In this article you will learn:
The areas of focus when healing your thyroid
What are some of the main causes of a dysfunctional thyroid
What interventions and tests are important
What I will share with you in this article is very valuable, based on research and experience and will cover most of the journey of how to heal your thyroid, but know that balancing your thyroid can be a complicated dance involving many factors and everyone’s case is different.
In general, prevention is the best medicine. Even if you have a current thyroid problem, work at it with the goal of getting into preventive self-care. This means developing the habits and knowledge to deal with fluctuations, and also arming yourself with the proper nutritional and therapeutic tools to handle your specific situation. There are times when a doctor may be necessary, but remember that going to a doctor doesn’t guarantee you results either.
Today more than ever, you have access to information and tools to make a difference in your health, but if it’s too much to handle on your own then make sure you find a great functional medicine doctor with an expertise in thyroid care.
To learn to dance, you’ve got to learn how to move. Understanding the many factors that can throw your thyroid off in the first place, and what to do about them, is where we start, and there are a total of 7. To heal your thyroid and work preventively means you have somewhat of a handle on all of these areas, so get acquainted with them as well as possible and relate them to your own present life and circumstances.
1. Digestive Health
Everything is related to everything, and if your gut is leaky or you have an imbalanced gut microbiome it will affect the performance of your thyroid. Leaky gut means inflammatory triggers are getting into your blood and aggravating your immune system, and up to 20% of the thyroid hormone conversion process is done in the
gut.(1) This means that if you have a skewed ratio of bad actors to good actors down there, your thyroid performance will suffer eventually for one reason or another.
Although this list is not organized in any order of priorities, you should make your digestive health your first priority when healing your thyroid. Also, as you intervene on the other areas in this list, always keep digestive health on the first pedestal. Hormones will fluctuate, you may lose sleep or feel exhausted despite 10 hours of rest. Don’t binge eat or eat garbage, don’t eat late at night and so on.
In fact, this should be your first place to look prior to intervening in any other.
2. Cortisol Balance
Stress is the ultimate killer, and when you mismanage your stress over long periods of time it will fuck your life up. Unfortunately, even high levels of stress aren’t totally unavoidable, but you can arm yourself with good principles and learn to minimize its effects. This article I wrote goes into depth on how to recover from burnout.
The stress hormone, cortisol, impacts every aspect of your metabolism and health because it is a “catabolic” (breaking things down) hormone. This isn’t a bad thing because you need cortisol. But just like with every other hormone, balance is the key. In terms of the thyroid, chronically high cortisol impairs conversion of thyroid hormones and will lead to higher Reverse T3 and less of the good stuff to go around. Chronically high cortisol also drains progesterone from your body, which in turn will lead to an imbalance of estrogen.
You’ve got to manage your stress in as many ways as possible and fortify your body with
good nutrition, eating, mindset and spirituality principles. You have to have a mindful Practice of life, as well as understanding your body, so that you can truly master your Alignment. When any area of your life is misaligned, it creates stress of some kind. The places this stress shows up most often will be your digestive system, your adrenals and your thyroid. Work on developing the habits to avoid going overboard, recover efficiently and control how much stress comes into your life and you will be doing your Body, Mind and Soul a huge favor.
Another important note about cortisol and thyroid function is that a healthy thyroid helps maintain normal cortisol levels. If you are hypo or hyperthyroid, cortisol will become an issue, guaranteed. For most people who are hypothyroid, it’s often the case that they have low cortisol. This is one reason why hypothyroidism is associated with fatigue.
Interestingly, you can also have high cortisol and a low functioning thyroid (this happened to me). This is also a problem, because a low thyroid will make it harder for your body to remove cortisol and make recovery slower. If you are hyperthyroid, it will also raise your cortisol.
