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Facts About Thyroid: Hashimoto & other things

Jade Teta ND, CSCS

1) High levels of estrogen interrupt thyroid function. Estrogen increases thyroid binding protein (TBG) taking thyroid out of circulation leaving less to do its job. Estrogen also decreases conversion from inactive hormone to active hormone. This is one of the reasons women have bigger thyroids than men and can often have issues gaining weight when using birth control or HRT.

2) Cortisol is very important for thyroid. Cortisol is needed to sensitize the thyroid receptors, so too little will negatively affect thyroid activity. But, too much cortisol will decrease thyroid conversion into its active form. So, you don’t want too much or too little cortisol. This is the reason excessive coffee, stress, corticosteroids, and over-training can have a negative impact on thyroid.

3) Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production. Both too much and too little can compromise thyroid function. Taking iodine is not a smart move without knowing your levels. Salt can supply iodine, but it must say “iodized salt” to be sure it contains iodine. Sea salt does not have iodine unless it says it does.

4) Iodine is part of a family of elements called Halogens. Halogens include iodine, bromine, chlorine, and fluorine. The other halogens can interrupt thyroid function because they can also be taken up by the thyroid and displace iodine. Halogens are ubiquitous in the environment. There is chlorine in salt, fluoride in our water and toothpaste, and bromine in certain breads, processed foods, and even sports drinks (check the label on your favorite sports drink and you may see brominated vegetable oil). These things impact thyroid function negatively.

5) Progesterone supports thyroid function by priming thyroid receptors and helping thyroid conversion to active thyroid.

6) Soy can act as a thyroid disruptor by interfering with the thyroid enzyme called TPO. This is not an issue in those with normal iodine status. The issue is many do not have normal iodine status.

7) Cruciferous/brassica vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, bok choy, cabbage, etc., can interfere with thyroid function. Again, having adequate iodine status decreases the impact. Also, unlike soy, cooking these vegetables greatly reduces any impact.

8) Using TSH alone to determine proper thyroid function is not wise. A full thyroid panel is required if you really want to know about thyroid function, and even then you can still be dealing with thyroid issues and not know. At least proper testing provides more answers. A full thyroid panel should include TSH, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, and anti-thyroid antibodies.

9) Gluten and dairy proteins have been implicated in autoimmune thyroid issues. Those with Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease would be wise to eliminate these foods and go on a 4R gut restoration program. This does not mean these foods have any impact on those without the disease, but they may.

10) Synthroid is T4 and since T4 needs to be converted to T3 before the hormone is active, many can be taking thyroid meds and not be feeling much better. This is likely because a conversion issue was missed. This is why many integrative doctors like to use Armour thyroid which is a mix of T3 and T4. Cytomel which is T3 along with synthroid T4 is often needed.

11) Thyroid medication should be taken on an empty stomach. Many take it with their coffee not realizing this decreases its absorption in the same way.

12) Excessive coffee use can cause issues with thyroid due to its cortisol inducing impact. This would depend on the individual.

13) Vitamin D is a very important thing to address for thyroid. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D. You should seek to get your levels between 50 and 100ng/ml if you have thyroid issues.

14) The adrenal glands have a very close relationship to the thyroid. If you have thyroid issues you should check adrenal function with an adrenal stress index (ASI).

15) Hashimoto thyroid or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is a condition, named after the Japanese doctor Hakura Hashimoto who first described it. It was the first disease to be recognized as an autoimmune disease, which means the body produces immune cells against its own thyroid tissue. Many people with low thyroid function have these antibodies in their system, but their doctors do not test for them. This is because from the conventional MDs point of view their treatment would not change whether the low thyroid function is caused by an autoimmune process or not.

As an integrative physician, I can tell you they should. I have seen plenty of patients who changed their diets and seen their thyroid antibodies decrease or disappear all together. If you are low thyroid and have not had your thyroid antibodies tested you should. And if you have high thyroid antibodies, called anti TPO antibodies, you should look into seeing a functional medicine doctor familiar with autoimmune diets.

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