When the thyroid gland isn’t working properly, life can be miserable. This is something I know from personal experience, and I’ll tell you more about it later in this article. If low function is the problem, it’s called hypothyroidism; at the opposite end of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid leads to hyperthyroidism, which revs up the metabolism with devastating results.
While an estimated 20 million Americans may be suffering from thyroid disorders, hypothyroidism, or a sluggish thyroid, is more common, affecting at least 13 million in the US alone. Some believe the number is higher, since many cases may not be diagnosed.
Women experience thyroid problems more often than men, and the most extreme cases of hypothyroidism are classified as an autoimmune disorder called Hashitmoto’s Disease. The body attacks its own tissues, and the resulting destruction causes a host of unwelcome symptoms, including fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, puffy eyes and sensitivity to cold.
It can be difficult to pinpoint hypothyroidism because many of the symptoms are not specific to the disorder. When I had my numbers run in my mid-forties because I couldn’t take off extra weight despite eating a clean and healthy diet and nearly overdoing it on the exercise, my tests showed thyroid readings in the “normal” range.
I found out years later that the reference ranges for thyroid stimulating hormones are based on statistics from sectors of the population who are having problems that may be related to thyroid function, and don’t necessarily provide an accurate cross-section.
When I finally found a physician with a clear understanding of how to identify people with low thyroid function through physical characteristics, I took the first steps toward remedying a problem that had plagued me for decades.
Causes of Low Thyroid Function
We live in a toxic world. From the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat and the mattress we sleep on, toxins are everywhere, and they take a toll on delicate body systems, including the endocrine system.
Hormones regulate everything, and if hormone secretion and balance is compromised by exposure to toxins, nothing works the way it should. The way your thyroid works will impact detoxification processes, heart function, weight and growth, body temperature, cognitive ability, fertility, immune function, and even mood!
Just to touch on a common toxin many of us are (or have been) exposed to, consider the fact that most commercial bread contains some form of potassium bromide as a dough conditioner. Years ago, a product containing iodine was used for this purpose, but that’s no longer the case.
Bromine and bromides are chemicals in the halide family whose molecular structure is similar to iodine, a vital mineral necessary for human health that affects every cell in the body. When we are exposed to bromides, the body mistakes them for iodine, uptaking it in the place of this important mineral, and in the process, blocking iodine uptake.
When the thyroid can’t get the iodine it needs, levels of thyroid hormones fall, negatively impacting various functions and leading to health problems.
Bromine and bromides can also be found in many personal care products, as a flame-retardant in upholstery (even your car), carpets, and mattresses, as well as in plastic products. It is sometimes used as an alternative treatment for pool and spa water instead of chlorine, which also affects thyroid function.
Potassium bromide was banned in Europe and Canada in the 1990s, but even though it’s classified as a carcinogen by the FDA, its use in America is limited, rather than prohibited. Strawberries and other produce may be sprayed with pesticides containing bromides, and it often serves as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored drinks like Mountain Dew. Inhalers and ulcer medications also contain bromides.
Reading product labels can help you avoid bromides, and choosing organic foods is an excellent strategy as well. Follow these guidelines for protecting and healing a sluggish thyroid:
- Eliminate soda drinks from your diet
- Use glass or stainless steel for food and water storage
- Eat well-washed organic produce
- Ventilate living areas and automobiles
- Avoid pools or spas treated with bromides or chlorine
Natural Methods to Improve Thyroid Function
Conventional treatments for hypothyroidism are synthetic drugs designed to stimulate the production of more thyroid hormones; some patients do well on such treatments and others see no improvement. Doctors who use more integrated and natural protocols may recommend using a medication containing porcine thyroid tissue (from swine) as a natural remedy for hypothyroidism, along with lifestyle and dietary changes to support healing.
Fortunately, there are many ways to enhance thyroid function naturally. My doctor put me on a porcine thyroid medication and suggested refining my clean diet even further. I began to eat sardines three times a week and took a higher dosage of omega-3 fatty supplements, as well as kelp pills to bolster iodine levels. I had switched to sea salt years before, losing the iodine in commercial salt, and getting plenty of iodine, which can also be taken in liquid form, is vital to support thyroid function.
These iodine-rich foods can help heal hypothyroidism:
- Seaweed, such as kelp, nori, kombu and waskame
- Seafood like cod, sardines, tuna, shrimp, lobster
- Turkey breast
- Himalayan salt crystals
- Navy beans
- Eggs from pastured chickens
- Strawberries and cranberries (well-washed), bananas and dried prunes
- Plain yogurt and cheddar cheese
I only needed to take the porcine thyroid medication for five months to get my thyroid back on track; since I had already eliminated most grains (and all non-organic grains) from my diet, other changes were fairly simple, and I was surprised to find myself developing a fondness for sardines. (Really!)
Almost fifteen pounds slid off during those five months, and my energy levels improved drastically; body temperatures have normalized, and I sleep better. I appreciate having solid proof my thyroid is able to do its job the way it’s meant to.
If you’ve been struggling with hypothyroidism, or think it could be an issue even if you don’t have a positive diagnosis, looking into it could make all the difference in your quality of life. It certainly has for me!