Thyroid disorders are pandemic, yet almost no one is talking about them.
In particular, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid is most common. 80% of thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism, affecting 4.6 percent of people over the age of 12. Most of them are women.
It’s true, that’s a lot of numbers, but it illustrates a point, hypothyroidism is very common!
I first found out about hypothyroidism after my mother was diagnosed with it.
For years she went from doctor, to doctor, and discovered nothing. She eventually discovered one of the main issues was hypothyroidism.
In her words:
“For several years, I had hypothyroid symptoms with normal thyroid test results. I was first diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, later with Hashimoto’s.‘ – Marion V. (Mom)
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is typically a lifelong illness. On the bright side taking preventative measures against thyroid disease may prevent thyroid disorders.
And, with an estimated 20 million Americans walking around with a thyroid disease of which 60% may never know, I think that it is critical to bring light to an issue which impacts many of the people around us.
How to Prevent Hypothyroidism Naturally, the Silent Epidemic of Women
Fortunately, there are several ways that you can better inform yourself about the diseases, and many forms of thyroid disease may be preventable. In this article, you will find pertinent information in regards to hypothyroidism including possible causes, and methods for prevention.
But first, to better understand how the possible causes and preventatives work, we will need to have a basic understanding of what the thyroid is and how it works.
What is the Thyroid?
For the sake of brevity, I will keep this simple, there are plenty of resources for you to learn more, but to cover the topic of hypothyroidism fully it is necessary that you are familiar with some of the basics. If you are looking for a more thorough explanation check out my article Guide to Living with Hypothyroidism.
The etymology of the word thyroid stems from the Greek word thureos or “oblong shield”, in reference to the shape of the organ.
Most people nowadays refer to the thyroid glands butterfly shape, but the thyroid, in fact, acts as a shield for your body in many ways.
Functions of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is responsible for several important functions in the body including; metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, muscle control, and brain development. The thyroid accomplishes this range of tasks by producing several hormones, 4 hormones in fact. Two of which T1 and T2 serve unknown functions. T3 and T4, on the other hand, are the two hormones that do most of the work, at least that we know about.
However, before the thyroid gland can produce hormones, it also needs the proper function of two other organs and the hormones they produce. These hormones are Thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) from the hypothalamus and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland. Proper thyroid function relies on all of these hormones as well as the health of the thyroid gland itself.
Too much or too little of any of those hormones can cause thyroid dysfunction, and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong.
This is where I cut this explanation short.
Literally, there are many thyroid disruptions that occur through a variety of mechanisms, and it’s impossible to cover briefly. For the sake of this article, you should know that TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and improper thyroid function involves improper amounts of T3 and T4.
Causes of an Underactive Thyroid
As said above, there are many ways thyroid function can go wrong. For this article, we only need to know those factors which are concerned with an underactive thyroid. There are seven common causes of hypothyroidism which are:
- Low TSH
- Low TRH
- Low T3
- Low cortisol
- Too much Reverse T3
- Too much TBG
Of course, there are many causes for each of those as well. Perhaps by now you are realizing how so many people can be afflicted with hypothyroidism. As you can imagine with all of these hormones, just a small imbalance anywhere can lead to major thyroid problems down the road. Due to the nature of hypothyroidism, we can only act to prevent it through proper choices; avoiding certain lifestyle choices, and making healthier choices which will prevent the disease.
Again, none of the preventative measures you can take is a guarantee of prevention by any means, nor are they all listed here.
The biggest point of this article is to raise awareness on an issue that can be prevented, and yet is very prolific in society. As common as hypothyroidism is, I am shocked there is not more discussion on the issue, and that is my primary purpose in writing this article, to start the discussion. Though I do my best to bring you the most relevant information, I am not a doctor, and only do so with my best intentions. It is up to you to look into this issue on your own and draw your own conclusions.
That being said, here are some of the most commonly known things that can promote thyroid health or prevent thyroid disorders.
Eight Steps to Prevent Hypothyroidism Naturally
So How Can You Help Prevent Hypothyroidism Among You, Your Friends, and Family?
Fortunately, there are a few simple ways that you can prevent thyroid disorders. Most of them involve ensuring that you get proper nutrients, and avoiding risk factors.
Step 1- Maintain Proper Iodine Levels to Prevent Thyroid Disorders
The simplest way to avoid many thyroid disorders is to be mindful of your iodine intake. It’s true most forms of thyroid disorders are caused by too little or too much iodine. This is in large part because the thyroid gland requires iodine to produce T3 and T4 hormones.
Many thyroid disorders are iodine related. In fact, in response to pandemic thyroid disorders in the past, iodine was added to table salt in the 1920s. This has helped with thyroid disorders caused by iodine deficiency in large part, but not completely.
You may still be iodine deficient if:
- The salt you use doesn’t have iodine added
- You avoid salt intake
- Are nursing or pregnant
If any of these apply to you, you may want to consider an iodine supplement. Most notably, the CDC and WHO recommend that women who are pregnant increase their iodine intake.
Remember: Too much iodine can be just as bad as too little, don’t go overboard.
Step 2- Selenium is Necessary for Proper Thyroid Function
Like Iodine, Selenium is another nutrient which is closely linked to thyroid and other autoimmune disorders.
Selenium is also a nutrient that is often overlooked and easily missed. Selenium is found in the highest concentrations in the thyroid gland, and it is essential to proper thyroid function. Selenium is so linked to thyroid health, one study determined that “Maintaining a physiological concentration of selenium is a prerequisite to prevent thyroid disease and preserve overall health.”
Brazil nuts and fish are both high in selenium, as are several other foods. If you can’t get enough selenium in your diet you can always use a supplement.
