July 25, 2016

379 Hyperthyroidism [25 July 2016]

For the last three weeks we discussed under-active thyroid problems; this week we’ll look at over-active thyroid. This is a potentially more serious problem than hypothyroidism but fortunately is less common. Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: enlarged thyroid (goiter), bulging eyes, thick red skin on shins and feet, anxiety, heat sensitivity, excess sweating, hair loss, dry or itchy skin, rapid or irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and weight loss.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease (GD) which is an autoimmune disease that triggers increased production of thyroid hormones. In GD the immune system produces an antibody that mimics the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland, resulting in uncontrolled production of thyroid hormones.

The conventional treatment for GD is to control it with anti-thyroid medications, or more aggressively, to surgically remove the thyroid or destroy it with radioactive iodine. The latter options induce hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement for life. In life threatening situations these approaches may be necessary but are not ideal and can have severe side effects. And of course they do nothing to resolve the auto-immune disorder that caused the GD in the first place.

The natural approach to GD deals first with the immune system. Diet and lifestyle modifications include stress reduction, improved sleep, moderate exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, avoidance of environmental toxins, cleansing, and supplementation. Medications may be required temporarily to lower thyroid hormone levels while the immune system is healing. This is a complicated condition and should only be attempted under the supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced physician or natural healthcare practitioner.

Another factor to consider is testing and treatment for infections with H. pylori and Yersinia enterocolitica both of which have been associated with GD. Testing and support of the adrenal, pituitary, and other endocrine glands is also important.

Sources for information on natural treatments for GD: elaine-moore.com; gravesdiseasecure.com; naturalendocrinesolutions.com; draxe.com/graves-disease.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

July 18, 2016

378 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments II [18 July 2016]

This week I will continue my discussion of natural treatments for hypothyroidism. I found a good source of information in an interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright, a practicing natural medicine physician, on mercola.com June 15, 2014.

First, Wright explains why hypothyroidism is so common in North America. One reason is the use of chlorinated and fluoridated water. Chlorine and fluorine are members of the halogen element family and interfere with the utilization of iodine. Bromine added to flour and packaging and in some pesticides is another toxic halogen source.

Another reason is inadequate iodine consumption. I have previously explained why iodized salt is a poor source [#282 August 2014]. The Canadian RDA of 150 mcg per day is barely sufficient to prevent goiters but falls far short of the 2 - 3 mg (2,000 - 3,000 mcg) intake of most Japanese. Wright prescribes iodine intakes of 3 mg per day for men and 6 for women and has shown that up to 14 is safe.

Wright uses symptoms and a physical exam plus the Free T3 (fT3) blood levels to diagnose hypothyroidism. TSH alone is a very poor test for several reasons. It’s the T4 that signals back to regulate TSH production (low TSH indicates normal T4 levels). So if something inhibits conversion of T4 to T3, the active form (fT3) could be low but T4 and TSH show normal. Another (rare) possibility is that the hypothalamus is not producing enough TRH (thyroid releasing hormone) to trigger the pituitary to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This would result in low TSH (considered normal) even though T4 and T3 could be low.

Another complication is high Reverse T3 (rT3) which is a mirror image of T3. rT3 blocks the T3 receptors but is not active, thereby creating functional hypothyroidism with normal levels of TSH, T4 and T3. Heavy metal toxicity (lead, cadmium, mercury) elevates rT3 production and chelation therapy usually clears it.

Wright uses whole thyroid supplements to treat hypothyroidism when iodine alone is not enough. Whole thyroid contains all 12 iodine containing compounds produced in the thyroid, rather than the conventional treatment of synthetic T4. An exception would be in cases of Hashimoto’s in which he uses T3 and T4 initially while treating the auto-immune component of the disease.

Next week: Hyperthyroidism – the overactive thyroid.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

July 11, 2016

377 Natural Hypothyroid Treatments I [11 July 2016]

Last week I discussed Mark Starr’s book Hypothyroidism Type 2 about undiagnosed low thyroid function. This week I will discuss natural options for improving thyroid health.

There is a ton of information on the internet, much of it contradictory, with everyone sharing their opinion and what worked for them. There is a wide range of approaches to the condition. If you are aware of different options you can choose what you want to try; and if that doesn’t work try something else.

Many people have found that a desiccated whole thyroid supplement works better with fewer side effects than the synthetic T4 hormone usually prescribed. Armour, promoted in the book Stop the Thyroid Madness, is a Canadian brand available by prescription only. The disadvantage of hormones, natural or synthetic, is that you will likely need to take them for life.

At the other extreme, Lily from legitnutritionhawaii.com advises to avoid all external hormones, including “natural” hormones, and to encourage, with diet and lifestyle changes, your glands to heal and make your own hormones. She advocates a high carb, low protein, low fat, mostly raw, strictly vegan diet. She advises to avoid supplements, including iodine unless severely deficient, with the only exception being a good probiotic.

One reason for the wide range of protocols is that hypothyroidism can have many causes. The problem can be a simple nutrient deficiency (iodine, B12, selenium, etc.) which is an easy fix, or an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s which is much more complex.

The endocrine system is very complicated, with many glands and organs involved in thyroid function. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands together control thyroid hormone production. Elevated cortisol from stressed adrenal glands inhibit the conversion of T4 to T3. Melatonin, made in the pineal gland, is required for the production of thyroid hormones but in excess will inhibit production of T4. The conversion of T4 to T3 occurs in the liver. Your doctor should look at the health of all of these before deciding on treatment.

See my column #126 from August 2011 for an explanation of thyroid function and tips for improving thyroid health. More on this topic next week.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

July 4, 2016

376 Type 2 Hypothyroidism [4 July 2016]

In his 2005 book Hypothyroidism Type 2, Mark Starr, MD, argues that there is an epidemic of people in America with undiagnosed hypothyroidism. He calls this condition Type 2 Hypothyroidism because, similar to Type 2 Diabetes in which insulin levels can be normal or even high, the problem is not with insufficient thyroid hormone levels in the blood. The problem is that something is preventing the hormones from getting inside the cells of the body where they are needed.

Because blood levels of the thyroid hormones – T4, T3 and TSH – can be normal, lab tests fail to diagnose the condition. Decades ago when hypothyroidism was diagnosed based on symptoms, basal body temperature, and a trial of desiccated thyroid pills, the success rate was much higher. Now it is frequently misdiagnosed and too often ignored.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
• fatigue, lethargy, brain fog
• weight gain
• thickened skin appearing “puffy” (myxedema)
• dry skin, eyes & mucous membranes
• dry brittle hair, hair loss
• inability to perspire with exercise
• feeling unusually cold
• chronic muscle pain, headaches
• menstrual irregularities
• frequent colds & other infections
• anxiety, depression

These symptoms gradually increase over the years if untreated. Starr also lists more serious conditions for which hypothyroidism, including Type 2, is a known risk factor: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s). Starr writes
“Proper recognition and treatment of hypothyroidism would prevent much of our illness and suffering. Millions of lives can be changed for the better and astronomical medical expenses spared…”
See my column #126 from August 2011 for an explanation of thyroid function and tips for improving thyroid health. More on effective thyroid treatments in a future column.

Townsend Letter Dec 2008 Hypothyroidism Type 2
Breakthroughs in Health & Medicine June 2016 Hypothyroidism

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.