THYROID HEALTH 101 – YOUR INTERNAL THERMOSTAT
By Jhoane Robinson, Herbalist and L. Carl Robinson, CHP
At least 1 in 10 people currently have problems with their thyroid. And at least half of those don’t even know it! The American Thyroid Association additionally states that 1 in 8 women will have thyroid issues in their lifetime. Our belief is that because so much of thyroid dysfunction is subclinical, it is far more common than these statistics indicate. (By the way, the American Thyroid Association is 100 years old this year. Happy Centennial, ATA!)
Why does this even matter? If your thyroid isn’t functioning in balance, your health is being affected in ways you might not have realized. For example, in our research on blood sugar balance, we found a strong connection between thyroid health and blood sugar and insulin problems. Weight issues, energy levels, digestive and immune function, brain function, heart health, etc., etc., are all driven by hormones in the endocrine system stemming from the thyroid.
Most of us know very little about our thyroids and how vitally important they are to our health, and with the over known 30 million Americans affected now, and the numbers rising, can we do something about it? Absolutely! This is all part of Taking Charge of Your Health that we are sharing with you today.
UNDERACTIVE OR OVERACTIVE
If you’re energy levels aren’t what they should be, you’re chilling too easily, your mind tends to be foggy, or if you’re gaining weight for no understandable reason, your thyroid just might be low functioning. Or, less common but very important, if you feel like your energy, nerves, and your whole body is revved up like a car with its idle set too high, your thyroid might be functioning in too high a gear.
Thyroid dysfunction was recognized over 4,800 years ago when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (also known as Shennon), the father of Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), used seaweed to treat goiter, which is enlargement of the thyroid gland. Through the centuries, Hippocrates and others also used seaweeds to treat goiter. Thyroid dysfunction was a problem then and is even more of a problem now!
ABOUT THE THYROID
Your thyroid gland, shaped roughly like a butterfly, is one of the larger endocrine glands in your body. It is located at the base of your neck and wraps around the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe). This important part of your endocrine system influences every organ system and function of your body, including metabolism rates.
IT’S ALL IN THE HORMONES
The thyroid is your body’s internal thermostat and regulates your temperature and metabolism by secreting two hormones that control how quickly your body burns calories and uses energy. These hormones are T4 – Thyroxine (tetraiodothyronine) and T3 – Triiodothyronine. T4, the major hormone produced by the thyroid gland, is converted to T3 in the liver. To keep our endocrine health in balance, these hormones are carried in the bloodstream by a protein called thyroxine-binding globulin.
But first, for the thyroid to be stimulated to produce these hormones, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which causes the pituitary gland to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Because the role of this hormone is to stimulate the thyroid gland, blood levels of TSH are high when the thyroid gland is underactive (and needs more stimulation) and low when the thyroid gland is overactive (and needs less stimulation).
Here’s the tricky part – the thyroid gland has to have iodine to product thyroid hormones. And while we do have trace amounts of iodine in our foods, it’s not enough.
By way of history, it was in 1907 that an American pathologist, David Marine, published a paper stating that iodine is necessary for thyroid function.
Iodine is an essential building block mineral necessary for thyroid health and metabolism. Without it, the thyroid gland cannot produce thyroid hormones that are foundational to your overall health. In fact, iodine is the most influential mineral element in evolutionary biology.
If you are experiencing signs of low thyroid function such as low energy, low or fluctuating moods, difficulty losing weight, brain fog, dry skin, feel sensitive to cold, or have cold hands and feet most of the time, you may benefit greatly from supplementing your diet with Iodine.
While iodine is an essential mineral for our health, our bodies cannot make it. The only way we can get iodine into our bodies is through our diet and through supplementation. Supplementing your diet daily with the right kind of iodine supports not only your thyroid, but also helps with all aspects of your health. Iodine supplementing is recommended for all people of all ages and is especially important while preparing for and during pregnancy and nursing, and for infants and young children. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends iodine supplementation, especially during pregnancy and nursing.
Iodine also benefits cellular health, cardiovascular health, immune function, mental & emotionality, healthy skin, and benefits young bodies in developing and growing both before and after birth. Iodine has an important role in heart, liver, breast and prostate health, and so much more. In fact, every cell in your body needs iodine!
THE MYTHS OF IODIZED SALT AND IODINE IN FOODS
Salt was fortified with iodine in the 1920’s, (as well as bread flours for a time), which definitely reduced the prevalence of goiters in the population. Goiters develop when the thyroid swells because iodine is not available to it and it’s trying to get more iodine to make thyroid hormones with. Goiters are considered serious ‘clinical’ conditions.
Myth: All salt is iodized.
Busted: Not all table salts at the grocery store are iodized, and most salt used in the foods industry is not iodized. Why? Because the Government no longer mandates iodization of table salt and baked goods.
Myth: I use iodized salt, so I must be getting enough iodine.
