The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck below the voice box. It is just about the same size and shape – and is in the same location – as a small bow tie. The thyroid secretes two hormones that are crucial for regulating metabolism: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The numbers refer to the numbers of iodine atoms each molecule of hormone contains. T4 is the major player, because it affects virtually every cell in the body.
Hypothyroidism refers to a low level of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is a common problem, affecting perhaps one out of five women and a smaller percentage of men. If your thyroid activity is reduced, your body may not respond as well as it should to nutritional or supplemental strategies. For that reason, a crucial step in attaining or maintaining good health is to make sure your thyroid is working properly.
Since thyroid hormones affect every cell of the body, a deficiency or hypothyroidism will usually result in a large number of signs and symptoms including low body temperature, intolerance to cold, weight gain or an inability to lose weight, depression, lack of concentration, hair loss, and fatigue. Hypothyroidism is an extremely common condition that is estimated to affect nearly 20% of all women and 10% of all men in the United States.
Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Difficulty in losing weight
- Dry skin
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Menstrual problems
- Recurrent infections
- Sensitivity to cold
Your doctor can conduct blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels. The test assesses the quantity of T4 and T3 hormones and determines how well the body’s cells respond to the hormones by measuring the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a chemical released by the pituitary gland. High levels of TSH indicate that the cells of the body are not receiving adequate thyroid hormone. As a result, the pituitary is in overdrive, frantically trying to signal the thyroid to step up its hormone output.
Although a low level of thyroid hormone or an elevated TSH clearly indicate low thyroid function, in milder cases of thyroid hormone insufficiency, the blood tests may show that hormone levels are within “normal” ranges, even if the person is experiencing symptoms. In these individuals, I recommend that they try to boost thyroid hormone activity by taking Thyroid Health Formula from Natural Factors. This recommendation is especially useful in people that have a TSH value is greater than 2.0 IU/ml (International Units per milliliter), but less than the 5.5 IU/ml level indicative of hypothyroidism.
Before rushing off to your doctor for a blood test, however, I suggest that you first determine your basal body temperature. Your body temperature reflects your metabolic rate, a rate that in turn is largely determined by thyroid hormone activity. When your thyroid is out of whack, your temperature often falls. Many experts agree that the basal body temperature is the most sensitive functional test of thyroid function. The test is simple: all you need is a thermometer.
Many health experts believe that determining your basal body temperature – the temperature of your body at rest – is the most sensitive test of thyroid function. The test is simple: all you need is a thermometer.
Taking Your Basal Body Temperature
- Plan to take the test first thing in the morning after you wake up, because it’s important to measure temperature after you have had adequate rest.
- Before going to sleep, if you are not using a digital thermometer shake down a regular thermometer to below the 95-degree mark and place it by your bed.
- Immediately upon waking, place the thermometer in your armpit (if using a regular thermometer keep it there for a full 10). Hold your elbow close to your side to keep the thermometer in place.
- Read and record the temperature and date.
- Repeat the test for least three mornings (preferably at the same time of day).
- A reading between 97.6 and 98.2 degrees F is normal. Readings below 97.6 may indicate hypothyroidism.
Note: Menstruating women must perform the test on the second, third, and fourth days of menstruation. Men and postmenopausal women can perform the test at any time.
What dietary factors are important in Hypothyroidism?
An important dietary recommendation is to avoid goitrogens. Some foods, especially when eaten raw, contain substances that interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and use iodine. Because these foods can contribute to the risk of goiter, they are classified as goitrogens. Examples include turnips, cabbage, mustard, cassava root, soybean, peanuts, pine nuts, and millet. Because these foods contain many other valuable nutrients, I recommend that you avoid them only if low thyroid hormone levels are a problem for you. Cooking usually inactivates goitrogens, so don’t be concerned about these items in your diet if you serve them cooked. Also, the BIG concern over soy isoflavones inhibiting thyroid function appears to be overstated as recent studies have shown no adverse effect on thyroid function.
What nutritional supplements should I take for Hypothyroidism?
Severe hypothyroidism requires the use of supplemental thyroid hormone – available only by prescription. Mild or subclinical hypothyroidism may respond to nutritional and herbal support.
Foundation Supplements. High potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula; Vitamin D3 2,000-5,000 IU/day; Fish oil, EPA+DHA 1,000 to 3,000 mg/day.
Thyroid Health from Natural Factors provides additional key nutrients required for proper thyroid function as well as L-tyrosine the amino acid precursor to thyroid hormones and two herbs long used in Ayurvedic medicine – Withania somnifera (ashwaganda) and Commiphora mukul (myrrh) – that have shown an ability to boost thyroid function in experimental studies in animals. The two plants appear to exert synergistic effects. Specifically, withania extract appears to produce a significant increase in the level of thyroid hormone (T4) while commiphora extract enhances the conversion of T4 to the more potent T3 form. Both of the plants appear to boost thyroid function without influencing the release of the pituitary hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) indicating the herbs work directly on the thyroid gland and other body tissues to exert their effects. This action is quite important as 95% of all cases of hypothyroidism are not due to a problem with pituitary. The problem is with the thyroid gland itself and an impaired conversion of T4 into the more potent T3 in tissues outside the thyroid gland. The recommended dosages for Thyroid Health is two capsules one to two times daily.
How do I know if the recommendations are working?
Improvement in symptoms associated with subclinical hypothyroidism is an indication that the program is providing benefit.
From Dr. Murray: