Thyroid Management Using Herbs and Nutrition
(Notes from a lecture on Thyroid Disease)
Statistics and Facts:
- Thyroid disease is one of the most common hormonal disorders.
- Hypothyroidism has been called the “great imitator” because of the vast number of medical conditions thyroid conditions can mimic.
- An estimated 13 million Americans are affected by thyroid disease.
- More than half of the people with thyroid disease are unaware they have it.
- Thyroid disease affect 8 times more women as it does men
- The mid-west is called the “goiter belt” because the soil there is so deficient in Iodine.
What does the thyroid gland do?
The thyroid gland converts food into energy and heat by modulating carbohydrates, proteins, fat metabolism, vitamin utilization, mitochondrial function, digestive process, muscle and nerve activity, blood flow, oxygen utilization hormone secretion, sexual and reproductive health, and more.
The pituitary, hypothalamus in the brain are responsible for the regulation of how much thyroid hormone should be produced for the body. Heavy metals can attach to the hypothalamus and pituitary and cause a communication problem as to how much thyroid hormone should be available.
Thyroid hormones are produced exclusively by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces mostly T4 (Levothyroxine). This is a molecule with 4 iodine molecules on it. It is converted to the active T3 (Triiodothyronine) form when it is exposed to the enzyme iodothyronine deiodinase. T3 is eight times more active than T4. Nutrition is a key requirement to supply tyrosine and iodine to the thyroid gland so it can produce adequate amounts of T4.
T4 is converted to the active form T3 mostly in the liver (80%), brain and bloodstream. So if your liver is not working well and you trash it out with alcohol, drugs, or you just have a weak liver, the thyroid hormone can’t do it’s job correctly and this starts a cascade of challenges.
We need to have lots of zinc, selenium and iodine in our diets to produce the enzymes that convert T4 to T3.
Sugar leads to binding of the thyroid hormone making it unavailable to the body (hypothyroidism results).
Copper, mercury, and lead will block zinc absorption. This is why it’s important to detect and get rid of any heavy metals in the body.
Low thyroid and hypothyroidism mimics many different diseases.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Attention deficit disorders
- Backs of hands turned forward
- Brain Fog
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Cold hands/feet (Barnes Test)
- Constant build up of wax in ears
- Delayed teething in children
- Drooping eyelid
- Dry; course skin, hair and nails
- Dull facial expression
- Growth Retardation in children
- Hard time waking in the morning
- High Cholesterol problems
- Hoarse voice with slow speech
- Intolerance to cold
- Loss of hair in outer 1/3 eyebrow
- Menstrual disturbances
- Monopolar depression
- Muscle fatigue
- Palms of hands yellow
- Premature delivery in pregnancy
- Puffy face
- Short-term memory problems
- Sleeps easily but not rested upon waking
- Slow mental development
- Slow Pulse
- Tinnitus (Ringing of the ears)
- TSH levels high, but T3/T4 levels low
- Waking up with a headache
- Weight gain
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism:
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Bipolar Depression
- Eye pain
- Eyelid retraction (bulging eyes)
- Frequent bowel movements
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid)
- Increased activity
- Increased appetite w/ weight loss
- Increased vocalization (cats)
- Photophobia (sensitive to light)
- Sensitivity to heat
- Tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
- Warm, moist skin
- Widened pulse pressure (normal 120/80)
Things that adversely affect the Thyroid function:
- Aluminum (preservatives/antifungal)
- Autoimmune thyroid diseases:
- Cadmium poisoning
- Chakra imbalance (fifth)
- Chemicals and Xenobiotics
- PCB’s from plastics
- Hormones in food
- Phenolic Compounds
- Styrofoam cups
- Microwaved plastic wrap
- Water bottles
- Drugs (SSRI Antidepressants)
- Electromagnetic radiation
- Appliances w/ LED lights
- Estrogen (too much)
- Exercise, too little
- Hormonal imbalances
- Iodine Excess (Coast Goiter Syndrome)
- Iodine deficiency
- Lack of morning exercise
- Lead poisoning
- Light, not enough sunshine
- Liver disease
- Mercury poisoning
- Plant hormones (Estrogens)
- Raw Foods containing cyanogenic glycosides:
- Raw foods that increase T4 clearance:
- Selenium Deficiency
- Sunshine-lack of (slows Thyroid)
- Tyrosine Deficiency
- Zinc Deficiency
Notes on things that affect the Thyroid Gland Function:
Bipolar depression is exhibited as the thyroid hormone drives energy levels beyond the physical limits of the body.
