What Is Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, which produces hormones that increase oxygen use in cells and stimulate vital processes in every part of the body. These thyroid hormones have a major impact on growth, use of energy, heat production, and infertility. They affect the use of vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, electrolytes, and water, and regulate the immune response in the intestine. They can also alter the actions of other hormones and drugs.
The two key thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and L-triiodothyronine (T3). Iodine is the raw material used in the manufacture of these hormones; it is extracted from the blood and trapped by the thyroid gland where 80% of the body’s iodine is stored. The thyroid mostly produces thyroxine, which in turn, is converted into T3, the more biologically active thyroid hormone. Only about 20% of T3 is actually formed in the thyroid gland, however; the rest is manufactured from circulating thyroxine in tissues outside the thyroid. The whole process of iodine trapping and thyroid hormone production is directly influenced by another important hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH or thyrotropin). This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and monitored by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which is produced in the hypothalamus gland. Both glands are located in the brain. Any abnormality in this intricate system of glands and hormone synthesis and production can have far-reaching consequences.
When there is inadequate secretion of thyroid hormones, hypothyroidism occurs and the body begins to slow down. It was first diagnosed in the late nineteenth century when physicians observed that after surgically removing the thyroid gland, a patient developed swelling of the hands, face, feet, and tissues around the eye. They named this syndrome myxedema and correctly concluded that it was the outcome of the absence of substances — thyroid hormones — normally produced by the thyroid gland, i.e., hypothyroidism. A number of conditions can cause this disorder, and it is usually progressive and irreversible. Treatment for hypothyroidism, however, is nearly always completely successful and allows a patient to live a fully normal life.
Hypothyroidism refers to low thyroid gland function.
Since thyroid hormones affect every cell of the body, a deficiency will usually result in a large number of signs and symptoms.
Depression, weakness, and fatigue are usually the first symptoms of hypothyroidism.
The medical treatment of hypothyroidism, in all but its mildest forms, involves the use of desiccated thyroid or synthetic thyroid hormone.
You can support the thyroid gland by avoiding goitrogens (foods that impair the use of iodine) and insuring adequate intake of key nutrients that are required for the manufacture of thyroid hormone.
a. Iodine insufficiency.
b. Fatty acid or protein insufficiency.
c. Hormonal imbalance.
d. Ingesting water that contains halogens (fluoride or chlorine).
e. Probably fluoride toothpastes
f. Diets high in carbohydrate (the carbs can ferment in the large intestine and form a compound called DEOXYGLUCOSE. Deoxyglucose is used to treat hyperthyroidism in medicine).
g. Consumption of large amounts of some raw vegetables and soy products which are goitrogenic.
If you are suffering from symptoms that suggest hypothyroidism, take your basal body temperature (See Instructions Below) and consult a physician for proper evaluation via blood tests, etc. Support the thyroid gland by insuring adequate intake of key nutrients required in the manufacture of thyroid hormone and by avoiding goitrogens.
The dosage of health food store preparations really depends on the potency and level of supportive nutrients, especially iodine (no more than 500 mcg daily). A good rule of thumb is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as provided on the product’s label. Use your basal body temperature to determine effectiveness of the product and adjust dosage as necessary.
The medical treatment of hypothyroidism, in all but its mildest forms, involves the use of desiccated thyroid or synthetic thyroid hormone. Although synthetic hormones have become popular, many physicians (particularly naturopathic physicians) still prefer the use of desiccated natural thyroid, complete with all the thyroid hormones, not just thyroxine, the major thyroid hormone. At this time, it appears that thyroid hormone replacement is necessary in the majority of people who have hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy consists of using preparations containing active levels of thyroid hormones, either isolated thyroid hormones or natural thyroid extracts.
It is important to nutritionally support the thyroid gland by avoiding goitrogens and insuring adequate intake of key nutrients required in the manufacture of thyroid hormone. For this reason, most health food store thyroid products also contain supportive nutrients such as iodine, zinc, selenium and tyrosine.
a. Drink and cook only with pure water; sip 3 ounces every 30 minutes while awake (no well water or water containing fluoride or chlorine).
b. Eliminate refined carbohydrate, processed food, alcohol, dairy products, gluten-containing grains and caffeine containing foods such as cola, coffee, tea and chocolate.
c. Eliminate all hydrogenated fats and oils. Increase raw and fresh oils.
d. Increase raw foods and quality proteins like fish.
e. If patient is overweight, limit daily carbohydrate intake to not more than 60 grams.
f. The only oils you should use are fish oils, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Coconut oil will “turn the thyroid gland on”.
Primary Nutrients: When symptoms or condition begins to subside, gradually, as needed, wean yourself from the Specific Nutrients & stay on the Primary Nutrients. If any symptoms re-occur resume Specific Nutrients.
1. BIO-MULTI PLUS-IRON FREE – 1 tablet, 3 times daily after meals.
2. BIO-C PLUS 1000 – 1 tablet, 3 times daily after meals.
3. M S M POWDER – 1/2 teaspoonful 2 to 4 times daily depending on the severity of symptoms. NOTE: Always take MSM with your Vitamin C.
4. IODIZYME-HP— 1 to 2 tablets daily for Iodine
5. BIO-D MULSION FORTE 2000IU — 5 to 8 drops by mouth once daily.
6. SUNFLAX – 3 capsules once daily for Essential Fatty Acids.
7. GTA FORTE II – 1 to 3 tablets daily for Thyroid Supplementation
NOTE: THIS PROGRAM WORKS ALMOST EVERY TIME. IF YOUR AXILLARY TEMPERATURES ARE BELOW THE OPTIMUM RANGE AND IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST YOU SHOULD PROBABLY NOW BE PRESCRIBED THE PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION: NATURETHROID? DESICCATED THYROID BY YOUR PHYSICIAN. If so, discontinue all the above supplements except for the Primary Nutrients.
2. If you can, get a hard copy printout for your own review and home medical files.
3. If “normal” or “reference” ranges are not indicated on the lab results, ask your doctor’s office to tell you what these ranges are.
4. Note the level of your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). At most labs in the U.S., the normal range is from around 0.5 to 5.5.
5. If the TSH level is below normal, your doctor may determine that you are hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid.)
6. If the TSH level is above normal, your doctor may determine that you are hypothyroid (under-active thyroid.)
7. If your doctor ran a test called Total T4 or Total Thyroxine, normal range is approximately 4.5 to 12.5. If you had a low reading, and a high TSH, your doctor might consider that indicative of hypothyroidism.
8. If your doctor ran a test called Total T4 or Total Thyroxine, normal range is approximately 4.5 to 12.5. If you had a low reading, and a low TSH, your doctor might look into a pituitary problem.
9. If your doctor ran a test called Free T4, or Free Thyroxine, normal range is approximately 0.7 to 2.0. If your result was less than 0.7, your doctor might consider that indicative of hypothyroidism.
10. If your doctor ran a test called Total T3, normal range is approximately 80 to 220. If your result was less than 80, your doctor might consider that indicative of hypothyroidism.
11. If your doctor ran a test called Free T3, normal range is approximately 2.3 to 4.2. If your result was less than 2.3, your doctor might consider that indicative of hypothyroidism.
12. If your test results come back “normal” but you have many of the symptoms or risk factors for thyroid disease, make sure you ask for an antibodies test. Some doctors believe in treating thyroid symptoms in the presence of elevated antibodies and normal TSH levels.
13. If your test results come back “normal” but you have many of the symptoms or risk factors for thyroid disease, consider going to a reputable holistic M.D. or alternative physician for further interpretation and diagnosis.
1. Laboratory reference ranges and normal ranges can differ from lab to lab. Always go by your lab’s reference range and your doctor’s diagnosis.
1. Shake down the thermometer to below 95 or 96 degrees Fahrenheit and place it by your bed before going to sleep at night.
2. On waking, place the thermometer in your armpit for a full ten minutes. It is important to move as little as possible (lying and resting with your eyes closed is best). Do not get up until the ten-minute test is completed.
3. After ten minutes, read and record the temperature, your pulse rate and the date.
4. Record the temperature and pulse for at least three mornings (preferably at the same time of day) and give the information to your physician. Menstruating women must perform the test on the second, third, and fourth days of menstruation. Men and postmenopausal women can perform the test at any time.
Your basal body temperature should be between 97.6 and 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Low basal body temperatures (below 97.6 degrees) are quite common and may reflect hypothyroidism.
Low basal body temperature may also be due to the body’s failure to convert T4 to T3 (the active form of the thyroid hormone). This conversion requires the mineral Selenium. All blood tests such as a Thyroid Panel (T4, T3, & TSH) are all normal.
SEE ALSO: NATURE-THROID? THYROID DOSAGE
Also, if the TSH is not within normal limits but T3 and T4 are, the problem may not be with the thyroid gland but with the anterior pituitary gland. You will be able to distinguish this by using desiccated thyroid medication.