Cortisol affects your performance during the day, whether you sleep at night, your
metabolism, your sex hormones and many other things, so you can see why using the
appropriate tools to manage its levels is so important. Unfortunately, a thyroid problem
tends to spiral out of control because of the mechanisms we’ve just described, as well as a few others I’ll describe next. This is why discipline is so important. You have a lot less wiggle room when the thyroid goes out of balance, and it can be an uphill climb to get everything working again properly, but I can tell you from experience that it’s possible with the principles discussed here and a little patience.
3. Estrogen & Testosterone Balance
Today we are surrounded by xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen) everywhere in our environment. They are also present in our food and personal care products, and they impact our delicate hormonal balance with chronic exposure. Along with other factors like being overweight or mismanaging stress, they can lead to a condition called “estrogen dominance.”
It’s pretty self-explanatory, and what excess estrogen does to your thyroid is basically slow it down. Estrogen impairs the conversion of T4 to T3, and it also increases the
amount of thyroid carrier protein, TBG (thyroxine binding globulin), leading to more of this protein than needed. This in turn leads to more and more binding of your active thyroid hormone, and in a similar way, to what happens with Reverse T3 and high cortisol - you basically have less of the good stuff to go around.
As a result of this imbalance, you will feel hypothyroid even though your hormone levels
seem normal. Examining your TBG levels and Free T3/T4 levels, along with your symptoms, will help you determine the extent that excess estrogen is affecting your thyroid. If you have a slow thyroid already, like Hashimoto’s, and then develop an estrogen imbalance, it is even more dangerous. A slow thyroid makes the liver slow down, and as a result, estrogen becomes harder to breakdown and eliminate from the body.
Fat cells also store and lead to more estrogen creation. If you have Hashimoto’s, your metabolism is slowed down which will usually lead to gaining weight. All of this together means that your body goes on a downward spiral towards more and more estrogen imbalance and accumulation if left unchecked.
This is why having a solid Practice around your eating and digestive health is so crucial. It is the bottleneck where everything comes to. If you eat very healthfully, with mindfulness and make sure your center is as aligned as possible, it will minimize the rapid decline that happens in these cases, and also buy you the valuable time to start pushing back the other way instead of getting swallowed by the estrogen wave.
Healing from estrogen imbalance is not something that happens overnight, just like healing from cortisol imbalance, but it can be done with discipline and Awareness. Remove estrogenic compounds from your life in the personal care products you use; watch out for chemicals that stimulate estrogen production, and do your research to find out which ones are in your home or that you’re exposed to regularly through the products you use; heal your digestive center according to what you’ve learned; build a mindfulness Practice to reduce stress since increased cortisol also leads to estrogen imbalances; and most of all, have Faith.
Remember: your body wants to be healthy. Estrogen imbalance didn’t happen overnight and it won’t go away overnight either, but you and your body are on the same team. Approach this frustrating journey with love and compassion and I promise you will get there.
There is also another thing to do to manage estrogen imbalance, but there is some scientific debate in this area. Certain plant compounds may mimic estrogen (like soy) and removing them may help your body regulate itself again. There is some contention about this, especially in extreme outcomes of estrogen imbalance like breast cancer. These plant compounds, called phytoestrogens, are in many healthy foods and some of them are known antioxidants like resveratrol and quercetin.
One reason why data is inconsistent on these compounds is that some of them block estrogen while others mimic it, albeit to a weaker extent than our actual hormones.
For example, there is some research that found 16mg of soy phytoestrogens pushed
subclinical hypothyroid people into hypothyroidism,(2) but it also reduced their inflammatory markers and insulin resistance. In some animal studies, high phytoestrogens impaired male fertility,(3) but there is also lots of research that has found no impact of phytoestrogens on sperm amount, motility or testosterone levels in human males.(4,5,6,7)
What’s more, many of these compounds (like quercetin, resveratrol, isoflavones and lignans) have been studied for many positive health effects such as reduced blood pressure,(8,9) improved blood sugar control,(10,11,12) reduced risk of prostate cancer, lower cholesterol levels(13,14) and reduced inflammation.(15,16)
Unfortunately, despite these benefits, the data is very mixed on whether or not compounds like soy isoflavones or lignans from flax seeds should be used in abundance, or at the very least, if they should be used for one specific situation versus another. A comprehensive review published in 2010 concluded that the type of phytoestrogen, along with the amount you eat, your race, age, health status and even your gut microbiome can all impact how these compounds interact in your body.(17)
The reality is that there are over a dozen known phytoestrogens, and to date, there is little evidence on their therapeutic possibility for breast cancer, menopause or other estrogen imbalances. Until we understand which ones do exactly what in the body, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution if you’re worried about increasing your estrogen levels. If you are hyperthyroid and your estrogen is too low, it may be worth it to do some more research and include either a supplement or more phytoestrogens in your diet, but this is assuming everything else isn't giving you any results.
