Hypothyroidism is caused by insufficient production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Cretinism is a form of hypothyroidism found in infants.
From a naturopathic perspective the causes of hypothyroidism are not only nutritional deficiencies of vitamin and mineral precursors to thyroid hormones but also due to environmental contaminants that inhibit thyroid hormone production. The 2 big ones are microplastic and fluoride. Herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, dietary and lifestyle approaches can treat the thyroid naturally, without the use of pharmacological drugs.
Thyroid hormones and nutrition
Thyroid hormones manufacture requires iodine, tyrosine, and selenium The thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are tyrosine-based hormones produced by the thyroid gland primarily responsible for regulation of metabolism. An important component in the synthesis of thyroid hormones is iodine the major form of thyroid hormone in the blood is thyroxine (T4), which has a longer half-life than T3. The ratio of T4 to T3 released in the blood is roughly 20 to 1. Thyroxine is converted to the active T3 (three to four times more potent than T4) within cells by deiodinases, which are selenium dependant enzymes.
About three percent of the general population is hypothyroidic. There are a number of causes for hypothyroidism. Factors such as iodine deficiency or exposure to Iodine-131 can increase that risk.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide.
Selenium forms the active centre of the enzymes known deiodinase enzymes (which convert one thyroid hormone to another).
The amino acid tyrosine forms the base of the thyroid hormones.
In the absence of iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism is generally caused by Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or otherwise as a result of either an absent thyroid gland or a deficiency in stimulating hormones from the hypothalamus or pituitary.
Hypothyroidism can result from postpartum thyroiditis, a condition that affects about 5% of all women within a year of giving birth. The first phase is typically hyperthyroidism; the thyroid then either returns to normal, or a woman develops hypothyroidism. Of those women who experience hypothyroidism associated with postpartum thyroiditis, one in five will develop permanent hypothyroidism requiring life-long treatment.
- Poor muscle tone (muscle hypotonia)
- Cold intolerance, increased sensitivity to cold
- Muscle cramps and joint pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Thin, brittle fingernails
- Thin, brittle hair
- Decreased sweating
- Dry, itchy skin
- Weight gain and water retention
- Bradycardia (low heart rate – less than sixty beats per minute)
- Slow speech and a hoarse, breaking voice – deepening of the voice can also be noticed
- Dry puffy skin, especially on the face
- Thinning of the outer third of the eyebrows (sign of Hertoghe)
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Low basal body temperature
To diagnose primary hypothyroidism, many doctors simply measure the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) being produced by the pituitary gland. High levels of TSH indicate that the thyroid is not producing sufficient levels of thyroid hormone (mainly as thyroxine (T4) and smaller amounts of triiodothyronine (T3)). However, measuring just TSH fails to diagnose secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism, thus leading to the following suggested blood testing if the TSH is normal and hypothyroidism is still suspected:
- · Free triiodothyronine (fT3)
- · Free levothyroxine (fT4)
- · Total T3
- · Total T4
Testing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) or Thyroid function at home
To test yourself for an under active Thyroid, keep an Electronic Thermometer by your bed at night. When you wake up in the morning, place the thermometer in your armpit and hold it there for about 10 minutes. Keep still and quiet. Any movement of the body can upset your temperature reading. Temperature of the Body rises when you begin moving around. A temperature of 36.4 °C / 97.5°F. or lower is indicative of an under active thyroid. Keep a Temperature log for five days. Menstruating women should perform test on 2nd, 3rd & 4th day of menstruation. Menopausal women or women with irregular periods can check on any day.
Hypothyroidism is treated with the levorotatory forms of thyroxine (L-T4) and triiodothyronine (L-T3). Both synthetic and animal-derived thyroid tablets are available and can be prescribed for patients in need of additional thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is taken daily, and doctors monitor blood levels to ensure proper dosing. There are several different treatment protocols in thyroid replacement therapy:
T4 Only This treatment involves supplementation of levothyroxine alone, in a synthetic form. It is currently the standard treatment in mainstream medicine.
T4 and T3 in Combination This treatment protocol involves administering both synthetic L-T4 and L-T3 simultaneously in combination.
Desiccated Thyroid Extract Desiccated thyroid extract is an animal based thyroid extract, most commonly from a porcine source. It is also a combination therapy, containing natural forms of L-T4 and L-T3.
