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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces hormones which control how quickly the body burns energy, makes new tissues, regulates immunity, and so much more.

If it’s not working right, your health is on the ropes.

Get tested, get help.

Have you noticed the sudden increase in the number of people with thyroid disorders? According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, over 27 million Americans now have some form of thyroid disease, with around 80 percent of them having hypothyroid (or low-thyroid).1 That makes thyroid disease the most common endocrine disease in the United States (even more common then diabetes). Thyroid disorders strike women more than men; estimates are that one in every eight women will have some sort of thyroid disorder some time in their lives. 2

This increase in the number of people with thyroid disease has puzzled researchers who have struggled to explain the increase in numbers. Scientists suggest that there are numerous environmental factors, including so-called endocrine disruptors (medications, manufactured and natural chemicals) which can influence the effectiveness of thyroid hormones, disrupt their production, or even mimic the way hormones act in our bodies.3

Studies have shown a link between the amount of heavy metals (lead, mercury, etc) a person has been exposed to and cases of hypothyroidism.4 Other studies have demonstrated a link between people who have multiple chemical sensitivities and low-thyroid.5

Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorders come in two different types. The first (and most common) is hypothyroid or low thyroid; the second type is hyperthyroid or high thyroid.

Symptoms of Low Thyroid:

  • Body: Fatigue, weakness, cold intolerance, cold hands and feet, dry/coarse skin and hair, hair loss, brittle fingernails, weight gain, muscle pain and stiffness.
  • Mental/Emotional: Depression, fatigue, insomnia, poor memory, nervousness, forgetfulness.
  • Other: Constipation, frequent colds, heavy menstrual periods, loss of libido.

Symptoms of High Thyroid:

  • Body: Rapid heartbeat, heat intolerance, warm hands and feet, unexplained weight loss, tremors, sweating.
  • Mental/Emotional: Insomnia, nervousness and tremors, frequent defecation.
  • Other: Increased appetite, changes in menstrual periods.

Thyroid or Adrenals?

thyroidMany people are frustrated with the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. These people may be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and then treated, but they still don’t show improvement in their condition. Another common source of frustration is when people have all the symptoms of low-thyroid and, yet, the tests that show nothing is wrong.

One of the first places to look in your investigation of what really might be going on is your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol and there is an intimate relationship between adrenal insufficiency and low thyroid. Adrenal hormones work in conjunction with thyroid hormones, helping to convert the inactive thyroid hormone (called T4) into active hormone (called T3).

Under chronic stress, the adrenal glands increase their output of cortisol—often referred to as the “stress hormone.” The principal hormones produced by the adrenal glands—cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), aldosterone, testosterone, estrogens, and progesterone—share a common precursor, the master hormone called pregnenolone. Under stress, your adrenal glands are hyperstimulated and pregnenolone is diverted (stolen) from the pathways that produce the principal hormones. Instead, the pregnenolone is used to produce cortisol.

Adrenal insufficiency looks suspiciously similar to the symptoms of hypothyroid, including loss of libido, weakness, muscle and joint pain, low blood sugar, poor sleep, cold intolerance, lowered immune function, depression. Misdiagnosis, especially among conventional medical doctors, is very common. As a result, many people are wasting time and money on misguided treatments prescribed by ignorance.

Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorders offer another explanation for the large number of people with thyroid disorders. Researchers are now suggesting that most cases of low thyroid (especially sub-clinical hypothyroidism or low-normal thyroid) may be the result of autoimmune diseases.6

Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking the body as if it were a foreign invader. In autoimmune thyroid disorders, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and this result in symptoms of low thyroid production. The symptoms often manifest in conditions such as arthritis and immune dysfunction.

What to do about Thyroid Disorders

Medical Approaches

  • Hypothyroid: The medical approach to low thyroid hormone output is to supplement it (Synthroid, Levothroid and others).
  • Hyperthyroid: Treatment for high thyroid hormone output involves the use of radioactive iodine (which will cause the thyroid gland to shrink and sometimes die), anti-thyroid medication (propylthiouracil and methimazole), beta-blockers, and surgery to remove the thyroid.

Integrative Approaches to Thyroid Disorders

  • Functional Lab Testing: As with any health condition or prevention plan, one should devote resources towards doing as much lab testing as possible to identify dysfunction.
  • Adrenal Hormone Balancing: When the adrenal glands are performing at their best, negative effects on other systems of the body, including the thyroid, are reduced. With saliva based lab tests that measure cortisol and DHEA patterns, natural therapies for hormone balance can be developed. Get tested for hormone and thyroid conditions.
  • Diet: Avoid foods that are known goitrogens (they contain chemicals that cause the thyroid gland to enlarge). Canola oil, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli, maize, sweet potatoes, lima beans, millet and soy are all suspected goitrogens in humans.7
  • Thyroid Specific Nutrients: The thyroid manufactures thyroid hormone using iodine. Supplementing with iodine or herbs that are high in iodine such as seaweeds (bladderwrack and others) is thought to be helpful.8 The thyroid also uses vitamin A,9 and zinc10 and these have been also supplemented with varying success.
 

1 American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists: The truth about thyroid. http://media.aace.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=4866. Accessed 8/8/2009.
2 American Thyroid Association: Press Room, Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease http://www.thyroid.org/about/pressroom.html. Accessed 8/8/2009.
3 Burger AG. Environment and thyroid function. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Apr;89(4):1526-8
4 Robins JM, Cullen MR, Connors BB, Kayne RD. Depressed thyroid indexes associated with occupational exposure to inorganic lead. Arch Intern Med 1983;143:220–4.
5 Galland L. Biochemical abnormalities in patients with multiple chemical sensitivities. Occup Med 1987;2:713–20.
6 Papi G, Uberti ED, Betterle C, Carani C, et al. Subclinical hypothyroidism. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2007 Jun;14(3):197-208.
7 Paynter OE, Burin GJ, Jaeger RB, Gregorio CA. Goitrogens and thyroid follicular cell neoplasia: evidence for a threshold process. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 1988;8:102–19.
8 Norman JA, Pickford CJ, Sanders TW, et al. Human intake of arsenic and iodine from seaweed based food supplements and health foods available in the UK. Food Add Contam 1987;5:103–9.
9 Smolle J, Wawschinek O, Hayn H, Eber O. Vitamin A and carotene in thyroid disease. Acta Med Austriaca 1983;10:71–3 [in German].
10Hartoma TR, Sotaniemi EA, Maattanen J. Effect of zinc on some biochemical indices of metabolism. Nutr Metab 1979;23:294–300.