Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

 

The thyroid gland, situated at the base of the neck below your Adams apple, secretes hormones that control metabolic activity in every cell of the body. In a condition called hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, the thyroid fails to produce sufficient quan- tities of that hormone. This can be the result of the thyroid itself malfunctioning or due to the fact that it is not receiving the proper message from the brain to produce more hormones. As a result, all body systems function at a slower rate. If you suffer from this condition, you probably feel tired and weak most of the time. You move slower than you used to, and even relatively simple and routine activities, like prepar- ing dinner, seem overwhelming; worse, you may not even be able to summon up any interest in trying. Most likely, youve gained weight and have a hard time digesting food. Your joints and muscles may ache, and because your body temperature has plum- meted, you feel cold even when others are complaining of the heat. And those symp- toms are just some of the most common. Others include recurring infections, hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin, menstrual problems, and high cholesterol levels. As you might imagine, hypothyroidism is often mistaken for other ailments, especially depression or even laziness.

Iodine deficiency was once the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism. Although today most Americans get plenty (and sometimes too much) of this trace mineral from iodized table salt, there still exists a significant minority who dont get enough or whose absorption is impaired. Nowadays, the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body manufactures anti- bodies that attack thyroid tissue and suppress production of the thyroid hormone.



There are other thyroid conditions that may also lead to hormonal underproduction. Stress, nutritional deficiencies, inactivity, some medications, and hormonal fluctua- tions as a result of pregnancy and menopause also have a role to play.

Hypothyroidism is more common in women. The balance of estrogen and proges- terone can have an indirect influence on the thyroid glands. Most common is estro- gen dominance, where relatively higher estrogen levels suppress thyroid function. This predisposition can occur throughout a womans life. Women on synthetic estrogen therapy are particularly susceptible to decreased thyroid function.

The effects of stress and the balance of stress hormones are also important in thy- roid function. Chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol suppresses thyroid function, while low levels of DHEA appear to make one more susceptible to hypothy- roidism.

Toxic metals, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and others, can also interfere with thy- roid activity.

Although hypothyroidism can wreak havoc upon your entire body, it is easy to treat, especially if caught in its early stages. If you suspect that you have an underactive thy- roid, follow the instructions given here for taking your basal body temperature. If your body temperature is consistently low, you should see a doctor for an evaluation. For mild cases, nutritional supplements can set you back on track quickly. For people with more severe cases, the use of thyroid hormone replacement may be required. Even if you require a thyroid hormone supplement, you should complement this regime of supplementation with dietary changes, stress-reducing activities, exercise, and gen- eral hormone balancing.

A word of caution: Many doctors rely on a blood test to diagnose hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, this test is extremely unreliable and often fails to catch mild to mod- erate cases of the disorder. If your basal body temperature is consistently low and if you experience the symptoms described here, but your blood test does not reveal hypothyroidism, consider working with a more holistic doctor for preventative care. Besides the basal body temperature, it may be of more help to run a saliva or urine thyroid test.

 

 



SYMPTOMS

 

Fatigue

Apathy

Depression and irritability

Weight gain

Aches and pains

Sensitivity to cold and heat

Constipation

Menstrual problems (irregular periods)

Recurring infections

High cholesterol

Hair loss

Dry skin and hair

Brittle, peeling nails

Infertility

Insomnia

Anxiety and panic attacks

Poor memory and concentration

Low libido

Headaches

Premenstrual syndrome

Lowered immunity

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Raynauds phenomenon

Water retention

Dry eyes/blurred vision

Eyebrow loss (outer one-third)

Anemia and easy bruising

Slow healing

Hoarse voice

Tingling hands and feet



ROOT CAUSES

 

Hashimotos disease and other inflammatory disorders of the thyroid

Iodine deficiency

Stress

Poor diet

Inactivity

Pregnancy

Hormone imbalance (especially estrogen/progesterone, cortisol/DHEA)

Surgery on or radiation of the thyroid

Certain medications, most notably lithium and synthetic estrogen

Failure of the pituitary gland

 

 

TREATMENT Diet

Recommended Food

It stands to reason that hypothyroidism is most frequently found in landlocked regions, where iodine-rich foods from the sea are less available. If you have an under- active thyroid, it may be helpful to consume plenty of sea vegetables, such as kelp, nori, dulse, kombu, and wakame. Fish and sea salt are also good sources of iodine.

Essential fatty acids found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and fish are important for thyroid function.

 

Food to Avoid

Certain vegetables known as goitrogens may suppress thyroid function. These include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, soy, and brussels sprouts. Cooking the vegetables inactivates the goitrogens, so that they are safe to eat for someone with low thyroid.

Its never advisable to drink tap water, but people with hypothyroidism must be especially wary of it. Most tap water is full of fluorine and chlorine, two chemicals that inhibit your ability to absorb iodine.

