According to Lorna Vanderhaeghe, Canada’s leading women’s natural health expert, “Twenty-three percent of the population is currently taking medication for low thyroid function. An additional 30 percent of women have low thyroid function that has not been diagnosed.”
The thyroid is a gland that lies below the larynx in the neck and wraps around the trachea. It regulates metabolism of all cells and controls heart rate, body temperature, growth, energy production, fat burning, oxygen use, and protein production. It produces/secretes 2 main hormones - T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine), using iodine and tyrosine. TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is secreted by the pituitary gland and triggers the thyroid to release T4 & T3. T4 is secreted in higher amounts than T3, but T3 is more active. T3 is formed from T4 when the body is functioning properly (80% converted in the liver, 20% directly produced from the thyroid). Thyroid also secretes calcitonin to balance blood calcium levels. It inhibits bone breakdown and accelerates the absorption of calcium.
Symptoms of underactive thyroid include: fatigue, weakness, dry skin, hair loss, muscle cramps, mood changes, brain fog, puffy eyes, insomnia, night sweats, infertility, decreased libido, menstrual problems, cold intolerance, fluid retention, low bone mass, and goiter.
Some Effects of Underactive (Hypo) Thyroid
- Slows down digestive system (causing constipation and malabsorption)
- Impairs liver function (linked to high cholesterol, estrogen dominance)
- Stresses adrenals & decreases insulin sensitivity (causing weight gain)
- Weakens immune system and increases risk of infection/overgrowth (i.e. candida)
* Adrenals, pancreas, liver and thyroid are all closely connected to so it is important to support all systems!
What Causes Underactive (Hypo) Thyroid?
Lorna adds that “95% of all cases of hypothyroidism are not due to a problem with pituitary.” Often, the main problems are decreased production of OR poor conversion of T4 & T3 due to:
-Nutrient Deficiencies/Malabsorption (i.e. Tyrosine, Iodine, Selenium, Protein, Iron)
- Poor Digestion, Food Sensitivities, Leaky Gut
-Inflammation, Auto-Immune Reaction
-Infection/Overgrowth (i.e. Candida, Parasites)
- Estrogen Dominance, Obesity
-Blood Sugar Imbalances/Insulin Resistance
-Adrenal Stress/High Cortisol Levels
-Free Radical Damage/Radiation
- Overburdened Liver, Over toxicity
* Toxicity can occur from hormone disruptors (xenoestrogens), tobacco, pesticides, mercury, fluoride, chlorine, and cleaning/body care chemicals!
According to Lorna, 30% of people older than 35 may have mild hypothyroidism. While their clinical tests may show a normal range, many have symptoms of low thyroid function. She suggests the at-home “Barnes Basal Body Temperature Test” to help evaluate thyroid function.
At Home Thyroid Test
Barnes Basal Body Temperature Test Instructions: Take body temperature with a thermometer, tightly under the armpit, first thing in the morning before rising for 10 minutes lying still. Do this at the same time for up to 7 days and record temperatures. Women who are menstruating should do this on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th day of their period. Men and postmenopausal women can perform the test at any time. If consistently below 97.6F, lower level of thyroid activity are indicated.
Suggestions for Low Thyroid
- Eliminate Triggers –food sensitivities, chemicals, heavy metals, xenoestrogens, tobacco
- Consider a Prevention Pack - Multivitamin, Probiotics, and Essential Omega Fatty Acids
- Proper Nutrition - avoid refined/processed foods, correct deficiencies
*It is possible for goitrogenic foods (i.e. cruciferous veggies) to inhibit the body’s iodine metabolism under certain circumstances. However, it has been shown that the impact they might have on iodine is extremely minimal when eaten in moderation. Also, keep in mind that steaming reduces the enzymes responsible for the goitrogenic effect by two thirds!
- Lifestyle Factors – take part in regular exercise, manage blood sugar levels, and consider stress management techniques and supplementation.
- Other Considerations – support proper digestion, consider a liver cleanse and target candida if necessary.
Who Can Supplement & How?
Lorna cautions that “severe hypothyroidism requires the use of supplemental thyroid hormone - available only by prescription. Mild or sub clinical hypothyroidism may respond to nutritional and herbal support.” She notes that, those with low thyroid symptoms or a TSH number over 2.0 can consider natural thyroid support ingredients that help increase the production or conversion of T4 to T3. These include: L-Tyrosine, Guggal Extract, Iodine, Selenium, Ashwaghanda, Myrrh and Vitamin D.
*Iodine food sources include sea salt, sea vegetables (i.e. kelp, nori, dulse), eggs, raw nuts, beef, seafood, etc. Note that the American Thyroid Association States “Ingestion of greater than 1,100 mcg of iodine per day (Tolerable Upper Limits for iodine) is not recommended and may cause thyroid dysfunction.”
Ask a natural health professional about natural thyroid support. Note that overactive (hyper) thyroid must be carefully treated by a medical professional and that hyperthyroidism can lead to hypothyroidism.
-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –