Keep Your Thyroid Healthy

March 31, 2013 at 1:49 AM

Holistic Treatment of Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, etc.

What Is the Thyroid Gland?

The Thyroid Gland is the largest of the seven Endocrine Glands: Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Thyroid, Parathyroids, Pineal, Gonads (Ovaries for females, or Testicles for Males), and Adrenals. The Thyroid is situated just below your “Adams Apple” or Larynx, and weighs less than one ounce. It is made up of two halves, called lobes, which lie along the windpipe (trachea) and are joined together by a narrow band of Thyroid tissue, known as the Isthmus.

What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?

The functions of the Thyroid Gland are multiple, but here are the major ones:
1. The Thyroid controls the rate at which your body produces energy from food.
2. The Thyroid affects the operation of all body processes and internal organs.
3. The Thyroid helps control your body temperature.
4. The Thyroid helps the body’s rate of growth in children.
5. The Thyroid exerts a profound effect on mood and emotion through its action on brain chemistry.

How Does the Thyroid Gland Perform Its Functions?

The Thyroid takes Iodine, a mineral found in foods, and converts it into Thyroid hormones called Thyroxin (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). The Thyroid cells combine Iodine and the amino acid Tyrosine to make T4 and T3. The Thyroid produces mostly T4 (93%) and just a little T3 (7%). T4 must be converted to the active hormone T3 in the cells of the various organs of the body. This conversion requires Selenium-based enzymes. For various reasons, the body may have difficulties converting T4 into the active T3. This is one of the reason why using only T4 (such as Synthroid) medication is often an ineffective treatment for Hypothyroidism.

The hormones produced by the Thyroid Gland and released into the blood stream are carried to virtually every cell in the body which depends upon Thyroid Hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The Thyroid Hormones deliver specific “control messages” to the organs and cells, thereby governing their functions.

The Thyroid Gland is itself under the control of the Pituitary Gland, a small gland the size of a peanut at the base of the brain. When the level of Thyroid Hormones is too low, the Pituitary Gland produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which stimulates the Thyroid Gland to produce more hormones. Under the influence of TSH, the Thyroid will manufacture and secrete T3 and T4 thereby raising their blood levels. The Pituitary senses this and responds by decreasing its TSH production. The analogy we can make is to think of the Thyroid Gland as a furnace and the Pituitary as the thermostat.

The Pituitary Gland is itself regulated by another gland called the Hypothalamus. The Hypothalamus produces Thyroid Releasing Hormones (TRH) which tells the Pituitary Gland to stimulate the Thyroid Gland (to release TSH). One might imagine the Hypothalamus as the person who regulates the thermostat (Pituitary) to set at what level the furnace (Thyroid) should be functioning.

What Affects the Thyroid?

Thyroid disorders have become a rampant epidemic! I believe that the main reason for this Thyroid disorder epidemic is because of the many and varied pollutants to which we are constantly exposed. Such pollutants include Pesticides and Insecticides, which are usually estrogenic. Estrogenic substances tend to inhibit Thyroid Hormone secretion as well as the conversion of T4 into T3. Fluoride added to our waters and toothpastes inhibits Thyroid function. Mercury in silver amalgam fillings and environmental contamination of fish is very detrimental to Thyroid Function. Chlorine, which is added to our drinking water and many other everyday chlorine products, removes Iodine from the body, thus reducing the production of Thyroid Hormones. Radiation (as in X-rays or Scans) is known to affect Thyroid function.

As far as food is concerned, a diet low in animal proteins (which contain the different and very important amino acids) reduces the production of active Thyroid Hormones and the conversion of T4 into T3. Margarines, Trans-Fatty acids, Hydrogenated Oils and Rancid Oils are all affecting Thyroid Function greatly. Soy products contain lots of anti-nutrients such as Genistein and Isoflavones, which are goitrogenic, which means that they increase the risk of developing goiters. Soy formulas fed to infants are now recognized to be affecting their growth and their normal hormonal development. Raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli) must be cooked to destroy the Thyroid inhibiters.

What Are the Diseases of the Thyroid?

1. HYPERthyroidism means too much Thyroid Hormone. This is usually due to either Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. (See below).

2. HYPOthyroidism means too little Thyroid Hormone and is a common problem. In fact, Hypothyroidism is often present for a number of years before it is recognized and treated. There are several common causes of Hypothyroidism, which are listed below. Sometimes Hypothyroidism is associated with pregnancy.

