyroidism including radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications for hyperthyroidism, lithium, Congenital disease or tumors on your pituitary gland, pregnancy, miscarriage, premature delivery and/or preeclampsia, Iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, enlarged thyroid glands or goiters, and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Hypothyroidism is most commonly treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, and the most effective way to treat hypothyroidism is with synthetic T4 medication. (7, 5) While these hormones are identical to the natural T4 that the thyroid makes, several factors can affect the exact dosage you need. These include your age, the severity of symptoms, and your overall health profile.
Goitrogen Foods – Eating large amounts of raw Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, soy and Brussels sprouts might impact thyroid function because these contain goitrogens, molecules that impair thyroid perioxidase. When consuming these cruciferous vegetables, it’s best to steam them for 30 minutes before consuming to reduce the goitrogenic effect and keep portions moderate in size. These pose more of a risk for people with iodine deficiencies.
Nature Throid or WPThyroid: This is a great alternative to Armour as it’s gluten-free (and as we discussed in the diet section, people with hypothyroidism are often gluten sensitive, intolerant or Celiac). I prefer this to Synthroid, too, because it’s not made in a lab and instead is a natural supplement (though it’s made from animal thyroids, the thyroid hormones are biologically similar to that found in humans.). Both Synthroid and Armour contain controversial inactive ingredients, including gluten, sugar, and colorants, whereas Nature Throid and WPThyroid do not contain any artificial colors or flavors, corn, peanut, rice, gluten, soy, yeast, egg, fish or shellfish.
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).
Although the implementation of sensitive TSH assays resulted in dose reduction, it also fueled the discovery of subclinical states of hypothyroidism (i.e., serum TSH <10 mIU/L and normal serum free T4); this state is 20 times more prevalent than overt hypothyroidism (64). Hence, many patients with vague symptoms, such as depressed mood and fatigue, are commonly screened and found to have subclinical hypothyroidism. In many cases, this finding prompts the conclusion that the subclinical hypothyroidism is the cause of the nonspecific symptoms, and thyroid hormone therapy is initiated. The patients in whom the cause–effect relationship was incorrect contribute to the increasing number of euthyroid but symptomatic patients (57). The marked increase in prescribing of thyroid hormone with decreasing TSH thresholds amplifies this problem (47).
The thyroid is considered a master gland and in addition to producing crucial hormones, it also helps control the process of turning nutrients from food into useable energy that your body runs on. Because the thyroid plays such a major part in your metabolism, dysfunction can wind up affecting almost every part of the body, including your energy levels and ability to burn calories.
Vitamin D is important for immune system health and is made in the skin from exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Vitamin D is also found in foods like fatty fish, cod liver oil, and fortified cereals. Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to the development of Hashimoto's thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroid disease), and that vitamin D supplementation may help with the treatment of thyroid disease.
“Infants fed soy formula are at higher risk for hypothyroidism and for later development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. In humans, goiter has been seen in infants fed soy formula; this is usually reversed by changing to cow milk or iodine-supplemented diets . After the 1960s, manufacturers reportedly began adding iodine to formulas to mitigate thyroid effects.” [Doerge]
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that helps the body respond to stress, keeping hormone levels better in balance. Adaptogens help lower cortisol and balance T4 levels. In fact, in clinical trials, supplementing with Ashwagandha for eight weeks helped hypothyroidism patients significantly increase thyroxine hormone levels, which reduced the severity of the disorder. Also, try other adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, shisandra, ginseng and holy basil that have similar benefits.
There is little mention of patients who did not respond symptomatically to treatment despite having normalization of their other measured variables, such as BMR or serum PBI, in the early clinical trials in the 1940s through 1960s. After the 1970s (38, 52), a new category of hypothyroid patient was recognized: the patient who received thyroid hormone replacement therapy, had normal serum TSH, and exhibited residual symptoms of hypothyroidism. Initially, such symptoms were largely dismissed as unrelated to the thyroid condition (62). Indeed, hypothyroidism is prevalent, and symptoms overlap with those of other common conditions, including menopause, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Likewise, thyroid hormone had been administered for nonthyroid disorders, including obesity and psychiatric disease, for decades. Thus, it was difficult to assess whether patients with residual symptoms had been misdiagnosed. Residual symptoms were even attributed to nonadherence (63).
I think most people with hypothyroidism would agree that their condition is not due to a deficiency of synthetic thyroid hormone. Even though this is obviously true, most endocrinologists tell just about all of their patients with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to take synthetic thyroid hormone medication for the rest of their life without trying to find out why the person developed a hypothyroid condition to begin with. Although some people do need to take synthetic or natural thyroid hormone on a permanent basis, many people can have their health restored back to normal through natural hypothyroid treatment methods.
Certainly, many of the foods listed above are an important part of a healthy diet. Try to eat a varied diet so that you avoid eating large amounts of goitrogenic foods on any one day. Be especially careful about raw juicing, which can concentrate these foods. Cooking, steaming, and even blanching (such as with kale) reduce goitrogen content and are good options when you wish to consume these foods.
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