Toxic Metals and Thyroid Health

The modern world exposes us to chemicals and pollutants that don’t belong in our bodies. These include heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, lead, and cadmium that embed into fatty organ tissue (e.g. thyroid, liver, adrenals and brain) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs (a broad class of industrial chemicals) that are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Symptoms of metal toxicity include:

  • headache
  • neurological problems (nerve pain, trembling, visual disturbances, vertigo, neuropathy)
    nausea
  • skin rash (contact dermatitis, irritation, hives)
  • seizures
  • fatigue
  • digestive difficulties
  • suppression of immune system (autoimmunity)
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever and chills
  • muscle aches

To reduce the levels of toxic metals in the tissues, it’s important to take the obvious steps and minimize your everyday exposure to them. For example, with mercury you can try to limit overconsumption of larger, fatty fish, be wary toward certain vaccines (i.e. the flu vaccine), and consider replacing your dental amalgams at an appropriate time. Since cigarettes are a source of heavy metals, if you smoke or live with someone who smokes, then this needs to be addressed. Drinking water is a common source of different heavy metals, which is why you want to avoid drinking tap water, or at the very least get your tap water tested to detect the amount of heavy metals.

But why is mercury considered to be toxic? Mercury has the potential to bind to any molecule that contains sulfur. When mercury does this, it will prevent certain enzymes from doing their job. For example, mercury can actually bind to the cells of the thyroid gland. When this happens it can potentially lead to hypothyroidism by interfering with some of the minerals that are required to produce thyroid hormone. It can also affect the conversion of T4 to T3. And while most cases of hypothyroidism probably aren’t caused by mercury toxicity, this needs to be considered for anyone who is trying to restore their thyroid health naturally. In addition to the thyroid gland, mercury can affect other glands and organs of the body since it travels largely undisturbed throughout the vascular and lymphatic systems.

To truly detoxify the body, toxins have to be moved from storage sites (in fat cells and other tissues of the body) into metabolically active pathways. They travel through the lymph system and blood to the liver, where they are chemically altered to something the body can get rid of, and then moved through the bile into the digestive system, where they are eventually eliminated in the stool. All of that needs to happen rather seamlessly. Some therapies such as colonics, lymphatic massage, and infrared detox (and others) can be useful, but most are used out of context. For example, fat cells are not just a place of stored fuel; fat (safely) stores toxins. When we lose weight and burn off fat, these toxins are released into the blood stream. It has been shown that weight loss can increase the levels of pesticides in the blood and decrease levels of active T3. As such, detoxification should always be a consideration with weight loss programs. This is especially true if there is a history of hypothyroidism symptoms.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Thyroid, Electrical Hypersensitivity and Grounding

Next to diabetes, a sluggish thyroid (or hypothyroidism) is the most common endocrine disorder in the United States. It is perceived as a so-called lifestyle disease, meaning that lifestyle choices are equally to blame and needed to correct the problem. And whereas millions of dollars are spent annually to research and develop pharmaceuticals to manage the symptoms of diabetes and to make the public aware of the complications of diabetes, the same is not true for thyroid.

The thyroid gland’s small size belies its enormous importance in regulating your metabolism. If the production of thyroid hormone slows down, you’re likely to gain 5 to 10 extra pounds (or more). The general symptoms include constipation, depression, dry skin, fatigue, hair loss, intolerance to cold, muscle cramps, and slow heart rate. More to the point, and often overlooked, is that symptoms are comprehensive and affect all systems of the body: neurological (e.g. brain fog and depression), vascular (e.g. slow heart rate and intolerance to cold), ophthalmological (e.g. blurred vision), gastrointestinal (e.g. constipation), and so on.

I have long suspected that the flood of changing environmental exposures over the past generation has contributed to the dramatic increase in both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. More of my patients today suffer with thyroid problems than ever before. Industrialization and the introduction of plastics and other synthetic materials have not only disconnected us from the Earth, they showered us with chemicals that our immune systems cannot tolerate. Thyroid autoimmunity involves loss of tolerance to thyroid proteins in genetically susceptible individuals in association with environmental factors.

