Thyroid is the most important hormone in the body. Because it stimulates the production of cellular energy, production of all other hormones will be negatively impacted when thyroid hormone levels are less than optimal. Every aspect of health is affected by low thyroid function.
Hypothyroidism is behind many disease states
Hypothyroidism is signaled by fatigue and loss of energy. People with the disease don’t have any sparkle in the morning, and as the day goes on they find themselves falling asleep sitting in meetings or while driving on the highway, reading or watching TV. The only time they feel energized is from continuous movement, such as jogging or doing housework. As soon as the task is completed and they sit down, chances are good they will start to nod off.
Yet while they are fatigued, low thyroid people are often hyperactive at the same time. Thyroid expert Dr. Alan Gaby reported a study of 49 people diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Among them, 61 percent met diagnostic criteria for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. When thyroid hormone is deficient, the nerves require abnormal stimulation to function or the body produces excess adrenalin to keep it going. The result is people become tired and tense at the same time, according to Dr. Gaby.
People with low thyroid exhibit many of the characteristics that are blamed on aging, with difficulty concentrating being the most blatant. They tend to flit from task to task and often accomplish little they set out to do. They can find themselves standing in front of an open refrigerator, unable to remember what they are looking for. They may have difficulty reading, needing to read sentences again because their mind wandered off the first time.
Low thyroid suffers are always the coldest people in the room, and their body temperatures can go down to 95 degree (F) in the cold winter months. People with moderate levels of low thyroid can experience the cold as extremely painful, and they plan their activities with minimizing exposure to cold weather as a priority. They also have trouble dealing with heat, and usually find comfort only in a very narrow range of temperatures, usually in the lower 70s. They are quite uncomfortable in overly heated rooms.
Other symptoms include inexplicable weight gain, painful premenstrual periods, fertility problems, muscle weakness and cramps, dry skin, yellow bumps on the eyelids, hair loss that includes the lower third of the eyebrows, susceptibility to infection, migraines, hoarseness, constipation, depression, difficulty getting words out when speaking, and goiter.
Miscarriage, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian fibroids, cystic ovaries, endometriosis, and PMS are caused or aggravated by hypothyroidism, especially when it’s coupled with estrogen dominance, a condition of hormone imbalance that happens as progesterone levels decline starting as early as the late 20s. This is because estrogen inhibits thyroid secretion, while progesterone stimulates it.
A newly released study to determine the prevalence of hypothyroidism in patients with benign breast disorders found that 23.2% of the women tested had unsuspected hypothyroidism. Symptoms of benign breast disease were alleviated in 83% of the patients with hypothyroidism through the use of only thyroxine replacement. (World Journal of Surgery, July 30)
Although the common perception of low thyroid people is that they are overweight, many people with low thyroid are underweight, so weight alone is not a determining factor. If the person is overweight, most of the extra weight is in water, not fat. People with low thyroid can drink and drink, but hardly ever need to urinate. Thyroid treatment can help an anorexic or other sick person gain weight.
Sleep is a problem for the person with low thyroid who may fall asleep easily but awaken after only a few hours and be unable to return to sleep for the rest of the night. Headaches can often plague low thyroid sufferers, not only migraines but stress and tension headaches.
There is a connection between multiple sclerosis (MS) and low thyroid. In a study by thyroid researcher Dr. Ray Peat, it was found that thyroid therapy caused MS symptoms to disappear in patients who had no other obvious causes such as heavy metal poisoning.
Depression is a classic symptom of low thyroid. Women with low thyroid are the most susceptible to severe bouts of post-partum depression following childbirth, and thyroid treatment helps restore their emotional equilibrium. Low thyroid can contribute to inability to let go of old hurts and angers, particularly against one’s mate.
Adrenalin and its synthetic drug copies, such as the inhalers used for asthma, are toxic when used continuously in response to the stress of hypothyroidism and endurance exercise. Excess adrenalin is toxic to the heart because it damages heart mitochondria. According to Dr. Peat, this is due to abnormally rapid mobilization and oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids leading to peroxidation aggravated by inadequate antioxidant protection. Dr. Broda Barnes, who runs a not-for-profit organization dedicated to research in the field of thyroid and metabolic balance, has found that the cardiovascular complications of diabetes are due to low thyroid function rather than insulin.
