The thyroid is a very important endocrine gland. Located at the base of the neck, it secretes two hormones which help regulate the body's metabolic ratethyroxin (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 are released in about a 4:1 ratio (4 times more T4 than T3).
T4 is converted to T3 in peripheral tissues, particularly the liver, so liver malfunction can affect thyroid function. The enzyme required for this conversion needs selenium-a mineral deficient in many diets.
When the thyroid function is low, the metabolic rate diminishes.
First of all, a lack of iodine may be the cause. Fluoride, chlorine and bromide, all of which are routinely added to drinking water, are highly reactive and disrupt iodine in the body. Chemical iodine, found in iodized salt, bread and milk products, may not be as bioavailable as iodine in foods.
Corticosteroids depress the thyroid. Aspirin (salicylates) and anticoagulants can also depress thyroid activity. Cruciferous vegetables and the isoflavoins found in beans may also have an inhibitory effect. Lemon balm (Focus Attention) and bugleweed contain substances that inhibit thyroid activity, too.
Radioactive iodine 131 is used to "fry' the thyroid of overactive patients. It is released regularly from all nuclear reactors and weapon's facilities. This may also be contributing to cancers of the breast, testes and salivary glands.
While the primary use of iodine is in the thyroid gland, it may have other functions. For example, iodine is also concentrated around the nipples in female breast tissue and is critical to breast health.
A simple folk test for iodine deficiency (or at least aggressive iodine uptake) is to paint a patch of USP Tincture of Iodine (can be found at Walgreens or similar stores) two inches in diameter on a soft skin area (inner upper arm, side of the abdomen or inside of the thigh). If the patch disappears in less than two hours you are probably iodine deficient. If it disappears in two to four hours you may be moderately iodine deficient.
Iodine is a very rare nutrient in land plants but is common in fish and sea vegetables like kelp, dulse, bladderwrack, and Irish moss. Adding foods rich in natural iodine to the diet will often improve thyroid function. Kelp, in particular, is very beneficial for the thyroid because it contains di-iodotyrosine. Two molecules of this substance are attached by the thyroid peroxidase enzyme in the thyroid to form T4. So, kelp contains a precursor to the thyroid hormone, making synthesis of thyroxine easier.
Sea vegetables, like kelp, can be sprinkled on food or added to soups, stews, etc. They add a pleasant salty taste to foods. Two formulas are available which contain these sea vegetables and are designed to feed the thyroid gland and aid its function. They are TSII and Thyroid Activator. These formulas can be very helpful in cases of moderately low thyroid.
Weaning off of thyroid medication is possible for people whose thyroid gland has not been destroyed or removed.Thyroid medications should not be eliminated or reduced without monitoring the situation with a physician. A person can take kelp (6-10 capsules per day) or a thyroid formulas for about a week, then reduce their thyroid medication in half while continuing to take the herbs. Wait one to four weeks and lower by half the dose of thyroid medication while maintaining supplement intake. If low thyroid symptoms reappear go back to the higher dose. After reducing the dose to 1/8 or 1/16 of the original dose, you can also try skipping days. The goal is to find the minimum amount of thyroid medication required to maintain health, or to eliminate the thyroid medication entirely. Again, this should never be attempted by persons whose thyroid gland has been totally destroyed or removed.
While hypothyroidism is still a problem for millions of Americans, there also appears to be an increasing number of cases of hyperthyroid function. Having worked with a number of cases of hyperthyroid disorders, I want to share with you the results of my research and practical experience.
Hyperthryoid simply means that the thyroid is overproducing thyroid hormones. There can be a number of causes for this, but the most common cause is Graves disease, which is an autoimmune condition. Overproduction of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary can also be a cause. There are other, less common, causes as well.
To understand how to deal effectively with hyperthyroid conditions using natural substances, it is necessary to know a little bit about how the body produces thyroid hormones. The hypothalamus, a stalk of the brain, is the master regulator of most of the body's major endocrine hormones. When the hypothalamus detects the need for thyroid hormones it produces the thyroid releasing hormone TRH. TRH travels to the pituitary gland where it stimulates the release of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
TSH travels through the blood stream and binds to receptor sites in the thyroid gland. It stimulates the thyroid to produce two hormones thyroxin (T4) and tri-iodotyrosine (T3). T4 and T3 are released in ratio of about a 4:1 (4 times more T4 than T3). T3 is the more active form. T4 is a storage form of the hormone. T4 is converted to T3 in peripheral tissues, particularly the liver. Cortisol, a stress hormone, tends to stimulate the conversion of T4 to T3, while insulin tends to suppress the production of T4 to T3.
The primary job of these thyroid hormones is to regulate metabolism and to help burn fuel. especially fats. The thyroid acts sort of like the gas pedal on a car. When the thyroid output is low, the metabolic engine runs slowly. As a result, fats tend to be stored instead of burned, resulting in weight gain. Also, since the body burns fat primarily to keep warm, body temperature tends to be low. The skin is dry, again due to a lack of proper fat metabolism. Reproductive hormones may also be thrown out of balance (since they are made of fat) and energy levels tend to be low because the metabolism is slow.