Exercise to Improve Thyroid Function
Exercise is particularly important in a treatment program for hypothyroidism. Exercise stimulates thyroid gland secretion and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormone. Many of the health benefits of exercise may be a result of improved thyroid function.
The health benefits of exercise are especially important in overweight hypothyroid individuals who are dieting (restricting food intake). A consistent effect of dieting is a decrease in the metabolic rate as the body strives to conserve fuel. Exercise has been shown to prevent the decline in metabolic rate in response to dieting.
What kinds of complaints characterize an underactive thyroid system? Low energy and fatigue or tiredness, especially in the morning are frequent in these patients. Difficulty losing weight, a sensation of coldness–especially of the hands and feet, depression, slowness of thought processes, headaches, swelling of the face or fluid retention in general, dry coarse skin, brittle nails, chronic constipation, menstrual problems-such as PMS and menstrual irregularities including heavy periods, fertility problems, stiffness of joints, muscular cramps, shortness of breath on exertion and chest pain are some of the symptoms that can be seen in people with underactive thyroid systems. Be aware that a person with a low functioning thyroid doesn’t have to have all of these symptoms, he may have only a few.
Function of the Thyroid Gland
Where is the thyroid located in the body and what does it do? The thyroid gland consists of two small lobes connected together. It is located in the front of the neck, just below the voice box. The thyroid gland is responsible for the speed of metabolic processes in the body and therefore affects every organ and organ system. It is the metabolic stimulator, analogous to the accelerator of a car. Normal growth requires normal thyroid functioning. When the thyroid is not functioning properly, organs become infiltrated with metabolic wastes and all functions become sluggish.
When the thyroid gland is working properly, it uses the amino acid tyrosine and iodine to make the thyroid hormone called thyroxine or T4. Thyroxine is called T4 because it contains four iodine atoms. If a person is deprived of iodine in his diet, he develops an enlarged thyroid gland, called a goiter and symptoms of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
The other important thyroid hormone is triiodothyronine or T3, which has three iodine atoms. T3 is actually the major active thyroid hormone, being much more active than T4. T4 is produced within the thyroid gland and is later converted to the active T3 outside the thyroid gland in peripheral tissues. Under certain conditions, such as stress, the thyroid gland may produce sufficient amounts of T4 to obtain normal thyroid blood tests, but its conversion to T3 may be inhibited, causing a relative insufficiency of active T3. Under this circumstance, the patient will have hypothyroid symptoms in spite of normal thyroid blood tests. As you will see, this fact results in many missed diagnoses of an underactive thyroid system.
The production and release of T4 from the thyroid gland is controlled by a hormone from the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH. When the level of T4 in the bloodstream is low, the pituitary increases TSH production and release, which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce and release more T4. The T4 then feeds back to the pituitary, reducing the secretion of TSH in a negative feedback loop. When a person has trouble making T4 due to iodine deficiency or for some other reason, one would expect to find an elevated TSH. The pituitary’s TSH is trying to get the thyroid gland to produce more T4. If both T4 and TSH are low, this may indicate a pituitary problem with a low TSH secretion resulting in the low production and secretion of T4.
Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism
So, how is hypothyroidism diagnosed today by conventional medicine? Unfortunately, the diagnosis by conventional physicians, including thyroid spritilists called endocrinologists, is made al>
=””>lusively from blood tests. Generally, T4 and TSH are measured in the bloodstream. Additionally, a protein that binds T4 is also measured. From this protein and T4, the free T4 is calculated. If a patient has a normal TSH and a normal free T4, he is told by the conventional physician that he does not have hypothyroidism, no matter how many symptoms or signs of hypothyroidism he has. This is the fatal error because these tests only pick up the most severe cases of hypothyroidism and miss virtually all of the milder cases that would respond favorably to thyroid hormone treatment.
