Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thinking About Thyroid

Question regarding thyroids. I was diagnosed at the age of 32 with hypothyroid. looking back, i can seem sypmtoms appearing as early as age 12, but no one thought to check. (even though my mother and her mother and my aunt all have thyroid issues you would think my diagnosis was a no brainer) anyway, two questions: 1) how can i help my daughters have healthy strong thyroids? i currently have my 10 year old take a couple drops of lugol's every few days. 2) can i recover any of my own disfunctional thyroid? i also use lugol's thanks!

The most common thyroid problem in women is hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe fatigue, loss of energy, persistent sleepiness
  • Weight gain, difficulty losing weight
  • Depressed mood
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Dry skin, brittle nails and hair, thinning hair /hair loss
  • Irregular periods/infertility/PMS
  • Fibrocystic breast disease
  • polycystic ovarian disease
  • intolerance to cold/cold hands and feet
  • fuzzy thinking or difficulty concentrating/poor memory
  • loss of libido
  • puffiness/swelling in the face or extremities.
  • headaches
  • hoarseness/raspy voice/scratchy throat
  • nervousness/anxiety
  • burning or tingling sensations in the hands and/or feet
  • problems with balance and equilibrium (unsteadiness or lack of coordination)
  • constipation
  • hypertension/High Blood Pressure
  • high Cholesterol
  • hypoglycemia/low blood sugar
Thyroid blood tests are sometimes not accurate. I go by a much smaller range of the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. I like to see the TSH between 0.5 and 1.0. Between 1.0 and 1.5 I recommend iodine, tyrosine, and other natural supplements. Over 1.5 I often start using thyroid medication such as Armour Thyroid or Westhroid.

I have found that perimenopause and menopause are very stressful to the thyroid. Often, when the hormones are better balanced through herbs or bio-identical hormones, the thyroid improves.

Stress also has an effect on the thyroid, and learning ways to deal with stress such as meditation, yoga, and emotional work can improve the thyroid.

Insulin resistance can also have a negative effect on the thyroid. Balancing the blood sugars through diet and supplements can improve thyroid function.

While more research needs to be done, it is generally accepted that diet plays a major role in thyroid health. We know that low iodine intake leads to low thyroid function and eventually to goiter (enlarged thyroid). Iodized salt was intended to solve this problem, but it has not been the answer. There are a number of foods known as goitrogens that block iodine. Two goitrogens are quite prevalent in the American diet—peanuts and peanut butter and soybeans, used most often in prepared foods as textured vegetable protein (a refined soy food) and soybean oil. More about soybean oil below.

Many studies show the detrimental effects of refined sugars and grains on our health. These foods are very taxing on the thyroid gland, and we consume them in large quantities.

Environmental stress such as chemical pollutants, pesticides, mercury, and fluoride are also tough on the thyroid. A growing body of evidence suggests that fluoride, which is prevalent in toothpaste and water treatment, may inhibit the functioning of the thyroid gland. Additionally, mercury may diminish thyroid function because it displaces the trace mineral selenium, and selenium is involved in conversion of thyroid hormones T4 to T3.

Ray Peat Ph.D., a physiologist who has worked with progesterone and related hormones since 1968, says that the sudden surge of polyunsaturated oils such as soybean oil into the food chain post World War II has caused many changes in hormones. He writes:

"Their [polyunsaturated oils] best understood effect is their interference with the function of the thyroid gland. Unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, its movement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone. When the thyroid hormone is deficient, the body is generally exposed to increased levels of estrogen. The thyroid hormone is essential for making the ‘protective hormones’ progesterone and pregnenolone, so these hormones are lowered when anything interferes with the function of the thyroid. The thyroid hormone is required for using and eliminating cholesterol, so cholesterol is likely to be raised by anything which blocks the thyroid function."

There is a growing body of research concerning soy’s detrimental affect on the thyroid gland. Much of this research centers on the phytoestrogens ("phyto" means plant) that are found in soy. In the 1960s when soy was introduced into infant formulas, it was shown that soy was goitrogenic and caused goiters in babies. When iodine was supplemented, the incidence of goiter reduced dramatically. However, a retrospective epidemiological study by Fort, et al. showed that teenaged children with a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease were significantly more likely to have received soy formula as infants (18 out of 59 children; 31 percent) when compared to healthy siblings (nine out of 76, 12 percent) or control group children (seven out of 54; 13 percent).

