Last week, I told you about low thyroid function and how it affects more than 30 million women and 15 million men.
So why are we seeing such an epidemic of thyroid problems?
Well, chronic thyroid problems can be caused by many factors. These include environmental toxins such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function.
In fact, one study found that as people lost weight they released pesticides from their fat tissue. (1)
This then interfered with their thyroid function and caused hypothyroidism. The toxins created a slow metabolism and prevented them from losing more weight.
This study highlights the importance of overall detoxification. It is quite a significant finding that shows exactly how toxins interfere with thyroid function.
Heavy metals such as mercury can also affect thyroid function. I see many people with chronic hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems because mercury interferes with normal thyroid function.
The other big factor that interferes with thyroid function is chronic stress.
There is an intimate interaction between stress hormones and thyroid function. The more stress you are under, the worse your thyroid functions.
Any approach to correcting poor thyroid function must address the effects of chronic stress and provide support to the adrenal glands.
The next major factor that affects thyroid function is chronic inflammation. The biggest source of this chronic inflammation is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barely, rye, spelt, and oats.
Gluten is a very common allergen that affects about 10 to 20 percent of the population. This reaction occurs mostly because of our damaged guts, poor diet, and stress.
I also think eating so-called Frankenfoods, such as hybridized and genetically modified grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick.
Our bodies say, “What’s this? Must be something foreign. I’d better create antibodies to this, fight it, and get rid of it.”
This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function -- and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.
Lastly, nutritional deficiencies play a big role in thyroid dysfunction. These include deficiencies of iodine, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, and the B vitamins.
There are so many reasons for low thyroid function, yet I have seen lots of patients with this problem who were just ignored by their doctors.
==> So what’s the solution?
One young female patient of mine had more than 30 percent body fat and was unable to change her body, no matter how hard she worked. She ate perfectly, exercised with a trainer every day -- and her body still wouldn’t budge.
She also had a slightly depressed mood and other vague symptoms.
So I treated her with a low dose of Armour Thyroid, which is a natural thyroid replacement.
Well, she not only lost 20 pounds and improved her body composition, but her mood improved and all her other symptoms went away.
How did I know she had low thyroid function?
Once I have asked about symptoms, done a physical exam, and considered all the potential causes of thyroid problems, I do the right tests.
Most doctors just check something called the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which doesn’t give a full picture of the thyroid. In fact, even the interpretation of this test is incorrect most of the time.
The newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anybody with a TSH level over 3.0 as hypothyroid. Most doctors think that only anything over 5 or 10 is worth treating.
Unfortunately, this leaves millions suffering unnecessarily.
There are also other tests, including free T3 and free T4 and thyroid antibodies, which are essential.
I also look for associated problems such as gluten intolerance, food allergies, and heavy metals, as well as deficiencies of vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, zinc, and omega-3 fats.
There are many things to consider in a careful approach to hypothyroidism.
It is one of the most common problems I see, and treating it properly makes one of the biggest differences in my patients’ quality of life.
Unfortunately, by using the old guidelines and thinking, conventional medicine misses millions who suffer with hypothyroidism.
In fact, in one study, researchers tested everybody who walked through the gates of a county fair with conventional thyroid testing. They found that according to even conservative conventional standards, half of all the people who had hypothyroidism were undiagnosed, untreated, and suffering.
So I encourage you to take the following steps:
Make a thorough inventory of any of the symptoms that I mentioned in last week’s blog to see if you might suffer from hypothyroidism.
Get the right thyroid tests including TSH, free T3, free T4, TPO, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies.
Check for celiac disease with a celiac panel.
Consider heavy metal toxicity.
Check your vitamin D level.
Once you have confirmed that a sluggish thyroid is contributing to your symptoms, the good news is that there are many, many, many things you can do to help correct thyroid problems.
I have developed a seven-step plan to address hypothyroidism:
Identify and treat the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, like food allergies, gluten, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, and stress.
Support your thyroid with optimal nutrition, including foods that contain iodine, zinc, omega-3 fats, selenium, and more.
Eliminate adrenal exhaustion and minimize stress by engaging in a comprehensive stress management program.
