What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, means your body is not producing enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. Hypothyroidism can affect people of all ages, including children and infants. Hypothyroidism affects both sexes, but women are up to eight times more likely to develop the condition. According to Thyroid Australia, 850,000 Australians are suffering hypo- or hyperthyroidism. This group represents 7.5% of women and 1.5% of men. Further analysis also indicates that just over 40,000 new cases will develop each year – approximately 35,000 women and 5,500 men. This does not take into account the many undiagnosed people with hypothyroidism. Some sources estimate that one in 20 people will experience a thyroid disorder in their lifetime.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms associated with hypothyroidism generally appear over time, and it may not be immediately apparent that the symptoms are related to hypothyroidism, as these symptoms are often associated with other illnesses as well as aging in general. If symptoms are left untreated they can worsen over time. The symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
• Cold intolerance
• Weight gain
• Dry skin
• Heavy or irregular periods
• Impaired memory
• Muscle aches and pains
What causes it?
The most common cause of hypothyroidism in Australia is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means it is caused by antibodies from your immune system attacking your body. Rather than attacking foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses, antibodies destroy your thyroid gland cells. This prevents your thyroid gland from producing enough hormones. Other causes of hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency, treatments for hyperthyroidism (when the body produces too much thyroid hormone) that use radioactive iodine, failure of pituitary gland to produce Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and also some medicines.
Testing for hypothyroidism
The standard Thyroid Function Tests which are performed in Australia are:
• Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
• Free Thyroxine (Free T4 or FT4)
• Free Triiodothyronine (Free T3 or FT3)
The Medicare protocol for screening patients who have not yet been diagnosed with a thyroid function problem is to test TSH and only if the result of this test is outside the reference range to test Free T4. Medicare will only fund screening tests which satisfy this protocol. Medicare monitors doctors’ and laboratories’ observance of this protocol.
A typical (statistical) reference range for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in many laboratories is around 0.2-5.5 mU/L. If TFH is lower, this indicates Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and if it is higher, it indicates Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
However, a study published in The Lancet 2002 has shown that individuals with TSH values greater than 2.0 mU/L have an increased risk of developing overt hypothyroidism over the next 20 years. Further research has indicated that TSH values above 2.0mU/L are already an indication of subclinical hypothyroidism. Despite your TSH levels being “within range”, you may be experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism. Many patients therefore are incorrectly diagnosed as their TSH levels are in the “normal range”, failing to reflect the true state of thyroid affairs. Patients with a sluggish thyroid go undetected and are therefore not treated appropriately.
What can you do to find out if you have hypothyroidism?
You can ask for more test to be done, but you will have to pay for them yourself. These include the following: TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3, anti-thyroglobulin, anti-microsomal antibodies, 24hr iodine urine excretion test and Vit D.
Alternatively you can test your thyroid with this simple test. Measure your temperature first thing in the morning before you rise from your bed. So make sure your thermometer is ready for you on your bedside table. Use a mercury thermometer, shake down below 36.1 degrees Celsius and leave it under your tongue for about 5 minutes. Your temperature should be between 36.5 and 36.7 degrees Celsius. If it is higher you may suffer from hyperthyroid, and if it is lower, you most likely suffer from hypothyroid. If you are female, check your temperature before days 19 – 22 of your cycle, with the first day being the day you started your period. Do this at least 3 days in a row, to work out an average.
Thyroxine replacement therapy is the mainstay of medical treatment for hypothyroidism and is usually lifelong. According to conventional medicine, there is no cure for hypothyroidism, and therefore most people will remain on medication for the rest of their lives. Factors that adversely affect thyroid function include nutritional deficiencies such as selenium, zinc, iodine, Vitamin D, B6, B12 and E, antibody reactions, insulin resistance, toxicities such as heavy metals and environmental toxins.
Do not drink unfiltered tap water. Iodine is a major nutrient that is required by the thyroid. Chlorine and fluoride are both added to water in most parts of Australia. Iodine, chlorine and fluoride are all halogens and therefore they are all competing and stop iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid. Bromine is another halogen. It is used as an antibacterial agent for pools and hot tubs. It is also used in agriculture and as a fumigant for termites and other pests. It is also included in some medications, carbonated drinks, such as Mountain Dew, some energy drinks and some Gatorade products. Additionally iodine was replaced by Bromine in the 1980’s. This was a huge mistake. From 1971 until 2000, the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) showed iodine levels have declined 50%. The authors of this study claim, “This reduction may be due, in part, to changes in food production.”
Hypothyroidism can be cured naturally in most cases without needing lifelong medication. This can be achieved by changes in diet, specific homeopathic treatment and some supplements if required.