Hypothyroidism and Natural Remedies:
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that subclinical hypothyroidism is a common disorder that may affect 30 million Americans, and is associated with fatigue, pain, weight gain, depression, insomnia, menstrual problems, memory problems, hair loss, cold intolerance, and other symptoms. Studies indicate that over 90% of effected patients will continue suffering from mild thyroid failure or progress to overt hypothyroidism if untreated.
Research suggests that several dietary and environmental factors adversely impact thyroid health and contribute to subclinical hypothyroidism.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is a chronic condition affecting up to 10% of the general population and up to 26% of the elderly, and is defined by elevated serum thyrotropin (thyroid-stimulating hormone [TSH]) levels associated with normal levels of thyroid hormones T4 and T3.
An Holistic Approach to Subclinical Thyroid Disorders
According to The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study, nearly 30% of individuals affected by subclinical hypothyroidism experience symptoms including fatigue, muscle cramps, dry skin, poor memory, cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, cold intolerance, puffy eyes, and hoarseness. 2 Researchers believe that it may also contribute to heart disease, depression, high cholesterol and hypertension.
As many as 30 million Americans may suffer the effects of subclinical hypothyroidism. If untreated, one study suggests that 57% of these individuals will continue experiencing mild thyroid failure and 34% will progress to overt hypothyroidism.
Diagnosis by clinical symptoms alone is difficult due to a constellation of symptoms (noted above) that is often found in individuals not suffering from hypothyroidism. Because symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism develop slowly and can emerge in later years, they are widely and mistakenly self-diagnosed as simple signs of aging patients themselves.
Understanding the Problem
It’s no secret that the thyroid is a small gland with a large job. It produces the hormone thyroxine (known as T4 because it contains 4 iodine atoms) by combining iodine with the amino acid tyrosine, which is then further converted into triiodothyronine (called T3 because it has one iodine atom removed), in the liver.
Given the fact that triiodothyronine is the primary thyroid hormone that signals the body’s cells to create energy, triiodothyronine is often referred to as the “active form” of the thyroid hormone. If a patient’s liver is not working up to par, then this conversion may not be optimal and the patient may suffer from sub clinical hypothyroidism even though their lab values of thyroid hormones may be in the optimal range. In this case, thyroid hormone replacement will often fail, whereas a purification program supporting the liver will often yield optimal results.
When T4 and T3 are released into the blood stream they play a pivotal role in metabolism. They are essential to proper function of the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, muscles, and other organs and tissues of the body.
Overt hypothyroidism is commonly diagnosed when the thyroid is unable to produce sufficient T4, creating a shortfall that is easily identified through blood analysis. In subclinical hypothyroidism, however, T4 and T3 levels remain in normal ranges but are accompanied by elevated levels of TSH.
Who is Most Vulnerable
While anyone can suffer from subacute low thyroid function, experts agree that it’s more prevalent as we age and several times more common in women than men.
Studies at both Harvard and the University of Colorado confirm that at least one in ten women over 50 years of age has some degree of low thyroid. Other studies show that by age 60, one in five women will suffer from thyroid complications.
Women seem especially vulnerable during post-partum and menopausal periods. Further, estrogen-replacement therapy and the birth control pill can reduce thyroid hormone availability, and sluggish thyroid function may be responsible, in part, for hot flashes, insomnia, irritability associated with menopause, pre-menstrual moods swings, heavy periods, and other symptoms associated with female hormones.
A Nutritional Link
Iodine is a crucial ingredient in T4 production and has historically been deficient in the typical diet. Since the introduction of iodized salt in 1924, the role if iodine deficiency in thyroid disorders has been largely over looked. With the apparent rise in subacute thyroid disorders, however, researchers are taking a second look.
Even with iodized salt on the table, over 33 million Americans today are estimated to be iodine deficient. Iodine intake in the U.S. has dropped 50% since the 1970s according to the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders. Contributing to the problem is the high chloride content in table salt, which may block absorption of up to 90% of the iodine in iodized salt.
Iodine; Your Thyroid’s Friend
Making matter worse, many researchers today believe a sharp rise of “iodine blockers” in our diets may be ushering in a new are of iodine deficiency.
Iodine is one of several halogens that compete for the same receptor sites and absorption in the thyroid gland. When other halogens are present, the body’s ability to absorb what little iodine is in the diet can be seriously compromised.
These competing halogens are increasingly prevalent, and include chlorine in our water supplies and in food products, fluoride in public water supplies, toothpaste, and medicines; and bromine in baked goods and soft drinks. Fluoride is doubly alarming, because is also inhibits the thyroid’s ability to use iodine once it is absorbed.
The emergence of soy-based foods like soy milk, tofu, and soy meat substitutes is another source of concern. Soy is high in substances called goitrogens that block iodine utilization and lower thyroid hormone production.
If you suspect that you suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism and would like to see if an integrative approach may be for you, feel free to call and schedule a complimentary appointment with our Naturopath, Carolyn Berghuis. Carolyn employs the use of homeopathic and herbal remedies, along with whole food supplements and life style changes to help her patients reach optimal thyroid functioning. Carolyn has helped hundreds of former hypothyroid sufferers and she can help you too.