Why Thyroid Medication Does Not Work
Taking replacement thyroid hormones without addressing the underlying immune imbalance is like trying to change the type of oil in your engine with the hope that your transmission will stop failing…useless.
The ultimate effect of hypothyroidism, whether it’s caused by iodine deficiency or autoimmunity, is to decrease the amount of thyroid hormone available to the body. The conventional approach is to simply replace these hormones with either synthetic or bio-identical forms.
Patient doesn’t have enough hormones? Give more hormones. Simple, right? Not.
Once again the conventional approach falls short because it ignores the underlying cause of the problem.
Even the best thyroid treatment may not work if underlying adrenal and hormonal problems are not dealt with effectively. If your doctor is not looking at your adrenal and hormonal situation, then an important part of your health is being overlooked.
In autoimmune disease the body attacks itself. It does this the same way it attacks foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses: with T-cells, B-cells, natural killer cells, and cytotoxic T cells. The immune response also involves proteins called cytokines, chemical messengers that pass messages between cells.
A team of scientists from Yale University recently reported that junk food diets and processed foods could be partly to blame for autoimmune diseases.
The production and use of thyroid hormones is a complex and important process:
- An understanding of the complex thyroid hormone process begins with iodide, a salt that is extracted from the blood and trapped by the thyroid gland.
- Iodide is converted to iodine in the thyroid gland. (Here, 80% of the body’s iodine supply is then stored.) Iodine, in turn, is the raw material used in the manufacturing of thyroxine (T4), the key thyroid hormone.
- Thyroxine itself is converted into triiodothyronine (T3) , which is the more biologically active thyroid hormone. (Only about 20% of triiodothyronine is actually formed in the thyroid gland, however. The rest is manufactured from circulating thyroxine in tissues outside the thyroid, such as those in the liver and kidney.)
- Two other important hormones in the process are thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH or thyrotropin) and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH).
- TSH directly influences the whole process of iodine trapping and thyroid hormone production.
- This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and monitored by TRH, which is produced in the hypothalamus gland. (Both the pituitary and hypothalamus glands are located in the brain.)
- When thyroxine levels drop even slightly, the pituitary gland goes into action to pump up secretion of TSH so that it can stimulate thyroxine production.
Any abnormality in this intricate system of glands and hormone synthesis and production can have far-reaching consequences.
To Address The Thyroid You MUST Understand Inflammation
This self-attack by the immune system increases inflammation. And inflammation has a profound effect on all aspects of thyroid metabolism and physiology.
First, inflammation suppresses the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis. One study showed a single injection of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha reduced blood levels of TSH, T3, free T4, free T3 and TRH for 5 days. This shows inflammation disrupts the production and regulatory mechanisms of thyroid hormones. Thyroid medication will increase the levels of T4 (and possibly T3), but it doesn’t address the other effects of HPT axis suppression.
Second, inflammation decreases both the number and sensitivity of thyroid hormone receptors. If there aren’t enough receptors, or they aren’t sensitive enough, it doesn’t matter how much thyroid medication we take. The cells won’t be able to use it. It’s like when my grandpa used to turn down his hearing aids while he was watching the football game. It didn’t matter how much my grandma yelled at him — he couldn’t hear a word she said.
Third, inflammation decreases the conversion of T4 to T3. T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone. The body has to convert it to the active T3 form before it can be used. Most synthetic hormone medications on the market are T4. If you give a T4 medication (like Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, etc.) to someone with inflammation, it’s not going to work because they can’t convert the T4 to T3.
A TSH test is just one part of the overall picture. You can have a TSH that falls in the “normal range,” or is in the higher or lower end of normal, but you can actually have a thyroid problem or autoimmune thyroid disease. A good practitioner doesn’t rule out a thyroid condition solely on the basis of a TSH, but instead, runs additional tests, such as Free T4, Free T3. Thyroid antibodies can diagnose autoimmune conditions long before other blood values become abnormal. AND, treatment for people with antibodies can actually help forestall full-scale development of thyroid disease in some people!
Long-term suppression of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) causes cardiac side-effects and contributes to decreases in bone mineral density (high TSH levels are also well known to contributes to osteoporosis.) It may also cause elevated blood glucose levels, heart failure, coma and adrenal insufficiency. TSH directly influences the whole process of iodine trapping and thyroid hormone production so use of synthroid directly affects how the body metabolizes iodine.
The only way to do that is to address the problem at its root by regulating the immune system and decreasing inflammation.
Other Causes of an Unbalanced Thyroid?
A sluggish thyroid may be triggered by many unseen causes, including…
- MSG and bad fatty acids, so common in our diet, can weaken your thyroid.
- A deficiency of iodine is on the rise, and without enough iodine, your thyroid won’t produce the hormones you need.
- As you age, your risk of an unbalanced thyroid dramatically increases.
- Popular prescription drugs for your heart, bones and blood sugar can lead to a sluggish thyroid.
- Exposure to too much fluoride or chlorine in drinking water can interfere with normal thyroid function.
- Menopause or pregnancy and treatments such as Estrogen Replacement Therapy can throw the thyroid out of whack.
- A family history of thyroid concerns may cause thyroid dysfunction.
- Autoimmune health problems can cause your thyroid to go haywire.
Coconut Oil Regulates The Immune System and Decreases Inflammation
Coconut oil has always received a criticism because a group of scientists had incorrectly promoted that it increased LDL cholesterol. However, it never did increase LDL cholesterol, but it did increase HDL or good cholesterol. That distinction was never corrected in the mainstream press and the misconception still continues to this day.
