What You Need to Know About Your Thyroid PART ONE

I was recently doing some research for a few friends regarding Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid problems like Hashimoto's and I was introduced to a site called 'Stop The Thyroid Madness'. Through reading the symptom list I was kind of shocked to realise I probably had a low functioning thyroid. So I bought a thermometer and started testing my base body temperature first thing in the morning to check my metabolic rate. Bad news, it was 96.44f (healthy is 97.8-98.2f).

It seemed like kind of a coincidence, that I should be researching a condition for a friend and then find out I too had it. The NHS reckon that only 15 out of every 1,000 women suffer with it, but a little more research tells you a whole lot. It turns out your doctors test for adrenal fatigue won't diagnose you until you are 90% non-functioning, so there are a whole lot of people less than healthy not being diagnosed. The tests for thyroid function are equally bad.

There are some doctors in America who are claiming that up to 80% of women are affected by some kind of thyroid dysfunction. So, it would appear to be more common than I first thought, and not so much of a coincidence that mine might not be functioning perfectly.

Stop the Thyroid Madness make a great case for Natural Dessiccated Thyroid over synthetic Thyroxine drugs, but where I don't feel they go far enough is looking at the body holistically, as one integrated system. Abnormally functioning thyroid isn't a diagnosis. It's a symptom. 

Dr Bergman illustrates this brilliantly if you have time to watch his video, if not I shall try to summarise:

I'll try to keep it brief, but if you've never studied anatomy and physiology and you don't know a couple of the words, just throw them into google. :-)

The nervous system senses everything that is happening in the body, and your hypothalamus is telling you what state your body is in. It senses T4  (and other things) and creates Thyroid Releasing Hormone. The pituitary gland picks this up and produces TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. This is what tells the Thyroid to do it's thing. So it's really the hypothalamus that is starting this chain reaction (it does a lot more than that, but for this scenario that's all you need to know). The hypothalamus is sensing how much thyroid hormone is anywhere in the body through the nervous system and then telling the thyroid how to respond, via the pituitary.

So then the thyroid starts producing it's hormones and, in theory, the hypothalamus senses that and stops sending TRH, which tells the pituitary to stop sending TSH.

So when you go to a Dr, they will check your blood for T3 and T4 (which is what the thyroid secretes) and TSH which the pituitary secretes.

So assuming the TSH is high (that's the brain screaming at the thyroid to do something) but the T3 and T4 are low - that's called a low functioning thyroid. If the brain is producing very little TSH, but you have a tonne of T3 and T4, that's called a hyper or over active thyroid.

Now we have a separate metabolic response to add in, which is to do with your adrenals. Your thyroid regulates healthy cell production, your adrenals regulate stressed cell production. When you are stressed, the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which tells the pituitary to stimulate the adrenals to release cortisol, which suppresses TSH.

Cortisol is the greatest anti-inflammatory your body knows. If you just ran a marathon, you're going to have tissue damage. Your body will release it's best anti-inflammatory and that's cortisol.

Now what about fast food? Sugar? Hydrolysed vegetable oils? All of the above would create a systemic inflammatory response - tissue damage. But that's fine, your body can repair it. How? With cortisol. What does that do to the thyroid? Decreases it.

So when we see symptoms of hypothyroid or low functioning thyroid, surely the first question should be what else is wrong? What does the rest of your lifestyle look like? Is there anywhere else in the body that could be struggling with inflammation? What could be causing that? Are you under excessive stress? Do you have any injuries?

Thyroid produces a bunch of stuff, but for the purposes of today we are only going to look at T3 and T4. "T" stands for thyroid, "3" stands for three molecules of Iodine. Can you guess what T4 stands for? Could it be that iodine deficiency is the reason for some peoples low functioning thyroids? I know I personally don't eat a lot of sea vegetables, but organic raw yoghurt and organic raw cheese are also good sources. You can check for iodine deficiency by painting iodine solution onto your skin and watching it for 24 hours. [Iodine test].

