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Hypothyroidism is an endocrine condition which occurs when
the thyroid gland experiences slowed functionality due to a decrease in thyroid
hormone production. The thyroid is a
small, butterfly shaped gland located just above the collarbone. As a member of
the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for controlling many aspects
of bodily function, most notably metabolism and hormone regulation.
Hypothyroidism is a notoriously under-diagnosed
condition, and even specialists in endocrinology have a hard time coming to a
consensus as to how prevalent the condition is. It is estimated that
approximately 10% of the adult population in the United States, or around 13
million people, suffer from decreased thyroid function. However, some
specialists place the numbers much higher and estimate that around 40% of the
population, or over 52 million adults in the United States, may suffer from
decreased thyroid function.
There is a considerable variety of symptoms associated with
hypothyroidism due to the fact that the thyroid is responsible for regulating
elements of almost every other system in the body. The result is a host of
symptoms which run the gamut from the physical to the emotional to the totally
Common symptoms of low thyroid function can include:
- low body temperature
- dry skin
- weight gain
- brittle nails
- hair loss
- cold hands or feet
- dry eyes
- cold intolerance
- low blood pressure
- elevated cholesterol
- easy bruising
- mood swings
- brain fog
- reduced ability to concentrate
- increased anxiety
- compromised short term memory
- recurrent infections
- Low resting body temperature
- More severe premenstrual and menstrual symptoms
- yellowing of the palms
According to Dr. Broda Barnes, author of Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, over
47 distinct symptoms of low thyroid function have been identified, with most of
them not quantifiable through blood tests. The American Council on
Collaborative Medicine asserted a similar opinion in the April 1999 article,
“The Much Mis-Diagnosed Malady,” stating that many patients who experience the
symptoms of hypothyroidism find that initial tests and blood work do not
immediately identify hypothyroidism as the issue.
more valuable information on the symptoms of hypothyroidism, check out our full
Unfortunately, there is no one cause for
hypothyroidism. Instead, myriad
hypothyroidism causes have been identified by endocrinologists and health
practitioners over the years as contributing to decreased hormone production.
Disease - One cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition that occurs when the
white blood cells of the body mistakenly and chronically attack the thyroid,
thereby destroying its ability to produce hormones.
and Mineral Deficiencies - Many thyroid health practitioners point to
specific mineral deficiencies as potential causes of the condition, with iodine
and selenium deficiencies as primary culprits.
Both iodine and selenium are absorbed by the thyroid gland and are
essential to the production of thyroid hormones, as well as overall thyroid
health. However, insufficient amounts of
chromium, iron, copper, zinc, Vitamin A and several Vitamin B complexes have
also been identified as causes.
Toxins, and Pollutants - Pesticides, pollution, and other contaminants can
affect the functionality of the thyroid and cause a decrease in thyroid
function. Still others have found that
certain medications, such as steroids, birth control, and lithium can
contribute to hypothyroidism. There have
even been some reports that emotional or physical stress can also strain
thyroid hormone production.
For more valuable information on the causes of
hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!
The traditional form of treatment for hypothyroidism
utilizes prescription medication to supplement or replace the amount of thyroid
hormones in the body. Thyroid replacement therapy has been utilized for decades
as the number one way to deal with thyroid concerns. The benefit of such
prescribed therapies are that most patients generally feel better within four
months of beginning treatment and notice a significant decrease in their
Supplements - Levothyroxine supplements replace the amount of T4 hormone in
the blood stream. T4 is the inactive hormone that the thyroid gland produces
which is converted into the active metabolic hormone T3. The most popular
brands of levothyroxine supplements include Levoxyl, Synthroid, Unithroid and
Levothroid. Levothyroxine supplements are the most commonly prescribed form of
thyroid replacement therapy medication.
Supplements - Triiodothyronine supplements, also known as T3 preparations,
increase the amount of active T3 hormone in the blood stream. T3 is a hormone
produced by the thyroid gland which enters into cells and is responsible for
catalyzing metabolic function. The most popular brand name prescription of T3
preparation is Cytomel. Many endocrinologists and a variety of published
studies have found that incorporating a small amount of Cytomel into a
patient’s thyroid replacement regime can significantly improve symptoms and
increase overall quality of life. When combined with a T4 preparation, Cytomel
and generic T3 preparations have been shown to specifically improve the
symptoms of depression, brain fog, anxiety, and irritability.
and Triiodothyronine Combinations - Almost all levothyroxine and triiodothyronine
combination preparations are pig derived thyroid hormones which naturally
incorporate both T4 and T3 as well as other byproducts of thyroid production,
such as selenium. The most popular brand of combination therapy is Armour
thyroid, however there are several other brands on the market. Many patients
claim a significant improvement in their wellbeing after switching from an
isolated T4 or synthetic T3 to a natural medication. However, as of September
2009, many of the most popular brands of combination therapies have been pulled
from the market by the FDA.