If most hypothyroid cases cannot be diagnosed by the usual blood tests, how can they be diagnosed? Prior to the extensive use of blood tests, hypothyroid states were diagnosed by astute clinicians, who obtained careful medical histories, including family histories from the patient, and who performed a complete physical examination. Later basal metabolic rates were measured using special equipment. Then came the blood tests–the protein bound iodine or PBI, T4, TSH and even T3 by special radioactive studies. Instead of using the blood tests as adjuncts to diagnosis, they were soon relied upon exclusively. To properly diagnose hypothyroidism, the clinician must go back to the careful medical history, physical examination and measurement of the basal temperature of the body. I’ll discuss important aspects of the medical history and physical examination relevant to the diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
What in the medical history suggests the likelihood of hypothyroidism? With regard to infancy and childhood, a high birth weight of over 8 lbs. suggests low thyroid. During childhood, early or late teething, late walking or late talking suggests a low functioning thyroid in the child. Also, frequent ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections; problems in school incl, mag difficulty concentrating, abnormal ts ue–especially having difficulty getting up in the morning and poor athletic ability all suggest a low thyroid. Keep in mind that a person with low thyroid functioning may have only a few of these characteristics. You don’t have to find all of them to suspect a low thyroid.
During puberty, we see the same types of problems in school and with fatigue, which is worse in the morning and gets a little better later in the day. Often, adolescent girls suffer from menstrual irregularity, premenstrual syndrome and painful periods. Drug and alcohol abuse are common.
Throughout life, disorders associated with hypothyroidism include headaches, migraines, sinus infections, post-nasal drip, visual disturbances, frequent respiratory infections, difficulty swallowing, heart palpitations, indigestion, gas, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, frequent bladder infections, infertility, reduced libido and sleep disturbances, with the person requiring 12 or more hours of sleep at times. Other conditions include intolerance to cold and/or heat, poor circulation, Raynaud’s Syndrome, which involves the hands and feet turning white in response to cold, allergies, asthma, heart problems, benign and malignant tumors, cystic breasts and ovaries, fibroids, dry skin, acne, fluid retention, loss of memory, depression, mood swings, fears, and joint and muscle pain.
With regard to the family history, all of the above disorders can be checked in family members. Particular emphasis should be placed on hypothyroid conditions in parents or siblings. Also, a family history of Tuberculosis suggests the possibility of low thyroid.
The physical examination often reveals the hair to be dry, brittle and thinning. The outer third of the eyebrows is often missing. One often finds swelling under the eyes. The tongue is often thick and swollen. The skin may be rough, dry and flaky and show evidence of acne. The skin may also have a yellowish tinge due to high carotene in it. Nails tend to be brittle and break easily. The thyroid gland may be enlarged. The patient is more often overweight, but may also be underweight. Hands and feet are frequently cold to the touch. Reflexes are either slow or absent. The pulse rate is often slow even though the patient is not a well trained athlete.
Measuring Basal Body Temperature
Instructions for taking basal body temperatures are relatively easy. Use an oral glass thermometer. Shake the thermometer down before going to bed, and leave it on the bedside table within easy reach. Immediately upon awakening, and with as little movement as possible, place the thermometer firmly in the armpit next to the skin, and leave it in place for 10 minutes. Record the readings for three consecutive days. Menstruating women must only take the basal temperature test for thyroid function on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th day of menses(preferably beginning on the 2nd day). Males, pre-pubertal girls, and post-menopausal or non-menstruating women may take basal temperatures any day of the month. Women taking progesterone should not take it the day before and the days that the basal temperatures are taken.
Most of the information on the manifestations of hypothyroidism, its diagnosis, including the technique for measuring and interpreting basal temperatures, and the treatment to be discussed was compiled and described by the late Dr. Broda O. Barnes. He is the author of the book “Hypothyroidism: the Unsuspected Illness”. His work is disseminated to physicians and the public by the foundation bearing his name, which is located in Trumbull, Connecticut.
How does one interpret the results of the basal body axillary temperature test? If the average temperature is below 97.6 Fahrenheit, then the diagnosis of a low functioning thyroid is likely. An average temperature betwety A a7.6 and 98.2 is considered normal. An average temperature above 98.2 is considered high and might reflect an infection or a hyperthyroid condition.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Once a pattern of hypothyroid symptoms is established and the basal body temperatures are found to be low, the next step is a therapeutic trial of thyroid hormone. Dr. Barnes, his physician followers and many patients have found that the most effective thyroid medication is Armour Desiccated Thyroid Hormone. This medication is derived from the thyroid gland of the pig. It most closely resembles the human thyroid gland. It is dried or desiccated and processed into small tablets. In contrast, most conventional physicians prefer to use the synthetically produced thyroxine or T4. In my experience and the experience of many other physicians using Dr. Barnes’ protocol, the synthetic T4 is not as effective as the desiccated thyroid.
It must be also noted that I have talked to Forrest Pharmaceutical Co., the current makers of Armour’s thyroid, several times over the past few years. They have told me that the Armour’s desiccated thyroid that they make is a carefully standardized prescription product with the correct ratio of T4 to T3. They are very proud of this product. W. Greene, D.C.
