Optimizing Health Part 4: Thyroid Function
Healthy Thyroid, Healthy You
Your thyroid gland is a very important endocrine (hormone-producing) organ located in the front of your neck. It pumps out two key hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine, the active form), and T4 (thyroxine, the inactive storage form). Those hormones affect virtually EVERY system in your body, determining how fast or how slow it goes. Think of the thyroid gland as the body's gas pedal.
When your thyroid gland is working optimally, it's likely that…
- Your weight is normal (because your metabolism is humming along, burning calories at a good clip).
- Your bowel movements are regular (because your digestion isn't slow and sluggish).
- Your body temperature is "just right" (cold hands and feet are a common problem in folks whose thyroid function isn't optimal).
- Your thinking is clear and concentrated (rather than foggy and wandering) and your memory is sharp.
- Your energy levels are constant, with daytime fatigue a rarity.
- You sleep well.
- Your feel happy and positive most of the time.
- Your skin is healthy (not too dry) and (if you're a woman) your hair isn't thinning unnaturally.
- Your muscles feel relaxed and comfortable.
But it's likely that as many as 50 million Americans suffer from thyroid function that is NOT optimal. Possible causes for this are wide-ranging, and include environmental pollution, unrelenting stress, and nutritional deficiencies.
Unfortunately, standard thyroid tests more often than not miss a thyroid that is not functioning optimally.
For one thing, most primary care physicians don't even think to do the right tests for thyroid function when dealing with common health. Basically, the TSH test for thyroid function is very unreliable, failing to spot the large majority of people with less than optimal function that would benefit from thyroid support.
What can you do to make sure your thyroid is functioning optimally? Plenty!
Optimize Thyroid-Supporting Nutrients
Several nutrients are critical for your thyroid to function well. They include:
- Iodine. 200 micrograms (mcg) is a reasonable dose to maintain optimal thyroid function. There are signals that your body may be giving you that suggest when your thyroid needs help, including fatigue, achiness, weight gain, low body temperature and cold intolerance. If you suspect your thyroid isn't functioning optimally (e.g., if you have two or more of these signs), consider taking 6.25-12.5 milligrams (12,500 mcg) of iodine daily for one to two months to see if you feel better. Don't take a higher dosage unless under a health practitioner's supervision.
- Selenium. 50-100 mcg daily (but not more than 300-400). In a 2011 study in the medical journal Clinical Laboratory, those with the lowest blood levels of selenium had the unhealthiest thyroids. This is because selenium is critical in turning inactive T4 hormone into active T3 hormone.
- Tyrosine. 500-1,000 milligrams (mg) daily. This amino acid is what thyroid hormone is made from. Just add three iodine molecules to one tyrosine and you have a molecule of T3 hormone!
Consider Glandular Supplements
Formulated from the thyroid glands of animals, these supplements provide raw materials for your body to manufacture thyroid hormone.
Minimize Unnecessary Chemical Toxins
Many experts think that the enormous load of 80,000 synthetic chemicals in the environment — many of them similar in chemical structure to thyroid hormones — confuse the immune system, triggering it to attack the thyroid or simply block thyroid hormone production. For example, in a 2011 study, researchers at the University of Michigan tested more than 1,600 people for blood levels of toxic chemicals and levels of thyroid hormones. They found that those with the highest blood levels of phthalates and BPA — toxic chemicals found in plastics (including plastic packaging for food) — had the lowest levels of health-giving thyroid hormones.
Bottom line: Minimize your use and intake of chemical-laden household products and foods.
See a Holistic Doctor
The best way to optimize your thyroid, particularly if you already have signs of suboptimal function, is to partner with a holistic physician who is knowledgeable about thyroid health and how to maintain or improve it. Unfortunately, most conventional doctors, imho, don't have a clue about how to effectively optimize thyroid function
A good place to find the right doctor is the Optimized Health and Wellness Clinics (available nationwide). Also good is the "Top Thyroid Doctors Directory," compiled by Mary Shomon, patient advocate and author of The Thyroid Hormone Breakthrough. You can also check out the Online Directory at the American Holistic Medical Association website.
A holistic doctor can conduct the right tests for thyroid function and interpret them correctly in the context of how you feel. There are several options for using thyroid hormone to optimize thyroid function, including dessicated thyroid, compounded thyroid hormone and Synthroid.
Bottom Line? If you are tired, achy, cold intolerant, or have trouble losing weight, then a thyroid tuneup is a good idea.
 Kandhro GA, et al, "Effects of selenium supplementation on iodine and thyroid hormone status in a selected population with goitre in Pakistan." Clin Lab. 2011;57(7-8):575-85.
 Meeker JD, et al, "Relationship between urinary phthalate and bisphenol A concentrations and serum thyroid measures in U.S. adults and adolescents from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2008" Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Oct;119(10):1396-402. Epub 2011 Jun 29.
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