For the past 50 years or so, we’ve added carpets, plastics, synthetic-soled shoes, and athletic sneakers, all serving as nonconductive barriers between the Earth and us. If you’ve ever shocked yourself after walking across a carpeted floor, then you know that your body is a conductor. Why is this important? When you are ungrounded, electric fields are attracted to your body and create a surface charge—a voltage. Thyroid sufferers, as you probably know, have an already weakened immune system and are vulnerable to both Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Electric Hypersensitivity, each of which is born out of this changing environmental pattern over the past 50 years.

The most important time to be grounded is while you’re sleeping. There are two reasons for this. First, the average bedroom typically contains more electrical noise than any other room in a house, especially near where your head rests on your bed. You’ve probably got a tangle of wires behind the wall, as well as wires running under the floor if you’re in an upstairs bedroom. Second, you spend a third of your life lying there. This is the time when your body should be repairing and regenerating, and electrical noise interferes with this process, potentially causing chronic stress and inflammation.

With continued exposure to dirty electricity people get progressively worse. Most sufferers tend to be women, often over 40, and symptoms tend to worsen over time with continued exposure to environmental factors. The issues of grounding and heavy metal toxicity in relation to electrical hypersensitivity may be one of the most significant. The more your system is contaminated with heavy metals, particularly your thyroid, whether from silver amalgam fillings, eating contaminated fish, living downstream from coal-burning power plants and so forth, the more your body becomes a virtual antenna that actually concentrates radiation, making it far more destructive.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Stress, Hormones, and Poor Gut Function

A majority of Americans eat a diet which consists largely of high sugars and refined grains. This means that most Americans today suffer from instability in their blood sugar levels. The problem with this type of diet is that these foods are very rapidly converted into glucose and contribute to overeating, constant cravings, and poor nutrition. Contrary to popular belief, the worst possible breakfast to start your day with is a bowl of cereal, skim milk, and a banana. It is important to understand what is going to happen to your body if this is the food you choose to eat.

Hormonally, a few things happen. First, insulin drives blood sugar levels too low, creating a reactive hypoglycemic state. This may create feelings of irritability, moodiness, and an inability to focus. The body, and especially the brain, needs adequate levels of glucose to thrive. In addition to the negative effects low blood sugar has on the brain, it also stresses theadrenal glands. The adrenal glands regulate the stress response within the body. The adrenals release a hormone called cortisol, which is used to elevate blood sugar. You will therefore be trapped in a vicious cycle that sets you up for failure.

Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland in response to events such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and experiencing acute stress. Its far-reaching, systemic effects play many roles in the body’s effort to carry out its processes and maintain homeostasis. Cortisol therefore informs on cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, immune function, weight management, proper digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as other health matters.

Whether or not a particular individual’s stress levels will result in high cortisol levels and leaky gut is not readily predictable. The amount of cortisol secreted in response to stress can vary among individuals, and some people are inherently more reactive to stressful events. For example, women who secrete high levels of cortisol when they are under stress tend to eat more at those times than women who secrete less cortisol. Additionally, women with higher cortisol levels tend to store their excess fat in their abdominal area, and these women report having more lifestyle stress than women whose fat gets stored on their hips.

We do not necessarily know every time our body comes under attack. Also, sometimes we rationalize that certain foods are not really harmful for us but rather less than ideal, when in fact we know they are actually bad for us. However, eating foods that are rife with toxins and antigens or that consist of “empty calories” will damage your body. Insidious sources of strain on the body that cause widespread inflammation include refined sugar, anemia, stress, lack of sleep, cancer-causing free radicals, low-grade infections, and a “leaky gut” that lets food, waste, and pathogens freely enter our bodies.

Everything you eat either harms you or heals you, so it is vital to consume foods that enable the body to perform its vital functions and avoid foods that inhibit its performance.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

The Heart and the Thyroid Gland

Diseases of the thyroid gland can directly alter the normal function of the heart and cause significant complications and personal discomfort. To better understand why this happens, it is helpful to appreciate how the heart works.

The heart itself is called a muscle. It requires oxygen to work and receives oxygen through coronary arteries. If there is disease in these coronary arteries causing a blockage within the lumen and a reduction in coronary artery blood flow, the heart muscle then works with an inadequate oxygen supply and heart pain or “angina” can be produced. Additionally, in order for the heart to beat in a coordinated fashion and expel blood smoothly and efficiently, the heart muscle is stimulated to contract in a synchronized fashion by specialized tissues within the heart which conduct electrical impulses. The impulse normally starts at the top of the right atrium and spreads down through the heart.