Lithium, a common treatment for manic-depression, is known to depress T3 in the brain bringing the levels back to normal.
Long-term stress leads to autoimmune disease because stress decreases the production of Natural Killer cells. Two examples of this are Hashimoto and Grave’s diseases. This in turn increases food sensitivities and environmental sensitivities. Ashwaganda, and Ayurvedic herb, is an herb that helps manage stress by decreasing cortisol levels.
Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune induced thyroid disease caused by the body’s own antibodies attacking the thyroid gland. When you provide the system with a thyroid supplement (protomorphogens like MediHerb Thyroid Complex), the antibodies will attack the supplement first allowing the thyroid gland to heal itself. The thyroid supplement acts as a decoy for the antibodies.
Grave’s disease is an autoimmune induced thyroid disease caused when the body’s own antibodies block conversion of T4 to T3.
Caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants increase the cortisol released from the adrenal glands in the body. When this happens the cortisol block the conversion of T4 to T3 so causes hypothyroidism.
Smoking depresses the thyroid gland from producing thyroid hormone and adrenal hormones. This is why it can be a factor in hypothyroidism.
Alcohol or opiates can increase T3 levels in the body by preventing the breakdown of t# in the brain, so in hypothyroidism alcohol can act as a mood elevator. Alcohol gives these patients a mood-elevator buzz. At the same time, alcohol is causing the liver to be stressed and toxic which disturbs the metabolism of all kinds of hormones over the long-term. By keeping the T3 levels high in the system this suppresses the Thyroid Hormone (TH) being released from the brain. One result of this is that the liver starts producing more cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides. Alcohol also hurts the liver over time enough to prevent it from storing the fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A. Because of this, Vitamin A (carotenoids) can build up in the body and shows up in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet as yellowing.
So when you smoke and drink, you are really doing a double-whammy on your thyroid gland. It’s so hard to quit because of the hormonal imbalances that these products cause. Some think that this is why smoking and alcohol are so addictive.
Iodine deficiency is the second major cause of hypothyroidism. The first cause of iodine deficiency is diet. So why not eat fortified table salt? Well, these kinds of salts are highly processed. All the natural minerals are extracted leaving only Sodium, Chloride and Iodine in inorganic form, which is not bioavailable. The body will use it if there is nothing else. The thyroid gland will store this iodine until it needs it, but it doesn’t use inorganic forms as efficiently and effectively as organic forms. To get around this problem, use Celtic Sea Salt, which comes from the ocean, is not refined, is gray, moist and is surrounded by organic “Mother Liquor”.
High consumption of raw soy products (soymilk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and soy flour in protein drinks), flaxseed, and corn products all have cyanogenic glycosides in them. These plants produce natural goitrogens. Cooking and fermentation disables these goitrogens by breaking down the phytate components.
Phytates are the mineral blocking product of the food making the calcium, magnesium, manganese and copper unavailable. In the East, where they use soy, they always cook it. Americans are finding more ways to use uncooked soy products and it shows by the amount of thyroid disease we are generating.
Note: Cooking does not breakdown cyanogenic glycoside in corn syrup and corn syrup seems to be hidden in everything these days. Also, sugar of any kind is also known to suppress the immune system for several hours after it has been consumed.
Soymilk is especially bad for babies. If they can’t have regular milk, use 75% Goats milk plus 25% Carrot juice (to replace folic acid, which is low in Goat’s milk) as a wholesome, complete milk and formula substitute.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is thyroid-linked or pineal gland linked. It responds well to St. John’s Wort or foods high in tyrosine (sesame seeds, raw egg yolk).
