Optimal thyroid function should be the goal instead of settling for normal thyroid function.
Thyroid control, if done thoroughly, can be one of the most challenging medical decisions that a doctor or nurse practitioner faces. The Association of Clinical Endocrinology and the Endocrinology Society have not come to an agreement on the standard of care for optimal thyroid function. Thus, many patients have been told that their thyroid is fine; but truthfully what is “fine”?
One knowledgeable pharmacist, Joe Paoletti, nicknames a lazy untreated thyroid as a “functional hypothyroidism”. He suggests that this is caused by an imbalance of T3 and T4, excess T4 therapy, or increased thyroid binding globulin. Was your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) simply checked or was an extensive thyroid panel drawn?
Optimal thyroid function should be the goal instead of settling for normal thyroid function. Illnesses, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatigue, low sex drive, and obesity are influenced by a poorly functioning thyroid. Why address multiple diseases and ignore the underlying potential cause?
Did you know that modern American way of life contributes to hypothyroid function? Stress, environmental toxins, diet, medicines, and much more all play a role. Other factors that prevent thyroid from optimally functioning include natural aging, alcohol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, excess soy, surgery, and radiation. Conversely, factors that positively support thyroid function include melatonin (sleep), high protein diet, proper hormonal balance, and Ashwaganda (Indian ginseng).
Let’s focus on nutrition and how it affects thyroid. Lack of selenium, chromium, zinc, iron, iodine, copper, vitamins A, D, E, B2, B6, and B12 discourages thyroid function. Did you know that artificial sweeteners cause chromium wasting? Did you know that there are approximately six packets of artificial sweeteners in one Diet Coke? Also, if you take your multivitamin with a fiber supplement or the new Alli product, your fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K will not be absorbed well?
What about medicines that negatively influence thyroid function? Beta blockers, birth control pills, iodinated contrast agents, SSRIs (Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft), estrogen, glucocorticoids, opiates, chemotherapy, and lithium are just a few. Ferrous sulfate, aluminum hydroxide-containing antacids, lactose, and calcium carbonate also alter thyroid absorption. How many of us are on any one of these at one time or another?
So what can we do to support our thyroid besides reevaluate what goes in our mouth? Some suggestions would be to take selenium 200-800 mcg daily (or eat fish two to three times per week); do a gluten-free diet for at least 60 days; remove aspartame, trans fats, and processed whole foods from our diet; correct any hormone imbalances; and restore proper gut function. Furthermore, kick start your thyroid with iodine, vitamin B6, L-tyrosine, zinc, and magnesium.
If your provider chooses to supplement with commercial thyroid, request brand name only. Studies have shown absorption varies from 48-80% from generic to brand name. Absorption is increased by fasting and decreased by low stomach acid. It is best taken on an empty stomach, separate from food, medicines, herbals, and vitamins.
Also, seasons change and no one size fits all. Do not wait too long to recheck the function of your thyroid. If you have gained weight, been diagnosed with a new condition, had a change in medicines, had a baby, or had ongoing major stressors for a season of time, then consider rechecking your thyroid.
In conclusion, Henry Harrower, MD from Endocrine Fundamentals states, “A good laboratory report is cold comfort to a patient whose symptoms remain unchanged, and the doctor can repeat such reports until he is blue in the face, but they will not help his patient much if unaccompanied by controlled symptoms. The successful physician is the one who knows best how to make his patients feel better.”
Further thyroid information can be found through websites at Drlowe.com, thyroidPower.com, and merckmedicus.com. Books summarizing thyroid optimal function include Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by David Brownstein, MD; Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia by John C Lowe; Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness by Broda Barnes; The Thyroid Solution by Ridha Arem, MD; and Thyroid Power: 10 Steps to Total Health by Richard Shames MD