The thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. The two most important are thyroxine (T4), which has four iodine molecules in its chemical structure, and triiodothyronine (T3), which has three. More than 99 percent of all thyroid hormones are bound to proteins in the blood and do not interact with the body cells. Only a small fraction is free, but these free thyroid hormones are the important and active hormones that directly interact with body cells.
Normally, the rate of thyroid production is regulated by the pituitary gland. When there is insufficient thyroid in the body for normal functioning of cells, the pituitary releases another hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This triggers the thyroid to make more hormones. Generally, the more severe the hypothyroid condition, the higher the level of TSH will be.
Hypothyroidism is defined as the clinical and biochemical syndrome resulting from decreased thyroid hormone production. Overt hypothyroidism occurs in 1.5 to 2 percent of women, and 0.2 percent of men, and its incidence increases with age.(2),(3),(4) The vast majority of hypothyroid patients have primary hypothyroidism, or thyroid gland failure. Less common causes include pituitary failure (secondary hypothyroidism) or even more rarely, generalized resistance to thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism may be associated with heart disease(5), systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE)(6),(7) and preeclampsia.(8) Hypothyroidism is an independent risk factor for all-cause mortality.(9)
Thyroid hormone is essential for normal growth and development during embryonic life. Thyroid hormone deficiency during fetal and neonatal development results in mental retardation. In the child, thyroid hormone deficiency may manifest as growth retardation. In the adult, manifestations are varied and nonspecific. There is slowing of mental activity, as well as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neuromuscular function.(10)
Causes of hypothyroidism include: primary hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, iatrogenic hypothyroidism, iodine deficiency, enzyme defects, thyroid hypoplasia, goitrogens, secondary hypothyroidism, pituitary disease, and hypothalamic disease.
World Health Organization, 2001.
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, 2005.
American Medical Women's Association, 1999.
The Thyroid Society, 1996.
Selenium deficiency may cause an inhibition of deiodinase enzyme activity, which could result in elevated levels of circulating T4, and a corresponding decrease in the concentration of T3 in peripheral tissues. Low levels of selenium may also accelerate the depletion of iodine from the thyroid gland and increase some of the problems associated with iodine deficiency. Selenium deficiency may also be involved in the occurrence and development of iodine deficiency disorders. In China, Keshan disease, which is primarily due to selenium deficiency, was also observed to alter thyroid hormone metabolism.(15)
It has also been noted that selenium deficiency may cause a lowering of glutathione peroxidase activity in the thyroid gland. This in turn could allow hydrogen peroxide produced during thyroid hormone synthesis to be more cytotoxic. In individuals who are deficient in both selenium and iodine, selenium supplementation may aggravate hypothyroidism by stimulating thyroxin metabolism via the selenoenzyme type I iodothyronine 5'-deiodinase. In cases of combined selenium and iodine deficiencies, selenium supplementation is not used without iodine and thyroid hormone supplementation.(16)
Overdosages of iodine may lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including weight loss, fatigue, and frequent soft stools. These symptoms were reported in a 72-year-old female following six months of ingesting a commercial kelp product.(21) Another report of a 24 year old woman developing thyroid goiter after taking a proprietary product, which included 0.4-0.5mg/day of iodine for three months.(22) It is recommended that products be used in which the iodine content is assayed to avoid potential iodine toxicity problems.
Typical Dosage: 6X or 6C, 30X or 30C
Weakness; Nervous restlessness; Cold sensitive
Typical Dosage: 6X or 6C, 30X or 30C
Coldness of hands and feet; Lowered metabolism
Typical Dosage: 6X
Acupuncture was used to treat 14 cases of hypothyroidism in patients recovering from serious brain injuries. Scalp acupuncture was applied at both the front slant (from Qian Ting (Du 21) to Xuan Li (GB 6)) and the rear slant of the temple (from Bai Hui (Du 20) to Qu Bin (GB 7)) on the side where intracranial hemorrhage occurred. For postoperation patients, acupuncture was applied at both the front and rear slants of the temple (from Qian Ting (Du 21) to Bai Hui (Du 20) and from Feng Fu (Du 16) to Ya Man (Du 15)) on the unoperated side. The needles were retained for an hour after insertion. In addition, body acupuncture was applied on Jian Yu (LI 15), Qu Chi (LI 11), Nei Guan (P 6) and He Gu (LI 4) in the upper limbs, and on Huan Tiao (GB 30), Zu San Li (St 36), Cheng Shan (UB 57) and San Yin Jiao (Sp 6) in the lower limbs. The uniform reinforcing-reducing method was in maneuvering the needles, and the needles were retained for 30 minutes. One course of treatment consisted of 15 sessions. The results: the thyroid function improved in all patients; in particular, T4, FT 4 (P<0.01), and rT3 (P<0.05) all significantly improved, so much so they were not significantly different from those of healthy people (P<0.05).(24)
Herb power-mediated moxibustion was used to treat 7 cases of hypothyroidism. Warming and kidney yang-reinforcing herbs were ground into fine powder and applied on Shen Shu (B23), Pi Shu (B20), and Ming Men (Du 4) as moxibustion medium. Three to five moxas were applied per acupoint in each session. Three sessions were conducted each week, and one course of treatment lasted four months. The results: 3 cases had the condition under control, 2 cases improved, and the remaining 2 cases did not respond to the treatment.(25)
Extracts derived from bovine, procine, or sheep have been used for generations by healers from a wide variety of cultures. The ingestion of gland materials was said to strengthen the corresponding organs or glands within the human body.
Glandular extracts are used for health maintenance, rejuvenation, and conditional support to organ-specific conditions. Glandular extracts consist of peptides, proteins, fatty acids, and traces of hormones, as well as signal or messenger substances. These constituents are thought to contribute to the physiologic effects of the substances. Some active peptides have been identified within various glands; however, it will take years to identify all of the various peptides that have beneficial effects. Isolating single fractions contained in these agents may negate the purpose of providing organ-specific nutrition. They can be thought of as concentrated food sources, supplying certain nutrients to support organ-specific function.
Thyroid extracts support thyroid functions and help regulate metabolic activities. These products may provide a mild increase in energy and stamina.(30)
Most recently, reactivity to foods has been implicated in thyroid dysfunction. Various labs offer food intolerance screenings. In addition, if this proves true in an individual, assessment of the status of nutrient exchange in the gut should be considered. In addition, a great deal of research is now being oriented at stress and its effects on the neuroendocrine response. Elevated cortisol or long-term adrenal exhaustion can contribute to down regulation of thyroid activity.
Other clues to investigate include heavy metal or halogen toxicity (toxic inhibitor for thyroid receptors).
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