Fluoride & the Thyroid
Evidence indicates that fluoride affects normal endocrine function or response. Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor in the broad sense of altering normal endocrine function or response, although probably not in the sense of mimicking a normal hormone. The mechanisms of action remain to be worked out and appear to include both direct and indirect mechanisms. For example, direct stimulation or inhibition of hormone secretion by interference with second messenger function or indirect stimulation or inhibition of hormone secretion by effects on things such as calcium balance and inhibition of peripheral enzymes that are necessary for activation of the normal hormone.” SOURCE: National Research Council. (2006). Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards National Academies Press, Washington D.C. p 223.
Fluoride's potential to impair thyroid function is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that, up until the 1970s, European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medication for patients with HYPERthyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilised because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland - even at doses as low as 2 mg/day. Today, many people living in fluoridated communities are ingesting doses of fluoride (1.6-6.6 mg/day) that fall within the range of doses (2 to 10 mg/day) once used by doctors to reduce thyroid activity in hyperthyroid patients.
Cortisol impairs conversion of T4 to T3
Data suggest that cortisol modifies thyroid hormone action at a step subsequent to T3 receptor binding (Endocrinology 106: 600, 1980. Previous work has shown that after stressful stimuli, sheep initially secrete increased amounts of thyroid hormone, at a time when adrenal secretion is also elevated.
This can lead to what can be compared to insulin resistance and is known as Thyroid Hormone Resistance. This is where too much cortisol, again caused by the adrenal glands’ response to excessive stressors, causes the tissues to no longer respond to the thyroid hormone signal. It creates a condition of thyroid resistance, meaning that thyroid hormone levels can be normal, but tissues fail to respond as efficiently to the thyroid signal.
This resistance to the thyroid hormone signal caused by high cortisol is not just restricted to thyroid hormone but applies to all other hormones such as insulin, progesterone, oestrogens, testosterone, and even cortisol itself. When cortisol gets too high, you start getting resistance from the hormone receptors, and it requires more hormones to create the same effect.
Oestrogen and thyroid function
The influence of thyroid hormone on oestrogen actions has been demonstrated both in vivo and in vitro. Thyroid abnormalities can create menstrual cycle problems, even infertility, in younger women; in perimenopausal women these problems are often exacerbated.
Thyroid is related to reproductive hormones in two ways.
- 1. First, thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, i.e. the activity of the cell. Different cells, such as brain cells, bone cells and ovarian tissue cells, have different activities. Thus thyroid affects many physiologic activities of the body, including reproductive gland activity.
- 2. Secondly, thyroid hormones have similarities with certain metabolites of oestrogen and progesterone, and receptor sites for thyroid uptake can be blocked or facilitated by oestrogen and progesterone.
Mercury’s effects on thyroid hormones
There is evidence to suggest that mercury leaches from dental amalgam fillings and contributes to thyroid disease and anaemia. While large doses of mercury can induce hyperthyroidism, smaller amounts can induce hypothyroidism by interfering with both the production of thyroxin (T4) and the conversion of T4 to T3.
Mercury disturbs the metabolism of copper and zinc, which are two minerals critical to thyroid function. Grey hair can be an indication of mercury accumulation, more so in females than males.
Mercury causes disruptions to the immune system functioning and promotes the production of IgG and IgE autoantibodies, which also are involved in autoimmune thyroid disease.
Selenium is the key mineral, which protects the body from mercury toxicity.
Natural Medicine treatment of hypothyroid
- Eliminate Heavy Metals
- Eliminate Fluoride and Chlorine
- Avoid excess goitrogens
- Replenish all thyroid hormone cofactors, zinc, selenium, iodine, tyrosine, EFAs
- Supporting the health of all the body systems with particular focus on the endocrine system and the adrenal gland
- Eliminate Heavy Metals
It is especially important to begin treatment with a focus on chelating heavy metals. I use a combination of apple pectin powder, alpha lipoic acid and the Carahealth Heavy Metal Detox Tincture.
Avoid mercury amalgam fillings. Avoid fluoride as fluoride has mercury residues.
Alpha lipoic acid
Lipoic acid was first postulated to be an effective antioxidant when it was found it prevented the symptoms of vitamin C and vitamin E deficiency. Dihydrolipoic acid is able to regenerate (reduce) antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Use as a chelator
Owing to the presence of two thiol groups, dihydrolipoic acid is a chelating agent Lipoic acid administration can significantly enhance biliary excretion of inorganic mercury in rat experiments, although it is not known if this is due to chelation by lipoic acid or some other mechanism.
