The American Thyroid Association estimates that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction or thyroid disease with up to 60% of them going undiagnosed. Today we are going to explore the key signs and symptoms of thyroid disorder, the root cause of thyroid disorder, and a step-by-step plan to detox your thyroid and reclaim your health.
How Do You Know If You Have Thyroid Problems?
The thyroid is a large gland in the neck that secretes hormones regulating growth and development, and it has an impact on a wide array of functions relating to your metabolism, nervous system function, brain development and maintenance, heart and circulatory system, and weight management.
Common signs of thyroid problems include:
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
- Brain fog
- Insatiable appetite
- Thinning hair
- Racing heartbeat or palpitations
- Fluid retention
- Dry skin
- Very light or very heavy menstrual flow
- Joint aches and pains
Where Does Thyroid Dysfunction Come From?
Current medical treatments for thyroid conditions do little to nothing to actually cure the disease. Allopathic and alternative healthcare practitioners alike are treating the symptoms instead of addressing the root cause.
Thyroid conditions can usually be traced to three main causes:
- An inability to convert T4 hormone to T3.
- Blunted thyroid receptors in the cell membranes that are unable to take up T3.
- An autoimmune disorder leading to Hashimoto’s disease.
T3 hormone is the metabolically active version of thyroid hormone. T4 must be converted into T3, which binds to special thyroid receptors in our cells. When T4 isn’t properly converting to T3, stress is almost always the main cause. But remember, the body makes no distinction between types of stress. Be it physical, emotional, or mental, the physiological reaction to stress is the same. Chronic stress not only impacts the complex relationship between the glands of the endocrine system, but it can also trigger production of reverse T3 (rT3). rT3 is not usable in the same way that T3 is, and can actually block normal T3 hormone from binding to the cell membranes. This is a survival mode response in the body, designed to conserve energy. The problem comes when stress is chronic, leading to this survival mechanism constantly being triggered. The body will continually interfere with its own production and use of T3 hormone.
The second main cause of thyroid dysfunction is an inability of the thyroid receptors in the cell membranes to bind to T3. In this case, the body can actually convert T4 to T3, but the receptors are unable to make use of it. This can occur due to rT3 in the bloodstream, as previously described, inflammation of the cell membranes, or toxins in the system. Toxins can blunt thyroid receptors, rendering them unable to function properly. Certain halogenated compounds (called trihalomethanes) like bromine, chlorine and fluorine are notorious for binding to these cell receptors and disrupting intake of T3. Studies have shown a marked decrease of thyroid function from long term exposure to these compounds.
Note that both of these causes are nearly impossible to detect with the usual thyroid function panel, which simply tests for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in the blood. Prescription medications will drive down TSH and raise T4 levels, yielding test results that look normal, while you still feel unwell. Of note also is that levothyroxine, the standard drug used to treat thyroid disease, is a synthetic version of T4. If your body cannot convert it, or if stress is causing the conversion to shut down another path (rT3), then the meds will be ineffective.
The third main cause of thyroid disease is an autoimmune disorder, leading to Hashimoto’s disease. Autoimmunity is when your own body’s immune system is attacking specific cells or tissues in the body. Science names these diseases based upon what your immune system is attacking. Hashimoto’s disease is the thyroid being attacked by the body’s own immune system, and is far and away the leading cause of thyroid conditions today. The insidiousness of autoimmunity is that it can exist for years in the body before it actually shows up on a blood test. It’s common to the point of epidemic levels, but often goes undetected until it finally manifests as a chronic disease like Hashimoto’s.
Detox Your Thyroid: A Step By Step Plan
Let’s demystify the solution to a healthy thyroid with a simple step by step plan. First you’ll remove the toxins, then start a natural detox diet cleanse, and finally address the hormone dysregulation.
Step 1: Remove Toxins
Before embarking on a detox plan, you want to make sure you’ve removed the source of toxicity. You cannot heal until you’ve removed the source! Watch out for environmental toxins that target thyroid hormone receptors in particular, or can negatively impact the body’s ability to use iodine, a necessary element for thyroid health.
The top 5 toxic actors for thyroid dysregulation are:
- Silver Amalgam Fillings (mercury toxicity)
- Heavy Metals
These toxins easily bind to thyroid receptors in the cell membranes, interfering with proper thyroid function. Steer clear of them! Some things that you can do to reduce your exposure include:
- Consider a house or shower filter to remove chlorine and fluoride from the water that you shower in. Studies show that steam inhalation causes the highest exposure to chlorine (in the form of trihalomethanes) than any other typical exposure. The filtration systems that I use and recommend can be found here.
- Limit or eliminate hot tub and pool use. Both can have high levels of bromine and chlorine.
- Avoid brominated flour and brominated beverages (usually citrus flavored ones are the biggest culprits). Many processed foods also contain bromine, ALWAYS check the ingredient labels before you buy.
- Many pesticides also contain bromine (yet another reason to buy organic.)
Step 2: Start a Natural Detox Diet Cleanse
Addressing your diet will have a profound impact on your body’s ability to get rid of the built up toxins that are currently interfering with your thyroid health. The main tenets of a natural detox cleanse include:
- Removing refined sugars and high glycemic foods;
- Removing any foods triggering an allergic reaction (especially gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, and soy).
Antioxidants and Thyroid Detox
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals and trigger a chain reaction that may damage cells in the body. Consuming antioxidant rich foods provides your body with the nutrients necessary to carry out cellular rebuilding and protection against damage.
Antioxidant rich foods include:
- Dark chocolate (preferably with no refined sugars)
- Goji berries
- Dark leafy greens
You can find more information about natural detox on my website at DrPompa.com.
Nutrients and Thyroid Detox
Two key nutrients that are often deficient when thyroid disorder is present are selenium, and iodine. Both are available as supplements, and can be taken to promote the body’s innate ability to detoxify. For iodine, you’ll want to start with a very small dose and increase slowly.
Step 3: Address Hormone Dysregulation
Examining symptoms alone rarely gives the whole picture regarding hormone imbalances. To effectively fix hormone dysregulation, it is imperative to get your hormones properly tested. Many doctors only test something called thyroid-stimulating hormone, which fails to give a full understanding of thyroid health. Moreover, most doctors interpret these already incomplete labs improperly, only considering results over 5 or 10 worth treating. The latest guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anyone with a TSH over 3.0 as hypothyroid.
Apart from TSH, other essential test required to measure thyroid health include:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Thyroid antibodies
A full workup of lifestyle and nutritional deficiencies should also address:
- Food allergies (especially gluten intolerance)
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Vitamin D levels
- Selenium levels
- Vitamin A levels
- Zinc levels
- Omega-3 levels
Learn more on how to properly measure and manage your hormones here.
- Thyroid dysfunction is a widespread, largely undiagnosed, problem, affecting millions of people.
- The dysfunction comes from three main sources, and requires proper testing to diagnose.
- A natural detox diet plan removes any refined sugars and high glycemic foods, as well as common allergens (like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs).
- You can help your body detoxify the thyroid by increasing consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, and supplementing with selenium and iodine.
- Learn more about my cellular healing diet here.