Personally, I avoid soy, but that’s where my rules with phytoestrogens end. I don’t really worry about other phytoestrogens in my diet because, just like lectins or any other plant compound that’s gotten publicity, they are not absolutely bad or absolutely good. As long as you have a diverse diet, avoid extremes and utilize a complete nutrition program, it is not something to really worry about.
If you have breast cancer, a risk for breast cancer or you have hypothyroidism, it may be
valuable to remove soy from your diet. Although, it’s notable that other phytoestrogens (like from flaxseeds) are used in some anticancer protocols like the Budwig diet. For most people, hypothyroidism is what tends to happen, so my advice would be to avoid or limit soy as much as you can and not worry about the other stuff. Pesticides in food and chemicals in personal care products are where to focus your attention for removing endocrine disruptors, and a diverse diet of organic, colorful foods will give your body quality nutrition and help it heal.
Now, while estrogen imbalance is much more common, an imbalance of testosterone can also cause thyroid issues. Interestingly, increased testosterone does the opposite of what estrogen does to your TBG protein: it lowers it.(18,19) What this means is that you have too much free hormone floating around and your cells begin to develop resistance, just like they do for insulin or leptin.(20) This is a rarer case but is found when women have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and their testosterone levels get imbalanced or when women have insulin resistance.(21)
Interestingly, in men insulin resistance leads to a reduction of testosterone,(22) but it seems to happen the other way around for women.
Another interesting discovery about PCOS is that there seems to be a relationship to
Grave’s disease, although the relationship is not well understood.(23,24) Some hypothesize that it is because the ovaries can stimulate production of the T2 hormone, which although lacking any clinical significance yet, is hypothesized to have a role in producing more of the active hormone T3. Having cysts or misalignments in your ovaries may contribute to a hyper situation and is worth investigating if you are pre- or post-menopause or have irregular (high) thyroid hormones.
4. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is the direct source of fuel for your thyroid. Everybody needs iodine, and every part of your body needs it to function at its best. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ignorance when it comes to this special nutrient, and few understand how to use it properly. In my big book I go into every detail on how to use this important nutrient through a 24-hour loading test, a complete nutrition program and what blood tests to take for monitoring your progress.
This journey can be a long one, and you have to have a strong foundation of good habits and nutrition because iodine creates a lot of action in your thyroid. Using it without a strong foundation will only make your thyroid worse, hence iodine’s undeserved controversial reputation.
One important point with iodine deficiency is that of nodules. Nodules are growths that happen in the thyroid gland and they can be small or large, singular or multiple. A very low percentage have the risk of being cancerous, but most of the time these are benign and undetectable unless through an ultrasound.(25)
In general, thyroid nodules are a result of iodine deficiency. When the thyroid is deficient in iodine, it produces more TSH to stimulate production of thyroid hormone. This increase in production enlarges the thyroid gland and leads to goiter or nodule formations.(26,27,28) Supplementing iodine, along with a complete nutrition program, will help to eliminate the nodules, but it’s important to note that there are types of nodules that can end up stimulating your thyroid and cause it to overproduce hormones, leading to a hyperthyroid type situation.
These are called “hot” nodules, and often surgery may be needed to remove them so that you can get back to normal. If you tend to grow nodules, monitor them with
ultrasounds as you intervene with your iodine, complete nutrition and other programs.