- Eliminate Fluoride and Chlorine (Endocrine disruptors or thyroid-disrupting chemicals (TDC))
Filter both microplastcics and fluoride
Endocrine disruptors or thyroid-disrupting chemicals (TDC) like bisphenol A, phthalates, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers are widely used as plastic additives in consumer products. TDC exposure negatively impacts thyroid hormones resulting in low thyroid. In a first Scientific Statement of The Endocrine Society presented evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology.
As fluoride is so similar in size and shape molecularly fluoride will compete with iodide for transport into the thyroid, thus resulting in fluoride being a thyroid suppressant. Fluoride was prescribed by doctors in the 1970s to treat an A OVERACTIVE thyroid. It is pointless treating the thyroid gland without removing the fluoride. 97% of the EU don’t' fluoridate their water
The Carahealth Eco Gravity Fed Water Filter removes microplastic as it filters to .7 microns. We have been specialising in fluoride removal for 10 years and are now using a medium called bone char which is high enough in calcium to naturally displace fluoride. This filter is plastic free and does not use electricity. It is the most environmentally responsible and economical method to achieve chemical free great tasting healthful water the way it should be
Try the Carahealth Eco Gravity Water Filter
- Avoid excess goitrogens
Avoid excess consumption of foods containing goitrogens. Normal amounts are considered healthy. See below.
Goitrogens are naturally-occurring substances that can interfere with function of the thyroid gland. Goitrogens get their name from the term "goiter," which means an enlargement of the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland is having difficulty making thyroid hormone, it may enlarge as a way of trying to compensate for this inadequate hormone production.
Foods that contain goitrogens
There are two general categories of foods that have been associated with disrupted thyroid hormone production in humans
- Soybean-related foods
- Cruciferous vegetables.
In addition, there are a few other foods not included in these categories such as peaches, strawberries and millet.
Included in the category of soybean-related foods are soybeans themselves as well as soy extracts and foods made from soy, including tofu and tempeh. While soy foods share many common ingredients, it is the isoflavones in soy that have been associated with decreased thyroid hormone output.
The link between isoflavones and decreased thyroid function is, in fact, one of the few areas in which flavonoid intake has called into question as problematic. Isoflavones like genistein appear to reduce thyroid hormone output by blocking activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase. This enzyme is responsible for adding iodine onto the thyroid hormones. (Thyroid hormones must typically have three or four iodine atoms added on to their structure in order to function properly.)
A second category of foods associated with disrupted thyroid hormone production is the Brassicaceae or cruciferous food family. Foods belonging to this family include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and turnips. Isothiocyanates are the category of substances in crucifers that have been associated with decreased thyroid function. Like the isoflavones, isothiocyanates appear to reduce thyroid function by blocking thyroid peroxidase, and also by disrupting messages that are sent across the membranes of thyroid cells
Foods that contain goitrogens
Cruciferous vegetables including:
- Brussel sprouts
- Soybean and soy products, including tofu
- Replenish all thyroid hormone precursors
Supplements for hypothyroid
I do not recommend an iodine supplement as excess consumption can lead to thyroid disease. I prefer to recommend daily consumption of sea vegetables such as dulse and carrageen and Japanese seaweeds such as hijiki, wakame and nori.
Supplementation has been shown to reduce levels of thyroid antibodies but requires doses over 100ug daily.
Tyrosine 500 mg twice or thrice a day can be a great precursor to thyroid hormone and can help boosting levels in the body.
EFAs Essential Fatty acids
In the form of Flax or fish oil.
- Support the endocrine system
The Link between Adrenal Fatigue & Thyroid Conditions.
Of the millions of people who are diagnosed with thyroid conditions, many of these people also have or will develop adrenal fatigue. The adrenal-hypothalamus-pituitary feedback loop regulates the secretion of cortisol. All organs and immune function are negatively impacted by the high cortisol levels as cortisol is an immune suppressant. Thus low adrenal function and adrenal output can aggravate an existing thyroid hormone deficiency or negatively impact thyroid hormones production leading to a deficiency of thyroid hormones production.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.