Hopefully you realize that in order to look, feel, and function your best as you age, it’s imperative that you take good care of your thyroid gland because it plays a role in many plaguing symptoms from head to toe including hair loss, chronic fatigue, skin problems, insomnia and weight gain. The trouble is that lab tests lie, and don’t usually confirm what you’re feeling. I have an ebook that might help you with lab interpretation and 5 reasons you don’t get well (or have been misdiagnosed). If you’d like that ebook, you can get it free by CLICKING HERE.
Today’s article is based upon Functional Medicine principles, and my own healing, as well as my Pharmacist perspective, so it’s very unique. People ask why I write about thyroid so often. I’m trying to help people like you who might have been misdiagnosed because that’s what happened to me.
Ever since I dealt with a bout of hypothyroidism years ago, and healed myself completely, I’ve been a big advocate of supplements for thyroid support. That’s a picture of Sam and I, after I got myself well and lost 12 pounds that the thyroid illness had packed on my little frame in under 3 months.
So, today I’ll share a few of my favorites. I had to find that out myself the hard way, and by the way, that’s why I wrote this book, Thyroid Healthy, Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine, a few years ago. You can read the testimonials on Amazon and see what others have posted by CLICKING HERE.
First, a little background information about your own thyroid gland and how it works.
You naturally produce T4 thyroid hormone (thyroxine) from your thyroid gland, which by the way is also named Synthroid or Levothyroxine. To make T4 thyroid hormone, you need tyrosine from protein, and iodine, a natural mineral. If you’re interested in iodine, and “Why Salt is Not Enough” you can read my article on that by CLICKING HERE.
This T4 has to lose one iodine atom to form T3, that’s what the numbers stand for. Then that T3 has to be able to get into cells to wake you up, burn off fat, grow your hair beautiful and improve memory. Converting that T4 to T3 is a big deal. If you can’t do it, you won’t feel well. You might have an autoimmune form of thyroid illness called Hashimoto’s, or Graves’ Disease. (Read more about The Secret Nutrient That Helps Graves’ Disease by CLICKING HERE, it’s a special article I wrote.)
You can see in this graphic that many factors interfere with the conversion and it can easily go down the wrong pathway. This graphic is actually page 18 straight out of my Thyroid Healthy paperback book:
(This graphic is copyrighted, but if you want permission to use it, just ask me at [email protected])
The Symptoms of Thyroid Illness (because some of you don’t know you have it!)
Testing is bad, that’s a fact of life. Probably 90% of blood tests come back “normal” even though you have every symptom of thyroid illness.
If you recognize the symptoms shown in this graphic below, then you should grab a copy of my book because it will help you convince your physician that his/her lab tests are incorrect. Knowledge is power. (CLICK HERE to go to Amazon).
The Key to Getting Well
All the T4 in the world won’t cure hypothyroidism if you don’t activate it to T3 and to do that, you need certain precursors and cofactors. A few years ago, I made this VIDEO after lecturing all day on weight loss to an audience. So I did it off the cuff, it’s about Thyroid Hormone, and you can watch on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.
For today, I’d like to give you some ideas for supplementation. You may not need them all, you probably don’t, but these are for your consideration, and for your practitioner.
In no special order, here goes:
You need probiotics to convert the T4 hormone you make (or take in the form of medication). As much as 20% of your inactive T4 is converted to T3 in your gut, if your digestion is working well. Unfortunately, many of us have woefully inadequate gut health because we are lacking friendly bacteria. Taking probiotics is a simple fix, and sometimes this is all a person needs to normalize a mild thyroid deficiency.
As a side note, probiotics are incredible immune boosters (since 80% of your immune system is in your gut). They also make you more regular in terms of bowel function. Some probiotics like Dr. Ohhria’s Probiotics actually help fertilize and grow your own native flora population, the one you were born with, instead of dumping into you, a bunch of foreign bacteria strains that your body may or may not recognize.
Dosage guidelines: Probiotics are often taken once or twice daily. When first starting out, they may cause diarrhea. That just means that you’re eliminating some unfriendly gut bacteria. If it’s mild and limited (say a few days or even a week or two) it is probably normal. Doses for probiotics can go up, so for example, if I am coming into cough and cold season, I sometimes double up on the dose. Another example is if you take an antibiotic, you can take more probiotics than normal.
Pyridoxal 5’ Phosphate or P5P.
