Hypothyroidism is a condition in which thyroid function is reduced, which can cause decreased levels of thyroid hormone and/or impaired function of the hormone at the tissue level. Hypothyroidism can be the result of disease of the pituitary gland or may be due to primary disease of the thyroid gland itself. The condition is more commonly seen in those middle-aged and older; and women are 5-8 times more likely than men to develop this disorder.
Sometimes hypothyroidism has no underlying immune dysfunction, but more often than not, it is the result of an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Risk factors include-
- • Age - hypothyroidism can occur at any age but is more common in the middle-aged and elderly.
- • Gender - women are at much higher risk.
- • Genetics - this plays a significant role but there is no one gene that is clearly responsible.
- • Ethnicity - Caucasians and Asians are more prone to hypothyroidism.
- • Autoimmune disease - people with various autoimmune diseases often produce thyroid antibodies which impair thyroid function.
Nutritional requirements are important and complex-
- 1. Iodine- this element is a major player in thyroid function and deficiency is a major cause of hypothyroidism. Iodine has antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic activities. Multiple tissues require iodine to function properly including the kidneys, spleen, liver, breasts and intestines.
Causes of Iodine deficiency include-
- • Food grown in iodine-depleted soil.
- • Insufficient intake of iodine-containing food such as seafood.
- • Use of fluoride.
- • Diets high in bromides.
- • Vegan and vegetarian diet.
- • Use of artificial sweeteners such as sucralose.
- 2. Iron, Selenium and Zinc- These elements are needed for conversion of the less active form of thyroid hormone T4 to the more active form called T3.
- 3. Magnesium- Important for more than 300 chemical reactions in the body and is necessary for the proper absorption of iodine.
Causes of magnesium deficiency include-
- • High intake of vitamin C.
- • Alcohol abuse.
- • Diarrhea.
- • Diet high in Trans fats
- • High sugar intake.
- • High caffeine intake.
- • Excessive consumption of foods high in oxalates such as almonds, cocoa and spinach.
- 4. Vitamin B- vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is needed for proper thyroid function. Vitamin B3 (niacin) is needed to produce an amino acid called tyrosine which is needed to make T3 and T4.
- 5. Vitamin D- low levels of vitamin D may affect thyroid function and patients with autoimmune disease need to maintain higher levels of D3 to function adequately.
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism: fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, depression, allergies, mental fatigue, poor concentration and memory, constipation, heavy periods, infertility, erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, hoarse voice, hair loss and joint and muscle pain.
Diagnosis is based on a thorough history, physical examination and appropriate blood work. One may also need to have imaging studies done and, if malignancy of the thyroid gland is suspected, a biopsy is necessary.
Treatment is based on the underlying cause. If blood/urine tests indicate the presence of environmental toxins and heavy metals, then a good detoxification program will help significantly. If a patient has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or any other autoimmune disease, then one must avoid gluten and other food allergens and fix any underlying gastrointestinal issues such as low stomach acid, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut etc.
Avoiding refined, processed foods, alcohol, sodas and other junk food is important. One should ensure a plentiful intake of purified water and optimize their dietary intake which may include the use of various supplements such as amino acids, zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin A, melatonin and ashwagandha.
No hormone works by itself, they all work in harmony with one another. Whenever we address thyroid issues we should also look at insulin levels and adrenal function.
We should also address the need for restorative sleep and regular physical activity and incorporate healthy habits such as strengthening social bonds, meditation, fasting, yoga and positive thinking.
By addressing nutritional, biochemical and psychosocial needs one will obtain the best possible outcome.
If you are interested in learning more about hypothyroidism, consult with a specialist physician. Fiaz Jaleel, M.D., in Jacksonville, is an expert on rehabilitation, pain management and anti-aging techniques. Personalized Medicine Consultants’ mission is to promote longevity and enhance healthier living by providing tools and strategies to prevent age-related disorders that help improve metabolic and psychosocial function. Visit our website or call 904-744-7474 to set up an appointment.