3. Graves’ Disease is a type of autoimmune disease that causes over-activity of the Thyroid Gland, causing Hyperthyroidism. When the Thyroid is too active, it makes much more Thyroid Hormone than what is needed by the body. High levels of Thyroid Hormones can cause symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, rapid heart rate, agitation, insomnia, tremors, frequent bowel movements, exophthalmia (the eyes are bulging out of their sockets) and goiter. This disease affects mostly women between the ages of 20 and 40, although it can occur in children, male and the elderly.

4. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is a type of autoimmune Thyroid disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the Thyroid Gland little by little. Hashimoto’s stops the gland from making enough Thyroid Hormones for the body to work normally. It is the most common Thyroid disease in the U.S. Some patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis may have no symptoms. However, the common symptoms are fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, forgetfulness, muscle weakness, puffy face, dry skin and hair, constipation, muscle cramps, and increased menstrual flow. Some patients may develop a goiter.

5. Thyroiditis: There are several cases of Thyroiditis that are not caused by Hashimoto’s disease. They involve the inflammation of the Thyroid Gland, which can be caused by virus or bacteria. Sometimes it is induced by drugs or postpartum symptoms. It usually resolves within a few months.

6. Thyroid Nodules are seen often when the Thyroid Gland is low or Hypothyroidism, due to either of the diseases mentioned above. Although as many as 50% of the population will have a nodule somewhere in their Thyroid, the majority of these are benign.

7. Goiter is an enlargement of the Thyroid which is not associated with overproduction of Thyroid Hormone nor malignancy. The Thyroid can become very large so that it can easily be seen as a mass in the neck. A diet deficient in Iodine can cause a goiter as well as an increase in Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This enlargement usually takes many years to become manifest.

8. Thyroid Cancer is also possible, and is verified or ruled out through biopsy.

How to Test the Thyroid Properly?

1. Blood Test: A simple blood test looks at TSH levels, as well as T3 and T4. In my opinion, a better test is to ask for a Free T3 and Free T4 panel. By running a Free T3 and Free T4 panel, it isolates the Thyroid hormones from the proteins of the blood (where they are abundant). This gives a more accurate result than a regular T3 and T4 test. Most of the time, simple T3 and T4 do not show any abnormality, but Free T3 and Free T4 will show abnormalities sooner. Thyroid Antibodies can also be tested through blood to determine if there is an autoimmune problem.

2. Saliva Test: I personally test my patients through Saliva, which is a home test and is very accurate, convenient and inexpensive. It doesn’t have the same problem as in a blood test where Thyroid Hormones are mixed up with proteins. Thyroid Hormones in the Saliva are not bound to proteins, and consequently are easy to find. The Saliva panel measures T3, T4, TSH and Antibodies.

3. Hair Test Analysis: Another medium of testing that I use every day in my practice is Hair Test Analysis. (See my Article on Hair Test Analysis in the May 2007 issue of HEALTH AWARENESS, Volume 3 Issue 5). Hair Test Analysis reveals Thyroid Disorders many years in advance of any blood or saliva test. Hair Test shows if the Thyroid is in Hyperfunction or Hypofunction. It is very accurate and very sensitive, meaning that it reveals very minute changes of the Thyroid Gland Function at any given time.

What Types of NATURAL Treatment Can Help the Thyroid?

They are many tools available in Naturopathic Medicine to support and regulate Thyroid Function. The primary supplement I use is called Thytrophin PMG from Standard Process. This supplement contains very small amount of Thyroid Gland Tissues extracted from pork of beef, which supports a person’s Thyroid. It doesn’t contain Hormones; it is only made of small particles of Thyroid Tissues. Thus, it can be used in either a case of Hypofunction or Hyperfunction. This supplement can be taken in parallel with any prescription medication for Thyroid such as Synthroid. It doesn’t interact negatively with the medication. On the other hand, it helps by supporting your Thyroid Gland and eventually allows your doctor to reduce the dosage of medication you are on. It is very safe and very efficient if taken long enough.

