Imagine a conductor standing in front of a symphony orchestra with hundreds of musicians. The melodious strains of music from each instrument blend together in perfect unison or shine individual in solo. With just a wave of the baton, the conductor instructs this violin or that trombone to join in or fade out, speed up or slow down, pacing the tempo with exact precision. Without the baton, the body of musicians would lack cue and timing. Your thyroid is a lot like that baton, releasing hormones that set the momentum and the rhythm in every cell in your body.
This is the third in the series on thyroid. In brief review, the thyroid gland is the tiniest gland in the endocrine system. Its primary function is the conversion of food to energy via its two hormones, tetraiodothyronine or thyroxine (T4) and triodothyronine (T3). A sign of low function may be a goiter or enlargement of the thyroid gland, located just under your Adam’s apple. Or you may show symptoms of endless fatigue, weight gain, brain “fog”, puffiness in the face, depression, dry skin and hair and intolerance to cold. Just as the baton doesn’t affect one musician but the whole orchestra, a thyroid malfunction doesn’t affect just one body part. When the thyroid slows down, so does your whole body.
As with everything else, when new research emerges, medical opinion changes based on the new data. Such is true with thyroid testing. The upper limit of the TSH value has been lowered, making the diagnosis of hypothyroidism more common than before. As more Americans suffer this disorder—more than 11 million people are hypothyroid; another 8 million have it but are undiagnosed—the problem becomes big enough to warrant attention. Some doctors feel the upper limit of the TSH value is still too high, leaving many with sluggish metabolism in a state of compromised health. As the debate goes on about what a “normal” TSH is, those “on the line” are wondering what to do to feel better. This article will help you decide
which factors you can change, which you should maintain and if you’re on medication, how
that affects the body’s symphony as well.
The thyroid is a dynamic gland that is constantly in action, affecting
blood cells and systems. Lifestyle choices affect how efficiently this
little gland operates. Food, drugs and nutrients either enhance or interfere with thyroid function. The liver and kidneys help to
process thyroid hormones, so a compromise of either or both
may affect function as well. It would be impossible to list
all of the ways the thyroid could malfunction, but here are
some of the most common. These factors influence the
thyroid by interfering at any one of the stages of hormone
production, transport via the bloodstream, and cell entry
Water. A basic for life, you should drink 8-10 glasses a day. The
majority of drinking water contains fluoride, chlorine or bromide.
If you habitually swim in a chlorinated pool, use cleansers with
bleach and even brush with fluoride toothpaste, these chemicals slow
Low Thyroid. Radiation. There is also evidence that radiation can
cause hypothyroidism, as in what happened following the
Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. A dose of radiation is
Food. Certain foods that contain chemicals which may often a treatment to slow hyperthyroidism but if too much is
suppress thyroid activity and cause goiters (goitrogenic) if
given, the thyroid may become hypothyroid. Although low
eaten in large quantities raw are the cruciferous veggies:
levels, the use of cell phones, televisions, computer screens
broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens,
and irradiated foods can expose you to an accumulated dose
radishes, spinach, turnips, and nuts such as peanuts, pine
of radiation, which may cause free radical damage to the
nuts and walnuts. Soy, by its slight estrogenic effect, may
also affect the thyroid by blocking the formation of iodine and L-tyrosine (see Hormones). Limiting yourself to no more
Whether you’re on replacement or believe you have low
than a 4 oz serving of food or 8 oz soy milk is suggested.
thyroid (despite a “normal” test), you may not feel “like
Cooking the veggies and soy reduces the goitrogenic effect.
yourself”. Try avoiding or reducing the items above for 3-5 weeks that slow down or interfere with optimal function.
Calcium, Iron, Iodine. Whether in food or supplements, Keep a journal and monitor how you feel drinking distilled
calcium and iron can block T4 absorption. Although you
water, changing to nonchlorine cleansers and skipping the
need iodine to make thyroid hormones, believe it or not,
daily dip in the pool or hot tub. If you notice a difference,
too much can slow it down. Iodized table salt is a problem.
you may want to adopt those habits into your daily living.
A better, more natural choice is sea salt. To avoid conflicts, take thyroid meds one
half hour before eating in the morning. “Legal” Drugs. Many people look for
energy in “legal” drugs: Alcohol, caffeine,
to the adrenals, but then let you “down”
again. Nicotine especially impairs T4 to
T3 conversion. Even if you did not have a
sluggish thyroid, you’d feel better without
is not effective in lowering the TSH value, which may indicate a problem
Medications. The list of medications is
a long one. How they affect your thyroid
will depend on if you are on replacement
or not. Some drugs affect the production
of drugs in one way or another affect the thyroid: certain
diuretics, sulfa drugs, steroids, salicylates, heart rhythm
synthetic Thyrolar. Finally, there’s natural Armour Thyroid, a
drugs, cholesterol lowering and diabetic agents, estrogens,
desiccated porcine thyroid and a blend of T4/T3 that many
morphines, ulcer meds, and psychoactives. It’s important to
feel best taking. Like the individual musicians, a finely tuned
coordinate all medication use with your physician if you take
instrument is the key to perfect harmony.
more than one medication. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is any likelihood of an interaction.