How can we monitor the results of treatment if the blood tests are inadequate to the job? We do this by how the person feels, whether or not the thyroid symptoms and signs have improved or disappeared, whether or not symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland have developed, and by monitoring the basal body temperature.
Generally, the dosage of Armour thyroid is best started at a low dose, with a gradual increase every week or two, until the optimal therapeutic dosage is reached. It may take four to six weeks at the optimal dosage to feel the full therapeutic benefits. In my practice, I generally start the patient on 1/4 grain or 15 milligrams daily. Every week or two, I increase the dosage by 1/4 grain per day until 1 to 2 grains daily are reached. Usually, the optimal dosage is in this range, provided that the patient is doing the other adjunctive necessary things, which I will discuss in a moment. Occasionally, the dosage may need to be 2 and a half grains daily or more. Full therapeutic benefits many not be fully realized for months and the basal temperatures may not come up to normal for a year or more. The dosage for infants is usually 1/8 to 1/4 grain daily and from one to six years old, the dosage is usually 1/4 grain. From 7 years to puberty, 1/2 grain is usually used, but it may need to be increased.
Special Cases: Recent Heart Attacks and Weak Adrenal Function
There are a few special cases that needs to be discussed in the context of this treatment. If a person has recently had a heart attack, treatment should not begin for at least two months following the heart attack. After that, the protocol discussed above can be used.
If a person has evidence of weak adrenal function, the adrenal gland problem must be treated first or simultaneous to the thyroid treatment. The reason for this is that hydrocortisone is necessary for the conversion of T4 to the active T3. If the weak adrenal is not addressed, the patient may actually feel worse and/or develop symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland, such as palpitations, a rapid heart beat and increased sweating. Clues to low adrenal functioning include a low blood pressure (less than 120/80), allergies, asthma, breathing difficulties, skin problems (such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, lupus, dry flaky skin), joint or muscle pains, as in arthritis, and emotional problems, such as mood swings, weeping, fears and phobias. Using low physiologic doses of hydrocortisone along with Armouron ohyroid, when the patient shows evidence of both low adrenal and low thyroid function, will help to assure the desired results.
Problems in Converting T4 to the T3 Hormone
The conversion of the relatively inactive T4 to the active T3 thyroid hormone is an important process. As mentioned previously, f plaently low thyroid function is not due to the low production of thyroxine, T4, by the thyroid, but due to the failure of conversion of T4 to T3 by peripheral tissues. What nutrients are necessary to help with this conversion? In addition to sufficient quantities of cortisol, iron, zinc, copper and selenium are necessary for this conversion. Deficiencies of any of these minerals can prevent the conversion T4 to T3 and should be corrected if present. Sufficient protein and especially the amino acid, tyrosine, and iodine are necessary to make T4 in the thyroid gland.
Another approach to the problem of conversion failure of T4 to T3 has been proposed by a young physician, Dennis Wilson. He has found that the body often adapts to various stressful situations by switching to a conservative mode in order to preserve energy. For example, when a famine occurs, an excellent adaptive change that the body can make in order to use less energy because food calories are unavailable, is to stop converting T4 to T3. However, this response appears to occur to a wide variety of stressors and sometimes this mode is not reversed, even after the stress is removed. This can lead to all of the symptoms and signs of a low thyroid that I have been discussing.
He has suggested the use of a special long acting T3 preparation to reset the conversion of T4 to T3 process. Dosages of T3 are given exactly every 12 hours in increasing amounts with close monitoring of oral temperatures during the day. High doses of T3 may be given and in order to normalize the oral temperature to 98.6 F. After the optimal temperature is reached and maintained for approximately three weeks or if the patient develops an intolerance to the particular dosage of long-acting T3, the dosage is tapered down to zero.
When the treatment is successful, the temperature will remain optimal with the loss of hypothyroid symptoms, even after the medication is tapered to zero. In other words, the thyroid system is reset at a higher temperature. This process may take several cycles of going up and down on the T3. This treatment requires a lot of discipline from the patient and often leads to symptoms during the treatment. However, it does seem to be useful in some patients. If the patient is stressed significantly and again enters the low thyroid system mode, the entire process can be repeated again. Usually, the treatment is easier at each subsequent episode.
Nevertheless, for most patients, especially if there are adrenal problems or other medical complications, the use of Armour desiccated thyroid on a continuous basis is probably easier and preferable.