 

 

 

How to Take Your Basal Body Temperature

 



Basal body temperature is one of the most effec- tive tools for diagnosing  hypothyroidism, and its easy to take and record your temperature at home. The night before you begin the recordings, assemble  the following:

A thermometer; if not digital, shake it down to

96 degrees F or lower

Pen or pencil

Paper

Clock, watch,  or stopwatch

Place these items on your bedside  table, within easy reach of your usual sleeping position. When you wake up in the morning, place the ther- mometer  under your armpit and lower your arm

over it. Hold the thermometer tightly in place for ten minutes. You need to lie still for the entire seven to ten minutes,  as even a small movement can disrupt the reading. When the ten minutes are over, note your temperature and record it, with

the date, on the paper.

Repeat this procedure for three days. If you are a menstruating woman,  you should begin taking your temperature on the second  day of your period.

After three days, take the average of the read- ings. If it is below 97.7 to 98.2 degrees F (the nor- mal range for a basal temperature), you probably have an underactive thyroid.



 

Testing Techniques

 

The following tests help assess possible reasons for hypothyroidism:

Thyroid hormone testing (thyroid: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, anti- thyroglobulin antibodies, anti-thyroid  peroxidase)—blood, saliva, urine

General  hormone testing (DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone, insulin)—saliva,  blood,  or urine

Intestinal permeability—urine

Toxic metals (e.g., mercury,  lead)—hair  or urine

Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially vitamin A, selenium, zinc, cop- per, magnesium)—blood

Amino acid analysis (especially L-tyrosine)—blood or urine

Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool  analysis

Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal

 

 

Hypothyroidism can also be traced to a deficiency of several other minerals, includ- ing zinc, selenium, and copper. A deficiency of the amino acid tyrosine is often present in those with hypothyroidism. To make sure youre getting enough of these nutrients, incorporate pumpkin seeds, beans, almonds, soy products, and fish into your diet.

A slow metabolism often means a slow digestive process. Encourage faster elimination of food by eating more fiber in the form of whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

You must stay adequately hydrated. Drink a glass of clean water every two wak- ing hours.

 

 

Super Seven Prescriptions—Hypothyroidism

 

Super Prescription #1    Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) Take 100 mg or 1 ml twice daily.

Super Prescription #2    Thyroid glandular

Take 1 tablet/capsule three times daily on an empty stomach or as directed on the container. It stimulates and supports thyroid function.

Super Prescription #3    Pituitary glandular

Take 1 tablet/capsule three times daily on an empty stomach or as directed on the container. It stimulates thyroid function.

Super Prescription #4    L-tyrosine

Take 500 mg twice daily on an empty stomach. This amino acid is used in the syn- thesis of the thyroid hormone.

Super Prescription #5    Natural progesterone

This is for women who have low thyroid hormones and low progesterone levels. See the PMS and Menopause sections for the proper dosage.

Super Prescription #6    Guggul (Commiphora mukul)

Take a product containing 25 mg of guggulsterones three times daily.

Super Prescription #7    Homeopathic Thyroidinum 3x or 6x

Take 3 pellets three times daily. This homeopathic preparation of thyroid is used to stimulate thyroid activity.

 

If you have had a blood TSH (thyroid-stimulating  hormone) test, this refers to the hormone released  by your pituitary gland in your brain. Its job is to stimulate thyroid hor- mone  secretion  when the brain senses your thyroid levels are get- ting low. A normal lab range is referenced as0.5 to 5.5 uU/ml. We feel that 0.2 to 2.0 is an optimal TSH range. Furthermore,  it is important  to have your free thyroxine (T4) and free tri- iodothyronine (T3) levels tested, as these are the two most metabolically active thyroid hormones, especially  the free T3. Also, since Hashimotos thyroidi- tis is the most com- mon cause  of low thyroid, you should have your thyroid antibody  levels tested.



 

Nori Rolls

 



If you dont live near a sushi bar, you can easily make these nori rolls at home. With a little prac- tice, you can turn them out quickly for a light lunch or a sophisticated hors d’oeuvre.  If you want to boost your meals iodine  quotient,  serve miso soup sprinkled  with toasted  wakame  along- side the nori rolls.

 

Ingredients

Use quantities  that suit your needs and tastes.

Toasted nori

Brown rice, uncooked

Clean water

Brown rice vinegar

Salt

Carrots, green and red peppers, cucumbers, and avocado, cut into long, thin strips

Wasabi (optional)

Tamari soy sauce  for dipping

Pickled ginger (buy a brand that doesnt add coloring; many companies add an artificial pink color to their product)

 

Equipment

Bamboo rolling mat

Cook the brown rice, using 1 cup of clean water for each cup of rice. Once  the rice is done,  toss in

2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar for every cup of cooked  rice. Set the rice and vinegar mixture aside until it is no longer hot to the touch and you are able to handle  it without burning your hands.

Center a sheet of nori on the rolling mat. When the rice is ready, moisten your hands with water and pat a small handful of rice evenly across the nori. Leave an inch-wide strip at the top side of

the nori sheet.

Take a very small amount  of wasabi—around half a teaspoon—and spread it in a thin, horizon- tal line about  two or three inches from the base of the nori sheet. Wasabi is a kind of Japanese horseradish that is extremely hot, so use caution.

If you dislike hot food, you can omit this step.