Chlorine, flourine (flouride) and bromine are all halides,  like iodine, and these can bind to your iodine receptors making it impossible to use the iodine that is present. So even if you have lots of iodine, your thyroid might not be able to make hormones if it can't receive it. In fact, up until the 1970s, fluoride was prescribed by doctors for slowing down and over active thyroid. The recommended does was 2-3 mg. If you drink 12oz of coke and eat 6oz of wheat-based cereal you've already had 233% of that dose! Now we have it in every toothpaste, mouth wash and in some areas added to the tap water. In Bedford we have chlorine added. So we drink it, bathe in it, even if we don't go to a swimming pool. Maybe that's why your thyroid is under performing.

T4 is 20x more plentiful in the body, but the liver, intestines, kidneys, and lungs can convert it into T3 which is way more powerful. Maybe people with hypothyroid symptoms just have a conversion problem. If you thyroid is 'functioning fine' it's possibly a conversion problem. How are your liver, intestines, kidneys and lungs doing?

Dietary selenium is essential for T3 production - is this why a lot of thyroid patients crave salt?

In fact, if you look at the graph above, this shows you on the red line the dietary guidelines for the American Heart Association (the British Heart Foundation is slightly better with recommending 2.3g/d) but it turns out the more sodium (that's salt) you have going along horizontally on this graph, the less heart attacks and deaths you have. So eating about four times the amount of salt recommended you have about half the death rate. And this is SODIUM in take. We aren't even talking about good, real salt that contains all the trace minerals your body needs!

Another interesting point to take into account when looking at labs is how T3 and T4 are carried. The transport protein that they bind to also, binds to oestrogen. So if you are high in oestrogen this would affect your lab results. Why would you be high in oestrogen? Well, you could be menstruating, going through menopause, taking a contraceptive pill or even just eating a lots of foods with pesticides on them. Most pesticides we use on farms today are oestrogen based.

Blood pressure medications and steroids also block the thyroid binding globulins, so they are going to mess up your lab results. Poly unsaturated fats block thyroid horomone secretions, aspirin therapy contributes to hypothyroid.

image source
We need to think of thyroid and adrenals like a pair of scales. When we are under physical, chemical or emotional stress the thyroid function decreases and the adrenal functions are up high. Ever noticed how when you hit your thumb with a hammer it really hurts, then it eases off, then you start to notice it again? That's because your body produces a pain relief 40x stronger than heroin. But your body can't produce these endorphins on a consistent level - it has to build up the raw materials and then produce the proteins, so your pain waxes and wanes.

Same thing is going to happen with our balancing scales. When you respond to physical, chemical or emotional stress, the thyroid function goes down and the adrenals function increases. When that happens you get an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and stress hormones. You get a decrease in blood supply to the gut, immune system cell regeneration and TSH. Your body doesn't consider these responses to be vital in the short term, and quite rightly. If you were being chased by a tiger you would probably prefer to use your energy for fight or flight rather than digestion! But long term a slow metabolism, a weakened immune system and slow cell regeneration are going to cause problems. If we shut down blood supply to the gut we aren't going to be producing much serotonin, so long term adrenal fatigue is going to lead to depression, anxiety and more stress.

How many people are diagnosed with 'high cholesterol'? It's a symptom, not a disease. Cholesterol is the precursor to every hormone made in the adrenals. When your body is stressed it needs to produce cortisol, what does the body use to produce cortisol? Cholesterol. If your body is creating cholesterol it's because you need it. Rather than popping a statin to artificially lower it, how about we try and find out what your body needs it for?

But the stress response, when you are in this adrenal dominant state, also lowers your TSH and thyroid function. So you are diagnosed with a low functioning thyroid, given pills to increase your hormones, but they aren't the hormones your body wants right now. It's stressed! Find out what the stress is and fix that. Your body isn't stupid. It's choosing this response for a reason.

The adrenals are the body's pharmacy. They produce every mineralocorticoid, glucocorticoid and sex hormone your body needs. They produce testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone (did you know progesterone protects your body from cancer?); they produce interferon - that's the most powerful anti-cancer drug known, and your body produces nearly $40,000 worth in your adrenals!

Unfortunately 90% of your adrenal cortex has to be destroyed before it would show any damage on a blood test.

Cortisol is the greatest anti-inflammatory known, but it is to keep you alive short term. Long term, this will kill you.

So, if this is all a balancing act between thyroid and adrenals, and my thyroid is functioning low, I need to calm my adrenals down and my thyroid function will improve.

That's part one.
But it's getting late, so part two will have to wait. I'll post it soon, I promise.


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