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Jan 23rd 2024

Hypothyroidism; Deficiency and Toxicity

By Raymond Francis Like any other so-called disease, hypothyroidism has two fundamental causes: deficiency and toxicity. Although all of the fundamental nutrients are needed for optimal thyroid health, there are particular nutrients that are central to thyroid function. For example, thyroid hormone is made up of a tyrosine compound to which atoms of iodine are added. Iodine deficiency is common. Tyrosine is made from the amino acid phenylalanine. The best sources of phenylalanine are dairy, meat and eggs, so it’s very possible that vegans can become deficient in phenylalanine, especially if their gastrointestinal absorption is poor. However phenylalanine is also found in almonds, avocados, bananas, brown rice, oats, mustard greens, seaweed, fish, lima beans, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Phenylalanine and tyrosine can also be taken as supplements. Selenium is needed to activate the thyroid hormone, and many people don’t get enough of this antioxidant mineral. Again, vegans can miss out on getting enough selenium as it is found mainly in seafood, turkey and lamb, but it is also present in barley, and it is especially high in Brazil nuts. In fact, 4 Brazil nuts can supply 200 mcg of selenium a day, a therapeutic dose. There are two primary forms of thyroid hormone in the human body; they are called T4 and T3. T4 is a tyrosine compound plus 4 atoms of iodine; T3 is a tyrosine compound plus 3 atoms of iodine. Although most of the thyroid hormone made in the thyroid gland is T4, T3 is a more active form (about 3-5 times more active), and much of T4 is converted into T3. Selenium is the most important nutrient required for this conversion. If your body isn’t good at converting T4 to T3, you will have hypothyroid symptoms. When getting your thyroid function tested, it’s important to find out your T3 levels as well as your T4 levels. One reason people often do better on natural thyroid is that it supplies both T3 and T4, whereas Synthroid provides only T4. Although it’s often assumed that your body can convert the T4 into T3, many people don’t make this conversion well. Sometimes supplying enough selenium corrects this problem, but many toxins can also interfere with the T4 to T3 conversion. There are many toxins that either inhibit thyroid hormone or interfere with the T4 to T3 conversion. Drugs that inhibit thyroid hormone include aspirin, birth control pills, cortisone, Coumadin (blood thinner), epinephrine, Ketoconazole (antifungal), and steroids (fluoride, a thyroid inhibitor, is used in many of them). Lithium both inhibits thyroid hormone and interferes with T4 to T3 conversion. It causes hypothyroidism in 1/3 of longterm users, usually women, within the first 2 years of treatment. Lithium competes with iodine, blocking uptake. It also inhibits the production and release of the thyroid hormone. Cordarone (amiodarone – an antiarrhythmic/ antianginal), and Propranalol (a beta blocker) are two more drugs that both inhibit thyroid hormone and interfere with T4 to T3 conversion. Among the many environmental toxins that inhibit thyroid hormone are chlorinated compounds, fertilizers (for example, perchlorate interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to absorb iodine) polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PBCs), radiation, and Triclosan. Many water pollutants inhibit the thyroid. Populations using water drawn from oil shale areas have an increased occurrence of hypothyroidism and thyroiditis. Organic hydrocarbons block the activity of thyroid hormone, as do pesticides in water. Xenoestrogens are environmental pollutants that have an estrogenic effect.  They interfere with thyroid activity and affect thyroid in diverse and complex ways that are as yet incompletely understood.  Xenoestrogens include dioxins, PCBs, bisphenol-A, phthalates, parabens, and pesticides like lindane and dieldrin. Other thyroid inhibitors include alcohol, beta carotene in very high doses, excessive amounts of copper, heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium and lead), extremely high doses of niacin as in niacin treatment for high cholesterol, and PABA in high doses. Fluorine (fluoride) will also interfere with thyroid function by competing with iodine. The same goes for bromine, which is found in bakery products, such as bread, and in fire retardants. Some of the factors that interfere with T4 to T3 conversion are aging, burns and other traumatic injuries, caloric restriction, fasting, low carbohydrate diets, eating disorders, chemical exposure, chronic alcohol use, depressed DHEA levels, free radical load, hemorrhagic shock, intestinal dysbiosis (toxins in the intestinal tract from bad bugs travel to the liver and impair its ability to manufacture and utilize T3), diabetes and hyperinsulinism, liver disease, kidney disease, severe or systemic illness (often seen in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia), stress producing increased cortisol, surgery, and toxic heavy metals. There are some lifestyle factors that influence thyroid function. Exercise stimulates thyroid hormone secretion as well as metabolism, unless