It may be a bit cliché, but January is the month when thoughts turn to weight loss. Diets are started, gyms are joined, exercise equipment is purchased—but it is nearly impossible to get down to your healthy weight without proper thyroid function. I have other articles on this website about the healthiest diet (Terry’s Diet for All Mankind) and information on how to get the most out of your exercise plan (Exercising for Twelve Minutes . . . ) Of course food choices and exercise are crucial! But without optimal thyroid function, you will struggle and maybe even give up on weight loss. And sadly, thyroid function is too often ignored by conventional medical practice. In this week’s Terry Talks Nutrition, we’re going to look at nutrients that can turn your thyroid gland from a weak performer into a superstar!
Why Are There So Many Problems With The Thyroid?
Your thyroid is under attack all the time, and its dwindling performance will affect your mood, your immune system, your focus, and definitely, your weight. There are few reasons for thyroid health problems becoming so prominent, but one of them is certainly the disappearance of iodine in our diets and its lack of use in common medical practice. Before the advent of synthetic drugs that are used today, iodine was one of the most beneficial and universal medicines used by physicians around the world. It was effective for everything; healing wounds and disease, destroying bacteria, viruses and pathogens, and possibly even preventing cancer. But iodine was soon forgotten in favor of new, patented pharmaceutical drugs. Now we’re seeing the result – skyrocketing cancer rates (especially breast and prostate), an epidemic of thyroid dysfunction, and problems detoxifying our bodies. Other elements – chlorine, fluoride, and bromide – which lower iodine levels in the body by blocking iodine receptors – are increasingly consumed in foods or through environmental exposure. Chlorine is now used to purify water instead of iodine. Fluoride is almost universally found in toothpaste and drinking water. Bromines began to replace iodine in commercial baked goods in the 1970s. Unfortunately, these minerals aren’t just toxic for your thyroid – they’re dangerous for your health overall. For example, fluoride is a problem because it blocks the ability of the thyroid gland to concentrate iodine and bromide can cause depression, headaches, and even hallucinations. This sounds frightening, but there is hope. We just need to get smart about the thyroid – and whole body health – and rediscover the nutrients we’ve needed all along.
What the Thyroid Does
First, a bit of background about the thyroid. This butterfly-shaped gland sits at the base of the throat. One of the chief functions of the thyroid is the production of the hormone, thyroxine (T4), and the conversion of this hormone into triiodothyronine (T3) as needed for metabolism. However, things can go badly if the body produces too little thyroxine to begin with. Normal metabolic and other chemical processes slow down, and you have hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. Low functioning thyroid is common in both men and women, although from my experience, women are far more apt to have hypothyroidism than men. But diagnosinghypothyroidism isn’t always what it should be. The most serious problem is that many doctors rely completely on a blood test that is grossly inaccurate and overlooks a majority of low thyroid function diagnoses. That’s because most of the current tests were really inadequate, and didn’t show the full picture of how well the thyroid was functioning. When doctors test for blood levels of T4, they generally find adequate levels of the hormone, so they naturally rule out hypothyroidism. But, only looking at T4 levels is only half of the picture, and the tests aren’t truly far-reaching. Many of these “good” readings of T4 don’t take into consideration the levels of T4 that need to be converted to T3, the active hormone. In fact, readings of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), thyroxine levels and other blood parameters may lead one to believe you are in the “normal” range when the normal range may be far too broad. A test initiated by Dr. Broda Barnes, considered to be one of the premier experts on thyroid, is far better. Plus, it has the added convenience of being able to be performed at home. The procedure is simple:
Normal is 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything under 97.8 probably means varying degrees of suboptimal thyroid function or actual hypothyroidism. In general, the lower the temperature, the worse the condition. But in these cases, it’s not unusual to find readings as low as 96 degrees. Unfortunately, in many cases of hypothyroidism, doctors fall back on the catchall diagnoses: stress, anxiety or depression, because these are symptoms of the real disease. They overlook the root cause of these symptoms. Let me emphasize the fact that low thyroid is very serious. Beyond weight gain, disruptions to the health of the thyroid can alter your personality significantly, completely taking away the enjoyment of life and eventually leading to depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior. I became interested in natural therapy several years ago when I attended a medical conference on the thyroid. While there, I met several very interesting doctors who were using iodine quite successfully as a treatment for a variety of disorders. For thyroid health specifically, these doctors used potassium iodide. Additionally, they recommended supplementing with tyrosine, an amino acid the thyroid absolutely needs.
