Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
The thyroid gland, situated at the base of the neck below your Adam’s apple, secretes hormones that control metabolic activity in every cell of the body. In a condition called hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, the thyroid fails to produce sufﬁcient quan- tities of that hormone. This can be the result of the thyroid itself malfunctioning or due to the fact that it is not receiving the proper message from the brain to produce more hormones. As a result, all body systems function at a slower rate. If you suffer from this condition, you probably feel tired and weak most of the time. You move slower than you used to, and even relatively simple and routine activities, like prepar- ing dinner, seem overwhelming; worse, you may not even be able to summon up any interest in trying. Most likely, you’ve gained weight and have a hard time digesting food. Your joints and muscles may ache, and because your body temperature has plum- meted, you feel cold even when others are complaining of the heat. And those symp- toms are just some of the most common. Others include recurring infections, hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin, menstrual problems, and high cholesterol levels. As you might imagine, hypothyroidism is often mistaken for other ailments, especially depression or even laziness.
Iodine deﬁciency was once the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism. Although today most Americans get plenty (and sometimes too much) of this trace mineral from iodized table salt, there still exists a signiﬁcant minority who don’t get enough or whose absorption is impaired. Nowadays, the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body manufactures anti- bodies that attack thyroid tissue and suppress production of the thyroid hormone.
There are other thyroid conditions that may also lead to hormonal underproduction. Stress, nutritional deﬁciencies, inactivity, some medications, and hormonal ﬂuctua- tions as a result of pregnancy and menopause also have a role to play.
Hypothyroidism is more common in women. The balance of estrogen and proges- terone can have an indirect inﬂuence on the thyroid glands. Most common is estro- gen dominance, where relatively higher estrogen levels suppress thyroid function. This predisposition can occur throughout a woman’s life. Women on synthetic estrogen therapy are particularly susceptible to decreased thyroid function.
The effects of stress and the balance of stress hormones are also important in thy- roid function. Chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol suppresses thyroid function, while low levels of DHEA appear to make one more susceptible to hypothy- roidism.
Toxic metals, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and others, can also interfere with thy- roid activity.
Although hypothyroidism can wreak havoc upon your entire body, it is easy to treat, especially if caught in its early stages. If you suspect that you have an underactive thy- roid, follow the instructions given here for taking your basal body temperature. If your body temperature is consistently low, you should see a doctor for an evaluation. For mild cases, nutritional supplements can set you back on track quickly. For people with more severe cases, the use of thyroid hormone replacement may be required. Even if you require a thyroid hormone supplement, you should complement this regime of supplementation with dietary changes, stress-reducing activities, exercise, and gen- eral hormone balancing.
A word of caution: Many doctors rely on a blood test to diagnose hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, this test is extremely unreliable and often fails to catch mild to mod- erate cases of the disorder. If your basal body temperature is consistently low and if you experience the symptoms described here, but your blood test does not reveal hypothyroidism, consider working with a more holistic doctor for preventative care. Besides the basal body temperature, it may be of more help to run a saliva or urine thyroid test.
• Depression and irritability
• Weight gain
• Aches and pains
• Sensitivity to cold and heat
• Menstrual problems (irregular periods)
• Recurring infections
• High cholesterol
• Hair loss
• Dry skin and hair
• Brittle, peeling nails
• Anxiety and panic attacks
• Poor memory and concentration
• Low libido
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Lowered immunity
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
• Raynaud’s phenomenon
• Water retention
• Dry eyes/blurred vision
• Eyebrow loss (outer one-third)
• Anemia and easy bruising
• Slow healing
• Hoarse voice
• Tingling hands and feet
• Hashimoto’s disease and other inﬂammatory disorders of the thyroid
• Iodine deﬁciency
• Poor diet
• Hormone imbalance (especially estrogen/progesterone, cortisol/DHEA)
• Surgery on or radiation of the thyroid
• Certain medications, most notably lithium and synthetic estrogen
• Failure of the pituitary gland
It stands to reason that hypothyroidism is most frequently found in landlocked regions, where iodine-rich foods from the sea are less available. If you have an under- active thyroid, it may be helpful to consume plenty of sea vegetables, such as kelp, nori, dulse, kombu, and wakame. Fish and sea salt are also good sources of iodine.
Essential fatty acids found in ﬂaxseeds, walnuts, and ﬁsh are important for thyroid function.
Food to Avoid
Certain vegetables known as goitrogens may suppress thyroid function. These include kale, broccoli, cauliﬂower, cabbage, soy, and brussels sprouts. Cooking the vegetables inactivates the goitrogens, so that they are safe to eat for someone with low thyroid.
It’s never advisable to drink tap water, but people with hypothyroidism must be especially wary of it. Most tap water is full of ﬂuorine and chlorine, two chemicals that inhibit your ability to absorb iodine.
