The thyroid gland is the body’s internal thermostat, regulating the temperature and controlling how quickly the body burns calories and uses energy. If the thyroid is overactive and secretes too much hormone, the condition is known as hyperthyroid. If the thyroid is underactive and secretes too little hormone, the condition is called hypothryroid.
Hypothyroidism affects about 13 million people in the United States. About 90% of these are women. Thyroid imbalances are not always easy to recognize. Stress, depression, anxiety, tiredness and other emotional or mental states can mask a thyroid imbalance. Minimal imbalances in the thyroid gland can significantly affect mental and physical health.
Symptoms of thyroid imbalance include: fatigue or exhaustion; irritability and impatience; feeling too hot or too cold; depression, anxiety, or panic attacks; dry skin or hair; hair loss; mood swings; frequent memory lapses; inability to concentrate; unexplained weight gain or loss; loss of enthusiasm for life; a sinking spell around 3 or 4 in the afternoon; and insomnia.
Women from 30 to 50 years of age are the most likely to develop hypothyroidism. The most common reason for hypothyroidism is estrogen/progesterone imbalance. Estrogen interferes with thyroid hormones, while progesterone facilitates normal action of the thyroid hormones. As women approach menopause, they have a tendency to cease producing progesterone, which is the hormone that balances and complements the estrogen produced by the body. Even though estrogen levels in the body are lower during this time, it the ratio between estrogen and progesterone that is important.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) compounds the problem since it is commonly synthetic estrogen without the balancing component of progesterone that is prescribed. Synthetic progestins that are used for HRT do not have the same thyroid facilitating action that natural progesterone does.
Another common reason for thyroid dysfunction is accumulation of radiation and / or heavy metals in the thyroid gland. Many of us have metal fillings in our teeth that slowly deteriorate and leak mercury which easily accumulates in the thyroid. Heavy metals such as mercury can cause the thyroid to be either ‘hyper’ or ‘hypo’ depending on the individual. A heavy metal cleanse will chelate the mercury out of the body, cleaning the thyroid gland, and restoring thyroid function. Exposure to radiation can also lower thyroid function. Medicinal grade green tea will neutralize the effects of low level radiation.
Many women take prescription Synthroid or Armour Thyroid and still have symptoms of hypothyroidism. I find that supplementing with at least 800 I.U. per day of natural vitamin E helps to facilitate uptake of the medication so that thyroid function normalizes.
There are some good natural supplements I find helpful for hypothyroidism. They include natural progesterone cream as mentioned above; l-tyrosine, a precursor to thyroid hormones in the body; natural vitamin E; and kelp, a natural form of iodine. Also helpful are gotu kola, an herb that facilitates thyroid function; omega 3 oils, which are essential for hormone health; and natural thyroid glandular extract.
There are many good combination products specifically for thyroid health. Check with your local health food store.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.