you overdo it – if energy expended is greater than energy consumed, it will have the opposite effect. Thyroid function is also influenced by the condition of other hormones. The adrenal glands have a great deal of influence on the thyroid. For example, elevated cortisol levels (cortisol is the hormone the adrenals produce under stress) will suppress thyroid activity. Anyone with thyroid issues should also have their adrenal function evaluated. If adrenal dysfunction is an underlying issue, taking supplemental thyroid hormone can make the adrenal dysfunction worse. Estrogen inhibits thyroid activity, while progesterone supports it. Insulin inhibits thyroid. Therefore consuming sugar and highglycemic foods which drive insulin and cortisol levels up will increase hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism today. It is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system begins to attack the thyroid gland as if it were an allergen. One can have Hashimoto’s without being hypothyroid, but as Hashimoto’s progresses, and the thyroid gland is progressively destroyed, hypothyroidism will ensue. Hashimoto’s Disease itself can often be reversed with a general approach to building health and immunity. A good, relatively low glycemic diet that eliminates gluten is central. The gluten molecule is very similar to the molecules composing the thyroid gland. When the immune system mounts a defense against gluten as a perceived allergen, it will often attack the thyroid gland as well. Thyroid expert Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS finds that if he has any question about a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, all he needs to do is have the patient intentionally eat substantial amounts of gluten. This will increase the antibody levels that prove Hashimoto’s is the correct diagnosis. Sources of gluten include wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut. Since gluten is found in most processed foods, they should be eliminated or very carefully investigated. It may be beneficial to remove all grains from the diet, as well as dairy. Eat organic produce to avoid estrogenic pesticides. Coconut oil has been found to be energizing and beneficial to many people with low thyroid. Up to 3 tablespoons a day is recommended. Apart from a good diet, saunas and other methods of detoxification are advised as well as removing toxins wherever possible (for example, household cleaning products, cosmetics and body care products, etc.). A good supplement program would include all the basic vitamins and minerals in their most bioavailable forms as well as addressing any specific deficiencies in iodine, tyrosine (phenylalanine), and selenium. In one study done by the Endocrine Society, it was found that 200 mcg of selenium a day reduced thyroid antibodies in the patients with Hashimoto’s Disease by an average of one half, and, in 13% of those tested, it returned antibodies to normal. Kharrazian warns that too much iodine can be harmful in Hashimoto’s, so it may be beneficial to have this monitored by a healthcare professional. Cod liver oil is recommended for vitamin A. Hypothyroids have difficulty converting beta carotene into vitamin A, so deficiencies can develop. 2-3 teaspoons a day is recommended. A home reverse osmosis water purification system is recommended to remove the toxins mentioned from drinking water. In addition, chlorine and fluoride should be removed from bathing water. Most autoimmune disease originates in the gut, and intestinal dysbiosis as well as food allergies must be addressed in almost all cases of Hashimoto’s Disease. I am often asked by people taking supplemental thyroid hormone if there is a supplement or supplement program that can be taken instead. The answer is no. You need adequate levels of thyroid hormone for the body to function as it should. You need to get thyroid hormone from somewhere in order to feel good and prevent damage to the body. It is certainly possible, however, that by addressing the deficiencies and toxicities above, you can avoid having to take supplemental thyroid; if you’re already on it, it is possible you can reduce or even eliminate it over time. This should be done under the care of a healthcare practitioner who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area. When the thyroid gland has become too damaged (as it can become due to Hashimoto’s), it is necessary to take thyroid hormone for life. In this case, I prefer the natural thyroid, which provides not only T4 and T3 but also T1 and T2. T1 and T2 have not been thoroughly investigated, but they may play some useful role in the total picture. Although most people do better on the natural thyroid than on synthetic, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you and your healthcare practitioner will need to try different approaches in supplementing thyroid hormone before something clicks.
Kharrazian D. Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal. Garden City, NY: Morgan James Publishing, LLC, 2010.
Shames RL and Shames HS. Thyroid Power. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 2002.




Information contained in NewsClips articles should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.