thyroid

Mary Shomon was about to get married when she started feeling tired and losing her hair. Her doctor told her that it’s all because of the pre-wedding stress, but when she suddenly gained weight and couldn’t fit in her dress, she visited him again. However, her doctor told her that her metabolism is changing as she is 33, and recommended some lifestyle changes. Mary put herself on a healthy diet and started exercising, while also resting well overnight. However, a couple of months later the symptoms were still there, which really concerned her. After extensive tests at the doctor, the cause was revealed – an underactive thyroid.

Mary was unaware of the problem until it hit her. 15 years later, she understands it completely and has even written 8 books on thyroid disorders and treatment. Her bestseller The Thyroid Diet has become a guidebook for thyroid disease prevention and treatment, and she now knows that if she didn’t took her symptoms seriously, it could’ve had serious consequences on her health. “I talked with many people suffering from thyroid disorders who have been told they’re lazy or crazy,” Shomon says. One woman told me that her doctor said that she was suffering from a fork-in-mouth disease!”

According to data from the AACE (American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists), nearly 27 million Americans are suffering from thyroid disease and half of them are undiagnosed. The symptoms of thyroid disease are often confused for symptoms of other diseases, and some doctors ignore thyroid disease as it’s not as dangerous as heart disease. Thyroid cancer isn’t deadly as other types of cancer – it develops slowly, and can easily be eliminated.

However, thyroid disorders should never be ignored. Hypo and hyperthyroidism can cause numerous health problems which can significantly affect your way of life. The tiny gland produces important hormones which are responsible for many functions in the body. These hormones control the quality and health of our skin, hair and nails, while also controlling our sex drive, cholesterol levels, fertility and heart function. Thyroid hormones play a part in muscle and joint pain, as well as our metabolism and body temperature.

According to a study, hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) is responsible for 60% of all female heart attacks, and is more of a factor for heart disease than smoking, hypertension or high cholesterol levels. Thyroid problems are associated with birth defects and miscarriage, as well as lower IQ in babies. Hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid) is just as harmful and has been associated with osteoporosis, prediabetes and heart failure.

THYROID DISEASE

Thyroid diseases affect women more than men. According to Marcelle Rick from the Women to Women Health Care Center in Yarmouth, Maine, progesterone and estrogen imbalance is to blame for thyroid hormone imbalance. She says that there’s a link between women in their 30s or 40s in perimenopause and hypothyroidism. Mary Shomon was in perimenopause when she experienced her problems.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid works slower than it should and produces insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. It is usually caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease in which our immune system cells attack the thyroid and impair the gland’s ability to produce hormones. The main symptoms are weight gain, cold sensitivity, muscle weakness and joint pain, constipation, losing focus, depression, etc.

On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is a condition which occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to arrhythmia, irritability, anxiety, trembling in the limbs, diarrhea, light menstrual flow, insomnia and excess sweating.

Thyroid nodules are a swelling in a part of the thyroid and are very common – women over 50 have 50% higher chances of developing them. They are mysterious – doctors are unable to locate a cause and they don’t cause symptoms, but they are connected to hyperthyroidism in some cases when they grow too big and obstruct the airflow.

Thyroid cancer is not so common and doesn’t cause any symptoms in general. It grows and spreads slowly, and removing the gland eliminates the cancer as well.

Finally, goiters are growths on the thyroid caused by iodine deficiency, and can also be a side-effect of Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.

TREATMENT

Mary was treated with Levoxyl, a drug which is usually prescribed for thyroid disorders along with other drugs such as Unithroid, Synthroid or Levothroid. These drugs are actually artificial thyroid hormones that can jumpstart the gland and regulate the levels of thyroid hormones. They don’t have any side-effects, and aren’t very effective. After 1 year on the therapy, Mary still suffered from hypothyroidism symptoms, so she decided to switch to a natural drug – powdered pig thyroid. This drug is sold as Armour Thyroid or Nature-Throid and is the closest thing to human thyroid hormone.

Mary and other people believe that this option is best for treatment of thyroid disorders. The powdered pig thyroid provides the gland with T3 and T4, while synthetic drugs provide only T4 hormones. Our body converts T4 to T3, so synthetic drugs theoretically work by supplying the body with a small amount of T4 which jumpstarts the gland. However, alternative medicine practitioners say that it’s not enough since the main problem is that the thyroid doesn’t work properly. Hyperthyroidism drugs work by blocking the production of hormones, and may have serious side-effects.

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

Mary Shomon says that it takes more than just Nature-Throid to keep the thyroid healthy and working well. In order to keep it properly functioning, you need to make a few lifestyle changes as well. Avoid consuming white flour, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, sleep 7-8 hours overnight, reduce your stress levels and take vitamin and mineral supplements as well. However, doctors are still pushing for Synthroid use even if the drug doesn’t work for all people. The best way to treat thyroid disorders is to treat the underlying problem.

The thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands are all part of the endocrine system. These glands produce important hormones that regulate many important processes in the body. According to Mike Bauerschmidt, MD, if you’re suffering from a thyroid disorder, you need to learn if the problem is in this gland or the others.

Jennifer Greenfield, DC from North Carolina, says that adrenal hormone imbalance caused by stress or other factors can alter the production of cortisol and cause hypothyroidism. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is caused by thyroid failure and rarely responds to alternative treatments. Even alternative doctors admit that hyperthyroidism is best treated with conventional medications due to the so-called “thyroid storm”, which can elevate your heart rate and blood pressure and is a life-threatening condition.

NATURAL REMEDIES

There are many natural remedies which can manage hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism by balancing, detoxifying and supporting the body. Here are the best ones:

IODINE

At the beginning of the 20th century, iodine was added to salt in order to prevent the goiter epidemic. However, iodine deficiency has been linked to many thyroid disorders. Experts recommend taking 150-250 mg. of iodine supplements every day especially if you’re lacking the mineral. The supplements can be found in liquid, capsule, tablet or pill form.

OTHER VITAMINS AND MINERALS

We all need zinc and magnesium every day, but hypothyroidism patients also need selenium, vitamin A and vitamin D3 supplements. Vitamin B supplements will also assist in the production of thyroid hormones if you’re suffering from hypothyroidism. If your thyroid is over-active, take 6-8 mg. of copper a day to block the production of hormones.

FOODS

There are many foods which contain certain nutrients that can regulate your thyroid hormones. Sea veggies are a great source of iodine. Walnuts, flaxseeds, sardines, salmon and other omega-3 rich foods can stimulate the production of thyroid hormones. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, and selenium is found in Brazil nuts. Gamma oryzanol can be found in rice bran oil. Limit your caffeine intake if you’re trying to control your thyroid hormones as it can limit the absorption of medications in the thyroid. Expert suggest drinking coffee or tea at least an hour after taking thyroid medications.

CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can reduce the amount of iodine in your body and slow down the production of thyroid hormones. Cooking them helps, but avoid eating them in big amounts if you’re suffering from hypothyroidism. According to Mark Hyman, MD, 30% of the people suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis suffer from abnormal gluten reaction, which is why he recommends taking a gluten sensitivity test if you’re suffering from a thyroid disorder.

Thom E. Lobe, MD and director of the Beneveda Medical Group from California, claims that soy might or might not be the cause of thyroid disorders. “Soy might have an estrogenic effect, so it’s not recommended for younger women,” he says. Soy is considered goitrogenic, although this hasn’t been confirmed by many studies. Lobe recommends cutting your soy consumption if you’re concerned that it may be the culprit.

HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS

In order to keep your thyroid healthy, Holly Lucille, ND, recommends taking ashgawandha, licorice and Siberian ginseng supplements every day. People with hyperthyroidism can benefit from stoneseed, while ayurvedic herbs such as manjistha and guggul can detoxify the gland. Some thyroid supplement formulas that contain a mixture of herbs can also control the production of thyroid hormones.

HEAVY METALS AND CHEMICAL DETOX

Lead, mercury and other heavy metals as well as chemicals, pollutants and toxins from the air may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, which is why Lucille recommends detoxifying the thyroid every two weeks. You should also take a heavy metal test to make sure that your body’s free of toxins. Hyman suggests sweating out the heavy metals in sauna or steam baths a couple of times a week. Start with 10 minutes, then gradually increase the duration until you reach 30-40. If you don’t like saunas, soak in a bat with 2 cups of Epsom salt and 8 ounces of baking soda.

AIR AND WATER FILTERS

Hyman says that the fluoride and chlorine in water can impair the iodine absorption in the gland, while mold, pollutants and allergens can also cause thyroid disorders. To avoid these problems, install a water filter at home and use HEPA air purifiers.

EXERCISE

Regular exercise is very important if you’re trying to prevent thyroid diseases. Aim for 30 minutes per day 3-4 times a week for best results. According to some experts, yoga is effective against thyroid disorders and can also regulate your thyroid hormone production.

REDUCE YOUR STRESS LEVELS

Reduce your stress levels any way you can to reduce the adrenal stress and regulate the production of thyroid hormones.

CHIROPRACTIC

Some experts suggest that improperly aligned neck vertebrae can affect the nerves that control the thyroid, which may result in thyroid disorders.

ACUPUNCTURE

According to Jeannette Painovich, an acupuncturist from LA, acupuncture can resolve thyroid disorders by fixing imbalances in the body. She treats hypothyroidism like a spleen qi deficiency, and uses certain herbs to relieve the phlegm. Traditional Chinese medicine identifies hyperthyroidism as liver qi depression and treats it with the chen pi and chai hu herbs.