Nutritional Medicine , Separating Fact from Fiction
Exactly what is hypothyroidism? What is the thyroid gland? How does it work?
The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple wrapped around your windpipe. It’s most important functions are:
The storage and regulation of hormones that regulate:
The thyroid gland uses iodine to make T4. The two most important hormones produced by the thyroid gland are thyroxine (T4) (inactive hormone) and triiodothyronine (T3)(active hormone). The hormones in the thyroid gland are regulated by Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) produced in the pituitary gland.To convert T4, the pro-hormone, or inactive hormone, to T3, the active hormone, selenium is a critical nutrient. Testing for selenium is not generally done, but some studies have shown a 200 mcg dose of seleomethionine lowered the antibodies that cause auto-immune thyroid dysfunction, or Hashimotos, by 50%. Other nutrients to play close attention to for optimal thyroid functioning are vitamin D, iron, B12, vitamin E, potassium, zinc and vitamin A. Soy has a nortorious reputation for interfering with proper thyroid function.
So, I have Hypothyroidism, how do I treat it?
Traditionally a patient is diagnosed for hypothyroidism by running a TSH blood test and, if abnormal, the patient is started on levothyroxine or T4. But, one really needs to look deeper with a thorough assessment before a total, individualized treatment plan can be provided for hypothyroidism.
This means a total thyroid panel should be run with a TSH, free T4, free T3, and auto-antibodies along with a urinary test for iodine. Generally, these tests are run by an endocrinologist.
To know how to optimize thyroid support, the patient needs to know what type of thyroid disorder they have.
Major types of thyroid diagnoses
Essentially, science has created five categories of thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease, Goiter, Thyroid Nodules and a miscellaneous category. And, remember, thyroid problems can be hereditary, so look at the genes in your family if you suspect problems.
Focus on Hashimotos
Since Hashimoto’s is so prevalent in the U.S affecting 12-26% of the general population and accounting for over 90% of hypothyroidism diagnosis, let’s focus on what this means for losing weight. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease where the body is essentially attacking itself. In this case it is not an iodine deficiency, in fact, iodine may aggravate the situation.
So, if a doctor has diagnosed you with hypothyroidism, placed you on medication (T4), and you still feel fatigued, depressed, constipated, CANNOT LOSE WEIGHT, have dry skin, dry hair, pale/puffy face, intolerance to cold, heavy/irregular menstrual periods, then further testing is needed.
Dietary treatment is individualized by the RD if Hashimoto’s is diagnosed and the nutritional guidelines include a number of approaches:
Wentz, Isabella. Supporting a patient with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism through nutrition. The Integrative RD. 2/15; 18:2.
Recommended Dietary Intakes, 2011.
These statements are not intended to diagnose or treat and are educational only