Environmental Hazards affecting Thyroid Function:
Electromagnetic Radiation: Computers, appliances with LED lights, and airplane trips generate stress on the body by their damaging electromagnetic fields (EMF’s). One 10-hour flight @ 33,000 feet exposes the body to the same level of radiation as one chest x-ray with no protection.
Use Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng) herb to protect against radiation. Siberian Ginseng is a wonderful adrenal tonic herb as well. Start out with 5ml extract per day or 4 tabs/day for one week before your trip. Note: There are other forms of Ginseng, but they do different things. Get Siberian for this purpose.
Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts) also protects the body against EMF’s and radiation exposure. It turns into a fine white powder when it has absorbed all that it can. You can place some inside a seat cushion and carry the cushion on the plane with you in your carry-on bag. Sit on it during your trip.
Heavy metal toxicity (lead, mercury, cadmium) and EMF’s suppress the endocrine system, alter the RBC (red blood cell) and WBC (white blood cell) counts and cause uniform hair loss.
PCB’s, hormones in food, cosmetics, and phenolic compounds increase anti-thyroid antibodies in the system so inhibit thyroid hormone activity and iodine metabolism. These factors, coupled with increased, prolonged stress leads to Hashimoto’s and Grave’s diseases as well.
Note: Children are very susceptible to these things as their bodies are smaller and they can’t handle as much as a human. They are getting the same amount of PCB’s from drinking out of Styrofoam cups and water bottles as an adult, only it hurts them more.
Other Factors affecting Thyroid Function:
Stress is a big factor in thyroid disease. It increases the cortisol levels in the system, decreases the active T3, and inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3 by inactivating the enzyme 5-deiodinase.
SSRI Drugs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors): When you have hypothyroidism and go on SSRI antidepressants, you either get more depressed, or the antidepressants don’t seem to work at all for you. SSRI drugs suppress the T3 levels in the system, which in turn affects the serotonin levels in the brain making the patient feel more depressed.
Some SSRI Drugs include: Fluoxetine (Prozac) Paroxetine (Aropax) Citalopram (Cipramil) Fluvoxamine sertraline (Zoloft).
So, How Do We Diagnose A Thyroid Condition?
- The Barne’s Metabolic Test (Do it yourself)
- Iodine Patch Test (Do it yourself)
- Symptom Survey
- Thyroid Function Blood Tests
- Hair Analysis
- Zinc Test
- Salivary Tests
The Barne’s Basal Body Temperature Test:
Take your basal underarm temperature. The Basal Temperature is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning. Most basal thermometers come with a temperature-plotting chart. A basal thermometer (obtained at the drugstore) shows the tiny incremental degree changes that a regular thermometer does not.
How to do the Barnes Basal Body Temperature Test:
- You will want to take your temperature for four consecutive days.
- Take temperature at the same time every day before getting out of bed for any reason. For women still having their period, you will want to do the test starting the second day of mensus because the hormone progesterone, released during certain other times of your cycle, will increase your body temperature. For men and post menopausal women take it for 4 consecutive days.
- Before going to bed, shake the thermometer down 96 degrees or less so you won’t increase your basal temperature by doing that in the morning.
- Before you even get out of bed to brush your teeth or start your day, place the basal thermometer into your mouth or under your arm for ten minutes.
- Record the temperature. The normal basal temperature will be 97.8 to 98.2 degrees F.
- Repeat this test for four consecutive days.
If your temperature is less than 96 degrees, this indicates low thyroid. Do not test when you have an infection or any other condition that would raise your body temperature.
The Iodine Patch Test:
This is another test you can do at home to test whether or not you are low in iodine, which leads to hypothyroidism.
Step 1: Go to the pharmacy and purchase Tincture of Iodine–the original, orange-colored solution, not the clear solution.
Step 2: Before going to bed, use the painting stick in the bottle of iodine to paint a 3 inch by 3 inch square patch of iodine onto the underside of the forearm or on the inner thigh or abdomen.
Step 3: In the morning, upon rising, note the color and check off a follows:
- No color left at all.
- Grayish colored
- Pale Yellow
- Bright yellow-orange (just like when you applied it the night before)
If there is NO color remaining on your skin, the test is complete. You are iodine deficient.
