This awesome post was written by Alina Islam, a wonderful Certified Nutritional Practitioner from Toronto, Canada. She is a writer, speaker, and nutritional consultant. You can read more of her work at AlinaIslam.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
So you’ve been on synthetic thyroid hormone for a long time, and you do not see any benefits. You’ve even tried supplementing with iodine and eating seaweed by the handful, and you’re still where you started.
Here’s why these attempts aren’t working: hypothyroid has many root causes, and instead of figuring out exactly why your thyroid isn’t working the way it should, you’ve been given a one-size-fits-all solution: medication (conventional approach) or iodine (alternative approach).
5 Important Thyroid Health Myths
Regardless of which approach you’re taking, you might be making matters worse by not finding out the root cause of your thyroid dysfunction. To find out the truth behind your condition, you need to take the first step, which is to let go of five important myths:
Myth #1: Every Hypothyroid Patient Needs More Iodine
Iodine is needed to make the thyroid hormone, collectively known as T4 and T3. The former is the inactive form, which must be converted to T3, the active form, for our cells to actually use it.
And guess what? The two key minerals required for this crucial conversion are zinc and selenium, NOT iodine. So unless you have a true iodine deficiency that is causing low T4 levels, you do not need to supplement with iodine.
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Plus, in some cases where the root cause of hypothyroid is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune dysfunction, excessive iodine causes a flare-up and makes the problem worse.
Myth #2: Your Lab Tests Are Comprehensive
The standard lab tests that are ordered for hypothyroid are TSH and T4. To recap, TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, is released from the pituitary gland and signals the thyroid gland to secrete thyroid hormone. Here is what the basic pathway looks like:
- TSH (signal) T4 (inactive) T3 (active) used by cells
- Typically, if your TSH is high and T4 is low, it indicates you aren’t making enough thyroid hormone and are put on medication. But here’s what the lab doesn’t test:
- T3 and free T3
- Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG), which transports thyroid hormone
- Thyroid antibodies; if high your immune system is attacking your thyroid
- Reverse T3 (RT3); T4 can convert into the inactive form RT3, to get rid of unneeded T4
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies crucial to thyroid function: iodine, zinc, selenium, iron, Vitamin D
These tests allow your practitioner to see the whole picture. Without considering these tests, you’re simply shooting in the dark and hoping to boost T4 levels will do the trick.
Myth #3: Your Thyroid Exists In Isolation To The Rest Of The Body
Imagine your body is a racecar. A racecar will only operate at its peak performance when all the different components, parts and systems are being maintained, and operating at their best.
Let me ask you this: if a racecar stops performing well, does a good mechanic just put more fuel in the car? No – a good mechanic will look at the engine, the batteries, the air pressure, the tire quality, the gearbox, etc. He or she will consider all factors.
So why is it we don’t give our bodies the same respect? If our thyroid stops performing well, why are we only fueling it with synthetic thyroid hormone instead of looking at all the other systems in order body that could have caused the thyroid to stop performing at its best?
Myth #4: There Is One Cause For Hypothyroid
To build on the point above, low T4 levels are not the only cause for low thyroid function. Here is a sampling of other root causes:
- Autoimmune condition
- Pituitary gland dysfunction
- Poor conversion of T4 to T3
- Low TBG
- High TBG
- Thyroid resistance
- Which can then be further broken down into:
- Gluten intolerance
- Leaky Gut
- Adrenal fatigue
- Chronic inflammation
- High stress and cortisol levels
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Excess estrogen levels
- Poor liver detoxification
- Chronic constipation
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
Myth #5: Levothyroxine Medication Is Going To Fix The Problem
Levothyroxine is the synthetic form of the T4 thyroid hormone. Its only role is to increase T4 levels and does not address any of the causes mentioned in this article. Yes, if you are not producing enough T4 or have elevated TSH levels, the medication will help. But it is predominantly a Band-Aid solution, covering up the symptom and not solving the real issue.
Plus, did you know that for 90% of hypothyroid patients the root cause is an autoimmune dysfunction? Known as Hashimoto’s, this is when the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Given there is a 9 out of 10 chance the problem is Hashimoto’s, why is Levothyroxine the number one proposed solution?
I hope this helps paint a more realistic picture of how to treat a hypothyroid condition. It is not as simple as popping a pill or eating recipes rich in iodine because no two people are the same.
It is complex, and it requires intervention from an integrative doctor, functional medicine practitioner, nutritionist or naturopath who is willing to arrange/conduct the tests and get to the root of the problem!
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