Notice patterns between what your thyroid labs tell you and ultrasound results, as well as how those scores relate to the nutrition you are taking in, and act accordingly.
5. Co-Factor Issues
This goes in line with your use of iodine. You can’t take iodine without the key ingredients that your thyroid needs to make its magical hormones. If you have deficiencies in these ingredients it’s best to treat them first and get them to more acceptable levels because iodine will burn through lots of resources as it gets replenished in your body.
Remember that genes play a role in how much you actually need, and any defects you have there will only get amplified once you start using iodine. The main nutrients for your thyroid besides iodine are: magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, iron and boron.
Calcium is a stimulator of activity, so a complete nutrition plan for your thyroid should
always be skewed more towards magnesium. Nevertheless, they’re both needed and you will have to use regular testing to first understand where you’re at, as well as how these levels move over time based on what you do. If you have deficiencies in any of these nutrients, begin treating them and see how they respond with regular testing so you understand where your demand is at. By seeing how they move over time, you will
understand where the need is. Be prepared to stabilize any changes once you put iodine in the mix.
Also, it’s important that you do not take calcium at the same time as you take iodine (or
thyroid hormones), as it can block their utilization.(29,30,31) For best results, take them at least 2 hours apart.
Boron is also very important and an often-forgotten ingredient in thyroid health. This is
because it first and foremost prevents the loss of unnecessary calcium and magnesium in the urine. If you are supplementing iodine and not taking boron, you will deplete calcium and magnesium very rapidly. Remember also that it has a multitude of other beneficial effects and may even help to raise your Free T3 levels which will make you feel better. If you are hyperthyroid, don’t let this part scare you. Remember that boron also has a regulatory effect on many things and its deficiency has been hypothesized as a key factor in people with hyperthyroidism.
Boron is excellent for both hyper and hypo people for different reasons. If you are hyper, boron stimulates 17-beta-estradiol which helps to slow your thyroid down. Boron also regulates copper, magnesium and calcium which are all integral for your thyroid to function properly. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory and removes fluoride from the body, both of which serve to heal your inflamed thyroid. Finally, it helps with vitamin D metabolism, which is a critical nutrient for many things besides your thyroid. All of these features make it in my mind essential for a complete thyroid protocol.
Besides boron, you also have vitamin D, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper as nutrients that aide in the conversion and hormone production process. Utilize the good health testing (like the SpectraCell test) and blood tests (remember, I go over all of them in my big book) to keep a handle on these every 2-3 months as you intervene because imbalances in any can lead to the whole thing toppling down.
Regarding the remaining nutrients, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin C, they are the primary antioxidants that will help to buffer all of the conversion process that’s oxidizing your thyroid by boosting the body’s production of glutathione. Reducing your inflammation in general and accounting for your genetic propensity to create free radicals are both important pieces of the puzzle. Some people may need more
antioxidant support in general, and if you tend to produce antibodies in your thyroid based on your genes, then you want to pay extra attention in this area as you intervene.
Another thing you want to do here is shoot for getting a customized genetic report so that you can start building the unique story of your genes and supplementation
protocol. Remember that when you intervene with iodine it’s a highly oxidizing process and needs lots of resources to be buffered out. Understanding what you’re working with in your body will help you and your doctor dose appropriately and minimize deviations as you proceed.
If you have a genetic propensity to inflame more in general, your demands for important nutrients will be much higher and you want to know this before you begin intervening on your thyroid or taking iodine. Overall, the point is to be as healthy as possible and take in as much nutrition as possible while you’re using iodine in therapeutic amounts.
There are a few other specific products that are not necessarily nutritional cofactors, but
have important effects on your thyroid, nonetheless. Carnitine, or ALCAR, may have an
inhibitory effect on thyroid hormones. This may be useful, along with melatonin (which may also lower thyroid function), if you are hyperthyroid.