With hyperthyroid function the opposite is true; the metabolic engine runs too fast. As a result, fuel burns too quickly, which results in weight loss, intolerance to heat, and hyperactivity and restlessness. For example, some of the specific symptoms associated with Grave's disease include bulging eyes, rapid pulse rate (90-160), heart palpitations, tremors, restlessness and anxiety, lack of periods, muscle weakness and impaired sleep.
A hyperactive condition of the thyroid, as is found in Grave's disease, is a serious medical condition and needs proper medical attention. The rapid heart beat can overstress the heart and circulation, resulting in life threatening effects. So, it is essential that a physician monitor someone with a hyperthyroid condition, even if the patient is opting to try a natural approach.
While it is important to have proper medical monitoring of a hyperthyroid situation, medical treatments for hyperactive thyroid conditions leave much to be desired. While drugs can be used to inhibit thyroid function, physicians usually convince the patient to destroy the thyroid gland with radioactive iodine.
When I say this is a therapy designed to "fry" the thyroid gland, I'm not exaggerating. The radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, causing it to be irradiated and a large part of its tissue destroyed. Thereafter, the person will have to take medications for low thyroid, as their thyroid gland will no longer function properly. Obviously, there has to be a better way.There are herbs which inhibit thyroid function. Several plant species contain substances known to bind to TSH receptor sites in the thyroid, inhibiting them and reducing thyroid output.
Bugleweed (Lycopus europaeus or L. americanus) is one of the most powerful thyroid inhibitors. It helps with heart problems associated with rapid heart beat or irregular heart rate. It also helps with insomnia and chronic debilitating coughs. Several of these problems bugleweed has been used for are symptoms of hyperthyroidism.Another herb with powerful thyroid inhibiting effects is lemon balm (Melissa offlcinalis). Both the herb and its essential oil have thyroid inhibiting functions. Studies have shown that freeze-dried extracts of this herb bind thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin and reduce circulating thyroid hormone. A mixture recommended by several professional herbalists (which I have successful used myself) is 1 part bugleweed, 1 part lemon balm and 1/2 part motherwort. 30-60 drops of the tincture is taken 3-4 times per day. The motherwort, while not having a direct effect in blocking overproduction of thyroid hormones, helps to calm and stabilize the heart rate.
Another herb with antithyrotrophic (thyroid-inhibiting) effects is Lithospermum sp. There are several species that work. I've never seen a commercial lithospermurn product, but I have seen some Lithospermum sp. growing in the wilds. The problem with lithospermum is that it is also a contraceptive and inhibits the production of reproductive hormones.
In spite of the fact that NSP does not have a hyperthyroid formula, there are some NSP products that do help with Grave's disease and other hyperactive thyroid gland disorders. One of these supplements is IF-C, a Chinese anti-inflammatory. IF-C is indicated for rapid heartbeat, a red tongue, and conditions involving excess heat, such as fever or inflammation. It clears toxins from the blood and reduces the heat.
IF-C helps with some of the underlying reasons why the thyroid is hyper. No organ becomes hyperactive unless there is an irritant present causing a reaction. According to Dr. Henry Bieler in Food is Your Best Medicine, the glands act as a third line of defense. When toxins get past the intestinal membranes and the liver and enter the blood stream, the glandular system become overexcited in an effort to increase metabolic rate in order to drive the toxins out of the body. So, according to this theory, a hyperactive thyroid would signal a need to cleanse the blood of toxins, which is exactly what IF-C is for.
When I first worked with someone diagnosed with Grave's disease, I reasoned that when one gland is overactive, it is trying to make up for other glands which have become underactive. The adrenals tend to work with and balance the thyroid; and I have discovered that people with hyperactive thyroid function also tend to have adrenal problems. The stress hormone, cortisol, is an anti-inflammatory, so hyperthyroidism may be a sign of excess stress, accompanied by adrenal weakness. So the cooling effect of the adrenal hormone, cortisol, is reduced. This is just a theory, but in the cases of hyperthyroid I have seen, adrenal weakness did seem to be a problem. So, licorice root or Nervous Fatigue Formula have also proved helpful in certain cases.
Diet can also play a role in helping to balance an overactive thyroid. High carbohydrate diets, coupled with low protein and/or fat intake, tend to elevate thyroid function. So, a properly balanced diet with correct proportions of fats, proteins, and low glycemic carbohydrates is helpful.Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower tend to have an inhibiting effect on the production of thyroid hormones. Millet also has a slight thyroid inhibiting effect. These foods should be consumed freely.
One final word of caution is that there are some reports that aspartame may cause hyperthyroid disorders. So, products containing the artificial sweetener aspartame (aka, Equal and NutraSweet) should also be avoided.
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