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Over the last two weeks, we’ve been focusing on your thyroid health. If you want to review those articles, just read Low thyroid function causes high health risks and What’s behind low thyroid function?.
Today I’ll share how supplementation improves symptoms and health in several ways. I’ll also discuss foods that affect thyroid hormone function.
If your blood tests, symptoms, and basal body temperature point to low thyroid function, then you will definitely benefit from taking thyroid hormone. Your doctor will readily prescribe synthetic levothyroxine (Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, Tyrosint®).
However, I find that most patients actually feel better and get their sluggish organs working better by using a natural thyroid hormone which contain actual thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Common names are Armour, Naturethroid, Westthroid, and compounded T4+T3. These come from pig’s thyroid glands. They contain natural enzymes to enhance conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to the more biologically active T3 (triiodothyronine) along with the hormones themselves.
That’s probably because newer research  in animals and humans shows that conversion of T4 to the more active T3 is variable, depending on your genes that control this. They found out that you can have impaired thyroid function on T4 supplementation and get symptom improvement by taking a combination of T4 and T3, without even seeing a change in serum thyroid hormone levels. 
Go online and you’ll find plenty of patient testimonials about how much better they feel after switching to a natural thyroid hormone prescription from the synthetic versions. Note that you may need to go to a compounding pharmacy to get the natural ones.
I believe it may be a challenge to find a physician who is willing to prescribe natural thyroid hormone. If so, here are some tips:
- Go to a local compounding pharmacy and ask the pharmacist who prescribes natural thyroid hormones locally.
- Ask your friends if they know of doctors (Medical Doctors or Naturopathic Doctors) who do saliva hormone testing (they will likely understand adrenal dysfunction).
- Email the Broda Barnes foundation in search of a doctor near you who is trained or registered with their organization: info@BrodaBarnes.org.
- Ask your doctor to check you for free T3, free T4, thyroid antibodies, and reverse T3 (rT3) levels. Explain that there is now science showing that measurable thyroid levels may not reflect exactly how thyroid hormone is functioning in the peripheral body tissues and cells depending on one’s genetic variation (some estimates from 12 to 36% of the population). Then ask your physician if he/she is willing to treat you with natural desiccated thyroid based on signs, symptoms, and body temperature primarily, not solely on TSH levels.
- Ask if your doctor understands the role of cortisol and adrenal fatigue on body symptoms, as your proper dose of thyroid hormones will need to increase for many months until both cortisol and thyroid function are optimized so that your low thyroid symptoms disappear (without signs or symptoms of thyroid excess of course).
Blockers of thyroid hormone
Coffee consumption within 30 minutes of thyroid hormone supplementation blocks intestinal absorption of thyroid hormone.  Also, antacids, calcium and iron supplements taken within two hours of thyroid hormone can have a similar effect.  There is a list of medications  known to lower thyroid function, none of which I hope you are taking. Mercury exposure has been correlated with lower thyroid hormone levels.  
Stress is another way to suppress thyroid hormone. Stress triggers cortisol secretion from your adrenal gland. This is known to inhibit thyroid hormone production by lowering thyrotropin (thyroid stimulating hormone). 
Also be aware that gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and triticale is not safe for people with celiac disease, and celiac disease is found to be 2 to 5 times more prevalent in persons with autoimmune thyroid disease.  The connect here is that gluten causes a “leaky gut” effect in which unwanted proteins and molecules to pass from the small intestine into the blood stream where they trigger auto-immune inflammation    of various types, including the auto-immune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thankfully, autoantibodies can disappear 6 months after going gluten-free. 
There are even healthy foods that contain substances known to interfere with thyroid function, called “goitrogens.” The science dates back to 1928 when cabbage consumption was linked to thyroid enlargement in laboratory animals.  The goitrogenic foods include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnip, Chinese cabbage, kale, spinach, rapeseed, common radish, horseradish, rutabaga, wasabi, capers, mustard oil, papaya, watercress, and other less-known plants. Later, various articles on dietary goitrogens in diverse animal species were reported, but only a relatively small number of foods had anti-thyroid activity in man. 
Foods that boost thyroid function
It is good to also know the dietary ways to improve thyroid function:
- Animal protein from pastured beef, eggs from range chickens, mercury-free fish and shellfish, cheeses, eggs and dairy, as well as protein in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts help support healthy thyroid function.
- Fresh organic produce from leafy greens, green beans, colorful vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and non-gluten grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, cornmeal, sorghum, and amaranth.
- Healthy oils such as coconut oil, avocado, olive oil and others high in omega-3.
Nutrients to enhance thyroid function
Iodine: While it is true that lack of iodine can be one cause of hypothyroidism, this cause is not common in North America. Iodine is most plentiful in seaweed, seafood, dairy products, grain products, eggs, and less so in fruits and vegetables. 
To find out if you are getting iodine in a healthy range for you, have a healthcare provider to paint a small (half-dollar size) area on your inner forearm skin with 2% iodine tincture and if it disappears in less than 12 hours you’re considered iodine deficient; 12-24 hours means you’re mildly deficient. Alternatively, you could get a 24 hour urinary iodine level after a 50 mg iodide/iodine tablet oral load. If it is low, supplementation could be recommended at 150-200 mcg daily. 
Vitamin D-3: In a 2011 issue of Thyroid, low levels of vitamin D were associated with worsened thyroid function in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D3 or 20 minutes of sunlight daily (enough sunlight for your skin to make adequate amounts).
Herbs that enhance thyroid function are:
- Sea Kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) provides a natural iodine source. Also, it protects thyroid cells from inflammation the interference with uptake of iodine that is caused by hydrogen peroxide during thyroid-hormone synthesis.  This effect is shown to decrease the risk of autoimmune thyroid disease. 
- Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) also provides a natural iodine source. Also, it has anti-estrogen properties, thereby reducing the risk of thyroid gland inflammation by estrogen in both men and women.  
- Hops (Humulus lupulus) contains xanthohumol, which enhances iodine uptake into the thyroid gland. 
- Coleus (Coleus forskohlii) has thyroid stimulating effects on iodide uptake, thyroglobulin, T4 & T3 production, and enhances T3 & T4 secretion. 
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) raises serum levels of thyroid hormones by acting directly on the thyroid gland   and even raised thyroid hormone levels too high in a woman who took too high a dose of ashwagandha. 
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul) directly stimulates triiodothyronine (T3) production via action on liver enzymes. 
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Sage (Salvia officinalis) both increase thyroid hormone-specific receptors on target tissue cells.  
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