Remember that melatonin is a tricky one, as it can both stop the T4 to T3 conversion process and paradoxically stimulate TSH, so use it wisely and monitor yourself closely regardless of your thyroid condition. Another useful product is the herb ashwagandha, and because it can raise thyroid hormones it may be a worthwhile addition to a protocol if you are hypothyroid or have Hashimoto’s.
Ashwagandha also reduces cortisol, so it’s a great choice for the reasons we discussed
regarding cortisol and the thyroid working together. Yet another product that reduces
cortisol, and is totally natural and safe, is phosphatidylserine, which I cover in this article a little more. There are also glandular supplements like this one that are great support formulas that can help boost thyroid and adrenal function if these are running slow for you.
If you are a vegan and suffer from hypothyroidism, you may consider supplementing with the amino acid phenylalanine. This is contraindicated if you have a genetic condition and cannot process this protein (you would know, it's called PKU), but for those without phenylketonuria it may be a wise decision to add 500-1000mg per day as this is the building block for tyrosine.
Tyrosine is needed for thyroid hormone synthesis and neurotransmitter synthesis, and as a vegan you don’t really get much of it in the diet because it primarily comes from animal products and dairy. Taking tyrosine directly is not a good idea either as there can be some negative side effects, but using phenylalanine and supporting your body’s natural production of tyrosine is pretty harmless.
Finally, the herbs Coleus forskohlii (forskolin), Humulus lupulus (hops), Kaempferia galangal (or the flavonol Kaempferol which can be found in many other plant sources), Bacopa monnieri, Korean ginseng and Commiphora mukul (guggul) all help to promote several beneficial outcomes if you are hypothyroid. Research has shown that the active ingredients in these plants may help to activate the iodide transporter in your cells and enhance the uptake of iodine, reduce the expression of inflammatory cytokines that inhibit your iodide transporters (more on this a little later), aide in the conversion process of iodine into thyroid hormones and increase levels of T4 and stimulate the conversion of T4 into the more active hormone, T3.(32-44)
What this means is that these herbs may be invaluable assets if you have existing obstacles that make the recovery process harder such as chronic inflammation, autoimmunity or a genetic issue with iodine uptake. Because they work in novel ways and are relatively low risk, they may be something to consider in your treatment plan alongside everything else.
If you do take these herbs, know that forskolin, guggul and bacopa are fat soluble, meaning that you need to take them with a little fat for optimum absorption. Xanthohumol (hops) is water soluble, so it can be taken on an empty stomach without any added fat. For important considerations with herbs, see this article. Although many of these are great, it's also important to remember that a majority are also estrogenic (like xanthohumol), so as always make sure you monitor your body as you intervene.
Besides thyroid support, they have a variety of other important benefits like protecting the heart, helping boost the immune system, acting as powerful antioxidants, reducing
inflammation, supporting digestion, blood sugar and protecting the liver, as well as being potentially cancer protective.(45,46,47)
They are definitely worth further investigation, especially if you have a hard time
with the journey of healing your thyroid and using iodine like I did. All in all, there are many other herbs and compounds that may help you recover and heal your thyroid besides what is mentioned here. I’ve used Chinese Medicine teas to help my
thyroid and Ayurvedic doctors are renowned for herbal remedies for these kinds of things.
My personal recommendation is to first start with The Basics like a good diet and a complete nutrition protocol (I go into more detail here) and make sure all of your
bases are covered. Add these extra therapies second, if things aren’t progressing. Herbs are powerful, and beyond what I’ve shared with you, there are a variety of treatments that can help you recover, but they require an experienced eye since herbs are also
6. Inflammation & Toxicity
The 3 pillars of autoimmune disease are: genetics, stressors and the gut microbiome. So far, we’ve covered a few of these points, but it’s important to go a little deeper on two of them. The first is stress and the second are your genes. Previously we outlined the importance of minimizing stress from a cortisol perspective, but “stress” can mean many things to your body.
In this case, it’s important to understand that even if you live a saintly life, you are still connected to an often-toxic environment that is dripping with unsavory chemicals just waiting to eat at your insides and disrupt every process in your body. Sounds awesome right? It’s not, and unfortunately these assaults will be an inescapable part of most people’s lives. Unless you live out in the middle of nowhere and have your own organic farm and pristine water source, this information is relevant to you.