How to Take Your Basal Body Temperature
Basal body temperature is one of the most effec- tive tools for diagnosing hypothyroidism, and it’s easy to take and record your temperature at home. The night before you begin the recordings, assemble the following:
• A thermometer; if not digital, shake it down to
96 degrees F or lower
• Pen or pencil
• Clock, watch, or stopwatch
Place these items on your bedside table, within easy reach of your usual sleeping position. When you wake up in the morning, place the ther- mometer under your armpit and lower your arm
over it. Hold the thermometer tightly in place for ten minutes. You need to lie still for the entire seven to ten minutes, as even a small movement can disrupt the reading. When the ten minutes are over, note your temperature and record it, with
the date, on the paper.
Repeat this procedure for three days. If you are a menstruating woman, you should begin taking your temperature on the second day of your period.
After three days, take the average of the read- ings. If it is below 97.7 to 98.2 degrees F (the nor- mal range for a basal temperature), you probably have an underactive thyroid.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for hypothyroidism:
Thyroid hormone testing (thyroid: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, anti- thyroglobulin antibodies, anti-thyroid peroxidase)—blood, saliva, urine
General hormone testing (DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone, insulin)—saliva, blood, or urine
Toxic metals (e.g., mercury, lead)—hair or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially vitamin A, selenium, zinc, cop- per, magnesium)—blood
Amino acid analysis (especially L-tyrosine)—blood or urine
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
Hypothyroidism can also be traced to a deﬁciency of several other minerals, includ- ing zinc, selenium, and copper. A deﬁciency of the amino acid tyrosine is often present in those with hypothyroidism. To make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients, incorporate pumpkin seeds, beans, almonds, soy products, and ﬁsh into your diet.
A slow metabolism often means a slow digestive process. Encourage faster elimination of food by eating more ﬁber in the form of whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
You must stay adequately hydrated. Drink a glass of clean water every two wak- ing hours.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Hypothyroidism
Super Prescription #1 Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) Take 100 mg or 1 ml twice daily.
Super Prescription #2 Thyroid glandular
Take 1 tablet/capsule three times daily on an empty stomach or as directed on the container. It stimulates and supports thyroid function.
Super Prescription #3 Pituitary glandular
Take 1 tablet/capsule three times daily on an empty stomach or as directed on the container. It stimulates thyroid function.
Super Prescription #4 L-tyrosine
Take 500 mg twice daily on an empty stomach. This amino acid is used in the syn- thesis of the thyroid hormone.
Super Prescription #5 Natural progesterone
This is for women who have low thyroid hormones and low progesterone levels. See the PMS and Menopause sections for the proper dosage.
Super Prescription #6 Guggul (Commiphora mukul)
Take a product containing 25 mg of guggulsterones three times daily.
Super Prescription #7 Homeopathic Thyroidinum 3x or 6x
Take 3 pellets three times daily. This homeopathic preparation of thyroid is used to stimulate thyroid activity.
If you have had a blood TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test, this refers to the hormone released by your pituitary gland in your brain. Its job is to stimulate thyroid hor- mone secretion when the brain senses your thyroid levels are get- ting low. A normal lab range is referenced as0.5 to 5.5 uU/ml. We feel that 0.2 to 2.0 is an optimal TSH range. Furthermore, it is important to have your free thyroxine (T4) and free tri- iodothyronine (T3) levels tested, as these are the two most metabolically active thyroid hormones, especially the free T3. Also, since Hashimoto’s thyroidi- tis is the most com- mon cause of low thyroid, you should have your thyroid antibody levels tested.
If you don’t live near a sushi bar, you can easily make these nori rolls at home. With a little prac- tice, you can turn them out quickly for a light lunch or a sophisticated hors d’oeuvre. If you want to boost your meal’s iodine quotient, serve miso soup sprinkled with toasted wakame along- side the nori rolls.
Use quantities that suit your needs and tastes.
Brown rice, uncooked
Brown rice vinegar
Carrots, green and red peppers, cucumbers, and avocado, cut into long, thin strips
Tamari soy sauce for dipping
Pickled ginger (buy a brand that doesn’t add coloring; many companies add an artiﬁcial pink color to their product)
Bamboo rolling mat
Cook the brown rice, using 1 cup of clean water for each cup of rice. Once the rice is done, toss in
2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar for every cup of cooked rice. Set the rice and vinegar mixture aside until it is no longer hot to the touch and you are able to handle it without burning your hands.
Center a sheet of nori on the rolling mat. When the rice is ready, moisten your hands with water and pat a small handful of rice evenly across the nori. Leave an inch-wide strip at the top side of
the nori sheet.
Take a very small amount of wasabi—around half a teaspoon—and spread it in a thin, horizon- tal line about two or three inches from the base of the nori sheet. Wasabi is a kind of Japanese horseradish that is extremely hot, so use caution.
If you dislike hot food, you can omit this step.