Check with your naturopath to get the proper supplement for you. This is a process. You may need to start out with a higher dose and a stronger product and slowly work down to a maintenance type of product over a period of several months. This is pretty difficult to do yourself unless you listen to your body and what it is telling you carefully, have lots of schooling, and know your physiology and biochemistry well. You should work with someone so that you won’t cause damage to your body. This is a hormonal thing and it can be rather tricky, especially if you are taking other medications and supplements.
If there is ANY color remaining on your skin, go to step 4:
Step 4: For the remainder of the day; check the patch every few hours. Note the time that all the color disappears. If the color still is remaining at bedtime, you may consider the test completed (you are not deficient in iodine). The color will slowly fade over the next few days and you can scrub it during your next shower. Check the appropriate box:
- Color was gone by noon.
- Color was gone by 4:00 p.m.
- Color was gone by 8:00 p.m.
- Color was gone by bed time.
- Some color still remains.
This form lists most every symptom you may have experienced or are experiencing at present. It groups them into body systems. The client fills out the form and rates the symptoms accordingly. They then take the symptom survey to their doctor to have it evaluated. If you make an appointment with me to be evaluated, I’d like you to fill out the survey and mail it to me before your appointment. It’s a great memory jogger and it’s fun for the both of us to track your progress. Here’s that link: /ExamForms-MedicalIntuitive/symptom_survey1.htm
Thyroid Function Blood Panel:
This is a blood test and needs to be prescribed by a doctor to have the blood drawn and the tests run. You will want to have several thyroid factors evaluated including:
- TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to determine if your brain is producing the instructions for the body to respond by producing T4
- Free T4 (the basic thyroid molecule that circulates around the body before it is activated)
- Free T3 (to see if the T4 is being converted to it’s active form)
- Thyroid Antibodies (to test for Hashimoto’s and Graves Diseases)
- Reverse T3 (the isomer of T3)
- Cortisol levels (To see how you are handling stress)
- Copper levels (To rule out Wilson’s Disease and heavy metal interference). Copper inhibits TRH at the hypothalamus and in the case of Wilson’s Syndrome, builds up in the liver preventing conversion of T4 to T3.
- A basic Chemistry Screen to check liver function (where most of the T4 is converted to the active T3 form) and to check cholesterol, triglycerides, WBC and RBC counts, etc.
Hair Analysis may also be in order if you suspect heavy metal toxicity. The hair is 120 times more biologically active than other tissues in the body so can be a good indicator of what is going on in the body.
The Zinc Test:
Zinc is needed for Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) and is an essential co-factor in the production of the enzyme 5-deiodanase enzyme that converts T4 to T3.
- Take 10 ml. of the Zinc test solution and hold it in your mouth for a couple of minutes.
- If you can taste the zinc and want to spit it out, your zinc level is OK.
- If it tastes like water, you are definitely deficient in zinc.
- If zinc deficient, support the body with Zinc Liver Chelate, Chezyn or Trace Minerals in the appropriate amounts.
- Re-do and re-evaluate by repeating the test after 4-8 weeks of taking the appropriate supplement.
Salivary Thyroid Panel: The best labs to use are Diagnostics Lab in Seattle or Great Smokies (more expensive).
Herbs used for Thyroid Imbalances:
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera):
- Helps to increase energy and strengthens the system.
- Helps to combat stress caused from increased cortisol levels.
- Helps to boost T4 levels in the body.
- Improves T4 to T3 conversion.
Astragalus: is the Eastern herb used like Echinacea in the West. It is utilized for autoimmune diseases.
Bacopa acts as a brain tonic and is taken for helping the brain to learn and memorize new material. It helps to lock information into your brain. It boosts T4 levels a little bit, but you still need to add in some of the other herbs to help the conversion of T4 to the active T3 form. Note: Use Ginkgo to download the information you crammed into your head using Bacopa when test time comes. This product is found in the MediHerb Thyroid Complex Formula.
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
- Supplies highly bio-available iodine to the body to assist T4 to T3 conversion.
- Bladderwrack contains free and organically bound iodine.
