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Hypothyroidism: Is it Affecting You?


Wendy Taylor

I was inspired to write this article after reading how hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is an "epidemic" affecting millions of people everyday. The symptoms of low thyroid are fatigue, obesity, depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, and hormonal imbalance. For women, certain menstrual cycle problems can be a symptom. However, these are symptoms are often dismissed because they are so varied that people do not see them as all being part of the same problem. Luckily, there is a solution to this hidden epidemic.

It is recommended that you do a personal assessment first. Check to see if you have any of the following symptoms: fatigue, feeling too hot or too cold, weight gain, anxiety, aching muscles and joints, indigestion, a lack of mental clarity, dry skin, brittle nails and hair, high cholesterol, and insomnia. If you have a combination of these symptoms and have been treating them separately with little to no results, then low thyroid function may be the cause. According to thyroid expert Dr. Rosenberg, having low thyroid can stem from "a family history or personal history of thyroid problems, thyroid surgery or antithyroid drugs, pituitary tumors or pituitary disease, autoimmune or endocrine disorders, Epstein Barr Virus or mononucleosis, being over 60 years of age, pregnancy, hormone imbalances, Menopause, smoking or being a former smoker, neck trauma, exposure to environmental chemicals or radiation." However, there are other diseases or conditions that can make it seem like you have hypothyroidism when you don't. These include, but are not limited to, anemia, lack of sleep or chronic insomnia, malnutrition, allergies, chronic infection, Lyme disease, parasites, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

If you have several of the above symptoms, ask your doctor to do a blood test for thyroid hormone levels, however, even if your results show that your thyroid hormone levels fall within the normal range, you might want to check again. Unfortunately, the "normal range" is very broad and doesn't take into account individual differences. The normal range for thyroid hormone is generally accepted to be 0.2 to 5.5, meaning that the people who are at the higher end of the spectrum have at least 20 times the amount of the thyroid stimulating hormone compared to the people at the lower end of the scale. This is why it is good to have your thyroid levels rechecked and to ask your doctor to tell you your results not just whether or not you are in the "normal" range. If you are at the low end of the range and have symptoms of hypothyroidism, then you may have a thyroid problem even if your doctor insists that you are fine.

In case you need more proof for your doctor or for yourself, there is a way you can check your thyroid function at home. All you have to do is take your temperature every morning as soon as you wake up for three weeks and record it in a notebook. Make sure that when you place the thermometer bulb in your armpit, you wait at least ten minutes (if it is a mercury thermometer) or until it beeps (if it is a digital thermometer), and remain in bed and in a relaxed position for best results. If your average temperature falls below the normal range, which is 97.8 to 98.2, it is another accurate sign of having low thyroid.

If you are diagnosed with low thyroid, it is most likely that you will need to take thyroid replacement drugs for the rest of your life. Most doctors will prescribe a drug by the brand name "Synthroid." However, there is also a natural, non-synthetic thyroid replacement called "dessicated thyroid", which contains real T1, T2, T3, and T4 hormones. It has been around since the late 1800's and is considered safe, and some doctors feel that it gives better results than the synthetic version.

A normal working thyroid gland makes two kinds of hormones: T3, the active hormone that helps control cellular metabolism, and T4, the primary hormone that gets released into the blood stream where the body's tissue use it to create T3. So when choosing your thyroid replacement drug, make sure to get one that provides you with both. When you find the thyroid medication that is right for your body, it is best to take it on an empty stomach.

When treating your thyroid, don't forget about your adrenal glands because the same conditions that can exhaust your thyroid gland can also exhaust your adrenal glands. Treating one gland without treating the other can cause the other to work even harder. It is better to treat both the thyroid and the adrenal glands at the same time in order to get the best results.