Above the line of wasabi, make two more hori- zontal lines, this time with the vegetables. With your hands, press the vegetables ﬁrmly into the rice.
Grasp the bottom edge of the bamboo mat and use it to help you roll up the sheet of nori. Some rice may squeeze out of the sides, but you can ﬁx that later. Stop when you reach the inch-wide border at the top of the sheet.
Press the border into the roll to seal it up. Most nori sheets will seal up on their own; if yours won’t stick, dampen your ﬁngers with a little water, run them along the bare strip, and try again.
Trim the edges of the roll with a sharp knife to neaten the presentation and to clean up any rice spillage, and then cut the roll into half-inch slices. (Some people prefer a wider slice; how you cut
the roll is up to you.)
Serve the rolls with the pickled ginger. Offer small bowls of tamari soy sauce and wasabi on the side for dipping.
A high-potency multivitamin provides a base of nutrients required for thyroid hormone synthesis. Take as directed on the container.
Essential fatty acids are important for thyroid function. Take 3,000 mg of ﬁsh oil or 1 tablespoon of ﬂaxseed oil and 150 mg of GLA from evening primrose or bor- age oil.
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) has been shown to improve thyroid and stress hormone levels. Take 500 mg three times daily.
Take DHEA if tests show that your levels are low. Take 5 to 15 mg each morning, under the supervision of a doctor.
Although homeopathic remedies are not a substitute for thyroid supplementation, they are quite useful for easing the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. In mild cases, these remedies may stimulate the thyroid enough not to require supplement thyroid hormone.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x,
6C, 12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Calcarea Carbonica is helpful when there is low thyroid function, accompanied by chilliness, fatigue, and a sense of being overwhelmed. The person tends to be ﬂabby and may have excessive sweat on the head at nighttime. There is a craving for eggs and milk products.
Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) is helpful if you have a right-sided enlarge- ment of the thyroid. You also experience a tremendous amount of gas and bloating. There is a strong craving for sweets. You tend to be chilly and irritable.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for women who are warm and who desire cool, fresh air. There is a craving for sweets, a low thirst, and symptoms of hormone imbal- ance, possibly due to PMS or menopause, that are characterized by weeping and sad- ness.
Sepia is for women with low thyroid hormone, who are irritable and chilly. They crave salty, sweet, and sour foods.
Nux Vomica is helpful if you suffer from fatigue and also feel chilly, achy, irrita- ble, and constipated. It is good for thyroid burnout from overworking.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• Triple Warmer 17 has a balancing effect on the thyroid.
• For depression, work Lung 1. You’ll ﬁnd yourself taking air more deeply into
your lungs and relieving stress with each breath.
• If you feel weak and fatigued, work Bladder 23 and 47. Do not press on these points if you have severe back pain.
• Work Conception Vessel 6 to ease constipation.
A full-body massage will reduce stress, improve circulation, and lift your energy level. If you like, you can add any of the essential oils listed in the Aromatherapy section to further enhance the treatment.
Work the area corresponding to the thyroid.
Geranium oil will regulate the thyroid hormone. Use it in a bath, or better yet, add to a carrier oil and incorporate into a massage. Geranium can also help lift fatigue and depression. So can jasmine, neroli, bergamot, and rose.
If your skin is dry, add chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) to a lotion, a cream, or a carrier oil and apply the mixture to the affected area.
Oil of black pepper or marjoram will stimulate a sluggish digestive system and improve overall circulation.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
High levels of stress inhibit the thyroid’s ability to properly manufacture its hormone. Exercise has been shown to improve thyroid function and should be done on a daily basis.
Bach Flower Remedies
See the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the remedy that best suits your personality and tendencies. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If your illness makes you despondent or discouraged, take Gentian.
Olive and Hornbeam are the remedies for prolonged apathy or exhaustion. You may wish to take them in combination for a more potent effect.
People who tend to devote themselves to serving others will ﬁnd that Centaury gives them the courage and the focus to pursue their own dreams.
• When it comes to prescription thyroid medication, some supplements are bet- ter than others. The most commonly prescribed, Synthroid, is a pharmaceutical product that contains only one active hormone, thyroxine. Far more effective are natural desiccated thyroid supplements, which are made with two active hormones—thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine—and sometimes more. Ask your doctor if you can take Armour Thyroid Extract, widely considered the best nat- ural desiccated thyroid product on the market. Also, the use of compounded thyroid that contains exact doses of T4 and T3, or just T3 alone is equally ben- eﬁcial when prescribed by an experienced doctor.
• Enzyme supplements improve the faulty digestion that is common in hypothy- roidism; when inﬂammation is present, enzymes will aid in healing. If you’re taking enzymes as a digestive aid, take the supplements before your meals. If you need to reduce inﬂammation, take them one or two hours after eating. Use the dosage amounts recommended on the product label.
• Antihistamines and sulfa drugs keep your body from absorbing iodine. If you take either of these medications, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.