You might recognize this one as Vitamin B6, and the P5P is what the body uses. The P5P form of this nutrient is the biologically usable form of vitamin B6 that occurs in your body, and in high-quality dietary supplements. A deficiency in B6 can make your immune system more likely to attack your thyroid and can lead to hypothyroidism.
Furthermore, you need P5P to work with the mineral zinc, which is required to make thyroid hormone active and usable. Symptoms of B6 deficiency include depression, irritability, nerve pain, and an enlarged (inflamed) tongue, which is also a hallmark symptom of hypothyroidism.
You can tell if you have an inflamed tongue easily, just stick your tongue out and look in the mirror. Does it have scalloped edges? This means it’s pushing against your teeth because it is bigger than normal. P5P supplementation may help out with that. Vitamin B6 (the precursor might also, however, your body has to convert the Vitamin B6 into P5P for it to work). You might be better off spending a little more to get P5P.
Dosage guidelines: If you’re taking B6, perhaps 50 mg daily. If you’re taking P5P then about 10 to 20 mg daily because it’s much more potent since it’s biologically active.
This is one of the active forms of vitamin B12. B12 deficiency goes hand in hand with hypothyroidism! Research suggests as many as 40% of hypothyroidism patients also have B12 deficiency. That’s almost half of you!
Having low B12 can affect how much thyroid hormone you create. It’s a vicious cycle. In addition, B12 plays a key role in cell metabolism throughout your entire body, giving you energy, mental sharpness, and healthy nervous system functioning.
Dosage guidelines: About 500 – 1000 mcg taken daily with a snack.
Zinc is critical for activating T4 to T3 in the liver and kidneys and it improves the function of specific enzymes (deiodinase) which activate thyroid hormone. Remember, you want to activate it by converting the T4 your gland spits out, into T3. Zinc helps you do that. An animal study showed that zinc deficiency reduces activity of those important enzymes by up to 67%. Sluggish enzymes mean your T4 builds up, and does not convert to T3 like normal.
According to a human study, zinc supplementation was able to reestablish normal thyroid function in hypothyroid patients. In another study, 9 of 13 participants with normal T4, but low free T3, had mild to moderate zinc deficiency. After oral supplementation with zinc, the levels of free T3 and T3 normalized.
Dosage guidelines: Don’t overdo the zinc because it will throw your copper out of balance. A safe dose is about 5 to 20 mg daily with food.
Like zinc, this mineral is also needed for certain deiodinase enzymes which convert T4 to T3. Selenium is also needed to balance excess thyroid activity that may be caused by internal or external stressors. And finally, selenium is a powerful antioxidant.
More antioxidant activity means less inflammation, and inflammation means better thyroid functions, because inflammation can cause your thyroid hormone to get lazy and not be able to get through the ‘door’ (receptor) on your cells.
Dosage guidelines: Selenomethionine about 100 mcg once or twice daily. If you test your selenium levels and find that they are low… or you have elevated TPO Antibodies (one of many clues of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), you can go up higher in dose, for example, 200 to 300 mcg daily, or even more for a period of time. But all of this should be undertaken with the supervision of a practitioner.
Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes high in people with thyroid disorders, so neutralizing it is important, especially if you have Hashimoto’s. Catalase is as an antioxidant to reduce hydrogen peroxide that you make in your liver. It turns that hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen within milliseconds! You can watch my video on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.
Since it has unbelievable, well-documented antioxidant properties, catalase is extremely beneficial to your blood stream, to your thyroid and to all your organs. It’s a super antioxidant and it’s endogenous (meaning you make it). By the way catalase helps break down alcohol, that’s why some people take it for hangovers, lol!
Peroxide is bad!
Water and oxygen is awesome.
Catalase converts the peroxide to these safer substances. You want this to happen, if peroxide builds up, it will, for lack of a better word, bleach you from the inside out! In fact, catalase deficiency may account for some Hashimoto’s symptoms.
Hydrogen peroxide is a free radical that can take your body over. Hydrogen peroxide has been studied and it’s implicated in oxidative stress disorders and many chronic illnesses.
Dosage guidelines: Catalase, about 12,500 CatU once or twice daily.
This incredible herb helps is one of my favorite thyroid supplements. It stimulates production of both T4 and T3 in your body. It also nourishes your adrenal glands, so if you feel like you can’t cope with stress, this is a wonderful botanical to consider. Known as an adaptogen (see pages TK for more on this beneficial class of herbs), ashwaganda can help you whether you have too much or too little thyroid hormone. It’s mission is to bring you back in balance. It also protects your thyroid from DNA damage.
