Diseases of the Thyroid – Another Growing Epidemic

Written by Cyndi

Cyndi is about educating. Her greatest love is to teach, both in the public arena and within the large corporate food companies, to enable everyone to make better choices so they too can enjoy greater health throughout their lives. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in Nutrition, Cyndi brings over 40 years experience, research and knowledge.

November 21, 2012

I’ve been speaking for nearly 15 years, travelling not only around Australia but other parts of the world.  Over the last couple of years in particular there seems to be an overwhelming amount of people telling me that they have been diagnosed with Hashimotos or other thyroid conditions such as Graves, Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism.  I felt it was about time that I got to understand these diseases so I could best advise people on the direction they could take with diet. Firstly I went to all the Australian sites which basically said the same thing for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid conditions. In many cases the treatment was the same for all conditions.  So I decided to look further as I’m never one to take something at face value.  What I found was remarkable and completely different to conventional diagnosis and treatment methods. The thyroid gland lies at the front of the throat, below the larynx (Adam’s apple). It is made up of two lobes that sit on either side of the trachea (windpipe). The thyroid gland makes two main hormones – thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). Two brain structures, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, regulate the hormones released by the thyroid gland. The steps in the process are:

  1. The chain of command begins at the hypothalamus, which prompts the pituitary gland to make a chemical called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
  2. The pituitary gland checks the amount of T4 and T3 in the blood and releases TSH if the T4 and T3 levels need to be topped up.
  3. The thyroid gland secretes T4 and T3 depending on the ‘order’ it receives from the pituitary gland. The more TSH the thyroid receives, the more T4 and T3 it secretes.
  4. T4 converts to T3 responding to receptors in every cell of the body to monitor metabolism and other important functions.
  5. T3 is broken down into T1 and T2

The thyroid hormones effect every cell in the body by the help of receptor sites.  All cells need thyroid hormones for energy, metabolism and health. Firstly let me give you a brief discussion on  thyroid disorders, the symptoms, traditional diagnosis and treatments. Then let’s get onto what the latest advice is about helping these conditions. Hashimotos and Graves Disease are auto immune diseases that affect the thyroid.  An autoimmune disease is an inflammatory disease where the body no longer knows intellectually what is foreign and what are its own cells.  In other words the body attacks itself and starts to destroy the thyroid gland.  Hashimotos and Graves are indicative of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism respectively. Hypothyroidism – (under active thyroid) Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment A very common disorder that usually effects people over the age of 40 but can also effect younger adults.  Approximately 10% of the population has this disorder.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through a simple blood test for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Synthetic thyroxine (T4) is a hormone replacement therapy that is normally used. Dosing is monitored and the therapy is recommended for life.  Interesting to note that synthetic thyroxine (T4) is one of the top three most commonly prescribed drugs in North America. Symptoms

  • unrelenting fatigue
  • Feeling the cold
  • Constipation
  • Swollen face
  • Dry, coarsened skin
  • Dry hair that is prone to breakage, hair loss
  • Voice changes, such as persistent hoarseness
  • Fluid retention (oedema)
  • Sudden weight gain that cannot be explained by dietary or lifestyle changes
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Stiff and tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet and knees
  • Cognitive changes, such as depression or forgetfulness
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goitre)
  • In women, heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).

Hyperthyroidsim – (overactive thyroid) Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment Affects approximately 2% of women and 0.2% of men. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed with a simple test of TSH. There are three main treatments for overactive thyroid – anti-thyroid drugs, radioiodine therapy and surgery. There is never a complete cure. Symptoms

  • irritability
  • rapid heart rate
  • weight loss
  • sleeplessness
  • heat intolerance
  • diarrhoea

Other Diseases of the Thyroid Cancer – papillary and follicular are the most common Nodules – lumps on the thyroid – usually non-cancerous two types hot and cold Congenital Thyroid Disease – where a child is born with an improperly functioning thyroid gland

Iodine Deficiency Disorder – iodine  is needed to make the hormones by the thyroid gland which then in turn help every cell in the body.  If there is not enough iodine thyroid hormones are not made and hypothyroidism is the result.
Goitre – swelling of the thyroid gland, which is a good indicator for problems with the thyroid.
Latest Research on The Thyroid and Autoimmunity. The increase in thyroid disease has shown a vast increase in research not only in traditional medicine but also alternative.  Dr Datis Kharrazian the author of “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms” Dr Kharrazian is an absolute wealth of knowledge on the thyroid, he says that 90% of thyroid disease has an autoimmunity component. There are three reasons why autoimmunity may affect the thyroid;

  1. Genetic component (not necessarily expressed in members of your family)
  2. Environmental (food and chemicals)
  3. Leaky Gut

There is not much you can do about genetics but there is a lot you can do about environment and a leaky gut, so for this discussion we will be concentrating on these two factors as these will effect genetic expression.

