Thyroid Problems

Thyroid

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the throat area at the level of the Adam's apple. It is a very unique gland that is absolutely required for life.

The thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland produces several very important hormones. The major one iscalled thyroxine, tetra-iodothyronine or T4. The thyroid also seems to produce a little tri-iodothyronine or T3. Most of this hormone, however, is made elsewhere in the body. It also produces a hormone called calcitonin that helps regulate calcium in the body. It tends to reduce serum calcium levels.

Functions of the thyroid hormones

Thyroid hormones are like the spark plugs of the body. They ignite the fuel in the mitochondria of the cell to produce energy with which the body performs all of its functions. For this reason, any problem with the thyroid gland causes energy problems and usually fatigue.

This amazing hormone is absolutely required for energy production in the cells, and for growth. It tends to increase the metabolic rate and this impacts every area of body functioning. This includes digestive health, cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, protein synthesis, body weight, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, muscle strength, sleep and sexual functioning.

Thyroid hormones also give a certain brightness and lightness to the personality. Low levels during gestation or the development of a fetus cause a type of mental retardation called cretinism. This is the origin of the slang expression calling a stupid person "a cretin". Low levels in childhood cause reduced mental activity, and often depression. Too much thyroid hormone causes extreme irritability and nervousness. The slang phrase "he is hyper" comes from the word hyperthyroid.

The thyroid hormones are also concerned with creativity and expression in the world. They are needed to reach out to the world and participate in it. Those with very low thyroid functioning are often withdrawn and depressed for this reason. In contrast, many famous people who are "out in the world" have higher levels of thyroid hormones.

COMMON THYROID PROBLEMS

Thyroid imbalance and/or disease is one of the most common conditions in the Western world today. The problems tend to be worse in women, and worse in adults than in children.

Common types of thyroid imbalances include:

  • Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a mild infection of the thyroid gland.
  • Grave's disease or hyperthyroidism.
  • Thyroid nodules.
  • Goiters
  • Thyroid cancer.

In our experience, all of the conditions above can usually be handled much better with natural methods of care than with regular medical treatments. The only time that hormone therapy is needed is if one has absolutely no thyroid gland left due to surgery or radioactive iodine treatments or RAI.

In almost all cases, thyroid hormone replacement therapy may give symptomatic relief, but it will impair deeper healing. If a person has Grave's disease or hyperthyroidism, irradiating the thyroid or cutting it out is never needed and is a very barbaric and harmful way of taking care of this relatively simple condition.

Instead of this approach, this article discusses a more fundamental and much more effective way to handle most thyroid conditions through nutritional balancing science. The correction may be slower, but it is permanent, and it builds health instead of destroying it.

WHY IS THYROID DISEASE SO COMMON TODAY?

Thyroid problems are epidemic around the world, especially in the Western world, for the following reasons:

1. Stress. Stress can cause many cases of thyroid imbalance. The stress can be physical, emotional, financial, structural or other. Any of these weakens the thyroid gland.

2. Iodine antagonists in the environment. This is a very serious problem that few talk about. However, the water and food supply is loaded with halogens, which are elements that can replace iodine in the thyroid gland. They mainly include fluorides, chlorides, and bromides. These elements compete with iodine for absorption and utilization in our bodies. When they replace iodine, the thyroid gland simply stops working properly.

3. Copper and mercury toxicity in almost everyone. Copper and mercury can easily interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland. They may do this by antagonizing or opposing the action of zinc, manganese and selenium, or perhaps by other mechanisms. Unfortunately, copper and mercury toxicity are almost universal today. Mercury gets into our bodies due to mercury in dental fillings, mercury in all fish except perhaps very small fish like sardines, and in some cases other sources of mercury.

Copper imabalance is due to many factors. Among the most important are adrenal insufficiency, vegetarian-type diets, zinc deficiency, stress and a few others. To learn about this, read Copper Toxicity Syndrome.

4. Nutrient deficiencies. These include low levels in our food of bioavailable zinc, selenium, iodine, manganese and others that are needed for proper thyroid functioning.

5. Other. Infections, cancers and other things occasionally arise in the thyroid gland. This is the case with Hashimoto's disease. We find it goes away easily and one should not take hormones for it.

However, in most cases, these causes are secondary to the first five causes listed above. If those are taken care of, the infections and even cancers go away on their own.

Before discussing how to help most thyroid conditions, here is a brief review of how the thyroid gland works.

THYROID PHYSIOLOGY

Thyroid gland metabolism involves many steps, all of which must work properly:

However, in most cases, these causes are secondary to the first five causes listed above. If those are taken care of, the infections and even cancers go away on their own.