Dosage guidelines: Ashwagandha is sold by various extracts and dosage forms. If you have a specific bottle, take what is recommended on the label. Depending on whether or not it is standardized, you’ll see all sorts of dosages. Commonly, you’ll see something like 300 to 600 mg per day, often taken at night because it may induce sleep and relaxation.
This herb gives us resveratrol, a potent antioxidant well known for its ability to protect the heart, pancreas, and brain. As for thyroid function, resveratrol may help prevent or slow growth of thyroid cancerous cells by causing them to die off. It also enhances iodine utilization, which is key for thyroid health.
Dosage guidelines: Labels and dosages differ depending on the source of resveratrol. To be safe, follow the recommended dose on the product you buy. Keep in mind that resveratrol is most commonly derived from Knotweed extract (Polygonum cuspidatum) and the dosage is somewhere around 100 mg. Drinking wine doesn’t provide hardly any resveratrol, yet a lot of people think so.
How I Healed My Thyroid Problems
You may be wondering what I ultimately took myself to optimize my thyroid. I took 5 micrograms of a pure T3 medication each morning. I also took a little vitamin C and natural adrenal adaptogens, which I altered every few weeks. I like ashwaganda the most because it doubles as a ‘sleep aid.’
But I also tried a month on rhodiola, then I tried a week on Panax ginseng (it was too stimulating), and several months on weak licorice tea. When I overdid it I got pimples from too much estrogen, so it was very weak. The one thing I used religiously was Reishi, it’s the Plant of Immortality. They make supplements commercially, however, I’d make my own at home. This herb stimulates the production of T4, thyroxine (thyroid hormone). Watch me make a tea HERE.
I’d put a dried Reishi mushroom in water, in my slow cooker, and leave it there for 24 hours simmering on low. The end results tastes pretty bitter. If you want Reishi, you might prefer it as a commercial extract instead of a DIY slow-cooker project! You can watch my ‘How To’ video by CLICKING HERE. I’ll tell you how the guy at Home Depot sawed my mushroom in half, lol! I’ll also tell you how reishi induces apoptosis and reduces the spread of cancer (termed angiogenesis).
Some adrenal adaptogens gave me pimples, but not all. If this happens to you, just know that it’s a sign that you probably don’t need them, and they are increasing your estrogen and testosterone too much.
Most importantly, I started taking 30 minutes a day to break away from work and all my responsibilities, and I’d go for a walk or jog. I just basically stopped what I was doing.
I used to be a human doing, and I had to train myself to become a human being.
When you’re doing, you are not being.
I avoided exercising for a while because I didn’t want to push my body too hard when I was really tired. When I started to slowly ease back in to working out, I started with gentle yoga and then got back into dance, like Zumba which is more aerobic.
I also ate gluten-free for several years, and then switched to Paleo (which is grain-free) for another couple of years. I eat everything now though.
Way back in the healing phase, I began juicing and eating more organic foods. Meat became the side dish to the healthy living green foods like salad, sautéed green beans, zucchini, kale or other green veggies. If you like recipes, I’ve got delicious ones for you, click on my RECIPE tab at the top of this webpage.
What else? This might sound silly to you, but I made a concerted effort to watch funny programs on TV instead of the news so that I could keep my spirit up. Even now, I prefer light movies and I avoid the news as much as I can.
Hey, the news is always frightening, it evokes pain on some level because I’m empathetic and more than that, the visuals are graphic and non-stop. It’s overwhelming after about 15 minutes. News is not good ‘brain food’ to watch because horrible things happen all the time. So for me, this was helpful because I watched shows that made me laugh more, and worry less.
You might say I put myself into my own glass bubble, and I was happier that way.
When your spirits are higher, then your journey to health is faster.
As you search for your own approach to supporting your thyroid in particular and your health overall, remember this: The body wants to heal itself. You just have to give it good nourishment, not only on the physical level, but on the emotional and spiritual levels too.
Everything and everyone plays a role in your healing so keep in mind that love (not fear) is the foundation for you to repair itself. Do more of the things you love and it brings the healing closer to you. As for the supplements, ask your doctor what is right for you.
Finally, don’t let a diagnosis or past experience color your faith and hope. There is always an ability to heal, the body knows how to get to homeostasis. It heals from a finger cut, it KNOWS HOW TO HEAL. You have to remember that you know how to heal. I think you might like this saying as much as I do. If so, please forward this article to a friend in need.