Why does the body turn against itself and start consuming itself (autoimmunity).  This is still not clear but thoughts are virus, bacteria, heavy metals, chemicals, the antecedents of our life and of course diet.  The epidemic in leaky gut can also be put down to medications, the pill, steroids, antibiotics, as well as processed foods filled with preservatives. Lack of sleep, poor diet and indiscriminate use of medications all play a role in leaky gut syndrome.
Dr Datis Kharrazian says that the evidence is so compelling regarding thyroid conditions being an autoimmune condition, that as soon as you know there is something wrong with your thyroid, the most important thing to do is to go off gluten and to never challenge yourself with gluten again.  He says that it can take up to six to eight months for the antibodies to reduce that attack on your thyroid after challenging with gluten.   This is echoed throughout the natural health community.  Dr Kharrazian also is disappointed that one of the fillers in thyroid medication (thyroxine) includes modified food starch a gluten, which just compounds the problems.
Tests that Dr Kharrazian suggests to test for autoimmunity of the thyroid are; TPOAb – Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody Test TgAb – Thyroglobulin Antibody Test TRAb – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor Antibody Test Many doctors only do one of these tests.  It has been found that sometimes one of the tests can actually be normal while another can be extremely high so it is important to do all the tests. When you are diagnosed with Hashimotos your doctor will tell you to just let the body kill your thyroid off, but Dr Kharrazian and Janie Bowthorpe, thyroid advocate, says that you should do everything you can to stop the autoimmune process.  Cleaning up the diet, fixing the leaky gut and cleaning up the pollutants in your life will go a long way to stopping the process. Janie Bowthorpe author of “Stop the Thyroid Madness” is an absolute passionate thyroid advocate. She has many things to say about the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid conditions.  In her twenty years of experience she does not believe that testing for the pituitary hormone TSH alone is an accurate enough test for the condition of the thyroid, although it is a starting point.  In her experience she says it is more beneficial to test for T3 and T4 to monitor thyroid function or whether the medications you are on are working to their peak.  She says when T3 is in the high range and T4 is in the mid-range then you know that your thyroid is working to optimum on your medications.
Janie also believes that the best thyroid medication is not the stored T4 (thyroxine) as sometimes enzymes are unavailable in order to convert it to the active free T3.  In her opinion desiccated thyroid is a far better option.  Armour Thyroid a US brand of natural thyroid extract made from pig or sheep thyroid glands, contains both T3 and T4 as well as T1, T2 and calcitonin.  Natural thyroid extract can be ordered from Australian pharmacies.
I am not the specialist when it comes to Thyroid conditions, but I’ve found two very knowledgeable people who have both written very informative books and have wonderful websites.  Like I always say it is the quality of your questions to yourself and your doctor that will ultimately help you with your health.  Become informed and know the questions to ask.  There is so much research and information out that will empower you to be more proactive if you have a thyroid disease or autoimmunity. Both Dr Kharrazian and Janie Bowthorpe take an holistic look at the thyroid, checking on the whole endocrine system, including adrenals and cortisol levels.  Before you proceed be informed of all of the factors you will need in order to improve your condition. The following websites will help you. http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com  This is Janie Bowthorpe’s website, it is very informative and there are many forums in which to become involved and ask questions that will lead you on the right path. http://www.thyroidbook.com  This is Dr Datis Kharrazian website, it is also informative and full of information. This is a link to a fabulous interview with Janie Bowthorpe conducted by Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness.  Well worth the listen, it goes for around 60 minutes. Click here for interview Books Recommended “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms, When My Lab Tests are Normal” by Dr Datis Kharrazian “Stop The Thyroid Madness”  by Janie A Bowthorpe In a Nut Shell – What to Do?

  1. Become informed visit the websites suggested, listen to the interview and read the books I’ve recommended.
  2. Become gluten free in your diet and do not challenge yourself with any foods, additives or foods that have been contaminated with gluten.  This can be done!
  3. Fix your leaky gut, by consuming a diet clean of artificial foods, increasing your fermented foods and consuming bone broths daily. (recipe in this newsletter).  Make sure you sleep at least 8 to 9 hours a night, this will help your Vitamin D status which will in turn help heal your leaky gut.
  4. If you have some weight to lose, follow the Fat Loss Protocol to not only help you with fat loss but to also help with eliminating foods other than gluten that may be causing your health problems.
  5. If you do not need to lose weight then I suggest you do the Healthy Keto Way which will help you get off gluten, become leptin sensitive as well as find out what foods cause you pain and discomfort as well as inflammation.
  6. Read Lab To Table  and learn about food and what food manufacturers do to it and why it is important to eat a diet clean of additives, preservatives, flavourings, modified milks and dairy, hydrogenated, interesterified and fractionated fats and oils.
  7. Once you have learnt more about your condition then write down questions you need to ask your doctor.  If your doctor is not prepared to answer your questions or help you into a new routine of medications and tests, then find one that will.  Visit ACNEM website to find a doctor who is starting to think differently.

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