There are many chemicals that act as stressors to your thyroid and body in general, and we have reviewed them throughout the last few chapters. The halogens fluoride and bromide are direct competitors with iodine, meaning that these common toxins will impair your thyroid function and slow down your recovery, even if your diet and supplementation is on point.
Remember, everything works in pairs. When I did my first iodine loading test and saw a high bromide score, this was after several years of taking tons of minerals, vitamins and
enzymes, eating well and being an athlete. This is important because what it means is that certain poisons can’t be cleared by the body as well, unless you target them specifically.
Boron helps to remove fluoride, and eating high-quality sea salt in good amounts will also help to purge bromide. Iodine helps to remove these, too, but relying on iodine alone means you have to increase your intake (to “overpower” these toxins by pushing them out of your body), and that may lead to more oxidation and reduced thyroid function if you aren’t utilizing a complete nutrition program with selenium, magnesium, vitamin C and so on.
An important piece of information here is that, even if you are predisposed to making
antibodies or if your antibody count goes up after taking iodine, the threshold of
significance is much higher than what the normal lab range offers. For TPO antibodies,
most lab ranges are about 0-35. But several large studies have shown that anything under 500 poses little to no risk for developing hypothyroidism, with those greater than 500 having a moderate (10-20%) risk.(48,49,50)
This is comforting news, especially if you already have an antibody issue and want to try using iodine to reboot your thyroid. Besides dealing with antibodies and halogens, there are phytoestrogens from plants, xenoestrogens from personal care products, pesticides in foods, heavy metals, environmental toxins, mold toxins and certain goitrogenic foods like cruciferous vegetables that will all slow down your thyroid. This last one though is not something to worry about if you are taking in iodine,(51) because there are many health benefits to these foods that far outweigh their minimal impact on your thyroid.
Also, steaming or cooking usually removes a good amount of the goitrogens from cruciferous vegetables, so don’t sweat and pack some of those tasty Brussels sprouts in — so long as you are mindful of what we’ve discussed.
If you are hypothyroid already, limiting cruciferous vegetables a little as you intervene may help. More importantly, try to eliminate the other categories listed and get an idea of your overall toxin load through testing. Adopt practices that help your body detoxify through what you eat and supplement, by healing your digestive center, taking in lots of nutrition, creating new habits around your lifestyle to avoid suspect products or sources of toxins and so on.
Maintaining a grasp on your inflammation is also included in these efforts, and the
tests outlined in my big book will help guide your efforts. A complete nutrition
program with all of The Basics will help keep your toxins and inflammation low, and this will set the stage to intervene on your thyroid with minimal risks and deviation.
Another important and related point is that research has also shown that system-wide
inflammation inhibits the proliferation of your iodide transporter in thyroid cells.(52,53)
This basically means that keeping your general inflammatory markers (homocysteine, TNFalpha, IL-6, ferritin, C-reactive protein, etc.) as low as possible will support uptake of iodine into your cells. Even if you don’t have high antibodies, having a source of inflammation from whatever other condition (like a chronic injury, infection, metabolic problem or whatever else) can make it an even steeper uphill climb to heal your thyroid.
This is why it’s of the utmost importance to keep inflammation as low as possible at all times.
The final area of focus in healing your thyroid is your genes. You can’t really change your
genes (yet), but knowing what kind of genetic landscape you have will help you create a
customized nutrition plan. Particularly, it’s important to know a few things when it comes to your genes. The first is your family history of thyroid issues like who got what and when, what they did and how it turned out. This won’t give you all the answers, but it’s a path you can plot and relate to your own.
Next is getting a customized genetic report and understanding several pieces of
information offered there. One is your propensity to create antibodies, another is your
tendency for nutritional deficiencies in the main nutrients related to thyroid function, and a third important piece is the genetic status of your gut. There are also other valuable reports you can get on sleep, your ability to fight free radicals, your immune system and so on. All of this information plays into your thyroid game plan because it will help you understand what kind of overall landscape you’re dealing with.
You can’t just throw nutrition in there and hope for the best. Sure, that’s better than doing nothing, which is what most people do, but you’ve got to be smarter about it if you want to mess around with iodine and thyroid hormones. Everyone is different and needs slightly different plans. You may have a selenium processing problem and need double the selenium your friend does, and they may have an iron processing problem that would lead you to iron overload.
Remember that the main nutrients needed for your thyroid are vitamin D, zinc, copper,
iodine, selenium, iron, magnesium, boron, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin E and the B vitamins. Even manganese imbalances have been associated with both hypo and hyperthyroid situations.(54,55)
What this means is that everything is needed for thyroid functioning. Whee!
Remember that each one of these nutrients can have a genetic issue attached to them
which will mean increased demand and having to babysit them while you intervene.
Personally, I suggest knowing what your genetic landscape is in these areas before you start taking iodine. Use the extensive information in this article to map out your demand for these nutrients based on your genes so you’re prepared.
The reason for this is that iodine gets things moving, and if you go into this program without a full appreciation of how much your body needs in one area or another (like I did initially), it will create deficiencies, which lead to reduced thyroid function, which leads you to hating your life because the thyroid affects everything.
An interesting and little-known gene named SLC5A5 is responsible for creating the iodine transporter, NIS (sodium iodide symporter) in your cells.(56) If you have a straight up mutated gene, you were likely born hypothyroid. But there are many points between totally screwed and totally healthy. This means that the amount of iodine your body will need compared to someone else may vary greatly. If you are taking iodine and notice that your thyroid slows down (i.e. TSH increases, thyroid hormones drop, etc.), examine whether or not you’re including everything in your complete nutrition program and look at your iodine amount again. Increase it until your body can create the hormones it needs, thereby reducing TSH back to normal.
As of the time of this writing there is no convenient or affordable way to test for SNPs or
mutations in the SLC5A5 gene, but you can go through your 23andMe data line by line and check it with the existing database links to see how many SNPs you have. This is a little painful, but it’s not that bad and at least will give you an idea. Other genes to watch out for are DIO1 and 2, as these are important enzymes for iodine conversion into thyroid hormones. SNPs here can also make it slower for your body to take up iodine or produce T4 or T3.
The Self Decode Thyroid report is a good resource, and you can individually check the
status of FOXE1, PDE8B and CAPZB as additional genes that impact thyroid hormone
conversion. All of this information will give you clarity and remove the iodophobia (fear of iodine) that is so common in the mainstream. I have SNPs in several of these genes, and it took me 50mg of iodine daily for months to heal.
To work in these seven areas simultaneously is not only overwhelming, it’s almost impossible. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re that great of a multi-tasker. For starters, find out which of these is your first priority and go from there. For most people that’s going to be their digestive system. Even if what you eat is perfect, there are other elements to an optimal system. Maybe your gallbladder is removed which leads to poor processing of fats and puts extra strain on your liver. This will make a slide towards
estrogen or cortisol imbalance faster if you have high exposure to estrogen and a stressful lifestyle that’s not being controlled.
If you are hypothyroid, which is the majority of thyroid problems, this reduces the effectiveness of your stomach acid and digestion, which only furthers digestive imbalances like SIBO or inflammation. Because 20% of your thyroid hormone is converted in your gut, now you’re sliding towards more hypothyroidism, depression, anxiety, weight gain, insulin resistance and all of that wonderful stuff that comes with a thyroid problem.
The point is that the center is the foundation for everything, and it should be your first (and constant) priority as you work to heal everything else. Once you have a full understanding of your center and have done the work to bring it into balance, the next area to focus on is managing your stress. Here I will lump emotional stress along
with toxic stress from the environment. One is internal work, and the other is work through specific nutritional protocols that replenish your deficiencies and help to detoxify your body.