For more valuable information on traditional
treatments for hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!
Misdiagnosis of Symptoms
Many patients find that one of the most challenging elements
of hypothyroidism is that its symptoms are often misdiagnosed as another
condition. The hallmark symptoms of the
condition, such as weight gain, fatigue, low mood, and constipation, can often
appear to medical professionals as independent or unrelated issues.
One factor that often results in a misdiagnosis of
hypothyroidism is that companion conditions and symptoms are easier to
immediately identify and therefore mistaken for the root of a patient’s issues.
Such conditions overlap with or are the result of hypothyroidism, however
treatment of their symptoms will not address the underlying cause. The result is that a patient may be diagnosed
with several associated conditions, such as depression, Irritable Bowel
Syndrome, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but the root cause will remain
undiagnosed and untreated.
If you receive a diagnosis of one of the conditions below,
but suspect you might suffer from hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease, we
advise you to seek out a second opinion or contact an endocrinologist or
alternative healer versed in thyroid dysfunction. To prevent misdiagnosis of
your hypothyroid symptoms, but sure to go to your appointment armed with as
detailed observations of your health as possible.
- Depression is an emotional state characterized by persistent and
pervasive low mood. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, anger,
guilt, or anxiety, abnormal irritability, carbohydrate cravings, lack of
interest in daily activities or work, lowered libido, and persistent mental and
physical fatigue. Depression and hypothyroidism share many symptoms in common,
such as weight gain, loss of interest in daily activities, and fatigue, which
may lead untrained medical professionals to mistake the two. If you suffer from hypothyroidism but are
diagnosed with depression, you will note that while your mood may lift with
prescription drugs you will still experience other symptoms of low thyroid
function, such as intolerance to cold, constipation, fatigue, muscle weakness,
and dry skin.
- Aging - In
patients over 50, the characteristic symptoms of hypothyroidism are often
written off as simple signs of aging.
While there is evidence that an individual’s thyroid function
deteriorates over time and contributes to aging, simple hormone replacement or
alternative remedies can reduce the amount of decline and prevent it from
negatively affecting quality of life. If
you have hypothyroidism but are told your symptoms are simply a product of
getting older, you will continue to experience a reduction in mental and
physical well being, energy, and capacity quicker and more profoundly than your
peers. We at Health911 strongly recommend you seek a second opinion immediately
if your health care provider brushes your symptoms off casually by suggesting
it is aging.
Fatigue Syndrome - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that is
characterized by an individual experiencing constant serious fatigue that is
not relieved by rest or sleep. This fatigue gets worse after physical exertion
or stress. The condition is not fully
understood by the medical community at this time, and both a cause and cure
have yet to be identified. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is hard to quantify and
therefore should not be given as a diagnosis until all other potential causes
for the fatigue are eliminated. If you
receive a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, be sure to press your health
care provider to check your thyroid levels.
more valuable information on the potential misdiagnosis of hypothyroidism,
check out our full length report!
Bowel Syndrome - Irritable Bowel Syndrome, known better simply as IBS, is
an intestinal disorder characterized by a host of gastrointestinal symptoms
including increased flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, and
cramping. Many patients who suffer from hypothyroidism have reported one of the
conditions they are often initially diagnosed with is IBS characterized by
constipation. A sluggish digestive
system can explain fatigue, weight gain, irritability, and a general lack of
energy. This is where having detailed
notes about your symptoms will play a key role, especially information
regarding your lowered basal body temperature. Remember, if your medical
professional jumps immediately to the conclusion of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,
insist that your thyroid levels are checked. Click here to read more about Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Vitamins & Supplements
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the traditional
treatment regimens for hypothyroidism which only utilize prescription
medications are just mediocre solutions to a very complex condition. In
response, over the past decade the mainstream endocrinology community has
slowly but surely started augmenting - and in some cases totally replacing -
prescription therapies with alternative therapies to provide truly
comprehensive care. An extremely successful form of alternative treatment which
is gaining traction is the use of vitamin and mineral supplements to both assist
prescription medication and stimulate thyroid function.