When healthy individuals without any previous thyroid disease were fed 30 grams of pickled soybeans per day for one month, Ishizuki, et al. reported goiter and elevated individual thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels (although still within the normal range) in thirty-seven healthy, iodine-sufficient adults. One month after stopping soybean consumption, individual TSH values decreased to the original levels and goiters were reduced in size.

Soybean oil has been used to fatten livestock. According to Dr. Ray Peat, the fattening effect of polyunsaturated oils (primarily soy and corn) is due to the presence of Linoleic and linolenic acids, long-chain fatty acids, which have an anti-thyroid effect. Peat says:
"Linoleic and linolenic acids, the "essential fatty acids," and other polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are now fed to pigs to fatten them, in the form of corn and soy beans, cause the animals' fat to be chemically equivalent to vegetable oil. In the late 1940s, chemical toxins were used to suppress the thyroid function of pigs, to make them get fatter while consuming less food. When that was found to be carcinogenic, it was then found that corn and soy beans had the same antithyroid effect, causing the animals to be fattened at low cost. The animals' fat becomes chemically similar to the fats in their food, causing it to be equally toxic, and equally fattening.
Of course in the 1940s the fat from pigs (lard) was highly desirable, as were most saturated fats. Today, saturated fats are fed to pigs to keep them lean, while most people buy polyunsaturated soy and corn oils in the grocery stores as their primary cooking oil! So we have a population now characterized by lean pigs and obese people…"

Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a saturated fat made up primarily of medium chain fatty acids. Also known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), medium chain fatty acids are known to increase metabolism and promote weight loss. Coconut oil can also raise basal body temperatures while increasing metabolism. This is good news for people who suffer with low thyroid function.

Taking a small amount of Lugol's solution (Potassium Iodide) daily can assist the thyroid. It can also protect the thyroid from radiation. Too much can cause problems, so it's better to get a recommendation from a knowlegable doctor.

Blue light on the thyroid gland has also in some small studies shown to improve thyroid function.

Next visit: answers to questions on anxiety

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi


sglick said...

Hi Dr. Judi -
I know this is an old post and you may not see this, but I have a question about selenium. I've been treated for Hashimoto's hypothyroidism for about 10 years. Last week my thyroid antibodies were tested (peridoxase?) and it was at 144 - elevated. My TSH is .03 (I take the Canadian dessicated thyroid). So, why would my antibodies still be elevated? Is that doing me harm? I read some studies on selenium lowering the antibodies and started taking 200 mcg/daily last week. Will this help me in any way?
Thanks for your help -

Dr. Judi said...

Yes, selenium can help, as well as taking iodine. Since writing this post I have learned of some new studies that show that over 60% of people with Hashimoto's have gluten sensitivity, and if they stop eating gluten their antibody levels drop and often their thyroid starts functioning again, if it hasn't been too destroyed. You need to be off gluten for over 3 months to begin to see the results.

The antibodies are part of the immune system, which is attacking the thyroid. It causes thyroid destruction, and increases inflammation. Bringing the levels of antibodies down is very helpful.

sglick said...

Thanks - I'm going to keep taking the Selenium for now. I never have gastrointestinal problems, so I'm not sure I have a gluten sensitivity - but I'll keep it in mind.

Cathy Morgan said...

Last year, I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and pernicious anemia. I suffered chest pains but when I took porcine thyroid, it was gone.

Dr. Judi said...

Porcine thyroid contains bio-identical thyroid, including T3 and T4. Some of the common brands for porcine dessicated thyroid include Armour Thyroid, Westhroid and Naturethroid.

Most physicians do not prescribe these any more, but prescribe levothyroxine (Synthroid), which is synthetic T4, because they trust they will be getting the same levels of thyroid hormone with each dose.

Levothyroxine works well for many people, but not for all. Some people have difficulty converting T4 into T3, which is the form used by the body's cells. Porcine dessicated thyroid often works better for them.

If you are taking levothyroxine and still feel that you continue with symptoms of hypothyroidism, consider asking your doctor for a trial of Armour Thyroid. 60 mg. of porcine thyroid is equal to about 100 mcg. of levothyroxine.