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Jessica’s Note: Today, I’d like you to give a warm welcome to my friend Beverly. Many of you may know her from her site, Beverly Meyer on Diet and Health. She has a wealth of information over there and us dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through her practice and through her online presence. I am excited to feature her post about hypothyroidism today, as you know it’s one of my favorite topics!
9 Causes of Hypothyrodism You May Not Know
What if your thyroid gland is not the problem? Are there other causes of hypothyroidism?
Is hypothyroidism the problem or the symptom?
If you’re always tired or complain of chronic fatigue, your doctor may suggest lifelong thyroid medication. Thyroid levels are easy to test, and “the solution” is easy to prescribe. Doctors don’t have time to puzzle out clues as to the source of the low thyroid. They want to help you quickly, and give you some relief.
Thyroid medication will do that for a while…
However, clients on thyroid meds frequently note a return of fatigue and a gradual need for increases in dose. Why is this happening? Is it a clue that the thyroid gland itself may not really be the problem?
If you’ve been told you have low thyroid, you should ask if it is Primary Hypothyroidism. This means the thyroid is actually incapable of producing T4 hormone. There are varying reasons for this, including destruction of the gland from advanced auto-immune Hashimoto’s, or the thyroid has been removed or irradiated.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, (TSH) is released from the pituitary upon instructions from the hypothalamus’ Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH). If you have Primary Hypothyroidism, your TSH levels would be quite elevated, above 15 or more, as the pituitary keeps signaling in vain for more hormone. I’ve seen TSH as high as 325 in a client unaware they had a thyroid problem. I sent them immediately to their doctor’s office and called to make sure they were actually there.
The optimal range for TSH may be as narrow as 1 – 2 although lab ranges are usually .5 to 4.5.
What if your (unmedicated) TSH is less than 10?
I see many people in my clinic already on thyroid meds,who don’t have Hashimoto’s, or who have only low levels of Hashimoto’s antibodies and whose TSH is less than 10. These people do not have Primary Hypothyroidism, in my opinion.
What you have is symptoms, an imperfect blood test, and no explanation for it.
Before I suggest some of the causes of an imperfect blood test, let’s review what blood tests should be run….
TSH, Total T4 and FTI (Free Thyroxine Index) are the minimum tests most doctors will run
For better information, you also need FREE T4 and FREE T3. These tests measure the amount of T4 and T3 actually available, unbound to other proteins or toxins. Total T4 does not tell this, nor does TSH.
Thyroid Antibodies. I am always amazed when antibodies are not being monitored or have never been tested. If you have an auto-immune disorder, you should know it. Since doctors have no “cure” for Hashimoto’s (or any other AI illness), they don’t really care to track it. But you do! Are your antibodies slightly elevated, extremely elevated? Trending up or down? Is a gluten free Paleo diet helping?
Reverse T3 (RT3) can be useful if you know how to interpret it…. Here’s a great article on RT3 from Stop The Thyroid Madness (listen to our podcast here for even more!).
I have several articles and podcasts on testing and treating the thyroid. Please visit this page to choose, or this one.
Other Causes of Hypothyroidism
Assuming you still have a thyroid and haven’t had chronic, severe Hashimoto’s destroying the thyroid, where else should you look?
The most common reason the thyroid is not reaching lab ranges is that the adrenals are fatigued. If the adrenals are fatigued, your body will prevent the thyroid from burning you out further.
Think of the thyroid as the accelerator pedal in your car: you step on the gas to get going. The adrenals are the engine of the car. If your engine is burnt out, you’re not leaving the driveway no matter how much you press on the gas. The body will shunt off T4 to RT3 and not let you use it.
The opposite is also true. High cortisol can also cause the thyroid to slow down to protect your engine from burn-out. Please read my articles on adrenals and listen to my adrenal podcasts (here’s one) for more on adrenal care and recovery.
Poor Conversion of T4 to T3
The thyroid makes and stores T4 – a hormone with 4 units of iodine. When active hormone is needed, we cleave off an iodine and create T3. (We can also create some T3 directly). Vitamin A, Selenium, Zinc, Iodine and Iron are all needed here. As well as progesterone.
Selenium is found in fish, meats, mushrooms and is abundant in Brazil Nuts. But selenium is used extensively in the body as part of the detoxification of mercury and other toxins. If you have (or had) old silver fillings, your selenium may be going to detox mercury first, and convert T4 to T3 later. Supplement with a maximum of 200 mg. daily or eat a handful of Brazil Nuts.
