Low thyroid function affects more than 30 million women and 15 million men.
So why are we seeing such an epidemic?
Well, chronic thyroid problems can be caused by many factors …
What causes hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can be triggered by a number of factors.
One of the most important factors that leads to hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function.
In fact, one study found that as people lost weight they released pesticides were literally released from their fat tissue. This then, in turn, interfered with their thyroid function and caused hypothyroidism.
The toxins eventually caused their metabolisms to slow down preventing them from losing anymore weight.
The study highlights the importance of overall detoxification. It makes it perfectly clear how toxins interfere with thyroid function.
Heavy metals such as mercury can also affect thyroid function. I see many people with chronic hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems because mercury interferes with normal thyroid function.
The other big factor that interferes with thyroid function is chronic stress.
There’s an intimate interaction between stress hormones and thyroid function. The more stress you are under, the worse your thyroid functions.
Any approach to correcting poor thyroid function must address the effects of chronic stress and provide support to the adrenal glands.
The next major factor that affects thyroid function is chronic inflammation. The biggest source of this chronic inflammation is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barely, rye, spelt, and oats.
Gluten is a very common allergen that affects about 10 to 20 percent of the population. This reaction occurs mostly because of our damaged guts, poor diet, and stress.
I also think eating so-called Frankenfoods, such as hybridized and genetically modified grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick.
Our bodies say, “What’s this? Must be something foreign. I’d better create antibodies to this, fight it, and get rid of it.”
This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function — and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.
Lastly, nutritional deficiencies play a big role in thyroid dysfunction. These include deficiencies of
- vitamin D,
- omega-3 fats,
- vitamin A,
- and the B vitamins.
There are so many reasons for low thyroid function, yet I have seen lots of patients with this problem who were just ignored by their doctors.
For example, one young female patient of mine had more than 30 percent body fat and was unable to change her body, no matter how hard she worked. She ate perfectly, exercised with a trainer every day — and her body still wouldn’t budge.
She also had a slightly depressed mood and other vague symptoms. So I treated her with a low dose of Armour Thyroid, which is a natural thyroid replacement.
Well, she not only lost 20 pounds and improved her body composition, but her mood improved and all her other symptoms went away.
Testing for thyroid problems
How did I know she had low thyroid function?
Once I have asked about symptoms, done a physical exam, and considered all the potential causes of thyroid problems, I do the right tests.
Most doctors just check something called the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which doesn’t give a full picture of the thyroid. In fact, even the interpretation of this test is incorrect most of the time.
The newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anybody with a TSH level over 3.0 as hypothyroid. Most doctors think that only anything over 5 or 10 is worth treating.
Unfortunately, this leaves millions suffering unnecessarily.
There are also other tests, including free T3 and free T4 and thyroid antibodies, which are essential.
I also look for associated problems such as gluten intolerance, food allergies, and heavy metals, as well as deficiencies of vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, zinc, and omega-3 fats.
There are many things to consider in a careful approach to hypothyroidism. It is one of the most common problems I see, and treating it properly makes one of the biggest differences in my patients’ quality of life.
Unfortunately, by using the old guidelines and thinking, conventional medicine misses millions who suffer with hypothyroidism.
In fact, in one study, researchers tested everybody who walked through the gates of a county fair with conventional thyroid testing. They found that according to even conservative conventional standards, half of all the people who had hypothyroidism were un-diagnosed, untreated, and suffering.
So what’s the solution?
How you to determine if you have a thyroid problem
I encourage you to take the following steps to establish whether you have thyroid issues:
Make a thorough inventory of any symptoms to see if you might suffer from hypothyroidism.
Get the right thyroid tests:
Get the right thyroid tests including TSH, free T3, free T4, TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies.
Test for celiac:
Check for celiac disease with a celiac panel.
Test for heavy metals:
Have your doctor check for heavy metal toxicity.
Test vitamin D levels:
Have your vitamin D levels checked .
Once you have confirmed that a sluggish thyroid is contributing to your symptoms, the good news is that there are things you can do to help correct thyroid problems.
7-step plan for overcoming hypothyroidism
In fact I have developed a simple 7-step plan to address hypothyroidism:
1. Treat Underlying Causes :
Identify and treat the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, like food allergies, gluten, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, and stress.
Gluten sensitivity or allergy can cause a variety of symptoms, from migraines to fatigue to weight gain.
Gluten foods to look out for are…
- and spelt.
To find out if you are gluten sensitive, besides doing a blood test you can try an elimination diet. Simply eliminate gluten from your diet for three weeks. If your symptoms go away, you have a clue that your body doesn’t tolerate it well. Try reintroducing gluten and see if your symptoms come back you have a huge clue.
Other food allergies can affect your thyroid function. Work with a professional to identify any allergies or sensitivities you have and eliminate them.
2. Optimize Your Nutrition:
Support your thyroid with optimal nutrition, including foods that contain iodine, zinc, omega-3 fats, selenium, and more.
To produce thyroid hormones your body requires iodine and omega-3 fatty acids; converting inactive T4 into active T3 requires selenium; and both the binding of T3 to the receptor on the nucleus and switching it on require vitamins A and D, as well as zinc. You’ll find these nutrients in a whole-food, clean, organic diet.
Thyroid-boosting foods include…
- Seaweed and sea vegetables, which contain iodine.
- Fish (especially sardines and salmon) which contains iodine, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D.
- Dandelion, mustard, and other dark leafy greens contain vitamin A.
- Smelt, herring, scallops, and Brazil nuts which contain selenium.
You want to avoid foods that can interfere with your thyroid function. These include the gluten and processed soy products.
3. Minimize Stress:
Eliminate adrenal exhaustion and minimize stress by engaging in a comprehensive stress management program.
Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. Try learning new relaxation skills such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation. DO things that make you feel good such astake a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.
Engage in thyroid stimulating exercise, which boosts thyroid function.
Exercise is not only relaxing, it also stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormones throughout your body.
Use supplements to help enhance thyroid function, including all the nutrients needed for proper thyroid metabolism and function.
Consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains…
- vitamins A and D,
- and omega 3 fats (fish oil).
You should also think about supporting your adrenal glands at the same time. Adatogenice herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola, or Siberian ginseng can help you do that.
6. Heat Therapy:
Use saunas and heat to eliminate stored toxins, which interfere with thyroid function.
Saunas or steam baths aren’t just incredible muscle relaxers, they’re also a great way to flush your system of pesticides that could be contributing to your thyroid problem.
7. Take Thyroid Hormones:
Use thyroid hormone replacement therapy to help support your thyroid gland.
I believe a comprehensive approach is needed to address chronic thyroid issues and to diagnose them. Unfortunately, most of the options for healing by conventional care are quite limited and only provide a partial solution. But by following my seven-step plan you can achieve lifelong vibrant health.
Now I’d like to hear from you…
- If you have low thyroid function, how was it diagnosed?
- Did you face any resistance from your doctor?
- Which of these steps have you tried to treat it and have they helped?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.
Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field.
He is the Director the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and was a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and The View, Katie and The Dr. Oz Show.
Dr. Hyman works with individuals and organizations, as well as policy makers and influencers. He has testified before both the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine. He has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention, and participated in the 2009 White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness.
Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa nominated Dr. Hyman for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. In addition, Dr. Hyman has worked with President Clinton, presenting at the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters, Achieving Wellness in Every Generation conference and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as with the World Economic Forum on global health issues.
He is the winner of the Linus Pauling Award, The Nantucket Project Award, and was inducted in the Books for Better Life Hall of Fame, and the Christian Book of the Year Award for The Daniel Plan.
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