- It also contains polysaccharides, which bind to heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium reducing their toxic load.
Bugleweed (Lycopus europaeus)
- Used for hyperthyroidism and Grave’s disease.
- Acts to inhibit the effects of TSH
- Inhibits thyroid stimulating IgG antibody.
- Inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3 bringing the levels down to normal.
- Blocks the TSH receptors.
- Contains cafferric acid, rosemarinic acid and chlorogenic acid which act to suppress the thyroid.
Coleus (Coleus forskohlii)
- Helps the pituitary and thyroid gland communicate with each other to regulate levels of hormone.
- Acts like Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
- Coleus acts in increase cyclic AMP (cAMP) which assists the mitochondria within every cell of the body to produce more energy so we feel like we have more energy.
- TSH and other hormones require cAMP to activate them as well.
- Tastes terrible.
- Used as a diet aid.
- In MediHerb Thyroid Complex.
Note: Coleus also seems to be a magic remedy for psoriasis. In psoriasis cGMP is overproduced causing the cells turnover rate to increase. Coleus increases cAMP which helps the cells to keratinize (dry up and flake off normally). Take tincture in cranberry or grape juice to cover up the flavor.
Ginger– Acts to increase circulation so the nutrition can circulate well in the body and do its job.
Hawthorne: Supports the cardiovascular system for hyperthyroidism.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca):
- Is an anti-inflammatory used for hyperthyroidism and has anti-thyroid action.
- Inhibits the 5-deiodanase enzyme, which converts T4 to T3.
- Used when cardiovascular symptoms are present such as palpitations and tachycardia.
- Motherwort is also an excellent herb for post partum thyroiditis and mild post-partum depression. For this condition it is taken from birth until the baby is 12 weeks of age.
Note: It takes about 2 years for a mother to nutritionally recover after having a baby.
- Great mineral supplement.
- Helps in the conversion of T4 to T3.
- Also great for those who have any kind of allergies–the natural calcium and trace minerals in it help to stabilize cellular membranes so that histamines will not be released into the system causing an allergic reaction.
- It’s also a great and very bio-available form of calcium.
- Many people use it as a “pot” herb in the spring.
Rehmannia– Nourishes the adrenal glands and is good with autoimmune diseases.
Skullcap: Acts to calm the nerves in hyperthyroid patients
Valerian: Helps to calm the nerves.
Nutritional Support Used for Thyroid Imbalances:
- Whole Gland Desiccated products are whole organs that are dried and ground up and made into capsules given for general support of various organs.
- Cytosol extracts are the liquid extractions after the glands are ground up and the cellular walls have been broken. Cytosol products work faster and are stronger than whole gland products. They are great for people over the age of 40.
- Protomorphs are like homeopathics. They promote healing over time. Protomorph products are used to supply a better RNA/DNA template so that the body can supply nutrients to repair damaged tissue in the glands being treated.
Cardio Plus: Used in the support of hyperthyroidism and when the need for selenium or zinc is necessary. This product was made specifically for cardiac support. It supports nerve and muscles and overall cardiovascular maintenance. It is a great source of natural Co-Q 10. Great product to repair heart murmurs and for congestive heart failure–especially in dogs!
Cataplex E: Used to support the heart function. A natural, very bio-available form of Vitamin E. Promotes cellular repair, increases tissue resistance to stress and is also high in manganese and selenium. Aids pituitary function which is important in thyroid health.
Chezyn is a good zinc maintenance formula. The great part is that it is also balanced in copper and a very absorbable bio-available form of iron. Note: My favorite use for Chezyn is for macular degeneration. I’ve reversed many cases of that with this one product alone.
Flavinoids act to reduce serum T4 and inhibit 5-deiodanase enzyme needed to convert T4 to T3, so adding natural forms of Vitamin C to the hyperthyroid program is good to do (Cataplex C, Acerola, Rose Hips and Rutin)
Nevaton, a MediHerb product, helps support the nervous system and acts as a tonic. Helps with stress loads and autoimmune thyroid diseases.
Paraplex: A wonderful protomorph for the thyroid gland is Paraplex because it contains extracts of pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and pancreas–all organs affected negatively by and imbalance of thyroid hormones. You then add in Hypothalamus PMG to complete the nutritional components.
