Q: I've been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and have started taking thyroxine. Can you please give me some advice on how I can help myself deal with this condition.
CM (by email)
A: Thyroxine is a hormone (body chemical) made by the thyroid gland in the neck. It is carried round the body in the bloodstream. It helps to keep the body's functions (the metabolism) working at the correct pace. Many cells and tissues in the body need thyroxine to keep them going correctly.
Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroxine. It is often called an underactive thyroid. This causes many of the body's functions to slow down.
Many symptoms can be caused by a low level of thyroxine. Basically, everything 'slows down'. Not all symptoms develop in all cases.
Two of the factors contributing to hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency and selenium deficiency
The major problem stems from a lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine is one of the essential components of thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, the production of thyroid hormones is limited.
Iodine consumption has dropped dramatically in this country over the past 20 years. This drop is due in part to the depletion of our soils and in part to less iodized salt being used as an ingredient in our foods.
The second factor contributing to hypothyroidism is selenium deficiency. You might have heard how important this mineral is to your immune system, but chances are you haven't heard how important it is to proper thyroid function. That's unfortunate, because the effects of a selenium deficiency are very serious. Selenium is an essential component of an enzyme required by the thyroid gland and a selenium deficiency can be responsible for an underactive thyroid.
As with iodine, our soils have become deficient in the trace mineral selenium.
In the last few years, researchers have found that certain selenium-containing enzymes are responsible for the conversion of thyroid hormone T3 to T4. The thyroid produces several hormones, and must produce them in a somewhat balanced ratio. Without selenium, this balancing process is hindered. In simple terms, selenium-deficient diets are also a primary cause of hypothyroidism.
Now, I know that you said you were taking thyroxine but there are also a number of measures that you can take to help yourself.
1. Firstly your immune system. A weak and inefficient immune system will begin to malfunction causing an autoimmune disorder where the body begins to attack its own thyroid tissue. Therefore to maintain a balanced, regulated immune system working at the correct level is vital. I would suggest that you try a supplement rich in the African Potato tuber, which contains a high concentration of phytosterols (plant fats). Plant fats are in all fruit and veggies but, because of the way our food is processed these days, levels of these importanbt plant fats are low. They have been shown to have an ability to regulate our immune system. Take such a supplement for a minimum of 6 to 8 months.
2. Secondly the slower metabolism in people with hypothyroidism, may leave people feeling mildly depressed. If this applies to you, take Sutherlandia Frutescens which naturally contains the important inhibitory neuro-transmitter, GABA which occurs in the body. When we are feeling low (and interestingly during PMT and menopause) we can suffer from a shortage of GABA and Sutherlandia puts this naturally back into the body.
3. Cayenne is one of the most potent herbs for hypothyroidism as it aids in blood circulation and regulates the body's metabolism.
4. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet by doing the following:
Note that it is advisable to eat the following foods only in small amounts as they have an adverse effect on the thyroid gland: cabbage, kale, cauliflower, spinach, brussels sprouts, soya beans, turnips and beans.