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The Hypothyroidism Epidemic

Posted Aug 04 2010 5:53pm
The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body, and is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage which is known as the Adam's Apple'... of course this is really easily found on a man but although not as prominent on a women it is still in that general area of the neck. The thyroid controls how quickly the body uses energy (metabolism), makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body should be to other hormones, so it has a pretty big and important job beyond what we commonly think of it for.

The thyroid gland participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, principally triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3 and T4 are made using both iodine as well as tyrosine (an important amino acid). The thyroid gland also produces a hormone called 'calcitonin', which plays a role in calcium balance in the body.

The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary. The most common problems of the thyroid gland consist of an over-active thyroid gland, referred to as 'hyperthyroidism', and an under-active thyroid gland, referred to as 'hypothyroidism'.  Twenty-five percent of the Canadian population has been diagnosed with low thyroid function and another 10% have symptoms despite “normal” blood tests.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the underproduction of "thyroid hormones" (T3 and T4). Hypothyroid disorders occur when the thyroid gland is inactive or underactive as a result of improper formation from birth, damage to the gland, improper nutrition or the removal in whole or the removal in part of the thyroid gland.

Symptoms Include:

• Low body temperature
• Feeling cold when everyone else is warm
• Unable to lose weight
• Skin is dry, coarse, scaly and thick
• Hair is dry, coarse, breaking/falling out
• Hoarse or gravely voice
• Low blood pressure
• Constipation, sometimes severe
• Chronic fatigue, exhaustion
• Outer third of eyebrow(s) missing
• Irregular menstrual cycles
• Puffiness and swelling around eyes/face
• Muscle and joint pain
• Trouble conceiving a baby
• More frequent colds and infections
• Diminished sex drive
• Swelling or lump in neck or throat
• Irregular heart beat
• Poor short term memory
• Family history of thyroid disease

Cookie-Cutter Thyroid Ranges

You’ve gone for blood work and your doctor says your results are “normal”. So you’re okay right? Maybe not... you need to ask more questions if you’re still experiencing symptoms. The ranges that doctors use to determine your thyroid function are too “cookie cutter” and since everyone is bio-chemically unique they can’t be applied to everyone especially if you can't explain away your symptoms.
What works for one person may not work for you!

Blood tests can determine advanced stages of low thyroid function, however, a basal temperature test and symptom assessment may be a more reliable way to identify the early stages of thyroid malfunction. If you can catch this early enough that it can be something that is easily nipped in the bud; using many different Homeopathic remedies and some easy nutritional tips. Unfortunately if you ignore this it won’t go away and chances are that you will develop as thyroid disease in the future.

Subclinical Hypothyroidism

Subclinical hypothyroidism occurs when thyrotropin (TSH) levels are elevated but thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) levels are normal. Or, sometimes all your ranges are “normal” but your symptoms cannot be explained. One way of measuring whether or not your thyroid is “subclinically low” is by taking your basal metabolic temperature.

It’s easy to do; every morning before you get out of bed and start your day, take your temperature. Ideally this should be done for an entire month to track you through an entire monthly cycle (for women) but a short 2 week snap shot can be just as helpful. Normal temperature ranges should be from 97.5 to 98.9 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.2 to 37.2 degrees Celsius. Your thyroid is hypoactive if temperature averages 97.5 (F) or 36.2 (C) or less.

Why is this happening?

The vast majority of cases of hypothyroidism (roughly 95% or more) are caused by a problem within the thyroid gland. A much smaller number of cases (roughly 5% or less) are caused by a problem in the brain or pituitary gland, a small gland located beneath the brain.

Exposure to high doses of radiation for the treatment of head and neck cancers also can cause hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism may occur in up to 65% of such individuals within 10 years of the radiation treatment. Even if you’re not being treated for thyroid cancer, repeated exposure to dental x-rays will do the same damage – especially if starting from a young age. The thyroid is a very sensitive gland which is rather close to the surface of the skin and not well protected at all.

Additionally and adding to this is the fact that most people who live inland and away from the sea are iodine deficient which is an essential nutrient to the function of the thyroid gland; they have added iodine in our salt but this is still insufficient for many people.  Following closely with this is protein deficiency, many of us and especially women are protein deficient.  The average woman needs about 3 15g servings of protein per day supplying many essential amino acids which aid in thyroid function. 

Also, we know that the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland are closely linked, as are most of the glands of the endocrine system. Too much stress which is unmanaged wreak havoc on the adrenal glands, which intern puts stress on the thyroid, which overtime impedes thyroid function. 

And finally, when chemicals, such as pesticides, synthetic hormones (HRT, birth control pills), preservatives, or synthetic fertilizers enter the body (whether eaten or through water supply), they mimic the female hormone estrogen. Too much estrogen blocks the uptake of thyroid hormone causing low thyroid function!

It may not be any one thing that is causing the rise in thyroid disease in this country, but more likely a combination of many of these things which bombard us on a daily basis.

Other Recommendations

• B-complex – for adrenal fatigue, which is common among those with low thyroid
• Include sea vegetables like Kelp in your meals
• Start a meditation or other stress management practice
• Eat protein with every meal and snack
• Avoid environmental toxins as much as possible by eating organic
• Ask a professional about supplements specifically designed to support the thyroid

Consult a qualified Homeopath for more information on how Homeopathy can help with this issue!

Written by: Giovanna Capozza D.H.M.H.S, RHN, RhA
Homeopath, Nutritionist and Holistic Allergist

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thyroid
http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/hypothyroidism/hyo_causes.html#radiation
Pathophysiology: The Biologic Basis for Disease in Adults And Children Fifth Edition by Kathryn L. McCance and Sue E. Huether
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