When a patient is in a hyperthyroid state, increased levels of thyroxine release from the thyroid gland and stimulate the heart to beat more quickly and more strongly. Initially this may produce a fast heart rate, which is called a tachycardia. In some patients, prolonged stimulation of the heart may cause an irregular heartbeat. Functionally, this is where the electrical impulses form a short circuit within the atria and cause partial or poorly coordinated atrial contractions.

Prolonged and irregular stimulation such as this can cause some increase in blood pressure, which is called systolic hypertension. The diastolic blood pressure, that is the lower of the two blood pressure numbers, is not normally increased. The increased contraction of the heart with increased cardiac output causes a pulse that is easily felt at the wrist and contributes to warm, sweaty hands.

Symptoms and signs of a heart problem for an overactive thyroid gland tend to be the opposite to those mentioned above. They primarily consist of slow heart rate and low blood pressur e. Common symptoms for slow heart rate and low blood pressure in patients include constipation, poor blood flow, and lightheadedness or dizziness upon standing. Prolonged hypothyroidism causes metabolic changes in the body and may produce elevated levels of cholesterol, for example. We are aware of the media attention surrounding some types of elevated cholesterol levels that may produce or aggravate narrowing of the coronary arteries. However, a more exciting area of research now examines the role of blood pressure in regulating cellular nutrition.

Nitric oxide is what the body uses to stimulate your blood vessels to expand and contract, keeping blood pressure in check. Individuals, both men and women, with poor circulation, a history of thyroid or heart disease, including many common symptoms like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, are often deficient in the critical molecule nitric oxide. Precursors for the synthesis of nitric oxide include dietary amino acids such as L-arginine, ornithine, and citrulline. The right balance has been shown to stimulate growth hormone for anti-aging benefits, improve insulin sensitivity to help normalize blood sugar, and increase fertility and pleasure sensation by stimulating oxygenation and blood flow.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Thyroid Hormones Part 3: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

It is widely known by endocrinologists, physicians and the medical community that low thyroid function is always secondary to something else; yet the issue of the autoimmune attack is almost never addressed. Instead, patients are considered to be managed and treated properly when the TSH normalizes. In a sense the patient is having his or her TSH managed, but the underlying mechanism for low thyroid function (the autoimmune attack) is not. In many instances a doctor will even refuse to run thyroid antibodies because it is not seen as an effective agent of change for the prevailing method of treatment.

In conventional medicine, what I call The Replacement Model, a drug, or in this case a hormone, is meant to replace actual physiology. Any symptoms that remain after the normalization of the TSH marker are attributed to some other cause. In other words, the prevailing medical thinking is that since the TSH reads as “normal” on your lab report, or within laboratory range for prescribing medicine, not only should the symptoms be resolved, but the drug you are taking has worked as a perfect replacement for actual thyroid hormone! We know otherwise.

For example, if your thyroid condition is causing depression, which it commonly does, then the medical doctor or psychiatrist will give you antidepressants instead of trying to identify and correct the root cause. Why? Because if the TSH, which is the standard measure of thyroid function, is now in the normal laboratory range, how could the depression symptoms be related? On the surface it seems logical unless you yourself are suffering from this condition.

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you probably will. You will go into your doctor’s office because you STILL suffer with the same symptoms, and in an attempt to move you out of the office in the allotted 10 minutes for your visit, the medical doctor is going to shove an anti-depressant prescription at you and tell you that it will help alleviate some of the symptoms. The implication is that it’s all in your head!

Do you suffer from depression? Maybe. Perhaps you suffer as a result of the thyroid problem that is not being managed properly. Or it might be that you’re depressed because you have a chronic problem that no one is taking seriously and the only alternative you’ve been given are more pills. Either way, an anti-depressant isn’t the cure.

In most cases, since the actual autoimmune response is ignored, over time you will continue to lose more thyroid activity, and the requirements for your thyroid replacement hormone prescription continue to rise. Even more importantly, despite the fact that TSH is considered “managed” with replacement thyroid hormones, Autoimmune Thyroid patients will continue to have all the symptoms of low thyroid function. Why run extra tests if you are not going to alter the treatment based on the test results? This is considered “waste” in the HMO insurance model that has become so prevalent in this country.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Thyroid Hormones Part 2: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the thyroid as the primary driver of metabolic function. Metabolism is your body’s ability to produce energy efficiently using the wide array of nutrients and enzymes available, and it also eliminates wastes. People who suffer with thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroid, suffer a great number of debilitating side effects. Some of these are visible (hair loss, thinning eyebrows), others affect physical and mental stamina (low energy, brain fog), and still others are more insidious as the body simply fails to perform essential tasks (eliminate wastes and toxic byproducts).

Because the standard of care for anyone with low thyroid is to take replacement hormones, discussions about thyroid routinely focus on how well the drug is affecting TSH. Or how well the T4s are converting to T3s, or whether the Reverse T3 is actually a better tool for measuring thyroid function, and so on. It’s as if the whole problem of low thyroid is a mathematical formula! What is lost in the process and is the reason why thyroid is completely misunderstood and mismanaged is this: Hypothyroid, including Hashimoto’s, are secondary “downstream” health problems; also, thyroid function cannot be resolved in isolation or apart from an environmental context.

The thyroid gland itself is primarily a fatty tissue that, like breast, heart, or pancreatic organs, becomes a good storage site for toxic waste. Whether it’s mercury toxicity or another type of toxic exposure (radiation, pesticide, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and so on) the thyroid is a particularly vulnerable gland for storing and removing toxins from the bloodstream. One theory about the alarming rise in autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s in this case, is that the thyroid has become so toxic that the body turns against it and attacks the thyroid itself. A simple antibody test will rule this out.

Another upstream cause for poor thyroid function is oxidative stress. The terms oxidative stress and free radicals have become familiar in recent years. Think of oxidative stress as the total burden placed on the thyroid by the constant production of free radicals. To halt this process, the thyroid will slow down to preserve itself and thereby protect its own mitochondria and cell membranes. Remember, every single cell in your body is a self-contained living organism that wants to thrive. When you eat a diet loaded with antioxidants, you are preventing further oxidative stress by cleaning up free radicals.

Lastly, the effects of brain chemistry on thyroid function should not be overlooked. In fact, a doctor cannot properly evaluate thyroid function without considering the brain, which is saturated with thyroid hormone receptor sites. Is it any wonder that low thyroid function causes mental fogginess, low productivity, and forgetfulness? People are discovering the therapeutic power of amino acids, herbs, and nutrients that support the brain’s neurotransmitters. We’re increasingly understanding how the factors that lead to poor thyroid health—bad diet, unstable blood sugar control, adrenal stress, and gut infections—also lead to poor brain health, including brain tissue inflammation and degeneration as well as a deficiency in serotonin and dopamine.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Thyroid Hormones Part I: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

Statistics indicate that 27 million otherwise healthy people suffer with thyroid hormone disorders. Thyroid hormones are metabolic hormones, meaning that they are your energy producing hormones. This is significant because the 70+ trillion cells in your body require energy, and all are affected by thyroid function. The failure to meet this energy requirement affects every organ and system in your body, including the brain, which requires over 20 percent of the total energy demand.

That is why thyroid problems are not isolated problems. Think of the thyroid gland as the gas pedal – the feature that allows you to produce energy at the cellular level and function throughout the day. When the thyroid fails, you do too. When you suffer with anxiety or depression, you must look at the thyroid; high cholesterol, digestive problems, and diabetes – think thyroid. Obvious symptoms can include brain fog, constipation, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, brittle nails, chronic pain, and more. Extreme cases can be debilitating.

The standard of care, medically speaking, for anyone with low thyroid is to prescribe replacement hormones forever and to monitor the results periodically, usually every six months, and adjust the dosage accordingly. For a minority of patients this is sufficient; for most, it is not. Unfortunately the replacement model might make your labs look normal, but it does not allow you to feel any better. The laboratory range for making a diagnosis is too narrow, and many people who need help are told they are “fine.”

An expanded blood test would perhaps indicate a T3, T4 conversion problem. Without a full thyroid panel, you’d never know. Nor would you know about a resistance to thyroid hormones problem, or a pituitary problem that does not show up on blood tests at all. Related to this is the fact that nine out of ten hypothyroid sufferers are actually autoimmune, which isn’t often tested for in the conventional medical model because it does not change the standard of care.

