Do you know the telltale signs of an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits just below the thyroid cartilage. The thyroid can:
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It can also tell the body to slow down. Sometimes, the thyroid slows down so much that it becomes underactive. When this happens, the thyroid gland does not do its job, and the whole body suffers. This is what is known as hypothyroidism.
As our understanding has broadened and hypothyroidism diagnosis has become more common, the detection and treatment are getting a second look by doctors. In 2015, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health made a critical link between environmental factors and thyroid disorders, associating high water fluoridation in England with 30 percent higher rates of underactive thyroid.1 Without proper treatment, hypothyroidism can affect all areas of life — impairing driving similar to the effects of alcohol, in some cases, and even compromising a child’s intellectual development when a mother has hypothyroidism during pregnancy.2,3
A major issue has erupted in the medical community. Many doctors are now disagreeing over what tests should be done to check thyroid function. Traditionally, TSH, Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone that is released from the pituitary gland in the brain, would be checked along with the two thyroid hormones it produces, T3 and T4.
However, it has become commonplace to only test for TSH, and that is just one part of a very detailed picture. There are many other mechanisms at work in thyroid health.
For example, healthy thyroid activity relies on:
Clearly, with so many pathways available for the production and conversion of thyroid hormones, there are a lot of opportunities for something to go wrong.
Many people are diagnosed with this condition and given thyroid medication. Sometimes, this medication will show improvements in lab analysis as hormone levels fall into normal range. But many people still have symptoms.
Researchers have been pushing for new treatment options for hypothyroidism for this very reason: The standard treatment of taking thyroid hormones may not relieve all symptoms for up to 15 percent of patients. Based on the results of 2015 studies published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), researchers urged doctors to treat the condition with personalized medicine because “hypothyroid patients are not all the same.” 5,6 A treatment that works well for one patient may not work for another.
Doctors are now investigating why thyroid tests may appear normal, but the thyroid itself may still be dysfunctional.
Seeing a pattern will help you determine if your thyroid medication is properly treating an underactive thyroid, or if more diagnosis is necessary:
1. Edema is the abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. The edema that occurs in hypothyroidism is the “non-pitting” form of edema.
2. Is there persistent weight gain, especially around your torso, that you just can’t lose no matter how frugal you are with calories?
Dr. Roby Mitchell tells us that thyroid hormones help insulin move glucose from blood into the cells. “When thyroid levels are low, more insulin is needed to maintain normal glucose. More insulin means more fat cell hyperplasia, which shows up as increased fat deposition.”7
The adrenals lose strength when the thyroid is underactive, which also slows down metabolism.
3. Cold hands and cold feet may mean lack of blood flow.
Low thyroid activity can be associated with too much homocysteine — an amino acid associated with heart disease, poor blood flow, and stiff vasculature. This is because the essential nutrients carried in the blood do not reach the extremities as frequently. Lack of blood flow to the extremities, like your hands and feet, can also show up as chronic fungal infections.
4. Nagging infections could indicate an underactive thyroid.
Dr. Mitchell points out that because beta-carotene depends on thyroid hormones in order to convert into vitamin A, beta-carotene can build up in the body and cause yellow skin, especially in the hands. The official name for this is called carotoderma. Vitamin A plays an important role in immune system health. What happens when the body cannot convert beta-carotene into vitamin A? The body may become more susceptible to infections, or it simply may not have the strength to kick a bug.
5. Excessive hair loss, painful joints, and other signs of dryness.
The springy molecules mentioned earlier, GAGs, give connective tissue its supportive quality — like collagen and bone. Dr. Mitchell tells us that these molecules are "water magnets." Without GAGs inside cells, cells cannot retain water. This goes back to the crystalline structure that GAGs give to connective tissue like collagen and bone.
What do dry, leaky cells look like to us?
Because there are so many pathways to an underactive thyroid, including autoimmune hypothyroid, be careful when supplementing with iodine. Iodine, while central to the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, can actually make some hypothyroid conditions worse. This is because iodine speeds up the production of a thyroid enzyme.
If the body has developed autoimmunity to this enzyme, which happens in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, then this will increase the inflammatory cascade:8
Using iodine to address a thyroid condition does not take into account autoimmune hypothyroid. It also does not address diet or lifestyle, which can make a tremendous impact on thyroid hormone levels.
This is why we recommend working with a qualified healthcare practitioner, while at the same time:
A 2013 study conducted in eight major cities and published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism confirmed that almost one-third of hypothyroid patients were not aware that they had the condition until they were diagnosed for the first time.9 Paying attention to pressing health symptoms that could point to a thyroid disorder — and strengthening the gut to regulate thyroid function — has never been more important.
A healthy thyroid is reliant on a healthy gut, and common digestive disorders like diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, and leaky gut can be a hindrance to optimal thyroid health. As complex as it seems, hypothyroidism may be quite simple. Many times, an underactive thyroid is your body’s way of telling you that your gut needs help.
The thyroid gland plays an important role in:
There are five clues that may indicate your thyroid is underactive:
If your thyroid is crying out for help, the answer may be found within your gut. Good thyroid health depends on good gut health, and you can begin on your gut-healing journey by following the Body Ecology Diet and by strengthening the gut lining with Vitality SuperGreen. From there, populate the gut with good bacteria found in fermented foods and drinks like InnergyBiotic — beneficial gut bacteria are responsible for converting 20 percent of thyroid hormone into its usable form. And last but not least, give the thyroid and the immune system extra support each day with a dose of nourishing, alkalizing liquid minerals.
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