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Is low thyroid function at the root of your health problem?

posted on 17 July 2004 | posted in Health Articles


Is low thyroid function at the root of your problem?
Many people visit their doctor exhibiting signs and symptoms that their thyroid is under active. Their GP will arrange for a blood test that will examine levels of T4, Thyroxine, in the blood and also thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), that is produced by the pituitary gland situated in the base of the brain. Many times, the tests come back within the normal range. Patients are then left wondering why it is that they feel so tired and lethargic.

From time to time laboratory tests will demonstrate a serum thyroxine that is in the so called "normal" range yet the person will show all the signs of hypothyroidism. The first point to make here is that the figure may be at the lower end of the normal range and that person may require a level that is somewhat higher for optimum functioning. The second point to make is that thyroxine itself is metabolically inert, and must be converted to tri-iodothyronine before it can exert its cellular functions. If conversion to tri-iodothyronine is impaired for any reason, (eg nutrient deficiency, mercury toxicity) symptoms of hypothyroidism will be produced. Thirdly, the thyroxine may not be bioavailable in the prexence of candidiasis, since Candida binds thyroxine (for more information, click on related article on Candida and Toxic Metals)

We call this a 'sub-clinical" problem. By helping to balance the thyroid gland using natural remedies, this helps the thyroid (and other endocrine glands of the body that play a part in regulating metabolism) to normalise and help the body to return to balance (homoeostasis).

What is the difference between T3 and T4?
The main hormone produced by the thyroid gland is thyroxine (T4), which consists of two molecules of iodinated tyrosine. A further hormone, tri-iodothyronine, is also synthesized by the thyroid gland and this is identical to thyroxine except it contains one less iodine atom per molecule. Once these thyroid hormones have been secreted and are on site within the cells of body tissues, almost all of the thyroxine is de-iodinated by one atom to form tri-iodothyronine (T3), which has a much greater affinity for the cells thyroid hormone receptors, with the result that tri-iodothyronine is about four times as potent as thyroxine. (Thyroxine, should therefore probably be regarded merely as a prohormone). Once binding to the thyroid hormone receptors occurs, nuclear transcription is initiated, with the result that hundreds of different proteins are generated, including enzymes, structural proteins and transport proteins. The net consequence of this is a generalized increase in the metabolic activities of almost all of the tissues in the body.

Some of the specific effects of thyroid hormones are as follows: increased basal metabolic rate, enhanced fat and carbohydrate metabolism; decreased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels; weight loss: increased blood flow, especially in skin to facilitate heat elimination; increased heart rate and strength of heartbeat; increased motility of gastrointestinal tract; increased speed of thinking; enhanced vigour of muscle contraction and enhanced secretion of most endocrine glands.

Underactivity of the thyroid gland i.e. hypothyrodism, is an extremely common condition and responsible for an enormous amount of ill health. Apart from causing obvious symptoms like fatigue, over weight and sensitivity to the cold, it ensures that almost every system in thebody is at a low ebb. Overt hypothyroidism is believed by orthodoxy to affect about 1% of the population (with women being affected more than men). However, the monumental research work of Broda Barnes suggests that in fact some 40% of the population exhibt varying degrees of hypothyroidism, and our own work strongly supports this contention. In view of its prevalence, everyone should be asked to take the temperature test, which is simplicity itself to perform, and can be more reliable than blood tests for thyroxine. Underarm temperature should be recorded for ten minutes before arising in the morning. This procedure should be followed for three mornings in a row and the average temperature calculated. The correct temperature should be within the range 97. - 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit (36.6 - 36.8 degrees Celsius). Pre-menopausal females are advised to commence taking temperatures as soon as menstruation ceases). A mean temperature of below 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit (36.6 degrees Celsius) is suggestive of hypothyroidism, though is by no means diagnostic, since adrenal and liver function, as well as degree of tissue oxygenation, can also affect the body temperature.

Mainstream medicine considers that the causes of hypothyroidism, apart from iodine deficiency, are unknown, although the presence of thyroid autoantibodies can be demonstrated in 80% of non-goitrous hypothyroid patients, suggesting that the hypothyroidism is the end result of an autoimmune thyroiditis. This category of hypothyroidism is referred to as primary idiopathic hypothyroidism, and is associated with an atrophied thyroid gland. A further category is known as Hashimoto's disease, and this is again believed to autoimmune in origin.

In alternative medicine, however, nutritional causes of hypothyroidism are considered to account for many cases of hypothyroidism
Vitamins A,E,B2,B3,B6,C, iodine, zinc, manganese and tyrosine are necessary for thyroxine synthesis, while zinc, copper, iron and selenium are required for the conversion of thyroxine to tri-iodothyronine. A deficiency in any of these nutrients may therefore result in hypothyroid symptoms. Further, it is believed that candidiasis and mercury toxicity(from amalgam fillings) are common causes of sutoimmunity that may impact on thyroid functioning. (Additionally Candida can bind thyroxine, rendering it inactive)

With regard to the clinical picture, the typical hypothyroid subject is tired, sluggish, sensitive to cold, constipated and somewhat overweight with dry, pale skin. In fact an incredible number of signs and symptoms may be exhibited and these are listed under the headings below, which can be used as a questionnaire to help assess thyroid function.

There are a number of herbs that benefit the thyroid gland specifiacally according to the work of Dr. Christopher. These can be beneficial in cases of a sub clinical hypothyroid.


Kelp
Contains the widest spectrum of vitamins and minerals, amongst the herbs. It is particularly rich in calcium, iron and trace elements, especially iodine, which is essential for thyroxine formation. (The iodine content of kelp can reach 1% of its dry weight). carotenoid content (carotene and zeaxanthin) is also high. Kelp is renowned for its value in activating and stimulating the endocrine system.

Irish Moss
Irish Moss is a seaweed that is considered to be an alterative, that is a herb that stregthens and supports the whole of the body. It is highly nutritive, supplying iodine, manganese, sodium and other essential trace elements.

Nettles
The nettle plant is also considered to an alterative, and similarily is highly nutritive, being rich in minerals, particularly iron and silica and vitamins, particularly Vitamin C.

Parsley
Parsley is an excellent source of Vitamin C, and also provides carotene, calcium, copper, iron, potassium and manganese.

Damiana

Damiana is a nervine tonic that tonifies the hormonal system in general. particularly the thyroid gland.

Siberian Ginseng
Russian research indicates that Siberian ginseng is a circulatory stimulant, and can thus benefit important organs such as the endocrine glands. It contains vitamins and various amino acids.

Mistletoe
Contains calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium and like Siberian ginseng, is a circulatory stimulant.

In many cases these herbs for low thyroid is a stand-alone treatment. For others it may be necessary to add tyrosine and possibly thyroid-supporting nutrients. Colleagues and ourselves have received reports of weight losses of 1 stone in 1-2 months on this product, and it sometimes produces a tremendous sense of well-being. One lady who had been on these herbs for only a short period of time was moved to write "I feel so much better. The effect is profound: it's as if it has helped something in my brain to stop me craving bad things and to have the energy to prepare better food etc.. I have had some kind of cold but even through that I felt great because there was none of my previous fatigue, just amazing energy!"

The underarm temperature test can be used to monitor progress, and the goal of treatment is to normalize this temperature. Where causal chain testing (using kinesiology as the assessment tool) suggests that hypothyroidism is secondary to pituitary dysfunction, hypothalamic dysfunction, pineal gland dysfunction, hypoadrenia, candidiasis or mercury toxicity, treatment of the underlying cause should accompany thyroid support. Visit a naturopath who can give supplements to help stimulate thyroid gland secretion and increase tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormones, so this should always be advised when treating hypothyroid symptoms.
These herbs may be taken alongside thyroxine where an attempt to salvage residual thyroid function is being made, though the usage of thyroxine may have to be lowered.
Kelp Formula is not suitable for the treatment of an overactive thyroid gland.
Signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Cardiovascular
Slow pulse (less than 65 beats/min), palpitations, enlarges heart, diminished heart sounds, ECG changes, decreased cardiac output, low blood pressure., high blood pressure (diastolic), poor circulation (especially in hands and feet), increased rate of heart disease (enhanced atherosclerosis)

Gastrointestinal
Poor appetite, dysphagia, poor digestion,(low acid and pancreatic enzymes, decreased gall-bladder motility), nutrient malabsorption, gas, colic, decreased peristalsis, constipation, pancreatitis (from hypothermia).