Recent studies indicate that patients who have been treated with excessive doses of thyroid hormone over long periods of time may be at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
NOTE: It has been my experience as a former clinical pharmacist that Armour’s thyroid is not a problem in causing or contributing to osteoporosis. The problem has been with the synthetic T4 thyroid medications like Synthroid. W. Greene, D.C.
This may be due not only to too much thyroid, but also to an imbalance between the anabolic and catabolic endocrine hormones. The catabolic hormones are those that help to break down dead tissues and rid the body of metabolic waste. These would include thyroid hormone and hydrocortisone. The anabolic hormones are those that help to rebuild the body and would include DHEA, estrogens, progesterone and the male hormone, testosterone. A physician who is trying to balance a person’s thyroid system must alic pook at all of the other hormones and also all aspects of the person’s lifestyle, including diet, nutritional supplements, exercise patterns and stress coping mechanisms. The nutrients that are especially important to a proper functioning thyroid system are iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland and the minerHow Long Should Patients Take Thyroid Hormone?
When using the desiccated thyroid protocol, patients often remain on the thyroid for life. However, there many times when the patient can be weaned off the thyroid as all other functions improve, as long as the patient is carefully monitored for the development of low thyroid symptoms and signs and low basal temperatures. When a person’s basal temperatures are low, many of the enzymes of the body function in a suboptimal way, which leads to all of the problems we have discussed.
On the other hand, well treated hypothyroid patients should enjoy a vibrant life with lowered risks of all of the degenerative diseases including arthritis, cancer and heart disease. I personally have seen a number of patients whose arthritis pains have completely cleared when treated with proper doses of thyroid. With regard to cancer, the well known alternative cancer treatment developed by Max Gerson, involves the use of Armour’s desiccated thyroid in virtually all of his cancer patients. High serum cholesterol and the development of atherosclerosis are well known effects of hypothyroidism. Therefore, all patients with coronary artery disease and other atherosclerotic conditions should be checked carefully for evidence.
Many years ago, Dr. Broda Barnes, MD, wrote a book entitled Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. In his book, Dr. Barnes brought light to low thyroid conditions as an unsuspected cause of numerous health disorders. He utilized the basal temperature test, taking one’s underarm body temperature the very first thing in the morning to discover ones thyroid efficiency. This clearly proved that a condition of low thyroid function can exist even when blood tests are normal. When Dr. Barnes found a patient who had a lower-than-normal body temperature, he would treat them with thyroid medication. His patients had miraculous improvements, correcting a multitude of health disorders. More recently, Dr. Denis Wilson, MD, also wrote a book, called Wilson’s syndrome. Dr. Wilson expanded Dr. Barnes theory and advanced the treatment. Drs. Barnes and Wilson both discovered that although the thyroid appears normal based on blood work, a low body temperature and/or a low metabolism still exist, indicating a hypothyroid condition.
Why Low Thyroid Function Happens
Thyroid function can break down for various reasons. Here is a simple explanation of what can go wrong.
1. Thyroid hormone is made from a amino acid called TYROSINE. Tyrosine can be made by converting phenylalanine, another amino acid, into tyrosine. This is done with the help of iron. If iron is too low, this will not occur.
2. Once tyrosine is made, it goes to the thyroid gland. The mineral manganese is then used to help convert it into thyroxin, a thyroid hormone. Thyroxin is also called T4. This is the same substance that doctors give as medication. Iodine, found in kelp and seafood, is also involved. Low manganese or iodine can inhibit this process.
3. Once thyroxin is made, it goes to the liver. Some of it is set aside for reserves. This is called reserve T4. The reserves are used for times of illnesses or stress. In the liver it is changed to a substance called T3. T3 is actually thed tomone the body will later use. This conversion is dependent upon zinc and selenium.
4. Once converted, T3 must be accepted by the cells of the body. Our cells are more or less responsive to T3. Excess amounts of calcium make the cells less responsive while potassium makes them more responsive. An imbalance of either calcium or potassium can alter this mechanism.
5. Once in the cell, the mineral selenium helps the hormone work. Low levels of this mineral will cause inactivity of the hormone. Selenium also helps the production of an enzyme (5-deiodinase) that cleaves one iodine from the T4 molecule that aids in the conversion of T4 to T3.