Busted: Doctors have been telling us to reduce the amounts of salt we use for our heart health, and most of us have done that, which reduces the amount of iodine from salt that we used to get. Besides, iodine is constantly trying to liberate, meaning in a cardboard container that table salt is in, the iodine is in contact with air and typically within 6 months of packaging a high percentage of iodine has liberated, and continues to do so.
Myth: Government knows best, and the iodine RDA (recommended daily allowance) is all I need.
Busted: RDA for iodine was set extremely low, at a level that only helps to stave off goiter, which is not nearly the amount needed to help our health to thrive.
Myth: I get enough iodine in my diet.
Busted: While iodine should be present in foods we eat, when they are grown in iodine depleted soils, they are iodine deficient, and processing of foods depletes iodine levels.
IODINE ALLERGY – NO SUCH THING!
Iodine itself is an elemental mineral and is a vital micronutrient essential to all stages of life. It is biologically impossible to be allergic to it! Many people who think they are allergic to iodine are actually allergic to shellfish or to contrast dyes used in medical procedures.
To add to the problem of reduced iodine in our diets, the bakery industry removed iodine and replaced it with bromides (bromine) as dough conditioners. Bromides are iodine inhibitors and mimickers. This means that they take the place of iodine in the thyroid and keep the thyroid from absorbing and using iodine. So, the more you eat processed foods and bread products that don’t clearly state being “bromide-free,” the harder it is for your body to utilize iodine.
THYROID IMBALANCES – UNDERACTIVE AND OVERACTIVE
There are two basic categories of thyroid imbalance. Underactive, or low thyroid (too little thyroid hormones) and overactive, or high thyroid (too much thyroid hormones).
Underactive thyroid is an extremely common condition. This is the one that sneaks up on us and many of us don’t even know that health problems we are having may have their foundation in low thyroid function. If your energy levels aren’t what they should be, you’re chilling too easily, your mind tends to be foggy, or if you’re gaining weight for no understandable reason, your thyroid just might need a little boost to get your get-up-and-go going again.
The thyroid is your body’s internal thermostat, so low body temperature and intolerance to cold temperatures may indicate that your thyroid is functioning on the low side.
Because the thyroid controls metabolism, underactive thyroid can be a factor underlying blood sugar and insulin imbalances such as prediabetes.
Fortunately, low thyroid function issues will often respond favorably to dietary and lifestyle changes, increasing iodine intake, and herbal supplements, whereas high thyroid requires more medical care.
TESTING FOR LOW THYROID
Ok, so you thought your thyroid might be a bit low. You had blood tests done by your doctor who said the tests came back in the normal range, so your being cold, absolutely no energy, weight gain, moodiness, dry skin and brittle fingernails, etc., can’t possibly be low thyroid related. This is a typical scenario. I know. It happened to me.
A few years later, (after my clinical herbalist husband and I started Cedar Bear®), we were working on two new formulas for thyroid support, Thyro Boost and Thyro Calm, that we were really excited about, as herbal support for the thyroid can help make sure more serious situations don’t develop down the road.
As I always did with new herbs and formulas, I was doing extensive research to do the writeups on them. This entailed diving into what is the thyroid, how it works, and what are the symptoms of underactive thyroid and overactive thyroid, as well as which herbs help each situation. As I began writing on low thyroid, and of the 20ish symptoms I had come across, I had about 18 of them! But that didn’t make sense. My doctor had told me that according to tests, my thyroid function was fine! What was going on?
Thyroid hormone resistance, that’s what! Similar to insulin resistance, thyroid hormone resistance means you have the thyroid hormones, but they aren’t being properly utilized. So, when blood tests are done and come back showing low-to-normal TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) present in the blood (when you know full well you have symptoms of low thyroid), you do indeed have normal amounts. They just aren’t doing the job very well.
SELF TEST AT HOME
The best way to figure out if your thyroid is low functioning on your own is to do a Basal Body Temperature test, known as the Barnes Basal Temperature Test (BBTT) protocol. That means you take your temperature orally in the morning before you even get out of bed. Do this for a whole week, two weeks is even better, then average the readings to get your basal temperature average. If your body temperature is regularly below normal, say 96.6 F or lower instead of a normal range of 97.8+, you are experiencing low thyroid function! I did the self-test and found my basal body temperature was way low. It’s no wonder when we had been in Florida teaching that I was cold all the time, even on hot and humid days!
If you have too much thyroid hormone in your body, your thyroid is overactive and your metabolism is also overactive. When your thyroid gland starts to produce too much of its thyroid hormones and causes your metabolism to be overactive, all of your body’s processes speed up. This can cause, among other things, unintended weight loss, nervousness, irritability, feeling hot constantly, excessive perspiration, digestive disturbances, sleep difficulties, and fatigue.
Overactive thyroid is not as common as low thyroid, but this problem can be life threatening when it is out of control and is why doctors resort to irradiating (killing) the thyroid to control overactive thyroid. Before it gets to that stage, diet, lifestyle, and herbs may help.