1. The pituitary gland must secrete the right amount of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. This cause the thyroid to secrete thyroxine. Anything that upsets the delicate feedback system of the body, such as taking thyroid replacement medication, for example, or some other drugs, perhaps, can upset the pituitary regulation of thyroid activity.

2. Hormone production in the thyroid gland. A major thyroid hormone is called tetra-iodothyronine. It is also called thyroxine or T4. To make it requires manganese, iodine, selenium, tyrosine, cyclic AMP, vitamins C and B-complex, and many other micronutrients that are low in our food today. If you eat poor quality food, raw food except dairy products, refined foods, or a vegetarian diet, you will not get enough nutrients to supply the thyroid with all its nutritional needs.

Hormone production also requires adequate circulation to the thyroid gland. This is needed so that all the required nutrients and enough TSH can find their way to the gland. One problem in some women, in particular, is that tension in the neck area can impair the circulation to the thyroid area. Chiropractic, postural work, rolfing, and other types of body therapies can be helpful to correct this. Nutritional balancing science will cause muscles relaxation that is often needed as well. Stress reduction is also most helpful.

Tension in the neck can overstimulate or irritate the nerves going to the thyroid gland. This leads to excessive hormone production for a short while, and then the gland begins to 'burn out' of nutrients, eventually causing a sluggish thyroid. Just giving nutrients does not really fix this problem, though it will help, of course. One must also release the tension on the nerves leading to the thyroid that are in the neck and cervical spine area. Otherwise, the gland will not function properly.

What often blocks hormone synthesis? Excessive oxidant stress, nutrient deficiencies or toxic metals or chemicals that find their way to the thyroid can block hormone synthesis.
Mercury and copper toxicity may sometimes stimulate hormone synthesis, but in other cases these and other toxic metals may inhibit or interfere with hormone synthesis. Among the worst offenders are fluorides, chlorine compounds and bromides found in breads. These can directly antagonize or compete with iodine uptake, preventing proper hormone synthesis. This is a terrible problem today as we are all exposed to these chemicals.

3. Hormone release. Secretion of thyroid hormones requires sympathetic nervous stimulation. Many people have exhausted adrenals or other autonomic imbalances that may affect the sympathetic nervous system.

4. Absorption into the cells. Once released into the blood, T4 must be absorbed into the body cells. For this to occur, the cell membranes must function properly.

Accumulation of biounavailable calcium and magnesium excessively stabilize cell membranes and reduce cell permeability. Deficient calcium and magnesium cause excessive cell permeability.

Oxidant stress or impaired fatty acid metabolism such as a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids or other damage to cell membranes can also block absorption of thyroxine.

Copper affects absorption by altering calcium and potassium levels. Cadmium or nickel toxicity affect hormone absorption by affecting the levels of calcium, sodium and other critical minerals.

5. Conversion to T3. Once inside the cells, thyroxine must be converted to T3 or tri-iodothyronine, a more active form of the hormone. This conversion requires selenium and other nutrients. A newer syndrome has been identified in which people do not convert T4 to T3 adequately. Instead of producing T3, they produce another compound called reverse T3. This situation is called Wilson's syndrome. In our experience, if a person eats well, and removes his toxic metals, especially mercury, this is not a concern and goes away.

6. Utilization in the Mitochondria. Potassium plays a role in sensitizing the mitochondria to thyroid hormone. Without this, the mitochondria simply do not respond to the presence of thyroid hormones or T3.

The mitochondria, however, also require many nutrients such as B-complex vitamins, iron, copper and many others to produce ATP or adenosine triphosphate in the glycolysis and carboxylic acid cycles in the mitochondria. This amazing chemical is like the refined gasoline, as opposed to crude oil, that our bodies actually use for fuel.

Once ATP is formed in the mitochonidria, the body cells must also be able to use it properly. Here again, many nutrients are needed to utilize ATP. Basically, the ATP is converted to another amazing chemical called ADP, which can then be recycled back to ATP. If any of the nutritional factors are deficient, or if any toxins block these critical steps in the energy pathways, thyroid hormones will be ineffective in increasing energy production.

Resulting thyroid imbalances. Problems can occur at any stage of the production, release, conversion or utilization of thyroid hormone. The concepts of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are incomplete and often misleading as they only relate to hormone production and release.

For example, one may have inadequate hormone production due to radiation damage. Another produces enough hormone, but has an autonomic imbalance preventing its release.

Another cannot transport enough hormones into the cells due to low cell permeability. Still another person might have adequate hormone production but be unable to utilize the hormones in the cells due to manganese deficiency or fluoride toxicity.

