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If you’re living with high cholesterol, your doctor has likely prescribed statins.
But treatment with statins has come under fire — for good reason…
For starters, there’s the effect statins have on muscle cells, causing the pain anyone that’s taken them knows all too well. The drugs can also threaten your kidneys, even leading to diabetes — not to mention the potential to double your dementia risk!
And according to research, the idea of targeting cholesterol with statins, might not get to the root of what’s raising your cholesterol. That’s because your cholesterol problems could lie in a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland that produces some of the body’s most important hormones — instead of your blood vessels.
The connection between thyroid hormones and cholesterol
Several previous clinical studies have demonstrated an undeniable connection between the butterfly gland in your neck and cholesterol levels.
In fact, scientists have found a direct effect of thyroid hormones on lipid levels. And they’ve even shown that treating patients with thyroid hormones can change their lipid levels for the better.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hypothyroidism may also be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, primarily because high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, can occur in people with an underactive thyroid. It is not unusual that when low thyroid function is addressed, (high) cholesterol will often return to normal levels.”
The most recent research indicates that via a two-way feedback loop, thyroid hormones affect other metabolic pathways. When this loop is working and thyroid hormones are optimal, everything functions well.
But when there is a dysregulation of this feedback loop, problems including those related to liver function, bone development and cardiovascular problems can occur. And that last one has a lot to with your lipid profile — otherwise known as cholesterol levels.
A team of scientists from the Department of Cardiology at Peking University analyzed the genotype data of thousands of people from two genome-wide association studies and found that two specific thyroid levels are associated with cholesterol problems.
Specifically, when TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels are low, cholesterol levels suffer. And if the FT3:FT4 ratio (ratio of free triiodothyronine to ratio of free thyroxin) is off, you can end up with elevated levels of total cholesterol, as well as LDL (or bad cholesterol).
Addressing thyroid issues
So if you think you’re doing everything right but your cholesterol levels aren’t budging, it might be time to get your thyroid checked.
Be prepared to be persistent, since there are reasons your doctor may miss your thyroid issues completely.
Ask specifically to have your TSH checked, as well as your FT3:FT4 ratio.
What else can you do?
The most important step you can take to optimize your thyroid function is to feed your thyroid what it needs.
Specific nutrients support healthy thyroid function, so it’s important to eat a diet that can help you get adequate levels of them, including:
- Iodine – This nutrient fuels your body’s ability to create the critical T3 and T4 hormones.
- L-Tyrosine – A powerful amino acid, l-tyrosine partners with iodine to help make the T3 and T4 hormones your body needs for healthy weight maintenance.
- Selenium – This naturally occurring trace mineral helps convert relatively inactive T4s to the active thyroid hormone T3.
- Zinc – This essential mineral helps convert the T4 hormone to the more active T3, which helps support healthy metabolism. It also releases the vitamin A stored in the liver to help support a healthy thyroid.
- Copper – This trace mineral is important for healthy thyroid function. It helps stimulate the thyroid and protect the body from too much thyroxine building up in the blood.
- Ashwagandha Root – A strong antioxidant, ashwagandha helps protect the thyroid, allowing it to function better and produce more T4.
The food richest in these nutrients include:
- Pastured beef
- Eggs from free-range chickens
- Fish and shellfish
- Cheese and dairy
- Leafy greens
- Colorful vegetables
- Grains such as brown rice, oats, and buckwheat
- Healthy oils like olive oil
Doctors who diagnose and treat thyroid problems are endocrinologists. If your doctor is unable to order a thyroid panel of tests for you, ask for a referral to one that can.
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