Certain supplements can remove specific toxins from the body. Boron helps to clear fluoride and mold toxins, and in general a healed center will help detoxify you from everything else that you’re carrying. When you add iodine to the mix, utilize the appropriate blood tests along with your 24-hour urine test to monitor the progress every 2-3 months. Start with a conservative dose, like 12.5mg, and see how your body reacts. I would also keep a close eye on other critical nutrients like copper, zinc, iron (if you are a woman) and magnesium. These tend to deplete with iodine use, and it’s important to dose things appropriately otherwise you will run into more symptoms.
Generally speaking, the previous efforts of managing stress, reducing toxins and goitrogens, replenishing your nutrition and healing your center will help everyone, even those with an autoimmune condition. This is why these come first: they lay the foundation to intervene with either iodine or thyroid hormones later on. For Hashimoto’s, a combination of these approaches, including iodine alongside your thyroid hormone medication will help you to wean yourself off or at least reduce the dosage over time.
If you have Grave’s disease, remember that selenium (for reducing antibodies), boron (for estrogen-like effects, managing calcium, magnesium and inflammation, plus detoxing fluoride), magnesium (for slowing things down), and several other nutrients are usually deficient. A healed center and a complete nutrition program that includes these strategies will help to relieve the problem alongside whatever else you are doing. Some doctors even use iodine for hyperthyroidism, so this may also be valuable to look into.
Don't forget that many thyroid problems can happen indirectly because of various issues not at all related to the thyroid. If you have a cortisol or estrogen problem, taking T4 is not going to do anything and will lead to more issues. These are indicators of a damaged foundation, in the sense that your body is not converting T4 to T3 properly for whatever reason. In these cases, nutrition and reduction of stress should be the first priority so that your body can do what it needs regardless of iodine or hormone use.
Usually, these situations are characterized by a high T3 Uptake and high TBG, indicating a high amount of binding capability in the body, which gobbles up your hormones and leads to said problems. Estrogen imbalance is to blame here, but these numbers are used in conjunction with hormone levels to get an idea of what’s actually going on. If you do have an estrogen imbalance (like in menopause or from other causes) follow the same advice of healing your center, detoxifying, eliminating goitrogens and xenoestrogens, treating your nutritional deficiencies and lowering your stress.
If you have high Reverse T3 or a low T3 to Reverse T3 ratio (under 10), this shows unmanaged stress. Remember that when the body is under a lot of stress, more of the unusable Reverse T3 gets created, so this is often seen with higher cortisol, nutritional deficiencies and so on. Regarding the hormones themselves, low thyroid hormones (despite a high TSH) show nutritional needs because you aren’t making enough from what you’ve got, meaning you may require extra iodine and its cofactors. There is a wide range of accepted functioning by the mainstream, but remember that your goal is to shoot for optimal. This means having T4 and T3 above the middle of the range with a TSH of around 2.
If you have elevated antibodies, this shows that you may need to control your inflammation more, but remember that the meaningful threshold is well above the normal lab range of 0-35, with antibody levels over 500 being the point to start paying attention. These aren’t all the things to watch out for in thyroid testing, but they will empower you to take action or discuss the next steps with an experienced functional medicine doctor. If you don't have one and need a resource to find one, check out this short article.
If you have a complex thyroid problem already and are barely jumping onto the transformation train, don’t worry. Find an experienced professional that can guide you with these principles. But do your own homework first so that you can enter the relationship as a player ready to play rather than as a fan simply watching the game unfold. Understand what’s to blame for your current condition based on these seven areas and come prepared with goals so that you mean business and don’t waste time.
Even the best doctors have a clinic to run, so you’ve got to take this information, however overwhelming it may be, into your own hands and be the driver if you want Success. It’s a long journey, but it is totally worth it and totally possible. Find Gratitude every day, eat mindfully and adopt the principles discussed here so that your efforts are as comprehensive as possible.
You now have all of the tools, so get to work and heal that beautiful little butterfly in your neck because, when it sings, it will remind you how easy it is to Dance Your Way Through Life.