Selenium is also necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3 conversion. Products high in bioavailable selenium are Cardio Plus and Cataplex E. For natural food sources of selenium, go to: /Diet_Nutrition/selenium.htm.
Thyroid Complex (MediHerb) tablets contains Bladderwrack, Iodine, Ashwaganda and Bacopa. Thyroid Complex is OK to take with Synthroid or Armor brand thyroid pills and it won’t hurt anyone who has normal thyroid function.
What I like about these is that they are in tablet form. Compliance with tablets is so much better. Tablets are cheaper and the tinctures taste awful. Humans, more so than animals accept yucky flavors, but even then they will not take tinctures for any long period of time unless they really believe in it. And giving tinctures to cats? Forget it. The pill form is much easier to take.
The other benefit of the Thyroid Complex is that it acts to nourish, rebuild and normalize. It won’t stimulate the system so it can be taken before bedtime with no ill affects.
For those people who have had their thyroid glands removed or irradiated, focus on a nutritional program instead which includes selenium and zinc supplements in natural, bio-available organic forms.
Vasculin helps to build up the strength of the blood vessels. Sometimes used before using Cardio Plus.
Zinc Liver Chelate is Standard Processes’ strongest form of natural zinc. If you can taste the zinc in the zinc test liquid, you will do well with this.
Treatments for Hypothyroidism:
- Bacopa monnieri
- Bladderwrack (iodine herb)
- Nettle Leaf
- Nevaton (MediHerb)
- Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero)
- St. John’s Wort
- Wild Yam Complex
Nutritional Supplements/Foods for Thyroid Disorders:
Why use Brand Name supplements like Standard Process and Medi-Herb? They are standardized and pure. Much like taking a prescription drug. You know the dose. Playing around with nutritional supplements can hurt you. If you have thyroid problems, you don’t want to be experimenting with doses each time you purchase a different brand of supplement.
- Black Currant Seed Oil
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Cardio-Plus (selenium)
- Carob (binds heavy metals)
- Cataplex C
- Cataplex E (selenium)
- Cataplex F Pearles
- Calcifood wafers
- Calcium (other form)
- Chezyn (Zinc, Copper, Iron in correct levels)
- Cod Liver Oil
- Fish Oils
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Organic Minerals
- Prolamine Iodine
- RNA (Riboneucleic Acid)
- Sardines (high in Zn and RNA)
- Symplex F (Standard Process)
- Thyroid Support Formula
- Thytrophin PMG
- Trace Minerals
- Trace Minerals B12
- Tyrosine Foods:
- Raw Egg Yolk (Use organic) 2/wk
- Sesame Seeds, tahini, halvah
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Zinc Liver Chelate
Lifestyle Changes to Support Thyroid Disorders:
- Exercise, increase
- Keep neck area warm
- Manage Stress
- Sugar elimination
- Sun Box (Full Spectrum Lights)
- Sunshine/Full-Spectrum lights
- Throat Chakra- Speak your truth
- Turn thumbs forward
- Warm compresses to thyroid area
Miscellaneous notes not coinciding to the seminar:
Turmeric can turn off the cystic fibrosis gene when taken in the preconception and first trimester of pregnancy.
A new breed of cow, the Friesian, produces a better-assimilated milk for humans. It is called Alpha 5 milk. May not be available in the United States yet, but it is becoming common in Australia.
Use Gymnema (and herb) to support the pancreas. It is a sugar-buster herb making the excess sugar unavailable to the body (kind of like what Chitosan does for fat). Gymnema also repairs damaged beta cells and works to overcome insulin resistance.
Diabetic Study with Gymnema: There was a two-year study done on Type 1 diabetics who were on an average of 55-60 units of insulin per day. After two years, those patients taking Gymnema cut their insulin needs by half. Also, they had positive results in decreasing their c-peptides, triglycerides, and glycolated hemoglobin levels.
Recommended dose: Medi-herb 4/day. Note: It only takes 7-10 days for those sugar cravings to go away on that dose.
Helpful Links and References: