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Do You Have Low Thyroid?

Hypothyroid or low thyroid is epidemic in the United States, affecting approximately 23 percent of the female population and about 10 percent of males.  An additional 28 percent of people may also have sub clinical or mild hypothyroidism, whereby their TSH is within the normal range on blood tests but they have symptoms. 

If you have the following symptoms, low thyroid may be your problem:

  • Thinning or loss of hair, including eyebrow and body hair
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Feel cold all the time
  • Menstrual problems
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Heart palpitations
  • Raging hot flashes and night sweats
  • Infertility and recurring miscarriage

The thyroid secretes two hormones, T3 and T4, which are crucial for controlling our metabolism.  Because thyroid hormones affect every cell in the body, a deficiency will result in many symptoms including those mentioned above.

Severe hypothyroidism, confirmed by a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test with a result over 5.5 IU/ml, may require the use of thyroid medication.  But if you have mild or sub clinical low thyroid where your TSH is greater than 2.0 IU/ml but less than the 5.5 IU/ml, a blood test will show within a normal range while your thyroid could really use some help.  Several nutrients available in health food stores are very helpful in supporting thyroid function.  Likewise, if you have been on thyroid medication for awhile and your medication dose is continually increasing and/or you still have symptoms, you may not be converting your thyroid hormones very well, and these same nutrients can help.

Look for a formula in the health food store containing tyrosine, ashwagandha, guggul, food-source iodine and other thyroid-supporting nutrients that work together to help restore healthy thyroid activity.  Ashwagandha increases production of T4 thyroid hormone while guggul (commiphora or myrrh) enhances the conversion of T4 to the more potent T3 thyroid hormone.  Both herbs work directly on the thyroid gland.  Ninety-five percent of all cases of low thyroid are due to impaired conversion of T4 to T3.  Your thyroid formula must contain iodine (preferably food-sourced) and tyrosine, which are both necessary for the manufacture of thyroid hormone. 

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in overall health.  If it is not operating at peak performance, you won't be able to lose weight or you may have drastic increases in your weight over a short period of time; your hair may thin, including your eyebrows; your skin will wrinkle excessively and be dry; and you may experience menstrual problems or severe menopausal symptoms.

When you have low thyroid, your liver makes less of a protein called SHBG that binds to estrogen in the blood.  This causes estrogen dominance and the inhibition of progesterone, which can increase the risk of breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts.  When our estrogen levels become too high or when we take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or birth control pills, our thyroid hormones may be unable to bind to receptors in the thyroid, causing low thyroid because estrogen blocks the uptake of thyroid hormone. This becomes a vicious cycle as low thyroid promotes more estrogen and more estrogen inhibits binding of thyroid hormones.  This is why many women taking HRT or the Pill end up on thyroid medication.

To further worsen this problem, low thyroid causes higher prolactin levels that can promote ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian disease, weight gain, male facial hair growth, and increased breast cancer risk.  HRT and birth control pills are not the only medications that promote thyroid problems.  Tamoxifen, used to treat estrogen-driven breast cancer, blocks the utilization of iodine that is essential for the manufacture of thyroid hormones.

A balanced thyroid is essential. Studies have shown that women with breast cancer have significantly lower T3 thyroid hormone and that TSH levels were elevated.  Low thyroid causes our immune system to be weakened, while also increasing our risk of developing osteoporosis, heart palpitations, and heart disease.

If you feel you are suffering from low thyroid function despite blood tests returning normal, here is a simple and effective home thyroid test:

Plan to take the test first thing in the morning immediately upon wakening.
1. Before going to sleep, place a thermometer by your bed.  If you are not using a digital thermometer, shake down your regular mercury thermometer to below the 95-degree mark.
2. Immediately upon waking, before you do anything else, place the thermometer in your armpit.  If using a regular thermometer, keep it there for a full 10 minutes.  Hold your elbow close to your side to keep the thermometer in place.
3. Read and record the temperature.  Repeat the test for at least three mornings, preferably at the same time of day.  Readings below 97.8 may indicate hypothyroidism and the need for nutritional supplements.  Ask your doctor to test for TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3, not just TSH.
Note:  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.