“Why the mainstream persists in this delusion of criticizing coconut oil is beyond the understanding of many in the natural food industry,” said raw food expert and retailer Ian Macdonald.
“You know you’re on to something healthy when national and international health agencies are advising AGAINST it,” Macdonald stated. “This is typically due to influences from pharmaceutical and high profile corporations who strive on keeping the population sick and diseased,” he added.
For example the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association (ADA), American Heart Association (AHA), British National Health Service (NHS), and Dietitians of Canada all simultaneously recommend AGAINST the consumption of coconut oil. Unfortunately, and against the better interest of the public, none of the above organizations have a track record of recommending healthy solutions for the public, so Macdonald suggests that when these organizations recommend against something, “that is your cue to incorporate it into your diet, with proper research of course.” Coconut oil may be the perfect example.
50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth!
Nigel Turner and Jiming Ye from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research compared fat metabolism and insulin resistance in mice fed coconut oil and lard based diets.
“The medium chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil are interesting to us because they behave very differently to the fats normally found in our diets,” said study leader Turner.
“Unlike the long chain fatty acids contained in animal fats, medium chain fatty acids are small enough to enter mitochondria – the cells’ energy burning powerhouses – directly where they can then be converted to energy.”
Coconut oil has a direct effect in suppressing inflammation and repairing tissue, and it may also contribute by inhibiting harmful intestinal microorganisms that cause chronic inflammation.
Many people who have suffered with inflammatory conditions of the intestines like Crohn’s disease have successfully used coconut oil for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
The medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found in coconut oil are the same as those in human mother’s milk, and they have extraordinary anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. By disrupting the lipid structures of microbes, they inactivate them. Lauric acid, its metabolite monolaurin and other fatty acids in coconut oil are known to protect against infection from bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi and parasites. While not having any negative effect on beneficial gut bacteria, coconut oil inactivates undesirable microbes.
An excellent study that reviewed many previous studies on this topic was published in the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 132, pages 329-332). This study was conducted by researchers at McGill University. They reported that several different studies have shown weight loss equivalent to 12 – 36 pounds a year simply by changing the types of oils used in everyday cooking and food preparation.
Most of the oils that we use to cook food and those used in commercially-prepared foods also have a negative affect on the thyroid. These are known as polyunsaturated or vegetable oils. They may in fact be the worst villains in the spread of thyroid diseases.
The thyroid, though small otherwise, is one of the largest glands in the endocrine system. Diseases of the endocrine system are mostly caused due to production disorders that lead to inadequacy or excess of hormones or inappropriate response to hormones by tissues.
Dr. Bruce Fife’s book Eat Fat, Look Thin explains how he discovered the relationship between coconut oil and improved thyroid health. It explains how to use coconut oil and incorporate it into a sensible diet.
Another book by Dr. Fife is The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil and Eat Fat, Look Thin which contains references to numerous studies.
Is coconut oil a thyroid cure? Not by itself. Can it help people with low thyroid function? Yes, because it stimulates metabolism and boosts energy. For this reason, coconut oil has been a blessing to many people who have been able to abandon their medications with the right combination of exercise, removal of processed foods, and a balanced diet.
Other Nutrients To Maintain and Boost Thyroid Function:
- Iodine: the chief component of thyroid hormones
Iodine is a potent trace mineral that’s vital for thyroid function. Amazingly, 75 percent of your body’s iodine is stored in your thyroid gland. Iodine is vital for your body’s metabolic processes. Incorporate foods such as seaweed, kelp, radish, parsley, fish, seafood, eggs, bananas, cranberries, strawberries, himalayan crystal salt.
- Irish moss: a wonderful source from the sea
This beneficial seaweed is an excellent source of naturally
occurring trace minerals and life-enhancing nutrients.
- Vitamin B-2: the “fat metabolizer”
This vitamin is essential because it keeps your thyroid humming
along. It ignites your fat-burning metabolism so you stay slim and trim and releases energy from carbs, proteins and fats so you lose more weight.
- Magnesium: the “fat releaser”
Magnesium is vital because it supports many of the processes closely associated with a healthy thyroid. The problem is, 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. A magnesium deficiency can affect the ability of your cells to properly use glucose for energy and metabolism, so it’s harder to lose weight.
- Manganese: nature’s slim down mineral
A number of manganese-activated enzymes play a key role in
the metabolism of carbs, amino acids and cholesterol…three things you must address if you want to be slimmer and trimmer.
- Selenium: a critical mineral for thyroid function
Selenium helps convert the thyroid hormone T4 into the active form of T3 your body needs for strong metabolism and more energy.
- Vitamin B3: the “energy stimulator”
This vitamin aids in the production of enzymes that convert carbs, glucose and fats into usable energy.
- Vitamin B12: the fatigue fighter
This energy-boosting, fatigue-fighting vitamin fires up your
metabolism. Also helps improve blood flow, which is vital for increased energy.
- Vitamin B1: the metabolism booster
Vitamin B1 is important for energy and for certain metabolic processes, especially the conversion of carbs.
- Zinc Picolinate: Crucial for healthy thyroid function.
- Copper: Combines with certain proteins to help a number of body functions, including energy
- L-Tyrosine: This amino acid is beneficial for the production of thyroid hormones and helps boost mental and physical stamina.
- Vitamin B6: This key vitamin helps convert iodine to the thyroid hormone and helps your body better absorb zinc, which you need for a healthy thyroid.
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.