Hypthyroidism and Diet:

As always, your diet affects everything that goes on in your body. There are certain foods in the "average North American diet" that are highly allergenic. You may be sensitive to some of these common foods without even realizing it. Some common food allergies include corn, chocolate, caffeine, soy, strawberries, mold on some cheeses or fermented drinks, and wheat and other gluten-containing grains like oats and rye. More about food allergies

Aside from any food allergies you may have, there are other foods of which you must be aware because they contribute to thyroid inflammation and can impair the thyroid gland's functioning if you eat them often. That is why you should limit your intake of these foods to no more than a couple of servings per week.

The foods that you should avoid are walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, millet, and tapioca, and even though they are very healthy, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and asparagus can also interfere with the thyroid's function. Although, if you steam or saute them first, it will eliminate some of the disruptive compounds they contain.

It is also best to avoid soy altogether. According to Dr. Rosenberg's article on hypothyroidism, the phytoestrogens in soy products can damage the thyroid, which is why you should read all labels for packaged foods to see if they contain any soy products. It may sound like a lot of food to give up, but by limiting your intake of them and generally eating fresh whole foods your body will benefit greatly and you will notice the difference.

There are a number of vitamins and minerals that will help your thyroid function, but if you are taking thyroid medication, it is important to take your vitamins four hours apart from each other for better results from your thyroid medication. Antioxidant vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E support the thyroid by reducing the amount of free radicals in your system that damage your cells. These vitamins also reduce inflammation of the thyroid gland and reduce cholesterol levels. Vitamin B complex can also help by increasing your energy levels and mental health.

There are several minerals that can also be helpful if you have low thyroid function. It is important to ensure that you have enough zinc because studies show that people with hypothyroidism have a harder time absorbing it. However, make sure to take copper with your zinc because is very important to keep them balanced and supplementing with one can cause a deficiency in the other. Manganese is another mineral which does not get absorbed properly when you have hypothyroidism and you may want to use a manganese supplement.

There are some minerals that help boost thyroid function. Selenium, for example, is needed for proper thyroid hormone synthesis, and chromium is helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. To help maintain strong and healthy bones, you should take Calcium and Magnesium. Studies show that Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis and that Magnesium helps the body's ability to use Calcium.

Taking supplements or eating foods high in Omega-3's, like fish or flaxseed, is another excellent way of supporting the function of your thyroid gland.

Releasing stress and exhaustion from your daily life is another key factor to the healthy development of your thyroid. There are many ways to cope with stress. You may find it helpful to simply visualize that you are healthy again. This can move your body in a healing direction and can feel relaxing and uplifting. Other simple and therapeutic ways of relieving stress and tension in your body are having a professional massage, journaling about what stresses you, swimming, and other exercises.

Exercise is especially important. It will give you energy, it will relieve stress, it will reduce unhealthy weight gain, and it will improve your overall health.

If you believe that hypothyroidism is affecting your lifestyle, have your levels checked by your health care provider and ask them to review the results thoroughly and to let you know even if your levels are in the low-normal range. If you happen to be diagnosed with low thyroid, make sure to treat it right away. You will see that you will have more energy, your metabolism will work better, your sex life will also improve, and your depression will disappear. For women, your menstrual problems may lessen. You may have even reduced your chances of getting diabetes. Having low thyroid should not stop you from doing what you want, feeling great, and enjoying life.

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References:

Rosenberg, Mark M.D. Thyroid Disease: The Biggest Epidemic of This Century! Almark Publishing, Bridgeport, CT. 2010.

Starr, Mark M.D. Hypothyroidism: The Epidemic. Mark Starr Trust, Colombia, MO. 2009.

Shomon, Mary. 15 Ways to Feel Well and Live Well With Hypothyroidism. December 14, 2003. May 1, 2010 http://thyroid.about.com/cs/hypothyroidism/a/ 15ways.htm.

Katsuaki Aihara, MD,Yoshikazu Nishi, MD, Shuichi Hatano, MD. et al. Zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium metabolism in thyroid disease. May 1, 2010. May 1, 2010 . Shames, Richard MD and Karilee Hal Shames, RN. Thyroid Power. Harper Collins, New York, NY. 2001.

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