Last week, I told you about low thyroid function and how it affects more than 30 million women and 15 million men.
So why are we seeing such an epidemic of thyroid problems?
Well, chronic thyroid problems can be caused by many factors ...
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
One of the most important factors that leads to hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function.
In fact, one study found that as people lost weight they released pesticides from their fat tissue.
This then interfered with their thyroid function and caused hypothyroidism. The toxins created a slow metabolism and prevented them from losing more weight.
This study highlights the importance of overall detoxification. It is quite a significant finding that shows exactly how toxins interfere with thyroid function.
Heavy metals such as mercury can also affect thyroid function. I see many people with chronic hypothyroidism and other thyroid problems because mercury interferes with normal thyroid function.
The other big factor that interferes with thyroid function is chronic stress.
There is an intimate interaction between stress hormones and thyroid function. The more stress you are under, the worse your thyroid functions.
Any approach to correcting poor thyroid function must address the effects of chronic stress and provide support to the adrenal glands.
The next major factor that affects thyroid function is chronic inflammation. The biggest source of this chronic inflammation is gluten, the protein found in wheat, barely, rye, spelt, and oats.
I also think eating so-called Frankenfoods, such as hybridized and genetically modified grains with very strange proteins, makes us sick.
Our bodies say, "What's this? Must be something foreign. I'd better create antibodies to this, fight it, and get rid of it."
This chronic inflammatory response interferes with thyroid function -- and contributes to the epidemic of inflammatory diseases in the developed world.
There are so many reasons for low thyroid function, yet I have seen lots of patients with this problem who were just ignored by their doctors.
For example, one young female patient of mine had more than 30 percent body fat and was unable to change her body, no matter how hard she worked. She ate perfectly, exercised with a trainer every day -- and her body still wouldn't budge.
She also had a slightly depressed mood and other vague symptoms.
So I treated her with a low dose of Armour Thyroid, which is a natural thyroid replacement.
Well, she not only lost 20 pounds and improved her body composition, but her mood improved and all her other symptoms went away.
How did I know she had low thyroid function?
Once I have asked about symptoms, done a physical exam, and considered all the potential causes of thyroid problems, I do the right tests.
Most doctors just check something called the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which doesn't give a full picture of the thyroid. In fact, even the interpretation of this test is incorrect most of the time.
The newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anybody with a TSH level over 3.0 as hypothyroid. Most doctors think that only anything over 5 or 10 is worth treating.
Unfortunately, this leaves millions suffering unnecessarily.
There are also other tests, including free T3 and free T4 and thyroid antibodies, which are essential.
I also look for associated problems such as gluten intolerance, food allergies, and heavy metals, as well as deficiencies of vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, zinc, and omega-3 fats.
There are many things to consider in a careful approach to hypothyroidism.
It is one of the most common problems I see, and treating it properly makes one of the biggest differences in my patients' quality of life.
Unfortunately, by using the old guidelines and thinking, conventional medicine misses millions who suffer with hypothyroidism.
In fact, in one study, researchers tested everybody who walked through the gates of a county fair with conventional thyroid testing. They found that according to even conservative conventional standards, half of all the people who had hypothyroidism were undiagnosed, untreated, and suffering.
So what's the solution?
How You Can Overcome Hypothyroidism
I encourage you to take the following steps to rebalance your thyroid:
Once you have confirmed that a sluggish thyroid is contributing to your symptoms, the good news is that there are many, many, many things you can do to help correct thyroid problems.
I have developed a seven-step plan to address hypothyroidism:
I believe a comprehensive approach is needed to address chronic thyroid issues and to diagnose them. Unfortunately, most of the options for healing by conventional care are quite limited and only provide a partial solution. But by following my seven-step plan you can achieve lifelong vibrant health.
Now I'd like to hear from you ...
If you have low thyroid function, how was it diagnosed?
Did you face any resistance from your doctor?
Which of these steps have you tried to treat it and have they helped?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D. practicing physician and founder of The UltraWellness Center is a pioneer in functional medicine. Dr. Hyman is now sharing the 7 ways to tap into your body's natural ability to heal itself. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on Youtube and become a fan on Facebook.