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Thyroid health: Ways to truly heal
You cannot enter a Facebook health group or look on a natural health website without seeing the word “thyroid” about 50 times. It is all people talk about, and it is a huge focus for many people. Yes, the thyroid is absolutely important. But so is the rest of the body! The body is also a WHOLE. We should start treating it as such.
Most holistic or natural practitioners these days are realizing something that should have been realized a LONG time ago: thyroid dysfunction is a symptom of a much larger, whole body issue. It is just one piece of the puzzle, not the be-all-end-all to health. Why do you think it’s such a huge issue treated by conventional medicine doctors? Because medicating the thyroid is a crutch, and is not actually addressing any of the underlying issues going on.
Due to the amount of autoimmune thyroid issues these days (caused mostly by underlying infections like Lyme and EBV), sometimes there will be a need for medication. Do your best to find a functional doctor that knows what they are doing when it comes to testing and treating the thyroid if this is the route you want to/need to take.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid produces 2 thyroid hormones and calcitonin (which helps to lower calcium and phosphate levels in the blood by helping the bones absorb more calcium). The thyroid hormones are essential for metabolism, as well as normal growth and development. T4 (thyroxine) is one thyroid hormone- named so because it has 4 iodine atoms. T3 has 3 iodine atoms. For whatever backwards reason, doctors focus on the individual hormones instead of the nutrients and processes that MAKE those hormones.
The regulation of the thyroid hormones depends on the relationship between the anterior pituitary and the thyroid gland. The pituitary secretes the thyroid stimulating hormones! This is why the HPA axis is so important in our health and why we can’t just focus on ONE gland or ONE part of the body. If the HPA Axis is under stress, then the HPT axis is under stress as well- they are connected, and the HPA axis tends to take precedence. You cannot heal the thyroid if your adrenals aren’t healing!
Fixing a Thyroid Imbalance
Since there are many variations in thyroid dysfunction, fixing the thyroid will be different for most people.
Thyroid Healing with HTMA
On the HTMA, the Calcium/Potassium ratio is related to thyroid health. These 2 minerals are antagonistic and they need to be balanced in order for the thyroid to function properly. We need calcium in the correct amount to keep both the calcitonin and parathyroid hormones in check. We need potassium to retain potassium hormone in the cells. People with a high Calcium/potassium ratio tend to have a sluggish thyroid, and those with a low ratio tend to have an overactive thyroid (HTMA does NOT diagnose these though- it shows tendencies). Most people have a high ratio because people tend to have extremely high calcium and very low potassium. We need potassium to keep calcium in check but it is very hard to get the recommended amount of potassium each day- we need about 4700mg a day
There are several ways that a copper imbalance plays into thyroid health:
- Bioavailable copper has a relationship with tyrosine, which is needed for the creation of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Tyrosinase is the copper- containing enzyme at the core of whole food vitamin C, which is why we do NOT want isolated ascorbic acid. Tyrosine also is needed for melanin (skin pigmentation), dopamine and epinephrine- all things that have a relationship with copper!
- Bioavailable copper is crucial to keeping iron regulated, and iron is essential for the thyroid. Copper and iron imbalances both stem from the liver too- another reason why a healthy liver is crucial for thyroid health
- Copper imbalances happens when the adrenals and liver are stressed- both of which are crucial for the functioning of the thyroid.
- Those that have a sluggish thyroid tend to have a true copper imbalance, where as those that have an over-active thyroid tend to be deficient in copper.
- Those with a copper imbalance tend to be deficient in zinc, selenium, manganese, and vitamin A because excess copper can interfere with their absorption. These are some crucial nutrients for the thyroid.
- Excess, unbound copper raises calcium and lowers potassium- the balance between calcium and potassium is very important for thyroid health. Calcium is needed for a few thyroid hormones, but it is easy to accumulate too much calcium where it doesn’t belong. Potassium helps to keep calcium under control so these hormones can be properly balanced.
The gut is the first step to address in healing from any illness. Gut healing encompasses quite a lot: working on digestive fire for nutrient assimilation, healing/sealing gut lining from damage, balancing the gut microbiome, and making sure the colon is healthy.
Over the years, I have come across many links to the gut and thyroid. Stomach acid is important for utilization of the nutrients needed to support a healthy thyroid, especially copper, iron, potassium, zinc, and more. We need bile and zinc to utilize vitamin A as retinol correctly, which is incredibly crucial for thyroid health. When our gut is out of balance, it can increase inflammation in the body which will stress out our HPA and HPT axes. Conversion of thyroid hormones also depends on a healthy microbiome. This source outlines a lot of the importance of gut healing for thyroid health.
The liver has over 500 functions in the body. If it is not happy, then many processes start failing in the body. It can take a long time for liver stress to become apparent and there really aren’t any perfect tests to determine function (I look at copper and iron panels, HTMA, and symptoms to determine liver health: in general, if you have ANY health issue, your liver is going to be struggling).
To make this super easy to understand, I’m just going to quote this directly from the FDN website, “A healthy thyroid produces two types of thyroid hormone, T4 and T3. It produces T4 in larger amounts than the T3, yet T3 is the ONLY form of thyroid hormone that the cells can use. T4 must be converted to T3 before it can be used by the cells. Guess where that conversion takes place? That’s right! In the liver! “
The liver gets sluggish when we have many nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, when we have chronic underlying infections, and when we are filled with toxins. So again- nearly EVERYONE is going to have some form of life dysfunction these days thanks to the state of our food and environment.
Other Notes on Thyroid Health
Did you know that vitamin A, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin C are also critical for thyroid health? Yes, T4 and T3 need iodine- but the gland itself needs more than that.
Avoiding gluten, processed foods, goitrogenic foods like raw kale, raw broccoli, and soy, can also help the thyroid. Focusing on a whole foods, organic diet with healthy fats and proteins is essential.
So much focus is also put on iodine for thyroid health. Iodine is truly important and there are many ways to replenish it. Read my post here on iodine to see what way would be right for you. There is the iodine protocol or a more cautious, rebuilding approach. It can be risky to use high doses of any one nutrient, and I find it is rarely necessary when one is taking a whole body approach to healing. A good, clean source of sea veggies can be perfect for iodine as well as many other minerals. Maine Coast Sea Veggies is a great brand!
So- there is a LOT that the thyroid needs!
Balancing minerals, replenishing other nutrients, healing the gut, and healing your liver are ALL imperative for healing the thyroid. Addressing any underlying infections or toxicities will help as well. Many people look for things like natural desiccated thyroid to help them. Believing that you can heal and having a positive outlook is essential on this journey. I see a lot of fear based information around thyroid health, and I hope that more people can realize that it is truly a whole-body issue. True healing is not for everyone as this journey can take awhile and it can get exhausting at times- but this post can help a bit to explain why healing requires such a huge lifestyle change.
More sources for how to heal the thyroid naturally:
- Dr. Brad Shook has many great videos about thyroid health, like this one!
- This article from FDN
- Dr. Jay Davidson’s Thyroid Hacks
- This article from Dr. Kelly Brogan where she mentions how she healed her own autoimmune thyroid condition
- This article from Aviva Romm about the Gut-Thyroid connection
- Dr. Isabella Wentz also has some good info about healing the thyroid
- Gut Dysbiosis and the Thyroid from Hypothyroid Mom