Stressful events take their toll on the Pituitary and Hypothalamus as well as our Limbic System. When the Pituitary and Hypothalamus are fatigued, they can’t play their role in managing the thyroid. Supplements known as adaptogens prevent the Pituitary from getting exhausted and may help it “screen” out toxic levels of stress. Adaptogens are meant to be be taken long-term, as they are neither stimulants nor sedatives.
Gotu Kola and certain Ginsengs are well-known adaptogens and can work well for many people. I would recommend speaking with a practitioner before adding any new supplements to your protocol.
There are many benefits from reducing stress…. the adrenals are not overworked; better sleep restores us; nutrients are not used up in crisis management; and the crippling effects of anxiety and depression are reduced.
Estrogen dominance causes the liver to produce high levels of “thyroid binding globulin”, which binds thyroid hormone, decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone that can be utilized by the cells. I frequently see improper ratios of estrogen to progesterone in men as well as women. Toxins such as BPA and pesticides cause us to retain estrogen, lowering the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. Bringing these two into balance may require the use of Bio-Identical Progesterone as well as committing to a lower-toxin lifestyle.
Medications blocking the thyroid
In brief, stains, beta-blockers and steroids can cause hormone dysregulation.
Too much as well as too little iodine can cause thyroid problems, but there is controversy on this topic in the natural health community. We get iodine naturally in seafood and seaweeds. If you’re not eating ocean fish (lake and river fish don’t count) or having a bit of Nori now and then, you may be iodine deficient.
As in the analogy of the engine and the accelerator pedal of the car, there is evidence that those of us with chronic illness may struggle with hypothyroidism as one of the body’s healing mechanisms. If we’re not well, we’re supposed to be resting and recovering.
There are statistically significant links between Hashimoto’s Disease and Celiac Disease. In addition, non-celiac gluten sensitivity may play a role in hypothyroidism that is not yet completely defined. Another reason to stick with gluten free foods or the Paleo Diet! I’ve had many clients see improvement in antibodies on a gluten-free diet.
Overwork and Undersleep
If you are working too much and not making sleep a priority, it can play a major role in your thyroid and adrenal function. Try to reduce your workload and focus on getting quality, restorative sleep every night. I have many articles on sleep that I encourage you to read here.
If you have any questions about this article or want to learn more about me, I hope you’ll stop by my site here. You can also contact me here or we can connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!
Supporting the Thyroid & Adrenals Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting the thyroid and adrenals (because they are very closely linked), caffeine may not be your best friend. While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs. Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. In my mind, if I can get something to not only taste amazing but do amazing things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief. Now in its second edition, this ebook features all of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
In addition, you get a ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
Lastly, you get access to your own personal coffee shop. I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.
Good run down! Another one I just discovered last night while reading The Iron Elephant : iron overload (hemochromatosis) is another cause for hypothyroidism. Iron overload won’t be found if it’s not looked for and causes many diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart failure, joint pain, fatigue, low libido and more. It can be easily rectified, if caught early enough.
Great tip, Starlene! I have read that before as well!
Just read your article about 9 Causes of Hypothyrodism You May Not Know…
I was wondering if there is a way I can copy it? I have been told I have it, and would like to check out possible reasons I have it. Thank you very much.
Hi Vicki – I have the copy and past turned off on this article to prevent content theft. I deal with a large amount of theft on my site and this is one way to protect our articles. I would be happy to email you a copy of it in a Word doc if you like. Just let me know what email address to send it to. You can reach me here: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/contact/
I have burning mouth or that’s what I can best describe it I also wear a denture I am quite unwell with this any suggestions I’ve tried bi carb it helps a small fraction any ideas to the cause and how to fix help it would be good
Hi Wendy – I am not sure, but maybe another reader can chime in! Thanks for stopping by!
Hi, I have severe symptoms of hypothyroidism, my TSH was 6.9 and I am currently taking thyroxin orally and although my TSH is under control I still have severe symptoms. It has been about 8 months since I started taking thyroxin but no one seems to be able to help me. Any idea to the cause and fix? Thank you.
Hi Natasha – I can’t give any medical advice here since I am not a doctor. I would suggest working with a new doctor or naturopath on these issues. Are you familiar with the Stop the Thyroid Madness site? I HIGHLY recommend that as the starting place for anything thyroid related: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/. Best of luck on your healing journey! 🙂
my doctor wants me to take Levothyroxin which I was taking and have not taken for about a month and my thyroid function said normal. He also wants me to take a statin which I stopped taking due to muscle pain and I have been reading that these meds are not good for you. I have been trying to combat cholesterol and sugar etc with diet.
Hi Linda! Diet is always the first place to start when dealing with any sort of health dysfunction. I would definitely talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding these drugs and get some input from him/her. If they are not willing to help you or support you then I would look for a new doctor who will support you. Best wishes to you!