Engage in thyroid stimulating exercise, which boosts thyroid function.
Use supplements to help enhance thyroid function, including all the nutrients needed for proper thyroid metabolism and function.
Use saunas and heat to eliminate stored toxins, which interfere with thyroid function.
Use thyroid hormone replacement therapy to help support your thyroid gland.
I believe a comprehensive approach is needed to address chronic thyroid issues and to diagnose them. Unfortunately, most of the options for healing by conventional care are quite limited and only provide a partial solution. But by following my seven-step plan you can achieve optimal health and UltraWellness.
Now I’d like to hear from you…
If you have low thyroid function, how was it diagnosed?
Which of these steps have you tried to treat it?
How have they helped?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Dr Hyman, I was diagnosed with low thyroid function based on TSH test only. I am on the lowest dose of Levothyroxine (in 4th month now). After 2 months I had another TSH test and was told the TSH is fine now and should carry on with the medication. I have lost some weight initially and still loosing more, slowly. Otherwise, I feel worse than before taking the medicine and have more symptoms. I am still tired, my skin is dry and sensitive to touch and my eyes sore, dry and blood shot all the time. I tried differen eye drops and they seem to make it worse. Last week I had shooting pains in my face and scalp on the left side only and the skin felt if scolded, the symptoms are still there to some degree. I also feel depressed. I eat well and never smoked but had gallbladder surgery last year due to huge stones although I hate fatty and junk foods. The digestive problems after surgery have got worse for some reason as well. My doctor doesn't want me to stop taking the hormone but I am convinced that it is making me feel worse.
Dr Hyman. i fogot to mention i have swollen fingers especially in the morning and get swollen legs and feet by evening. I take a,e, b12, omega 3-6-9, luten calcium 1200 with d, stomach enzyme . I am working on 64 oz of water. you did not mention any particular herbals. I eat properly and do not smoke- protein, vegs and fruits, very little bread- 12 or 15 grain. perhaps 1 piece a day. is there anything else i can do? avalon
I came across this blog because I was interested in seeing the relationship between hypothyroidism and a weakened immune system. Your information has been quite helpful and I have scheduled an appointment with my physician.
To answer you questions, here is a little background about me.
I am a 24 year old female who just started working about a year ago. My health insurance encourages a yearly physicial and so I got one in the early fall of last year. After the first physical, my blood results returned with a high TSH of around ~7.5. More tests were run testing the specific thyroid hormones. Again, my TSH was around 7.5 but my T4 was high as well. I spoke to my doctor about this because having a high TSH and a high T4 is contradictory. Regardless, I was put on Synthroid. About three weeks in I developed a rash all over my body to which it was determined that I am allergic to Synthroid. It is important to note that my pharmacy gave me the generic Levothyroxine and not name brand. I went off Synthroid for about 4 weeks and returned for blood tests. This time my TSH was around 4.7 and I was prescribed Armour Thyroid. It has been about 4 or 5 months of taking Armour Thyroid and I am not sure it is helping. I have the following symptoms:
1. Low to no sex drive
2. dry scaly skin on my neck and above my eyes--even with constant moisturizers
4. I am getting sick about once a month. I used to only get sick once a year and it wasn't that horrible. Now I get sick and I am down and out.
5. I am still relatively constipated.
6. Low body temperature
7. Low heartrate--although I've always had a low heartrate
It is important to note that prior to my physical I had lost about 10 lbs naturally with diet and exercise in a 6 month period. It wasn't a strict diet! I have reached a standstill now.
I have done a number of things to help alleviate my condition besides taking the supplement. I am borderline anemic so I have started putting more greens in my diet. I do not drink coffee or any cafeinated beverages for that matter. However I do get plenty of water throughout the day and plenty of OJ every morning. I exercise for about 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. I used to sit in the sauna but my gym is undergoing renovations. I get about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
Overall, I feel my condition has worsened despite being on the medicine. Clearly I may need a higher dose of Armour thyroid but only the blood tests will reveal if it is having any effect on my TSH levels. I am concerned that I may have a greater issue than just hypothyrdoism and I may seek a second opinion.
Feel free to provide feedback on my case. My email is