THYROID SUPPORT IN OUR DIET
A healthy diet is very important for healthy thyroid function, as well as all other aspects of our health. Whole foods, lots of veggies (cook your spinach and cruciferous veggies such as kale and broccoli if your thyroid is low), whole fruits, soft cooked eggs, lean meats and fish, and avoiding processed and fried foods are all part of a healthy diet.
IODINE IN DIET
For our overall health as well as thyroid health, eating foods that have iodine, even in small amounts, is important.
Natural dietary sources of iodine are seaweeds, seafood, yogurt, cow’s milk, and eggs. (Iodine levels in foods, including meats and eggs, depend on if the soil for growing foods and animals is iodine-rich or iodine-depleted.)
LOW THYROID SUPPORT
FOODS THAT HELP LOW THYROID:
Meat – dark chicken and lean beef
Fish and shellfish
SUPPLEMENTS FOR LOW THYROID:
Vitamin B6, B12
Thyro Boost by Cedar Bear®
Nascent Iodine by Cedar Bear®
AVOID OR LIMIT:
There are foods that suppress thyroid action, called goitrogens, that can aggravate low thyroid issues.
Soy – interferes with thyroxine absorption. Soy is embedded in so many of our foods that it is a challenge to avoid. Become a label reader!
Raw kale and Brussels sprouts. Cooking reduces goitrogen action in the cruciferous veggies.
Millet, Cassava, Peanut oil.
Fatty foods, fried, salty processed foods.
Gluten (in wheat, rye, and barley).
Bakery items with dough conditioners.
It’s generally believed that people with overactive thyroid should avoid or reduce iodine containing foods. That may be true and may not. It depends on the medical aspects.
FOODS THAT HELP OVERACTIVE THYROID
Whole foods with lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein.
While a person with low thyroid needs to reduce goitrogenic foods, a person with high thyroid needs to increase them. Green juices from kale and spinach are recommended for overactive thyroid.
Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, Turmeric.
Thyro Calm by Cedar Bear®.
HERBS CAN HELP!
When using herbs, you will find you have many health benefits. Herbs are packed full of nutrients and micronutrients that our bodies need. It’s a wonderful world of health that opens up to us when we open up to using herbs! Cedar Bear’s thyroid supporting herbal formulas Thyro Boost and Thyro Calm can be used in a thyroid health supporting program, which you can do long term as a regular part of your health regime. Choose the one you need. But remember, if lifestyle, diet, and herbal supplements don’t bring things into balance, do not hesitate to consult your primary healthcare specialist!
THYRO BOOST herbal formula by Cedar Bear®
Low thyroid function slows metabolism and affects every organ system and function of your body. Created specifically to support healthy thyroid function and help your low functioning thyroid get back in the game, Thyro Boost has herbs that have plant-based minerals and nutrients that are basic building blocks for the thyroid and necessary to help your thyroid function happily. NOTE: Consult your healthcare provider before use if pregnant, taking medication or have a medical condition, particularly thyroid or blood pressure based.
THYROID BOOSTING PROGRAM
Thyro Boost – 2 oz
Herbal Minerals – 2 oz
Iodine 9% - 1 oz
Take ¼ tsp (2 droppers) Thyro Boost 2-3 times/day.
Take ¼ tsp (2 droppers) Herbal Minerals 2-3 times/day.
6 drops Iodine 1-3 times/day.
THYRO CALM herbal formula by Cedar Bear®
If your thyroid gland starts to produce too much of its thyroid hormones and causes your metabolism to be overactive, all of your body’s processes will speed up. Nature has provided important thyroid and nervous system calming herbs that can really make a difference. By nutritionally supporting your health in a calming way, you can help your thyroid maintain a healthy balance that will calm your whole body down.
Thyro Calm has herbs that can both support your thyroid’s health and help calm your endocrine system and your nervous system. With this calming support, your life can go back to a normal speed.
NOTE: Do not take while pregnant. Consult your healthcare provider before use if you are taking medication or have a medical condition, especially if thyroid based.
THYROID CALMING PROGRAM
Thyro Calm – 2 oz
Herbal Minerals – 2 oz
Lemon Balm Leaf – 1 oz
Take ¼ tsp (2 droppers) Thyro Calm 2-3 times/day.
Take ¼ tsp (2 droppers) Herbal Minerals 2-3 times/day.
Take 1/8 tsp (1 dropper) Lemon Balm Leaf 2-3 times/day.
Drink Lemon Balm tea.
MY HAPPY ENDING
How did my own low thyroid story turn out? I began taking the Thyro Boost formula and before long I found that my core body temperature increased and those other issues melted away. That was 20 years ago!
When Carl and our R&D team developed the Cedar Bear® Nascent Iodine, (originally named Xodine®), I had another tool to support my thyroid health. With regular use of the Iodine along with making sure I eat a healthy thyroid supporting diet, I seldom find myself experiencing those low thyroid issues. And when I do, I reach for Thyro Boost again!
(These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.)