Have regular checkups. At any time that your medication brand or dose is changed, you should check to see if the
Other Hormones. When you’re stressed—whether the change shows up in your blood by having a repeat TSH, free
source is physical, mental or emotional—the adrenal glands
T3 or free T4 blood test. It can often take up to 12 weeks
overproduce cortisol, the hormone that puts your body into
to see results but should symptoms worsen before then,
a fight or flight mode. Two things can happen. The excess
notify your doctor. Once you find a dose that suits you and
cortisol 1) interferes with the conversion of T4 into T3, the
tests are stable, a yearly check is recommended as long as
active thyroid hormone and 2) raises insulin levels, which
you’re feeling good. Anytime you have sustained stress, enter
may lead to insulin resistance, weight gain and diabetes. An
menopause or become pregnant, or develop a new health
imbalance of estrogen and progesterone also affects weight.
problem like high cholesterol or diabetes, your thyroid may
Estrogen dominance causes calories to turn to fat. If your
need to be checked as these changes may affect (or be
thyroid is working, it converts the fat to calories. A topical
progesterone cream may help the body utilize the estrogen, thus offsetting the fat storage.
Valerian Rest™ and 5-HTP help you fight the associated
sleep disruption, as well as in reducing achiness in muscles
and in uplifting mood swings. Adrenal support can be enhanced with the herbs Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) and
Astralgus, as well as DMG (B15). Another herb, Aswagandha
By now you’ve learned how not to drop your baton. Besides
has been shown to favorably affect T4, T3. And don’t forget
lifestyle choices, your nutritional status plays a role in
progesterone cream for balancing estrogen.
supporting a healthy thyroid. A good multiple will provide many of these nutrients. Your diet may supply the rest. Now
Finally, a word about osteoporosis and thyroid replacement.
let’s look at the supporting band members.
Previous medical opinion suggested that too much T4 caused bone loss, resulting in an increased risk of fractures
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that combines with iodine to
and potentially developing osteoporosis. Newer data does
form the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. A suggested dose
not confirm this opinion. Not treating an underactive thyroid
is 500 mg once or twice daily on an empty stomach,
can result in osteoporosis, however. For your peace of mind,
taken with juice or water; remember not to take it with
have a bone density test (DEXA), make sure you take a
milk! Another option is to take a mixed amino powder,
2:1 calcium to magnesium complex and try to get weight
which includes glutamine (500 mg), and add it to a
healthy morning shake. Nutrients that enhance L-tyrosine absorption are B6 (50 mg) and vitamin C (100 mg),
B-12 (1000 mg daily minimum, 3,000 maximum in
I’m glad you stuck with me to get this
divided doses), and a B-complex. Although beta carotene
helps make thyroid, it takes T3 to convert it to
usable vitamin A. If you have excessively
symphony. I strongly suggest that you pick
up one of the books below. Make notes in
want to discuss with your physician since
they are all written by doctors well versed
in thyroid dysfunction. Whether you’re
dealing with suboptimal thyroid function or
diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, it may take practice
Flaxseed oil is another nutrient for optimal
(and more practice) with the baton. Whenever a
new factor (musician) gets thrown onto the stage,
you may need to re-tune again. Before you know
Other immune builders are vitamins C (500
it, you’ll be enjoying the harmony of the “music” your
mg with bioflavonoids up to four times a day)
and E (400 IU), selenium (up to 400 mcg) and zinc (50 mg). Two critical minerals for the thyroid include
magnesium and manganese. Without any of these minerals,
1. Goldberg, B. Alternative Medical Guide to Chronic Fatigue,
T4 to T3 conversion will not happen. Again a good multiple
Fibromyalgia and Environmental Illness. Future Medicine
2. Rothfeld, G & Romaine, D. Thyroid Balance. Adams Media, 2003.
Low thyroid function has been linked to high cholesterol,
3. Shames, R & Shames, K. Thyroid Power, 10 Steps to Total
since thyroid hormone is needed to convert fat to energy.
Health. Quill Publishing, 2001/2002.
Oxidative stress to blood vessels compounds the problem.
4. Siegal, S. Is Your Thyroid Making You Fat? Warner Books, 2000.
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antioxidant that supports the liver, which can thus do its job in breaking down cholesterol and regenerating CoQ10.
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and chronic fatigue, is the role of stress and its effect on the
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hypothalamus. Under duress, the hypothalamus shuts down
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defensively, resulting in low thyroid hormone production and
symptoms of low metabolism. It may be the mitochondrial dysfunction that causes the hypothalamus suppression.
Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. Not intended to
CoQ10 provides support for the mitochondria. diagnose, cure or treat any disorders, or replace professional medical counsel.
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