Researchers in Italy have just released results from their study to determine the effect of hypothyroidism on coronary artery disease. They examined the occurrence of the disease and long-term prognosis in patients without a history of primary thyroid disease, myocardial infarction, or chronic heart failure to determine if their disease related to serum levels of biologically active thyroid hormone. They found that levels of the active thyroid hormone (T3) were inversely correlated to the presence of coronary artery disease. Low T3 syndrome conferred an adverse prognosis, even after adjusting for traditional coronary risk factors. (Clinical Cardiology, July)
Dr. Barnes has concluded that cancer risk increases in male and female hypothyroid patients. He sees this as directly related to hormone imbalance with increased production of estrogen and decreased production of the primary anti-aging steroids from cholesterol: pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA, all of which are thyroid dependent.
Researchers in Spain studied the relationship between thyroid hormone and tumor development. They found mixed results. Although hypothyroidism might be a risk factor for liver and breast cancer in humans, a lower incidence of breast carcinoma has been reported in hypothyroid patients. Changes in the stromal cells of people with hypothyroidism can modulate tumor progression and metastatic growth independently of the presence of thyroid receptors on the tumor cells. However, they also found that hypothyroidism can promote tumor growth and invasiveness. (PLoS One, July 29)
Hypothyroidism can be life threatening
A rare condition that can result from long-term undiagnosed hypothyroidism is called myxedema coma. The coma can occur during illness, after an accident, from exposure to cold, as a result of the ingestion of narcotics and/or sedatives, or when the body temperature drifts below 95 degrees (F). It is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
Diet and environment have major impact on thyroid function
What is happening to our thyroids to cause such problems? Putting the natural selection theory aside, Dr. Lita Lee reporting on the work of Drs. Peat and Barnes says that the majority of people seen in doctor’s offices have some form of thyroid dysfunction. She notes radiation is the greatest environmental cause of hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems, including tumors and thyroid cancer. Since Chernobyl, radioactive fallout has become a worldwide phenomenon. Her hypothesis remains unproven for lack of an unexposed control group.
Epidemiological studies of radiation downwinders show many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism including chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. According to Dr. Peat, fibromyalgia is a combination of edema, inflammation and low blood sugar, all symptoms of hypothyroidism. He too believes that radiation is a major culprit in the hypothyroid epidemic.
“Organic animal protein is essential for the production of thyroid hormone and its conversion to the active form in the liver. Veganism leads to low thyroid function and low cholesterol which can lead to all of the major chronic degenerative diseases,” says Dr. Lee. She sees women as especially vulnerable because their low thyroid function goes hand in hand with hormone imbalance. Because pesticides mimic unbalanced estrogen in the body, she urges people to consume only organic produce.
Use of polyunsaturated oils contributes to low thyroid function whether the oils are processed or not. These include soybean, canola, safflower, corn, flax, fish, evening primrose and borage. According to Dr. Peat, the more unsaturated the oil is, the more strongly it interferes with thyroid secretion, the transport of thyroid hormone in the blood, and the response of the tissue thyroid receptors.” Olive oil, coconut oil and saturated fats do not compromise thyroid health.
Dr. John Lee, famed Harvard Medical School Professor and author, cautioned that soy products contain goitrogens, substances which inhibit thyroid function and the conversion of T4, the inactive form of thyroid hormone to T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. Genistein, an isoflavone found in soybeans, can block thyroid hormone production. Phytate found in unsoaked nuts and legumes including beans can accentuate these effects because it binds zinc and copper, leaving little of these important minerals available for the production of thyroid hormone. A transport protein called GLUT1 is shut down by genistein. This protein sends glucose into the cells where it is used to generate energy. Slowing the transport of glucose means less energy production not only of thyroid hormone, but of every other action in the body.
Fluoride from water, foods and toothpaste causes severe hypothyroidism.
Synthetic and genetically engineered hormones used in birth control pills, hormone drug therapy, and as growth stimulants in the non-organic production of food animals block the release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland.
While some iodine is critical to thyroid functioning, too much can become a powerful thyroid inhibitor.
How to determine if you have a sluggish thyroid
There is no accurate medical test for thyroid function, according to Dr. Lita Lee. Anyone having high cholesterol is practically assured of having hypothyroidism, because thyroid hormone controls the conversion of cholesterol to important anti-aging hormones and to bile salts. The lack of this conversion causes cholesterol levels to rise. However, many people with low cholesterol from a depressed immune system or from eating a low protein diet may also have hypothyroidism.
Dr. Barnes introduced the basal temperature test as a way to determine adequate thyroid function. The oral temperature is measured with an oral digital thermometer immediately after waking in the morning. This temperature should be 98.0 degrees F. It should then rise to 98.6 to 99 degrees during the daylight hours, and the resting pulse should be about 85 beats per minute. If temperature and pulse rates are below these levels, hypothyroidism is indicated.
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About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using “alternative” treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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