- Iodine - Iodine
is required for proper thyroid function and is an essential element in both T4
and T3. Many posit that some form of iodine deficiency is the number one cause
of hypothyroidism after Hashimoto's disease. An iodine deficiency can be easily
corrected through a variety of supplement options. One of the most popular supplemental iodine
brands is the Formula II Iosol Iodine, a liquid supplement that contains 153
mcg of iodine in each teaspoon. Lugol’s
Iodine liquid supplement, containing 130 mcg of iodine, has received similar
praise from users who claim it is “life changing.” Iodine can also be taken in
the form of kelp tablets. Icelandic kelp tablets each contain 225 mcg of iodine
and can be taken throughout the day to mitigate symptoms.
- Zinc - Adequate
levels of zinc are vital for optimal thyroid function; the best way to increase
your levels of zinc is by eating zinc rich foods, such as meats and seafood.
The NIH reports that the body has no ability to produce or store zinc, so fresh
supplies must be ingested daily to maintain appropriate levels. The NIH places
the upper limit for Zinc at 10 mcg.
- Aside from iodine, few supplements have garnered as much attention and
praise over the past 10 years as selenium for improving symptoms of
hypothyroidism. It is an essential element in the conversion of inactive
thyroid hormone to the active version. Selenium is also a well-known
anti-oxidant that can help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. It is
recommended that individuals start by taking 200 mcg of selenium along with
their prescription treatment and encourages them to slowly increase their dose
to 400 mcg daily over a period of a month.
Vitamins - A variety of B vitamins play crucial roles in normal thyroid
function, making them excellent supplements to other types of treatment. They
are known to assist in metabolic function, and B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin),
and B6 are important factors in the production of T4. Therefore, including a B
vitamin complex which includes these specific elements is particularly
recommended for individuals who suffer from low T4 production.
Supplements - In addition to these well-known supplements, there are
several other vitamin and mineral supplements that practitioners have found
successful for treating the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The amino acid tyrosine
shows promise for improving low thyroid function, while vitamin A, vitamin E,
and Coenzyme Q10 are also potential helps.
For more valuable information on vitamin and
mineral therapies for hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!
To make sure you get the treatment and solutions you need to
experience thyroid function at optimal levels, it is vital that you advocate
for your own health through asking questions of your health care professional
and educating yourself. If you suspect
you may be suffering from thyroid dysfunction, use the guide below to start
getting the information and treatment you need from your health care
- Keep a
Symptoms Journal: If you are starting to suspect you may suffer from
hypothyroidism, the first thing you need to do is record your observations
regarding the nature, severity, frequency, and duration of any symptoms you
experience in a Symptoms Journal. Take
note of anything out of the ordinary, from mood shifts to bowel movement
changes. After you have 2-3 weeks of data recorded in your Symptoms Journal,
review what you have observed and, if you feel something is out of the
ordinary, call your health care provider and make an appointment to
investigate. Be sure to take your
Symptoms Journal with you to the appointment!
- Ask The
Right Questions: Help direct the examination with your health care
provider and also advocate for yourself by asking specific questions regarding
what they are noticing. Here are a few
questions to ask as they are performing a physical exam:
- Is my pulse slowed?
- Does my heart beat sound regular?
- Have I gained or lost weight since my last
- Is my body temperature lower than normal?
Certain Tests: When you are at your appointment with your health care
provider, insist they order blood tests checking your thyroid hormone levels.
For more valuable information on talking to
your doctor about hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!
Promoting general thyroid wellness is essential to healing
hypothyroidism. Incorporating the elements below into your daily lifestyle can
positively influence the healing process and help alleviate your symptoms sooner
as well as lay the foundation for continued thyroid health.
- Remove unnecessary toxins from your life as soon
as possible. Cut down on alcohol consumption, tobacco products, recreational
drugs, and high amounts of carbohydrates and sugars in your diet.
- Eat organic and whole grain. Consuming hormonally supplemented meat, eggs,
and vegetables can strain your body’s ability to synthesize hormones and fight
adequate amounts of water. It is
recommended you drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body
- Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks.