A second problem that is deeply misunderstood has to do with iodine supplementation. Nearly every single natural solution for thyroid includes a remedy based on iodine deficiency. Not only is this faulty science, but it is downright dangerous for the 90 percent of autoimmune thyroid patients to be supplementing this way. The unfortunate reality is that iodine is a cheap, commercially available ingredient used in almost every nutritional product targeted toward thyroid sufferers. The usage of iodine as a natural substitute for hormones is as altogether antiquated as the replacement model itself!

We live in a toxic world where the ability to maintain healthy thyroid function is crucial. Most doctors aren’t trained to think about the underlying causes of disease, such as toxic buildup, microbes, poor fuel delivery and nutrition, the ability to detoxify and eliminate wastes and manage blood sugar or restore health. From a functional medicine perspective, a good way to understand low thyroid function is to view it as a downstream problem, part of a whole health approach. Ruling out autoimmunity is step one, followed by a complete workup to assess hormone and nutrient status, gut barrier integrity, detoxification and waste elimination capabilities, liver function, infection, brain fitness, and so on.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

How Inflammation Affects the Thyroid

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called autoimmune or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the most common type of hypothyroidism. The term “thyroiditis” refers to an inflammation (not an infection) of the thyroid gland itself. It is named after the Japanese physician, Hakaru Hashimoto, who first described the condition in 1912.

Inflammation is a normal, natural sign that your immune system is working. It is the natural defense mechanism of the body to protect against foreign invaders or injury and can become chronic in certain cases. In a localized infection, for example, the sequence of events can be summarized as follows:

  1. Microbes (bacteria) enter the body.
  2. Small blood vessels become dilated to increase blood flow.
  3. There is an increase in vascular permeability to protein.
  4. Fluid moves into the tissue causing swelling.
  5. Neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and later monocytes (another type of white blood cell) move from the blood vessels into the tissue.
  6. Microbes are engulfed and destroyed by white cells.
  7. Tissue repair is initiated.

The sequence of events that occur during an inflammatory response can vary, depending on the type or cause of injury (i.e., bacteria, trauma), the site of the injury, and the state of the body.

The ability to resist infection and disease is compromised by long-term deficiency in essential nutrients. One of those is iodine, which has many non-endocrine biologic effects, including the role it plays in the physiology of the inflammatory response. Iodides increase the movement of white blood cells called granulocytes into areas of inflammation and improve the destruction of bacteria. Because iodine is so useful in combating inflammation, it is fair to say that the immune system will deplete all available reserves, including those essential to thyroid function.

Iodine is required for thyroxin production and is concentrated in the thyroid gland. Worldwide research shows that iodine deficiency is a major cause of breast, ovarian, uterine, and prostate cysts and cancers. Iodine levels in US soils have fallen by more than 50% over the past 50 years. Several long-term studies have observed clinical findings such as reversal of fibrocystic disease, decreased insulin requirements in diabetics, significantly less need for medication for hypothyroidism, resolution of migraine headaches and fibromyalgia pain. Does this mean that we all should rush out and begin taking iodine?

One of the problems of our current thinking about nutrition and disease is that we often still try to “medicate our way” out of the condition. Just as the solution to migraines is not “more aspirin”, the solution to thyroiditis is not “more iodine.” First, there are good quality sources of iodine that are easily assimilated and absorbed, and then there are cheap bulk supplies. Foremost, however, is the reality that no amount of iodine (or other nutrient) is going to offset a chronic inflammatory response without also treating the root cause of that immune attack.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

High Blood Pressure, Lipid Abnormalities and Thyroid Disease

In a 2010 clinical abstract posted to PubMed and originally published in the Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy, researchers concluded that hypothyroidism should be recognized as a cause of secondary hypertension. This acknowledgement was based on a prior 2007 study in which 100 individuals who were recently diagnosed for hypothyroidism and who had never been treated before with antihypertensive treatment or received drugs for hypothyroidism demonstrated elevated blood pressure values.

All participants underwent around-the-clock “ambulatory” blood pressure monitoring, meaning that blood pressure was monitored at all levels of activity throughout a 24-hour day. The control group consisted of 100 healthy volunteers matched to hypothyroid patients of the same gender and age. Clinical systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly higher in patients with hypothyroidism compared to the blood pressure of volunteers.