Step 3- Use X-Ray Collars to Protect Your Thyroid
One cause of thyroid damage is radiation. One of the most common causes of radiation exposure is x-rays. Whether you are getting an x-ray at the dentist or the doctors, you are being exposed to radiation, which over time can lead to thyroid disorders.
Fortunately, there is a solution, ask for a thyroid collar. A thyroid collar is specifically designed to shield the thyroid from the radiation of x-rays. Many establishments that provide x-rays will have thyroid collars or protective vests. If the vest or collar will not interfere with your x-ray, your doctor or dentist will most likely be able to provide you with one.
Step 4- Fluoride May Expedite Hypothyroidism
I know that there is a lot of speculation around fluoride and its effects on the human body. Though some of the claims around fluoride exposure are hard to prove, one thing is certain, fluoride exposure is linked to hypothyroidism! Fluoride has a huge effect on the thyroid gland.
According to this study, it interrupts the levels of T3, T4, and TSH.
Fluoride in drinking water has been tied to hypothyroidism, among other things. Fluoride was once commonly used effectively as a treatment for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). This means it reduces thyroid activity, which is clearly not what you want to happen if you have hypothyroidism.
The following are common sources of fluoride:
- Most bottled water
- City/public water
- Toothpastes, and mouthwashes.
Step 5- Avoiding Soy May Prevent Hypothyroidism
Look: As someone that was vegan for years, it took me a bit to recognize how terrible soy is for human health.
Seriously, eating too much soy is terrible for many reasons, perhaps most importantly soy may be a cause of thyroid disorders. Of course, like most things, I’m not talking about a little bit of soy here and there, but soy as a staple food can be detrimental to your thyroid.
Soy has several compounds which mess with the hormones in the body, 3 of which that can lead to thyroid disorders. These are phytoestrogens, protease inhibitors, and goitrogens.
Goitrogens, in particular, can trigger TSH, which can lead to abnormal growths on the thyroid aka Goiters. Additionally, too much TSH can lead to other thyroid disorders.
In regards to hypothyroidism, the most concerning compounds are the phytoestrogens which soy contains. Though many feel there is no issue with the estrogens in soy, when it comes to the thyroid there is a serious concern.
In one study of 60 individuals with subclinical hypothyroidism (those on the verge of developing hypothyroidism), to test the effects of soy protein intake by splitting the 60 patients into two groups. They discovered that individuals consuming the amount of soy associated with the vegetarian diet, 30mgs, or only about 3 ozs of tofu a day, had a 3 fold chance of developing clinical hypothyroidism.
Step 6- Avoid All Synthetic Chemicals
As you saw earlier, there are many ways that thyroid disorders can arise. Just a small hormonal imbalance and you are likely increasing your risk for developing HT or other hormonal imbalances. The thing is that there are many chemicals which can also cause hormonal imbalances.
A lot of chemicals are worse estrogen mimickers than soy. Some herbicides found on most conventional food, for example, have a similar effect as soy as it also acts as an estrogen mimicker.
There are many other chemicals that also have this effect, in fact, most synthetic chemicals have this endocrine disrupting effect.
Step 7- Stop Smoking!
Cigarettes are a source of many synthetic chemicals and toxins which are otherwise harmful to the thyroid. I know there are enough reasons to stop smoking, but perhaps this will be the one to make the difference. This study covers a range of the issue that smoking cigarettes can have on the thyroid gland.
Smoking cigarettes can cause a range of hormonal complications which are yet another factor which can lead to hypothyroidism.
Step 8- Test Your Water for Perchlorates
Whether you are drinking well water or city water, it may be contaminated with perchlorates. Why is this a problem? Perchlorates which are found in fireworks, rocket fuel, and other sources have contaminated many water supplies in the US. This is particularly worrisome because of their effect on the thyroid gland.
If enough of these perchlorates are present in your body they can block iodine from entering the thyroid gland.
To find out whether your city water or well is contaminated you should test your water or check with your cities resources.
“… high levels of perchlorates may reduce your thyroid hormone levels by blocking your thyroid from taking up iodine, which it needs to produce thyroid hormones, it’s sensible to stay up on your area’s perchlorates contamination and maximum state levels for perchlorates in the water. Also, if you use well water, consider having it tested for perchlorates contamination.”
Living with Hypothyroidism
Of course, if you already have hypothyroidism it is a different issue entirely. If you want to learn more, again I wrote an in depth article on living with hypothyroidism which you can find on my site.
My mother had this to say about what she learned about her particular circumstances:
“I learned that by eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet, I can help prevent further damage due to the autoimmune disorder. I have also learned that it is easy to have normal results and still feel the effects of the hypothyroid disorder. Some good books I’ve found include “The Autoimmune Solution” by Amy Myers, M.D. and “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, Ms. – Marion V. (Mom)
Doing Your Own Research on Hypothyroidism
Of course there are many other herbs, methods, and lifestyles that may help. But the 8 steps I mentioned are the most accepted. Feel free to look into the herbs for hypothyroidism, from what I have found most of the studies on herbs are based on living with hypothyroidism not prevention.
For the sake of finding valid information, I always recommend reading what studies say whether they are from Science Daily, Science Direct, or PubMed.
There is no shortage of information on hypothyroidism, and it is worth your while to look into the issue for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
What’s the Bottom Line on Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a sensitive organ, which shows us the impact of the environment around us.
Though it is not totally understood by any means, the thyroid acts as a bell weather as it is sensitive to your diet, and the environment around you.
Fortunately, hypothyroidism is not a death sentence and there are many treatments both natural and allopathic available, but on the other hand, it is important to recognize that the thyroid gland is telling us there is something wrong.
If we as society can take steps to avoid the problems it is pointing to, we will be the better for it.
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