Imbalances in any of the above nutrients can cause a condition where the reserve T4 hogs the enzymes involved in T3 conversion. T3 is actually the hormone the body will use, but it may not work properly because needed enzymes are being hogged by the reserve T4. During times of illnesses and stress, the body forms more reserve T4 thinking it will soon need it. This sets up a potentially vicious cycle, whereby T3 conversion could be impaired. The basis of low thyroid conditions that do not show up in blood work is that the nutrients that are involved in the conversion of T4 to T3 and that help it work become too low. So, while the hormone may show normal levels in the blood, if it is of poor quality it may not work well in the body.
A four-step program has recently been developed to help restore proper thyroid function. The first step is to eliminate any infections, particularly viruses which can attack the thyroid. The next step is to detoxify the liver and digestive tract so that the nutrients needed for thyroid function can be utilized. The third step is to detoxify the body from toxic metals, such as mercury and copper, which are commonly found in excess with low thyroid function. The last step is to rebalance the body with any of the nutrients mentioned above as detera() ” by laboratory testing.
When the body has accumulated proper levels of nutrients, the thyroid has a chance to begin working again. In many cases we have seen that body temperature begins to rise after only a few months.
Synthetic Medication Doesn’t Always Work
Sometimes patients who are put on thyroid medication will find that after an initial improvement their symptoms either return or worsen. This is because thyroid medication may cause the thyroid gland to stop producing thyroxin on its own. Also, some people have an autoimmune problem where their own body is attacking the thyroid gland. It usually does this as a result of a viral or parasitic infection in the gland. Once the infection is eliminated the person must be very careful not to take anything too stimulating to the thyroid as this can cause the immune system to attack itself (i.e., the thyroid).
Another factor involved in thyroid function is diet. Diets low in protein and high in hydrogenated fats can interfere with thyroid function. (Remember, coconut oil helps to nourish the thyroid gland.) Adequate protein is required to produce thyroid hormones. Fat has been found to be antagonistic to thyroid function and it also lowers metabolism. Also, thiocyanate, a substance found in vegetables from the cabbage family, has an antagonistic effect on the thyroid. Excessive intake of thiocyanate foods can cause a disease called goiter. Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland where it becomes slow and underactive.
The solution to all this is to be tested by a qualified nutritionist in order to detect any vitamin or mineral imbalances. As you probably already know, excesses of one vitamin or mineral can actually cause a deficiency in another. The key to a properly functioning thyroid is balance. The correct levels of nutrients can be achieved through proper testing and a specific nutritional program tailored to individual needs. As you caid. e, there are many factors involved with proper thyroid function. The good news is that there is hope to correct slow thyroid function in many people. Age is not a factor. As long as someone still has a portion of their thyroid gland undamaged, it is possible that it may begin to produce hormone again on its own.
Dr. Michael Biamonte is the Director of The New York Center for Clinical Nutrition, located in Manhattan. He holds a Doctorate of Nutripathy, a Degree in Natural Healing, and a Masters in Clinical Nutrition.
Rethinking the TSH Test: An Interview with David Derry, M.D., Ph.D.
Your Doctor Does Not Likely Understand How To Interpret Your Tests Properly
Thyroid function tests have always presented doctors with difficulties in their interpretation. Laboratory testing is often misleading due to the complexity and inherent shortcomings of the tests themselves. Many doctors not having an adequate understanding of what the test resultC/an, will often make incorrect assumptions based on them or interpret them too strictly. A narrow interpretation of thyroid function testing leads to many people not being treated for subclinical hypothyroidism.
Old Laboratory Tests Unreliable
Most all older thyroid function panels include the following:
* Total T4
* T3 Uptake and
* Free Thyroxine Index (FTI).
These tests should be abandoned because they are unreliable as gauges of thyroid function. The most common traditional way to diagnose hypothyroidism is with a TSH that is elevated beyond the normal reference range. For most labs, this is about 4.0 to 4.5. This is thought to reflect the pituitary’s sensing of inadequate thyroid hormone levels in the blood which would be consistent with hypothyroidism. There is no question that this will diagnose hypothyroidism, but it is far too insensitive a measure, and the vast majority of patients who have hypothyroidism will be missed.
Basal Body Temperature
The late Broda Barnes, M.D., popularized basal body temperature taking.
He found the clinical symptoms and the body temperature to be more reliable than the standard laboratory tests was provided. This is clearly better than using the standard tests. However there are problems with using body temperature.
* Sleeping under electric blankets or water beds falsely raise temperature
* Sensitive and accurate thermometer required
* Inconvenient and many people will not do (poor compliance)
New and More Accurate Way To Check for Hypothyroidism
This revised method of diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism seems superior to the temperature regulation method promoted by Broda Barnes and many natural medicine physicians. Most patients continue to have classic hypothyroid symptoms because excessive reliance is placed on the TSH. This test is a highly-accuratess-asure of TSH but not of the height of thyroid hormone levels.