Another may have excess hormone production due to copper or mercury toxicity and at the same time have inadequate cell permeability, causing a mixture of hypo- and hyperthyroid symptoms.

MEDICAL APPROACHES TO THYROID DISEASE

The prevalence of thyroid disease and the failure of the medical profession to handle it correctly is one of the most important failures of allopathic or conventional medical care. Modern naturopathic and holistic care is little better but may include dietary and nutritional correction, at least.

We find that thyroid replacement hormones are rarely needed, and in almost all cases harmful. Problems with taking thyroid replacement hormones of any kind, natural or synthetic, include:

1. Hormone therapies do nothing to improve the conversion of T4 to T3. One can give T3, and this is better for this reason.

2. Hormone therapies do nothing to assist passage of thyroid hormone through the cell membranes.

3. Hormone therapies do nothing to assist the absorption of T3 into the mitochondria.

4. Hormone therapies do nothing to assist the normal production of ATP in the mitochondria, which requires many nutrients.

5. Hormone therapies does nothing to assist the body to "burn" or utilize the ATP, convert it to ADP, and then recycle it back to ATP.

6. Hormone replacement completely mixes up the delicate cybernetic feedback system that normally regulates pituitary TSH production, thyroid hormone synthesis, and all other steps in this complex process that is essential for life and health.

Medical thyroid testing. Thyroid physiology is very complex, as explained above. Just measuring the serum levels of T3, T4 and TSH, and perhaps thyroid antibodies, which is what most endocrinologists and doctors do, is just touching the surface of the problem and wholly inadequate.

HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS FOR THYROID ASSESSMENT

Hair mineral assessment of the thyroid is totally different from serum hormone testing. The hair analysis measures a metabolic or cellular effect of the thyroid hormones upon the metabolic or oxidation rate. It can also measure the levels of certain trace minerals and toxic metals that affect the thyroid. It does not measure the levels of circulating serum hormones. We find that hair assessment is often far more accurate, though not always.

Here are some of the most important thyroid assessment indicators found on a hair mineral analysis:

1. Hair calcium. The higher the level of hair calcium, in general, the lower the effective activity of the thyroid gland. This occurs because one of the effects of T3 and T4 is to lower calcium levels in the tissues and at times, in the blood. For example, it is known that hyperthyroidism can cause tetany, or muscle contractions that are due to low serum calcium.

Lower calcium is also associated with increased cell permeability. This may allow more thyroid hormone to enter the cells, increasing the cellular effect of the same amount of circulating serum thyroid hormones.

2. Hair potassium. A lower hair potassium is associated with reduced cellular effects of thyroid hormones. This occurs because it is known that low potassium is associated with reduced sensitivity of the mitochondrial receptors to thyroid hormone. Also, low potassium and sodium are associated with reduced cell permeability to thyroid hormones.

This means that even if the serum thyroid hormone levels are normal, when tissue potassium is low they may not be utilized, resulting in a low thyroid effect. This commonly contributes to thyroid problems in slow oxidizers.

3. The calcium/potassium ratio is called the thyroid ratio. Ratios are often better ways to assess body functioning. For the reasons given in 1 and 2 above, the calcium/potassium ratio is the primary way use to assess overall thyroid activity.

Other possible hair indicators are:

1. Manganese deficiency or biounavailability. Manganese is required for energy production in the mitochondria of the cells. Manganese deficiency or biounavailability are very common today. This may be indicated on a properly performed hair analysis by a manganese level of less than about 0.016 mg% or more than about 0.04 mg%.

2. Copper toxicity. Copper imbalance can stimulate the thyroid in an unnatural way. It may play a role in hypothyroidism and in Grave's disease or hyperthyroidism.

Copper assessment is tricky using hair mineral analysis. One must not use the copper level, as it is often unreliable. Instead, one must look for hidden copper indicators. For more on this, read Copper Toxicity Syndrome on this site. However, copper imbalance appears to be very important in some thyroid conditions.

3. Selenium. Selenium is required to produce thyroid hormone and to convert T4 to T3. It is also required to detoxify and remove most heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the body. Hair analysis can provide some information about selenium status. Most people, however, need more selenium today.

4. Mercury. Mercury can also accumulate in the thyroid gland, altering its functioning. Hair analysis is excellent to asses mercury, provided one realizes that mercury toxicity is epidemic and affects most people. A very low level is no guarantee that it is not present and simply not being eliminated at the time of the test. Hair mercury should be about 0.025 to 0.04 mg%. Anything higher or lower is usually indicative of toxicity.

5. Other. In a few cases, other indicators are important to assess the thyroid. These include the oxidation rate, the sodium/potassium ratio and others.

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