An underactive thyroid is a common condition which causes the body’s whole metabolic rate to slow down. Symptoms are fatigue, increased need for sleep, low initiative and weight gain, which are easily confused with depression. Resistance to infection is reduced and chilliness is typical. The skin becomes cold and dry. Hair loss from the head and outer eyebrows is typical. Other symptoms include decreased memory or concentration, unhealthy nails, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, muscle and joint aches, allergies, asthma, elevated cholesterol, carrot colored palms and soles and frequent yeast infections. The organs also function at a slower rate, causing constipation and a lighter, or much heavier, shorter menstrual cycle in women. In an attempt to increase thyroid activity, a goiter develops at the throat, though it is not found in all cases. In severe examples the face and legs become swollen and puffy. If allowed to continue, an underactive thyroid can result in a come, but this is extremely rare.
In children and pregnant women, even mild cases have serious consequences, as hypothyroidism affects the mental and physical development of the child. In the elderly, a low thyroid is easily mistaken for depression or fatigue from aging.
Many factors cause an underactive thyroid. Women are most susceptible, especially during times of hormonal stress, for instance during menopause and pregnancy, most cases of underactive thyroid glands are due to a lack of iodine in the diet, especially in continental climates that are far from the oceans. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise will contribute to thyroid gland dysfunction.
The other causes of thyroid under activity are not common. Hashimoto’s disease is an inflammation of thyroid gland caused by an attack by the body’s own immune system. What triggers this autoimmune reaction is unknown. Further causes are surgery or radiation therapy used to treat an overactive thyroid. Chemical pollutants, such as PCBs and pesticides can leak into food and mimic the natural thyroid hormones, blocking the receptors for natural hormones.
Seaweeds such as nori and dulse are powerful healing foods for hypothyroidism that is due to iodine deficiency. They are the best dietary source of iodine. Sheets of delicately flavored dried nori can be found in stores which sell Japanese foods. Rice balls, made with cooked rice mixed with sesame seeds and a little rice wine vinegar, wrapped in nori and dulse have a delicate flavor which makes them delicious eaten straight out of the package as snacks between meals.eat deep sea fish and seafood such as clams, lobster and oysters from clean, uncontaminated waters regularly, they provide iodine, plus vitamin A and Zinc which are needed for thyroid hormone production.
With hypothyroidism, the conversion of beta carotenes from vegetables and fruits into vitamin A is disturbed. Since vitamin A is necessary for thyroid hormone production it is important to eat eggs, whole unhomogenized milk and whole milk dairy products like full fat, raw milk cheeses and plain natural yoghurt. Eggs and milk also provide Zinc and Vitamin E both of which are needed for thyroid hormone production. Raw wheat germ and raw, unroasted pumpkin seeds added to morning muesli of rolled oats are other good food sources of vitamin E and Zinc.
Beet leaves, parsley, carrot and watercress juice are high in calcium, which is needed for an underactive thyroid and helps avoid goiters.
Do not drink tea, which contains fluorine, or fluorinated or chlorinated drinking water. Fluorine and chlorine block iodine receptors in the thyroid gland. Avoid foods which inhibit iodine utilization, including turnip cabbage, mustard, cassava root, soya, peanuts, pine nuts and millet.
Iodine is the most vital mineral in the treatment of an underactive thyroid, since it is needed to produce the thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism. Iodine can be supplemented with kelp. Vitamin E is essential to properly assimilate iodine. Other essential nutrients for the production of thyroid hormones are vitamins A, C and B complex. The essential fatty acids are also helpful for normal thyroid function.
Alternatives to the use of thyroid hormone are supplementation with Zinc, Vitamin B6, tyrosine and iodine, but these do not always work and thyroid hormone (L-thyroxin) supplementation may be necessary. Some companies make a glandular thyroid extract without the L thyroxin although there are trace amounts of this active hormone. In some cases these work as well as the hormone tablet.
Serotonin is a very important brain biochemical and must be present at optimal levels to prevent depression; one natural way of increasing serotonin in the brain is to take its amino acid precursor, tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in high amounts in fish, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and wheat germ. It is also found in lesser amounts in the herb chamomile, long recognized for its soothing effects.
People who have trouble digesting high protein foods may not be getting the tryptophan they need form their diet. As a result, brain serotonin levels may get low and lead to: depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, mania, anxiety, insomnia, PMS and eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and obesity.