January is Thyroid Awareness Month
Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease. There are many different causes of thyroid dysfunction, and women are more commonly affected than men.
There are three main categories of thyroid disorders that can directly or indirectly cause hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone function). They are:
1. Reduced or absent function of the thyroid gland resulting in low levels of circulating thyroid hormones. This occurs when the thyroid gland has been removed and also in cases of autoimmune thyroid disease which has destroyed all or part of the thyroid gland.
2. Impaired conversion of thyroid hormone from its inactive form (T4) into its biologically active form (T3). This can occur with certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, chronic stress, estrogen dominance, and abnormalities in the enzymes responsible for converting T4 into T3.
3. Tissue resistance to circulating thyroid hormones. This is seen in patients with chronic stress and certain genetic disorders.
Hashimoto's Thyroid Disease
Hashimoto's Disease occurs when the body's immune system creates 'attack soldiers' against Thyroid Peroxide, one of the key enzymes responsible for thyroid hormone production. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and affects women more than men. Causes of Hashimoto's include pregnancy, genetic susceptibility, unhealthy gut, and in some cases, viruses. Hashimoto's also occurs with greater frequency in people who already have one or more other autoimmune conditions, especially celiac disease.
Hashimoto's hypothyroidism can improve, or in some cases even be reversed if certain measures are taken to reduce and/or eliminate some of the causes. One great way to reduce the antibody levels and improve overall immune system function is with probiotics. Try Probiomax DF 100 BCFU (SKU #PROB100) and ProbioMax Complete DF 45 BCFU are two of the BEST probiotics out there. Testing for IgG food sensitivities can help to identify foods that could be hyping up immune system function and inflammation by contributing to antibody formation.
Impaired Thyroid Hormone Conversion
The majority of thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland is T4, a relatively inactive form of thyroid hormone. Once it is produced, it must bind to a protein called thyroid binding globulin and be transported to the liver, kidneys, and other tissues before it is converted into the more active form of thyroid hormone, T3. The infographic below shows this process and some of the many important nutrients and cofactors required for proper thyroid hormone conversion.
In addition to working with a competent and experienced health care practitioner to assist in balancing hormones and conducting proper testing for some of the above issues, there are other actions that can be taken to improve thyroid hormone conversion. Even if a healthy diet is already in place, the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients in food goes down with age, stress, and other factors. Supplementing the diet with a comprehensive formula of vitamins and minerals is essential.
Some excellent,pharmaceutical-grade multinutrient options are the multinutrient packets (SKU #AEW) and the multivitamin essentials (SKU #VNMII) available at the store. If testing reveals low zinc levels, Zinc Glycinate (SKU# ZINCG) can be added. Low Iodine levels can be improved with XymoDine ( SKU #XYMOD) at the store. For people who prefer drinking shakes to supplement their dietary needs, try Opticleanse GHI (SKU# GVAN) at the store. Not only is it packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, it contains plant-derived ingredients that reduce inflammation and help to heal the gut.
Thyroid Hormone Resistance
This is a less common, more difficult cause of hypothyroidism to treat. It is usually caused by a genetic defect. However, a much more common cause is stress. Thyroid hormone and cortisol, the body's main stress hormone, are the only two catabolic, or 'wear and tear', hormones produced by the body. Because cortisol is the MOST important hormone for survival, the body will preferentially take its orders from cortisol above all other hormones. When the body is in chronic 'fight or flight' mode, cortisol directs the body to focus all its energy and resources on only one thing...survival.
This means that any non-essential function...things like sleep, gut function, immune system function, and reproduction, will take a back seat. Under conditions of chronic stress, high cortisol levels also cause the cells and tissues of the body to become resistant to the effects of other hormones, including thyroid hormone, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and many others. In these situations, lab values for thyroid hormone levels may appear to be optimal or even elevated, but what's there can't function effectively within the cells and tissues.
Treatment for thyroid resistance syndrome depends on patient symptoms and lab values. When stress is a contributing factor, controlling cortisol does wonders for improving thyroid hormone resistance. Instituting stress reduction techniques like meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, and prayer have been shown to dramatically reduce the negative health effects of stress. Plant adaptogens, including ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Siberian Ginseng, are extremely powerful in their ability to modulate the stress response in a favorable manner. Not only do adaptogens improve the body's ability to adapt to stress, they also have favorable effects on the brain, heart, immune system, and gut. Adaptogens typically work better when given in combination. Adrenalogix AdrenaFem (SKU #ADR_FEM) is an excellent formula designed especially for women. Its ingredients help to balance female sex and stress hormones and improve thyroid hormone function. Adrenal Essence (SKU #ADRENAL) is also a good option for those whose primary issues are stress and who lack any other hormone imbalances. You can find all of the supplements recommended above and more at the store here.