The second supplement I use regularly is Iodine Synergy from Designs For Health. As you now know, Iodine is the most important mineral for Thyroid function. With the pollution we are exposed to, and the lack of Iodine in our diet, I found that many patients are very deficient in Iodine. A simple way to test if you are lacking Iodine is to buy a bottle of Iodine Tincture at the drug store, and draw a little patch of Iodine on your inside forearm. If the patch disappears in less than 24 hours, then you are Iodine deficient. Iodine Synergy also contains Selenium, a mineral very important for Iodine absorption.

Then of course, you need to do the best you can to reduce your exposure to Chlorine and Fluoride. They both are added to our water supply, so the best thing to do is to filter your drinking water. I am still working on finding the best full house water filter system that is reliable and economic. One device I have been using and recommending for years is to install a simple Shower De-chlorinator called a Rainshow’r. I recommend that you install a Rainshow’r Shower De-chlorinator in every shower in your home. We are in fact exposed to more chlorine during a 10 minutes shower through chlorine vapor than we are exposed to for any amount of water we may drink during the day! Installing a Rainshow’r Shower De-chlorinator is an absolute priority for anybody that already has Thyroid issues, but also for anybody who wants to prevent Thyroid diseases.

Finally, treating the Thyroid Gland cannot be done without looking at the whole picture, which is a main principle in Naturopathic Medicine. Very often Thyroid Disorders are just a part of other disorders such as Adrenal Fatigue, Hormonal Imbalances, or Digestive Dysfunction. The body is a “smart machine”, it always tries to adapt and compensate the best it can to any disturbing situation. For example, if a person is under a lot of stress for a long period of time, it does affect his / her Adrenal Glands (See HEALTH AWARENESS article on Adrenal Fatigue , January 2008 Volume 4 Issue 1). When the Adrenal Glands are fatigued, they send a message to the Thyroid Gland to slow down. In this case, I need to TREAT the Adrenals and the Thyroid TOGETHER. Or, if a women entering Menopause has Hormonal Imbalances with Estrogen Dominance, we know that too much Estrogen will affect the Thyroid Gland Function. In this case, I need to address the Hormonal Imbalances, which will consequently help the Thyroid.

As I have previously stated, Thyroid Issues are a real epidemic, for all the reasons mentioned in this article. Knowing the importance of the Thyroid Gland regarding any aspect of the body’s metabolism and how it is functioning is not something that cannot be ignored without very serious consequences. I encourage everyone to have their Thyroid Gland tested properly through Hair Test Analysis and when necessary, through Saliva testing. It is easy to do and it can go a long way to prevent serious consequences.

Health Awareness Articles

In this article, I have referred to articles that have appeared in previous issues of Health Awareness. The Health Awareness articles can be easily accessed through this website.

YourGoodHealthStore.com

I established www.YourGoodHealthStore.com to give my patients and the readers of Health Awareness access to products that will directly affect the quality of their health. Each and every product was selected because it filled an important HEALTH NEED FOR MY PATIENTS. And, a given product was only made available through my practice or through www.YourGoodHealthStore.comif it passed my stringent requirements for QUALITY and EFFECTIVNESS and, could it be offered at a PRICE THAT WAS FAIR to all concerned. Thus, when I recommend a product, it is always with the aforementioned criteria in mind.

As noted in this Health Awareness article, removal of chlorine from our daily lives is extremely important for our long term health. And removing the chlorine from your shower is your first defense against the negative effects of chlorine on your body and hence for your health. If you do not have a RAINSHOW’R Shower De-Chlorinator, you can easily purchase one either directly from my office or onwww.YourGoodHealthStore.com and…we even send you a reminder when it is time to change your Refill!

REFERENCES:

1. The National Women’s Health Information Center: www.4women.gov.
2. Dr Mercola’s Newsletter: www.mercola.com.
3. Health Alert Newsletter: Volume 22 Issue 10 October 2005.
4. Janet Lang, DC: Functional Endocrinology Part III.
5. Health and Healing Wisdom: Volume 24, No 1.
6. www.endocrineweb.com.

Yours in Health,

Béatrice Levinson, Naturopath
Menlo Park & Monterey, California
Videoconference & Phone Appointments Available

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The entire contents of Health Awareness are based upon the opinions of Béatrice Levinson, Naturopath, unless otherwise indicated. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as an offering and sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Béatrice Levinson, Naturopath within the U.S. and Europe. Béatrice Levinson, Naturopath encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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