Low thyroid: the unsuspected cause of heart disease (Pt. 4)
According to Tom Brimeyer M.S., in order to properly address hypothyroidism, one must address all facets of thyroid health and the thyroid hormone pathway. This includes several steps, which he explains are:
- Addressing the ENTIRE thyroid hormone pathway:
The intricate thyroid hormone pathway we explained before has to be taken into account. The key is not in how much thyroid hormone the thyroid gland can produce or how much thyroid hormone we supplement with, because if a problem develops anywhere along this pathway, the cells will not effectively utilize that thyroid hormone and hypothyroidism will remain.
In his opinion, the underlying causes of hypothyroidism have to be addressed and this means all the many steps of this hormone pathway down to the cell level, including the cell hormone receptors themselves.
- Addressing the diet:
Diet plays an extremely important role in the health of the thyroid. “It’s well known in science and human physiology that cells and organs require specific nutrients that we extract from our food in order to function properly.” (4) A good example is the liver. Simply missing certain key ingredients in our diet can inhibit our liver’s ability to convert T4 to T3 that our cells need and will quickly contribute to hypothyroidism. When our liver doesn’t get enough active T3 thyroid hormone it quickly becomes sluggish and congested, which further impairs T4 conversion.
This step also includes removing any food that is causing a reaction in the body (12).
- Addressing other hormones that directly affect thyroid function:
Most hypothyroidism sufferers make too much of the stress hormone cortisol, which inhibits the conversion of T4 into T3. But stress hormones are just some of the hormones that need to be properly balanced in order to truly heal and rebalance our thyroid. All the different hormones that directly affect thyroid function have to be balanced.
Seven simple steps to overcome low thyroid function
Dr. Brimeyer recommends following a program with seven simple steps to start healing your thyroid.
Step 1. Balance Your Estrogen Levels
Excessive estrogen levels are also becoming an epidemic health problem, according to Dr. Brimeyer.
Estrogen is a very obvious problem in women during menopause when progesterone levels naturally drop, in women on birth control or hormone replacement therapy. But it is becoming a problem for men too, not only because they also have estrogen in their bodies, but because of all the many different sources of estrogens present in food (soy, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides), plastics, etc.
Estrogen’s role in hypothyroidism has been well documented. Estrogen directly affects the thyroid gland by inhibiting its ability to secrete thyroid hormone. Regulating estrogen levels is imperative to truly heal the thyroid.
When estrogen becomes predominant there is not enough progesterone to balance estrogen out. Please check our blog titled ‘Heart disease in women’ to learn how the mistletoe in the ‘Heart and Body Extract’ can help balance estrogen levels.
Step 2. Manage your stress hormones
The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol inhibit the conversion of T4 to T3. They also increase production of Reverse T3, which blocks the body from properly using thyroid hormone. Both of these effects cause hypothyroidism.
As a survival mechanism, under stress, our body naturally down regulates the thyroid in order to conserve energy.
Another problem with the stress hormone adrenaline is that it forces our body to increase the concentration of free fatty acids in our bloodstream. Because most people have large concentrations of polyunsaturated fats in their fat cells, when these fats are forced into the bloodstream they block thyroid hormone from reaching the cells.
In addition, in order to reduce stress hormones it is imperative to balance blood sugar levels. This will keep cortisol, from breaking down protein from our muscles in order to raise blood sugar when it drops too low.
Lastly, it’s important to balance sodium levels, because under conditions of hypothyroidism the body will lose this mineral easily, which will drive adrenaline up. Just adding enough salt to the diet can help.
Please check our blog titled “Stress” to learn more on managing stress.
Step 3. Restore your liver function
Approximately 2/3 of the active thyroid hormone T3 that our body uses is converted from T4 by our liver. Liver congestion can keep this conversion from happening causing hypothyroidism. When this happens T4 tends to accumulate in the body, which slows thyroid production, perpetuating hypothyroidism even more.
Another problem that occurs with a congested liver is that it loses its ability to properly store sugar. It is this stored sugar in the liver that plays an important role in helping us maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day, starting the stress reaction we mentioned before and once again, causing hypothyroidism.
For more information on how to keep the liver healthy, please check our blogs on liver health.
Step 4. Eat the right proteins
Protein intake is an important part of a healthy diet. We should consume at least 70 to 100 grams of high quality protein per day. Dr. Brimeyer recommends bone broth for its anti-inflammatory properties and for being a good source of amino acids.
Step 5. Balance your blood sugar
Low blood sugar both decreases the conversion of T4 to active T3 in your liver and it signals the body to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue in order to keep blood sugar from dropping to dangerously low levels.
Step 6. Avoid polyunsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats are especially problematic for the thyroid because they block the enzymes that signal the thyroid gland to release its hormones. When these fats enter the bloodstream, they also block the active thyroid hormone within the bloodstream from being transported to the cells that desperately need it. They also block cells from properly responding to the thyroid hormone that they do get, which makes the hormone much less effective to cells.
Healthy fats for the thyroid are coconut oil and butter. These saturated fats promote healthy thyroid function and increase the cells’ response to thyroid hormone. They can also cancel out the negative effects of polyunsaturated fats.
Please check our blog on fats for more information.
Step 7. Stop Over-Exercising
Too much exercise or very intense exercise can stop our body from producing T3 even long after exercise.
However, there are some extremely beneficial forms of exercise for hypothyroidism that naturally promote your thyroid and the body’s hormonal health. One example is Tai Chi.
For anyone struggling with signs or symptoms of heart disease, autoimmune issues, fatigue, depression, digestive issues, food allergies, etc., Dr. Brimeyer recommends to stop treating them like they are separate problems and start understanding that hypothyroidism plays a big role in each and every one of them. Healing your thyroid and rebuilding your health from the ground up can be a complex process that requires careful planning, but going directly to the source and correcting the underlying causes will assure we are successful in doing so (4).
Testing your thyroid at home
Under normal circumstances, the amount of heat produced in the body depends on the amount of fuel (food) burned, but with low thyroid hormone, burning of fuel is not possible. Some of the earliest studies in hypothyroid patients showed that they had temperatures below normal. In his early years of practice, Dr. Broda Barnes started to instruct his patients to take their temperature upon awakening, before getting out of bed. He established the ‘basal body temperature test’ as a reliable simple test patients could do at home. Just by increasing their temperature with thyroid therapy, he was able to set straight erroneous diagnoses, lower their blood pressure and decrease heart palpitations and fast pulse.
However, this simple technique of measuring basal body temperature as a guide to determining thyroid function did not appeal to the medical profession. Despite this, axillary or underarm temperature has been used for several decades and, based on thousands of readings, it has been established that normal values for underarm temperature are in the range of 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature below 97.8 indicates hypothyroidism, above 98.2, hyperthyroidism. As low temperature rises with thyroid treatment the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism usually disappear (1).
The basal temperature is not a perfect test for thyroid function, because other conditions aside from hypothyroidism can give a low reading: starvation, pituitary gland deficiency or adrenal gland deficiency, but these are easier to diagnose (1).
Taking the test
The basal temperature can be taken by any man any day of the week. Women during their menstrual years see a fluctuation of the temperature during their cycle so it is best measured the 2nd or 3rd day of the period after flow starts according to Dr. Barns. After menopause, it can be taken any day.
The procedure consists of taking one’s temperature immediately upon awakening in the morning. A reading below the normal range of 97.8 to 98.2 strongly suggests low thyroid function. A reading above that is suspicious of some infection or overactive thyroid gland.
Dr. Broda Barnes did not address auto-immune thyroid disease since obviously it was not prevalent back then, but much is being researched today and new ways to help our thyroid are being successfully used. Dr. Brimeyer, for example, has been able to use Dr. Barnes’ temperature test with his patients and has found that adding a pulse test provides very insightful information. He recommends taking one’s temperature and pulse always at rest, 20 minutes after a meal, three times a day: right upon waking, after breakfast and in the afternoon around 3 p.m.
Other ways to help our thyroid
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is a very important part of healing our thyroid. One food that has been found to be very helpful is ginger. According to Dr. Jockers, ginger can be used for its anti- inflammation properties just like aspirin and ibuprofen. “Ginger is a digestive stimulant that promotes gastric flow and contains enzymes which aid in proper digestion… can be used to treat pain associated with intestinal inflammation by relieving contractions of the gut lining. Individuals with leaky gut are likely to have an unhealthy balance of bacteria in their gut resulting from toxic foods and gut inflammation. Ginger exhibits powerful antimicrobial and natural antibiotic properties as well… ginger has been extensively found to combat strains of bacteria linked to leaky gut. Unlike synthetic antibiotics, ginger has been effective against both standard and drug resistant microbes in treating gastrointestinal infection.” (13) You can find ginger as an active ingredient in the “Heart and Body Extract”.
Other nutrients are beet root and papaya, which can also be found in the “Gland Extract”. Beets are a highly nutritious root that contains vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, soluble fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. Beets help lower blood pressure, prevent inflammation, help with gut motility and help detoxify the liver and the blood (14).
The “Gland Extract” also contains fo-ti-tieng, which nourishes the glands, and contains kelp and watercress.
Other things to consider
Dr. Jockers stresses that low vitamin D3 is associated with thyroid disorders and should be addressed. Vitamin D levels play a very important role in immune regulation, calming down autoimmunity and keeping inflammation levels under control.
Also, both iron and B12 deficiency are a common finding with thyroid disorders. He recommends a complete blood count as well. This will look in detail at red blood cell counts, iron stores and white blood cell levels, as well as liver function, kidney health, digestive health and blood sugar regulation.
A ‘C Reactive Protein’ (CRP) reveals the inflammatory status of the body. This is important because increased inflammation impedes the T4-T3 conversion (7).
Similarly, lowered magnesium is a common deficiency and will also affect thyroid function (10). It is also very important for blood sugar stability and healthy adrenal-pituitary and hypothalamic function. A magnesium deficiency can lead to chronic inflammation and increased pituitary gland stress that alters proper TSH production (7).
Concluding, thyroid health has a very strong link to the health of the rest of the body, and more importantly, the heart. Iodine supplementation is a key part of thyroid function. In the case of auto-immunity, addressing the diet is a crucial aspect in resolving thyroid conditions.
- Barnes, Broda O., and Lawrence Galton. Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. New York: Crowell, 1976. Print.