Thyroid Part 4: Healing Your Thyroid

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We’re finally to the heart of the discussion and possibly the only part you’ve been wanting to read. I get it, not everyone is as into the science as I am! And I still think it’s important that the information is available to you so you know how the thyroid works and how you can tell if your thyroid is messing with you.

One caveat before we jump in: If you talk to your doctor or endocrinologist about what you can do to help your thyroid, odds are that he or she will tell that there is nothing to do and may even scoff if you talk about the things below. It’s not that they don’t mean well or aren’t educated. It’s just that most of them learned that sometimes the thyroid just gets “off” and the only fix is to monitor the TSH and T4 hormones. If it becomes hypo, then supplementing with synthetic T4 is the answer to keep the labs within a normal range. Or, if it’s hyperfunctional and producing too much T4, it may be suppressed with drugs or it has to be ablated (that’s the technical term for killing it with radiation) after which synthetic T4 and T3 must be administered.

More recent research than has been used in med school and experience from functional medicine practitioners tells us this is not the case! There are many things that can be done via food, lifestyle and root cause management to heal the thyroid.

Now, don’t get me wrong… if your thyroid has been ablated, I’m afraid that you will have to take thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. Even if your thyroid is still present but you are already on medicine, you may still have to take that medicine forever, depending on how much functionality your thyroid has already lost.

That said, for all situations involving your thyroid, I encourage you to keep reading, as you want to optimize your thyroid hormone pathway as much as possible. For example, you want your thyroid to produce as much T4 as it can and you want the rest of your body to convert T4 to T3 (rather than Reverse T3) as much as possible. You also want your cells to use the hormone available to them.

What I’m saying is, there are many situations where you can successfully improve the function of your thyroid hormone pathway and perhaps decrease (if not eliminate) your dependence on external hormones.

Because most people are dealing with hypothyroidism, all of the information below is focused on this dysfunction. However, hyperthyroidism and Grave’s disease are also real problems that can be addressed via functional and integrative approaches. If this is what you are dealing with, please see my last comments in this post.

Now to get us started, there’s going to be a lot of information below. As such, the following graphic is a summary of all the ways you can help your thyroid. You can use this as a reference point depending on where you think your thyroid pathway is breaking down.

Since the pathway goes from your thyroid down to your cells, I’ve listed these solutions in that order. The key here is to figure out where your pathway may be breaking down and to focus in that area. Of course, some of these solutions (like stress reduction) affect the entire pathway and many other parts of your body. So doing any of them can only be beneficial to you!

1) If your TSH is too high, you’re taking T4 or your T4 is below optimal, boost your thyroid’s ability to produce hormone by doing the following:

  • Reduce and/or learn how to better manage your stress
  • Heal any chronic infections or underlying physical traumas
  • If possible after discussing with your doctor, avoid radiation and medications which can inhibit proper thyroid function. These medications include:
    • Lithium
    • Aldesleukin (common brands include Proleukin)
    • Amiodarone (common brands include Cordarone, Nexterone and Pacerone)
    • Interferon (common brands include Roferon-A, Intron-A, Rebetron, Alferon-N, Peg-Intron, Avonex, Betaseron, Infergen, Actimmune and Pegasys)
    • Sunitinib (common brands include Sutent)
  • Reduce any toxin exposures you have
  • Heal any autoimmune disease you have or are at risk for getting
  • Ensure you are getting enough nutrients to support thyroid hormone production, which include:
    • Minerals: iron, iodine (and not too much fluoride which competes with iodine in the body), zinc, selenium
    • Vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, B6, C, D, E
    • Amino acids: tyrosine (Beware of possible drug-nutrient interactions before supplementing with tyrosine! Rather, choose foods like chicken, turkey and fish for your source.)

2) If your T3 is too low or your Reverse T3 is too high, then boost your body’s ability to convert T4 to T3 by doing the following:

  • Reduce and/or learn how to better manage your stress
  • Heal any chronic infections or underlying physical traumas
  • Ensure you are getting enough calories to fuel your body with enough of them coming from protein and not too many from carbohydrates
  • Reduce any toxin exposures you have, particularly to heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides
  • Reduce your inflammation
  • Treat any liver and/or kidney dysfunction
  • If possible after discussing with your doctor, avoid medications that can increase the conversion of T4 to Reverse T3. These include:
    • Beta blockers, such as propranolol, metoprolol, atenolol and bisoprolol
    • Birth control pills or other estrogen replacement (This also means you want to be sure you don’t have too much natural estrogen or are “estrogen dominant.”)
    • Lithium
    • Phenytoin (common brands include Dilantin and Phenytek)
    • Theophylline (common brands include Theolair, Quibron-T and Theo-24)
    • Chemotherapy
  • Ensure you are getting enough selenium and zinc, which are necessary for T4 to T3 conversion

3) If your TSH, T4, T3 and Reverse T3 all are in optimal range, but you still have symptoms, boost your cell’s ability to accept the hormone by doing the following:

  • Reduce and/or learn how to better manage your stress
  • Get plenty of physical activity
  • Ensure you are getting enough zinc and vitamin A, which are necessary for the cell to take in T3

 

If your thyroid is messing with you, I encourage you to stay (or become) hopeful that it can get better and commit to following my suggestions to improve your thyroid function. If you do, you likely will experience an improvement in your thyroid-related symptoms within 6 – 8 weeks. With that said, keep in mind that it may take many months (or even a couple of years) for your thyroid function to significantly improve and be visible on lab results. Be vigilant… your body wants to heal and often can when given the right resources to do so!

Also, if you want to do this on your own, but want more information, I encourage you to check out the information from Dr. Amy Myers. Her latest book and much of her website is dedicated to healing the thyroid, including information about Grave’s disease which she struggled with for many years.

Finally, if you aren’t sure you can do this on your own or you are dealing with hyperthyroid function (since I didn’t address it above), find a healthcare practitioner (like me!) who is well versed in functional and integrative approaches to healing the thyroid and get help!

Remember: you and your thyroid deserve to feel amazing!

 

Image via Pexels, with the heart added by me. 🙂

Sources:
— Allen S. Optimal Thyroid Health. In IFMNT Level II. Webinar.
— Evan J. An Integrative and Functional Nutrition Approach to Adrenal, Thyroid and Hormone Dysfunction. In IFNA Track 2. Webinar.
— Haugen BR. Drugs that suppress TSH or cause central hypothyroidism. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2009 Dec 31;23(6):793-800.

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