New Range for TSH to Diagnose Hypothyroidism
The basic problem that traditional medicine has with diagnosing hypothyroidism is the so-called “normal range” of TSH is far too high: Many patients with TSH’s of greater than 1.5 (not 4.5) have classic symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism (see below).
* So, if your TSH is above 1.5 there is a strong chance your thyroid gland is not working properly.
Free Thyroid Hormone Levels
For Dr. Lowe, because conventional medical practitioners accept these unproven propositions as mandates for clinical practice, many patients develop continuing symptoms of inadequate thyroid hormone regulation. These symptoms –despite their using replacement dosages of T4–are now defined as new diseases, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, instead of as symptoms of the failure to adequately treat the existing problem — hypothyroidism.
When patients are already diagnosed as hypothyroid, he is not surprised when they start to manifest fibromyalgia-like symptoms, such as various muscular aches and pains and difficulty sleeping. When someone has been hypothyroid, Dr. Lowe believes that over time:
“Hypometabolism imposes a lifestyle that can further complicate the hypothyroidism. For example, the hypothyroid patient may not be able to engage in enough physical activity to maintain normal muscle mass. Metabolic status is critically dependent on muscle mass; the lower an individual’s muscle mass, the lower her metabolic rate.”
Dr. Lowe believes that many patients who develop fibromyalgia symptoms after a trauma were already hypometabolic before the trauma occurred. Says Dr. Lowe:
“After learning what the various symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism are, many of these fibromyalgia patients say things such as, ‘You know, come to think of it, I remember having those symptoms off-and-on since I was in my early teens.’ A short period of physical inactivity after the trauma appears to decrease their muscle mass and further lower their metabolic rate. It is after the short time passes, which would permit a significant loss of muscle mass, that many people develop post-traumatic fibromyalgia. In many cases, the patients’ metabolic insufficiency was probably worsened by their typical American diet and their not taking nutritional supplements. To shorten a potentially long story, factors such as hypothyroidism (even borderline), nutritional insufficiencies, and inadequate physical activity become intertwined and interactive in impeding the person’s metabolism. By the time I’ve seen some patients, the probable interactions of factors that have contributed to their disabled condition have become almost impossible to comprehend. The best I’ve been able to do with such patients is start working with the multiple factors that may be currently sustaining their fibromyalgia, making recommendations and working collaboratively with them. Usually, I’ve asked patients to try and muster a few months faith; it may take that long before they feel better subjectively and before our objective measures show that fibromyalgia status is improving.”
Most conventional health practitioners do not approach the issue of hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia in the way that Dr. Lowe does. According to Dr. Lowe, for most patients, it is best to work with holistic M.D.s or D.O.s. In particular, Dr. Lowe believes that the physicians best qualified by philosophy and education to work with fibromyalgia patients are naturopaths. Says Dr. Lowe:
“When I say naturopaths, I’m referring to those who graduated from accredited naturopathic medical schools and are eligible to be licensed in states that license naturopathic physicians. They use both natural and conventional medicine. Also, in general, they are far more willing to spend the time needed with patients to do a good job. They are also in general willing to do the clinical detective work that conventional medicine has for all practical purposes abandoned. If you live in a state where naturopathic physicians are licensed, I would encourage you to find a good naturopath.”
For guidance on how to find a good naturopath, see a recent a article I wrote on finding a Top Doctor.
Hypothyroid patients following Dr. Lowe’s treatment protocol have reported a high degree of success. Dr. Lowe typically starts hypothyrwithpatients with desiccated thyroid (i.e., Armour Thyroid). The reason he uses desiccated thyroid is the higher T3 content than in synthetic T4/T3 preparations. According to Dr. Lowe:
“I have found that many hypothyroid patients also have cellular resistance to thyroid hormone. Most of these patients don’t benefit much from T4 alone, but some of them do from desiccated thyroid, presumably because of the relatively high T3 content. Some we have to switch to synthetic T3 because they don’t benefit from desiccated thyroid. We’ve stopped altogether giving patients T4 alone.”
Dr. John C. Lowe is Board Certified: American Academy of Pain Management, and Director of Research: Fibromyalgia Research Foundation. For more information on Dr. Lowe’s theories, protocols and upcoming book, see his website, located at http://www.drlowe.com.