Where Did Iodine Go?
Because most of us figure that we get enough iodine from salt, it’s easy to forget that iodine was added to salt because of widespread goiter development (enlarged thyroid gland) back in the 1920s. While this did reduce the incidence of goiter and other thyroid problems, many people have cut back on table salt at home. And the processed foods which are typically very high in sodium, don’t necessarily have added iodine. Historically, iodine was always used for infections and for pneumonia and bronchitis. Lack of it was considered to be the cause of mental slowness. Even today, iodine deficiency is considered to be the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. But in the 1940s, a single paper written by two researchers completely changed the way we use iodine. This poorly documented paper gave the impression that iodine use was not only archaic and unnecessary, but could even be dangerous, citing hyperthyroidism as a side effect. Almost overnight the use of iodine in medicine was stopped and in its place we have a fear of one of the most important and critical nutrients in our diet. Iodine costs just pennies a day. With the advent of modern drugs in the 1940s and 1950s could the profits realized by the drug companies have a bearing on discrediting the use of iodine for hypothyroidism?
The Thyroid, Iodine, and Tyrosine
If you’ve never considered yourself as having low thyroid but just don’t feel 100%, consider these simple questions:
If any of these questions seem all-too-familiar, it you may need to give your thyroid more thought.
Tyrosine: Essential for Thyroid Health
You may not hear about tyrosine that much, but without it there would be no hormone function and the adrenals would also be severely affected. To make thyroxine, both iodine and tyrosine must be present either through the diet or dietary supplements. So, if you have a low thyroid it can be the result of an inadequate intake of both iodine and tyrosine. Of course, tyrosine isn’t only involved with thyroid hormone production – it also helps produce noradrenaline and dopamine. But it is impossible to have a well-functioning thyroid without sufficient quantities in the diet or through supplementation. Due to tyrosine’s role in creating neurochemicals, it’s probably no surprise that this amino acid is an excellent stress reliever and a natural treatment for depression as well.
Thyroid Health Really Is That Important!
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that just one small system in the body can be allowed to “slow down a little,” but thyroid health is extremely important. The thyroid regulates the complete metabolic function of the body. Any dysfunction here will make a tremendous impact on how much weight you carry, and how easy (or not) it is to regulate that weight. Plus, an imbalance of its hormone can produce skin disorders, irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, muscle dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances, mental confusion, severe depression, decreased libido, extreme fatigue and apathy. But I think you get the idea. The thyroid very definitely affects how you feel and how you relate to life in general. Starting on a combination of iodine and tyrosine therapy right away can make the difference between keeping your resolutions going strong, and giving up right away. The ingredients I’d recommend for specific thyroid concerns are based on those I’d heard from the doctors I met at the thyroid medical conference: a 30 mg combination of iodine in the form the thyroid gland best utilizes, which is potassium iodide, along with 400 mg of tyrosine. Following this regimen, you will see changes within several weeks. But be patient; to fully restore the thyroid and its metabolic function may take 3-6 months for many people. Remember, you may have had low thyroid all your life. If your mom had low thyroid, more than likely you have had low thyroid since birth, so be patient. Rome was not built in a day, but took time to achieve greatness. You will too.
|Terry recommends an iodine product with these ingredients. Look for it at your local health food store.|
|Iodine (20 mg as potassium iodide, 10 mg as molecular iodine)||30 mg||20,000%|