Musculoskeletal
Muscle cramps (especially at night), myalgia, muscle stiffness, firm muscles, slow movement (delayed muscle contraction and relaxation), miscellaneous body pains, persitant low back pain, arthritis, joint stiffness (especially after immobility), painful or sensitive costal cartilage, carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve compression by mucinous deposits), slow tendon jerks, ligament and tendon laxity, osteoporosis.

Respiratory
Dyspnoea (laboured, difficult breathing), inability to breathe deeply, obstructive sleep apnoea, pleural effusion .

Metabolic
Diabetes, hypoglycaemia, liver sluggishness, hypoadrenia, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertriglyceridaemia, reduced HDL-cholesterol, enhanced atherosclerosis, reduced platelet, adhesiveness, hyperuricaemia, vitamin A deficiency (poor conversion from carotene), night blindness, mineral deficiency eg. calcium, iron, copper (resulting from hypo-/achlorhydria), anaemia (low bone marrow temperature, iron deficiency, menorrhagia), vitamin B12 malabsorption (may result in pernicious anaemia).

Sex and Reproduction
Progesterone deficiency, menorrhagia, polymenorrhoea, irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhoea, oligomenorrhoea/amenorrhoea (late hypothyroidism), endometriosis, repeated miscarriage, stillbirths, prematurity, reduced libido (both sexes), infertility (females-anovulation, males- oligospermia), reduced androgen secretion, impotence.

Mind and Emotions
Nervousness, listlessness, mental sluggish, apathy, slow wittedness, loss of intiative, fuzzy thinking, poor memory. poor concentration, lack of sparkle, easily distracted, emotional instability, irritability, bad temper, abnormal responsiveness to petty annoyances, hostility, chip on the shoulder attitude, introversion, dislike of confrontations, lying, suspiciousness, paranoia, dislike of being watched, dislike of crowds, sudden changes in personality, psychosis, depression, agitation, dementia.

Temperature Control
Low basal temperature, feels the cold, feels better in Summer, feels better in hot climates, feels better as day progresses, feels better after excercise, symptoms worsen in Autumn & Spring when thyroid is re-regulating.

Skin
Cold skin, pale skin (poor circulation), pale lips, dry skin (reduced sweat and sebaceous gland secretion), thickened skin, puffy skin (especially of face and extremities), waxy skin, scaly skin, coarse skin, chapped skin, cracked skin (hands, feet), yellow skin (hypercarotenaemia), easy bruising (increased capillary fragility), diminished sweating, wounds slow to heal, infections and imperfections, eg. blackhead, whiteheads, acne, boils, herpes (poor circulation results in nutrient lack and waste accumulation), eczema, psoriasis, icthyosis.

Hair
Dry hair, brittle hair, lifeless hair, lacklustre hair, coarse hair, slow growing hair, loss of curl, premature greyness, excessive hair fall (especially in Autumn), sparse eyebrows (especially outer third).

Nails
Weak nails, brittle nails, soft nails, thin nails, thickened nails, lifeless nails, ridged nails, slow growing nails.

Miscellaneous
Fatigue, lethargy, weakness, sluggishness, slow speech, sleepiness, high sleep requirement (up to 16 hours daily), hyperactivity (children), growth failure/short stature, overweight though 40% of hypothyroid subjects are underweight (reduced metabolic rate, excess absorption from gut due to decreased motility, fluid retention), puts on weight easily , goitre, headaches (tend to wear off as day progresses), sluggish lymphatic drainage, fluid retention (impaired renal excretion, hydrophilic mucopolysaccharide deposits in tissues), reduced daytime urination, night time urination (delayed water excretion), proteinuria, puffy upper eyelids, thick, swollen tongue, swollen feet, nasal congestion, eyelids frequently stuck together with mucus on awakening, husky voice (mucinous deposits accumulate in larynx), frquent infections such as colds, flu, sore throats (leucocyte deficiency from low bone marrow temperature), dizziness, vertigo, menieres disease, hearing loss, tinnitus, food allergies, numbness and tingling of extremities (anaemia, carpal tunnel syndrome), clumsiness, ataxia (cerebellar), bleeding tendency (increased capillary fragility, reduced platelet adhesiveness, syncope (diminished cerebral blood flow), epilepsy.

Terry Larder 2004



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