Hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid) is epidemic today, particularly among women. The incidence of this condition increases with age. I would estimate that about three out of every four of my female clients over the age of thirty five is low thyroid.
The thyroid gland is the body’s energy burner and thermostat. When this gland slows down, so does metabolism, as well as heart and muscle strength.
Some signs of an underactive thyroid include:
- Menstrual changes
- Brain fog
- Delayed reflexes
- Loss of libido
- Sensitivity to cold
- Unexplained weight gain
- Puffy face and extremities
- Dry, thinning hair
Dietary iodine deficiency, inflammation, radiation, surgery, and some viral infections can cause hypothyroidism. And now environmental toxins have been linked to slow thyroid function.
Perchlorate—a contaminant found in rocket fuel, fireworks, explosives, matches, and some water disinfectants—inhibits the uptake of iodine in the thyroid. Not only do water supplies throughout this country contain this toxin, but the Centers for Disease Control also found perchlorate in powdered baby formula.
Anything that interferes with iodine uptake by the thyroid interferes with prenatal and infant development—as well as normal metabolism and mental development in adults. Experimental research in China even finds that thyroid hormone may be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease.
Iodine insufficiency also leads to low levels of healthy stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCl). You need iodine to enable chloride in HCl to enter the cells of your stomach. Without enough HCl, your body won’t digest protein or use minerals (like calcium, iron, magnesium) effectively.
By the time you hit age 60, HCl levels have decreased by almost half. Upping your iodine intake is one good way to increase your HCl production, improving digestion.
Because iodine is critical to so many bodily functions, I suggest sea vegetables (agar, hijiki, kombu, nori, wakame), as well as an iodine-rich seasoning (Seaweed Gomasio) for flavor and health, at least three times a week. Many concerned hypothyroid sufferers supplement with Iodoral, which contains 5 mg of iodine and 7.5 mg of potassium iodide.
The Copper Connection
Besides being affected by iodine, your thyroid can be suppressed by an elevated copper level. In my experience with tissue mineral analysis (TMA) over the past two decades, I’ve observed that an elevated tissue level of copper is frequently linked to hypothyroidism.
There are many external sources for copper exposure. This mineral occurs naturally in drinking water in some areas and may even be added as copper sulfate to other municipal water supplies. Post-pregnancy use of prenatal vitamins, birth control pills, copper IUDs, dental fillings and crowns, copper cookware, and copper water pipes also increase levels of this mineral in your body.
A typical vegetarian diet is generally high in copper, and eating phytate-rich grains (whole grains) lowers levels of zinc, a mineral that balances copper. To combat this, avoid yeast, black tea, cocoa and chocolate, wheat germ, and soy—all high copper sources.
A copper-zinc imbalance also lessens the liver’s ability to detoxify. Post-partum depression, food cravings, frontal headaches, mood swings, menstrual irregularities, yeast infections, and weight gain result from bio-unavailable copper levels.