Based on the findings, the researchers were able to conclude that hypothyroidism may be an important predictor of cardiovascular target organ damage. Specifically, elevated blood pressure values include a higher mean 24-h systolic blood pressure, 24-h pulse pressure, and 24-h systolic blood pressure variability. Lastly, serum cholesterol tended to be marginally higher in patients with hypothyroidism compared with volunteers, while fasting serum triglycerides were significantly higher.

Lipid abnormalities, or dyslipidemia, are common findings in patients with thyroid disease. This is explained by the effects of thyroid hormones in nearly all steps of lipid metabolism.  For instance, total and LDL cholesterol (less often HDL cholesterol), triglycerides, lipoprotein (a), apolipoprotein A1, and apolipoprotein B can each be affected. Many of my patients have been asked by their doctors to do extensive testing for cardiovascular disease, and are often told to begin taking statins (and blood pressure medications) based on the results. But, as the research would indicate, thyroid is a critical component.

Thyroid hormones regulate the expression of enzymes involved in all steps of lipid metabolism. Lipoproteins themselves prevent infections, protect against toxins and inflammation. The most common underlying reasons for dyslipidemia are chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction, and oxidative stress of the vascular system. The underlying lesson is that lipid abnormalities coexist with other metabolic abnormalities, including, hypertension, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, all of them being risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And, as is probably already evident to thyroid sufferers, the same root causes (chronic infections, accumulation of toxins such as heavy metals, POPs, etc, and chronic inflammatory reactions to foods) will cause negative vascular response.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Gut Problems and Low Thyroid

Functional gastrointestinal problems are common. In fact, about 1 in 4 people in the US are forced to limit their daily activities as a result of uncomfortable and embarrassing GI troubles. Chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, delayed stomach emptying and gallbladder sludge can be symptoms of motility problems that are commonly seen in thyroid patients. The conditions account for almost half of the GI problems seen by doctors.

Functional problems can also involve the gut’s ability to secrete digestive enzymes that allow nutrient breakdown and absorption. Bloating, gas, smelly stools and bacterial overgrowth can be symptoms of these problems. Functional problems can also involve a condition called “leaky gut.” This is increased permeability of the intestinal lining, which can set off body-wide inflammation and increase the risk for autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroid hormones help maintain tight junctures between the cells lining the intestines and have been shown to protect gut mucosal lining from stress-induced ulcers.

Another important function (and increasingly understood role) of the gut is to host 70% of the immune tissue in the body. This portion of the immune system is collectively referred to as GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. The GALT comprises several types of lymphoid tissues that store immune cells, such as T&B lymphocytes, that carry out attacks and produce antibodies against antigens, molecules recognized by the immune system as potential threats. It is also a warehouse to living microbiota and organisms that are crucial to immune health.

Problems occur when these protective functions of the gut are compromised. When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (i.e. “leaky gut syndrome”), large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. We also know that thyroid hormones strongly influence the tight junctions in the stomach and small intestine. These tight junctions are closely associated areas of two cells whose membranes join together to form the impermeable barrier of the gut. T3 and T4 have been shown to protect gut mucosal lining from stress induced ulcer formation.

Inflammation in the gut also reduces T3 by raising cortisol. Cortisol is a steroidal hormone that is released by the adrenal gland in response to everyday events such as waking up in the morning and exercising, but also during acute and chronic stress situations. Excessive cortisol load informs blood sugar regulation, immune function, weight management, proper digestion and nutrient absorption.  Women who secrete high levels of cortisol when they are under stress tend to eat more at those times than women who secrete less cortisol.  Additionally, since T3 is the ‘available’ or active form of thyroid hormone, thyroid activity further decreases as a result of how the gut is functioning.

Each cell in your body requires thyroid hormones to function properly. Because of this it’s no surprise that low thyroid activity–and the resulting low metabolism–can cause gastrointestinal trouble.  A lot of that trouble is “functional.” That is, it has to do with the way the gut functions in real life and is not some structural abnormality that will show up on endoscopy, x-rays or blood tests. These functional problems are likely to involve GI tract motility–the coordinated movement of food from top to bottom, not to mention acid reflux and GERD.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.