How do you feel after a full night’s sleep? Does fatigue drag you down day after day? Or, are you experiencing a racy feeling and higher than usual level of anxiety or nervousness throughout the day? Do you have restless nights or problems getting to sleep?
If you do, this suggests a thyroid imbalance.
About 300 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. Recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 Canadians suffers from a thyroid condition. Of those, as many as 50% are undiagnosed!
At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half—15 million—are silent sufferers who are undiagnosed, according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
“Women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a thyroid problem”, says integrative medicine specialist Robin Miller, MD, co-author of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to MidLife & Beyond.”
What is a thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around your windpipe behind and below the Adam’s Apple area. It is the supreme gland of metabolism. The thyroid regulates all body functions and impacts your energy level and mood.
The thyroid produces several hormones in both men and women, the two most important being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These help to convert oxygen and calories into energy and are essential for the proper functioning of all our organs, including our heart, musculoskeletal system, and brain.
Hormones T3 and T4 are critical to all growth and metabolism. Both contain atoms of the mineral iodine, T4 contains four atoms, and T3 contains three. To produce its own iodine, the thyroid gland must absorb it from your bloodstream. A balanced thyroid is a crucial part of the body, so it essential to maintain stable iodine levels.
The body out of balance
If the body cannot produce enough T3 and T4 hormones, this is a condition referred to as a thyroid deficiency, or “hypothyroidism.” If it produces too much, it is known as “hyperthyroidism”, or “thyrotoxicosis.”
Hormones produced by the thyroid gland are vital to the body’s metabolism so that any imbalance will have a significant impact. Too little of the essential hormones will cause the body to slow down, too many will cause the body to speed up.
Symptoms of a thyroid imbalance, i.e. an iodine deficiency or excess, include extremes such as constipation or diarrhea, slow or rapid heartbeats, weight gain or loss, and low or high body temperatures. However, not all of the symptoms are opposites. For example, muscular weakness is common to both thyroid iodine deficiency and excess.
Is the thyroid affected by toxicity?
Numerous studies have shown that thyroid disorders are correlated to toxins in the environment. “Many people suffering with thyroid disease are not aware that the root cause of their conditions could be due to toxins. In my experience, subtle signs such as headaches, fatigue, storing fat on their bodies, a metallic taste in their mouth, or multiple chemical sensitivities are related to toxicity,” explains Isabella Wentz, PharmD.
(Izabella Wentz, is an internationally acclaimed thyroid specialist and licensed pharmacist dedicated to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2009, this led her to write the New York Times best-selling science-based patient guide, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.”)
According to Dr. Elena Koles of Illinois, “The thyroid gland is very sensitive. It is sensitive to all kind of toxins.” The thyroid is vulnerable to everything you consume on a daily basis by eating, drinking, smoking. It is also affected by what your body absorbs from cosmetics, skin, and hair care products.
A May 2001 report from the Environmental Defense of Canada tested a total of 49 pieces of makeup from six Canadian women for heavy metals and found startling results. Among these toxins were arsenic, lead, nickel, beryllium, some in amounts that would be banned if they were in food products.
Most people don’t realize that whatever they put on their bodies will be absorbed through the skin. Not only will it combine with other toxicities, causing a greater impact, but will also begin to accumulate.
Unfortunately, today’s pollution and our tap water’s chlorine and fluorine affect our thyroid’s ability to function properly. Bromide has recently been added more and more to our food supply, for example, in commercial bread and other bakery items.
These three elements displace the iodine from our thyroid.
Why does toxicity have such a profound effect on the thyroid gland?
The thyroid acts as our environmental sensing gland with thyroid receptors in all of the body’s cells. Tom Malterre, Functional Medicine practitioner and author of “The Elimination Diet,” explains, “There is something called the ‘cell danger response’ that happens when you are exposed to a chemical, EMF, or any toxins. The thyroid is the first thing to respond…We know heavy metals and radiation accumulate in the thyroid. What other of the 80,000 chemicals that we are exposed to daily, are we accumulating and causing adverse effects on the thyroid? The thyroid shuts down with toxic stress.”
The drastic increase in Hashimoto’s and all immune disorders within the past 2 decades correlates with the alarming increase in toxic chemicals in the world.
Glands are our body’s most sensitive tissues. We may not realize how we are affected by the 80,000 chemicals we are exposed to in everyday life, but our bodies do, our cells do, and our thyroid gland definitely does.
How can we protect ourselves?
The root cause of thyroid imbalance, as with most other diseases, is a deficiency in vital minerals, together with high levels of toxicity.
Step one – Add minerals and a nutrient-rich diet:
To feed your thyroid, it is essential to have iodine and selenium together. Otherwise, you could result in a mineral deficiency. Taking supplements of both is important as they work synergistically, but be aware, taking too much iodine can have adverse effects, especially if you have thyroid antibodies attacking your thyroid. Do your research about different forms, Lugal’s versus Nascent, and take micro-doses to see how you respond.
We need iodine for the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. The average iodine intake in the US has declined by 50% since the 1970s. That’s a pretty substantial decrease. Up to 35% of women of childbearing age or pregnant women are deficient. That’s one in three women. Iodine is a crucial nutrient for pregnancy and the developing fetus.
Your body needs at least 150 micrograms of iodine each day. Table salt is a source of iodine, but it is usually not enough. The largest natural sources of iodine are fish and sea vegetables. In the absence of sufficient iodine from natural sources, supplementary iodine in micro-doses is essential.
Step two – Minimize your exposure to toxins:
Look at all the different places you may be exposed to hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as in the home and your personal care products, and try to reduce your exposure. Select products that are made with safe, organic ingredients. Certain websites, like Environmental Working Group or the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, offer guides to see what’s in your products and alternatives you can use instead. You will feel better, and your thyroid will function better.
Look out for triggers, what Suzy Cohen, RPH Pharmacist, describes as “thyroid bombs, things like cigarettes, swimming pools.” The chlorine in the pool competes with the iodine in the thyroid gland and suppresses your ability to make thyroid hormone. Other “thyroid bombs” include plastic water bottles and fluorinated pharmaceutical drugs.
A 2015 British study reported that medical practices in areas that had fluoridated water were twice as likely to report hypothyroidism in their patients. Additionally, the rates of hypothyroidism were statistically matched to the rates of fluoride in the water supply.
The problem with toxins like fluoride and chlorine is that we’re drinking them from tap water or showering in them every single day. This puts us at risk of suppressing the thyroid function. So drink clean, filtered water and get a chlorine filter for your showerhead.
Step three- Detoxify your body:
The thyroid gland is very sensitive to environmental toxins and often the first part of your body affected. According to Dr. Mark Hyman of Cleveland, “One of the most important factors that lead to hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function. Detoxifying becomes an important part of improving your thyroid function”.
By minimizing your exposure to toxins, eating a mineral and nutrient-rich diet, and working to detoxify your body, you can address the root causes of thyroid imbalance.
Curious about how toxins interfere with iodine absorption? See our blog “Rejuvenate your under-active thyroid.”
To explore modern day solutions for your thyroid, check out “Your thyroid and your health …”