- Ensure you are getting enough fiber on a daily
basis through supplements or dietary sources.
- Take between 30-60 minutes of exercise daily. Be
sure to slowly increase the length and severity of your exercise to give your
body time to adjust. Even walking for 30-45 minutes daily will make a big
positive influence on your thyroid health.
- Reduce your intake of dairy and gluten
containing products as they strain the digestive system and may contribute to
the development of thyroid conditions.
- Have your thyroid hormone levels checked once
every 3-4 months to ensure you are adequately managing your condition.
more valuable wellness tips for hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!
- Maintain close communication with your health
care provider or natural remedy specialist to make small adjustments or tweaks
in your treatment as needed and in a timely fashion
Here is an overview of some of the most well known and
respected herbs used for the treatment of hypothyroidism. It should be noted
that the following list of herbal supplements should not be considered a
definitive analysis of potential side effects, results, or drug interactions.
The information provided here is for reference and education only, and Health
911 does not claim that it is professional medical advice. Before including any
supplements into your daily diet, consult your healthcare professional.
John’s Wort - St. John’s Wort is a one of the 370 species found in the
plant family Hypericum. Several clinical trials have proven that St. John’s
Wort was equally as effective as SSRI antidepressants for alleviating symptoms
of major depressive episodes while creating fewer, less severe side effects.
St. John’s Wort has been shown to cause interactions with certain medications.
Most notably, it has shown to reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
If you are currently taking any prescription medications, it is recommended you
check with your doctor before starting a St. John’s Wort supplement.
- Bladderwrack is one of the most commonly recommended herbs to treat
hypothyroidism. Technically known as fucus
vesiculosus, bladderwrack is a form of seaweed which is
sometimes mislabeled as kelp. It is known to provide benefits for hypothyroid
individuals due to its significant levels of iodine. It is recommended that about 5 to 10 g, or about
a tablespoon, daily into food. In spite of its popularity, many herbalists and
thyroid professionals note that bladderwrack will only be an effective form of
herbal treatment for hypothyroidism if the patient is suffering from an iodine
deficiency. There is little evidence to suggest that individuals who have
adequate levels of iodine in their system will benefit from the herb.
- Ginseng -
Ginseng is a key herbal treatment for hypothyroidism because of its energy
stimulating properties. It is considered a “nourishing stimulant,” in other
words a stimulating agent that not only increases energy but also provides
additional homeopathic benefits. Unlike caffeine, ginseng does not have a
reputation for causing jitters or anxiety. Individuals should take between 3 to
5 g daily under the supervision of a certified herbalist or medical
- Green Oats - There has been some
suggestion among herbalists that avena
sativa, also known as Green oats, is an effective remedy for low thyroid
function. Green oats carry high concentrations of both soluble fiber and
protein, two dietary elements that hypothyroid individuals are typically in
need of. Green oats can help alleviate some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism,
such as constipation, abdominal bloating, and hair and nail thinness. The high-protein content will also help keep
blood sugar stabilized, encouraging metabolic function and decrease in risk of
- Spirulina - Spirulina is an edible
algae that contains high levels of many valuable nutrients, including vitamin
B, iron, and amino acids. Spirulina also contains extremely high levels of
protein. It is known as an excellent blood detoxifier and has been shown to
lower cholesterol levels as well. Spirulina is a well respected herbal remedy
for hypothyroidism because it contains high levels of iodine, beta carotene,
and tyrosine. It has also been known to stimulate immune function, which can be
slowed by an underactive thyroid.
Spirulina also supports weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, an
issue that plagues most hypothyroid patients.
oil - Evening primrose oil is often used for the treatment of hair loss,
one of the most disturbing symptoms of hypothyroidism. Primrose oil provides
essential fatty acids that can stop the unnecessary loss of hair and in fact
help hair re-grow. The essential fatty acids in primrose oil are also helpful
in strengthening brittle nails and reducing instances of nail peeling.
herbs - Ayuvedic herbs are a class of Indian plants which have been proved
effective in treating thyroid problems, such as constipation, sluggish
metabolism, weight gain or stubborn weight loss. Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), guggul (Commiphora murkul), and kachnar (Bauhinia pupurea) stimulate the body to
produce thyroid hormones naturally. It is recommended an individual take one
500 mg tablet three times daily with meals.
For more valuable information on herbal remedies for
hypothyroidism, check out our full length report!