Above the line of wasabi,  make two more hori- zontal lines, this time with the vegetables.  With your hands,  press the vegetables  firmly into the rice.

Grasp the bottom edge of the bamboo mat and use it to help you roll up the sheet of nori. Some rice may squeeze out of the sides, but you can fix that later. Stop when you reach the inch-wide border at the top of the sheet.

Press the border into the roll to seal it up. Most nori sheets will seal up on their own; if yours wont stick, dampen your fingers with a little water, run them along the bare strip, and try again.

Trim the edges of the roll with a sharp knife to neaten  the presentation and to clean up any rice spillage, and then cut the roll into half-inch slices. (Some people  prefer a wider slice; how you cut

the roll is up to you.)

Serve the rolls with the pickled ginger. Offer small bowls of tamari soy sauce  and wasabi on the side for dipping.

 

 

 

 

General Recommendations

 

A high-potency multivitamin provides a base of nutrients required for thyroid hormone synthesis. Take as directed on the container.

Essential fatty acids are important for thyroid function. Take 3,000 mg of fish oil or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil and 150 mg of GLA from evening primrose or bor- age oil.

Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) has been shown to improve thyroid and stress hormone levels. Take 500 mg three times daily.

Take DHEA if tests show that your levels are low. Take 5 to 15 mg each morning, under the supervision of a doctor.



Homeopathy

 

Although homeopathic remedies are not a substitute for thyroid supplementation, they are quite useful for easing the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. In mild cases, these remedies may stimulate the thyroid enough not to require supplement thyroid hormone.

Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x,

6C, 12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.

Calcarea Carbonica is helpful when there is low thyroid function, accompanied by chilliness, fatigue, and a sense of being overwhelmed. The person tends to be flabby and may have excessive sweat on the head at nighttime. There is a craving for eggs and milk products.

Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) is helpful if you have a right-sided enlarge- ment of the thyroid. You also experience a tremendous amount of gas and bloating. There is a strong craving for sweets. You tend to be chilly and irritable.

Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for women who are warm and who desire cool, fresh air. There is a craving for sweets, a low thirst, and symptoms of hormone imbal- ance, possibly due to PMS or menopause, that are characterized by weeping and sad- ness.

Sepia is for women with low thyroid hormone, who are irritable and chilly. They crave salty, sweet, and sour foods.

Nux Vomica is helpful if you suffer from fatigue and also feel chilly, achy, irrita- ble, and constipated. It is good for thyroid burnout from overworking.

 

 

Acupressure

 

See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.

Triple Warmer 17 has a balancing effect on the thyroid.

For depression, work Lung 1. Youll find yourself taking air more deeply into

your lungs and relieving stress with each breath.

If you feel weak and fatigued, work Bladder 23 and 47. Do not press on these points if you have severe back pain.

Work Conception Vessel 6 to ease constipation.

 

Bodywork

 

Massage

A full-body massage will reduce stress, improve circulation, and lift your energy level. If you like, you can add any of the essential oils listed in the Aromatherapy section to further enhance the treatment.

 

Reflexology

Work the area corresponding to the thyroid.

 

Aromatherapy

Geranium oil will regulate the thyroid hormone. Use it in a bath, or better yet, add to a carrier oil and incorporate into a massage. Geranium can also help lift fatigue and depression. So can jasmine, neroli, bergamot, and rose.



If your skin is dry, add chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) to a lotion, a cream, or a carrier oil and apply the mixture to the affected area.

Oil of black pepper or marjoram will stimulate a sluggish digestive system and improve overall circulation.

 

 

Stress Reduction

 

General Stress-Reduction Therapies

High levels of stress inhibit the thyroids ability to properly manufacture its hormone. Exercise has been shown to improve thyroid function and should be done on a daily basis.

 

 

Bach Flower Remedies

 

See the chart on pages 648–650 to find the remedy that best suits your personality and tendencies. Once youve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.

If your illness makes you despondent or discouraged, take Gentian.

Olive and Hornbeam are the remedies for prolonged apathy or exhaustion. You may wish to take them in combination for a more potent effect.

People who tend to devote themselves to serving others will find that Centaury gives them the courage and the focus to pursue their own dreams.

 

 

Other Recommendations

 

When it comes to prescription thyroid medication, some supplements are bet- ter than others. The most commonly prescribed, Synthroid, is a pharmaceutical product that contains only one active hormone, thyroxine. Far more effective are natural desiccated thyroid supplements, which are made with two active hormones—thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine—and sometimes more. Ask your doctor if you can take Armour Thyroid Extract, widely considered the best nat- ural desiccated thyroid product on the market. Also, the use of compounded thyroid that contains exact doses of T4 and T3, or just T3 alone is equally ben- eficial when prescribed by an experienced doctor.

Enzyme supplements improve the faulty digestion that is common in hypothy- roidism; when inflammation is present, enzymes will aid in healing. If youre taking enzymes as a digestive aid, take the supplements before your meals. If you need to reduce inflammation, take them one or two hours after eating. Use the dosage amounts recommended on the product label.

Antihistamines and sulfa drugs keep your body from absorbing iodine. If you take either of these medications, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.

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