August 8, 2011

126 Thyroid Health [8 August 2011]

Following up on last week’s column on iodine, let’s look at other factors affecting thyroid health. The main function of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, is regulation of metabolism – controlling the growth and rate of function of many systems of the body. It is often called the “thermostat of the body”. The thyroid is itself controlled by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, and influenced by the adrenals, so problems in these will also affect thyroid health and function.

The thyroid produces two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The liver converts the T4 to the active form T3. An imbalance occurs if too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of these hormones are produced. The conventional treatment for hypothyroidism is to prescribe levothyroxine sodium (Synthroid) in response to a TSH lab analysis (which measures T4 levels). There are two problems with this approach. First, the TSH test misses any problems in the conversion to T3 (adding a “Free T4 and Free T3 Test” improves diagnosis), and often ignores subclinical cases (where a sluggish thyroid is causing problems but falls within the “normal” range with no obvious symptoms). Secondly the synthetic drug is not identical with thyroxine; it doesn’t work as well, has more side effects, and (according to may even make the condition worse by competing with your own thyroxine for receptor sites. (This is another example of the patent laws undermining our health – there is a financial disincentive to produce a bioidentical thyroxine, which would be more effective and much safer!)

Other factors affecting thyroid health include:

  • Adrenal fatigue – chronic stress elevates cortisol levels which lowers thyroid hormone production (just when you actually need more!)
  • Gluten, soy and other food allergies cause antibodies to attack the thyroid
  • Deficiencies in iodine or the amino acid tyrosine may limit thyroid function
  • The thyroid is particularly susceptible to chemical toxins including bromine, chlorine, fluorine (fluoride), PFOA, perchlorate, and triclosan
  • Conversion of T4 to the active form T3 requires adequate selenium, Omega 3 EFAs and zinc

There are 69 signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism listed on Here are a few of the most common:

  • fatigue, lethargy and brain fog; 
  • weight gain; 
  • hair loss; 
  • dry skin, eyes and mucous membranes; 
  • feeling unusually cold; 
  • excessive muscle tension and trigger points. 

One home test is to measure basal body temperature using a special thermometer – temperatures below 36.5 C (97.6 F) may indicate low thyroid function.

Some ideas for naturally improving thyroid function:

  • Eat a nutritious diet with as much raw organic vegetables as possible
  • Eat iodine rich kelp or supplement with iodine
  • Eat fish regularly or supplement with Omega 3 EFA
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with sunlight and supplementation
  • Take a multi vitamin-mineral with zinc and selenium
  • Avoid soy and any foods to which you are sensitive
  • Minimize exposure to toxins – avoid fluoride; use stainless steel cookware; filter drinking, cooking and bathing water; use an air purifier in your home
  • Detoxify your body with chlorella or a herbal detox program; use a sauna
  • Manage stress to avoid excess adrenaline and cortisol
  • Exercise

Sources: and A more technical source of information on current thyroid research is

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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