HyperthyroidismHyperthyroidism (or Graves Disease, the most common form) is an over-production of thyroid hormones, not to be confused with Hypothyroidism, which is an under-production of thyroid hormones.
Thyroid hormone levels are governed by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain and the thyroid gland in the front of the neck.
Too many thyroid hormones increases heart rate and metabolism, often causing weight loss.
Sounds like a good thing at first, as many of us are overweight, but the problem is that cortisol levels (the stress hormone) remain chronically high, leading to problems such as:
- Heart damage
- Shortness of breath
- Palpitations and rapid pulse
- Increased perspiration, moist skin
- Tremor, shakiness
- Slow reflexes
- Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
- Goiter (swelling of the thyroid)
- Muscle weakness
- Swollen, red and/or bulging eyes
- Thickened skin on back, rear of feet, hands or face
- Changes in menstrual periods
- Advanced cases cause fever, agitation and delerium
Thyroid Hormones - How the system operatesThe hypothalamus is a small gland about the size of an almond in the base of the brain, just below the thalamus and just above the pituitary and brain stem.
The hypothalamus produces TRH (Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone).
TRH triggers the pituitary, a pea-sized gland just below the hypothalamus, to release TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone).
TSH tells the thyroid, a bowtie-shaped gland in the front of the trachea (windpipe), below the larynx (voice box) to produce T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).
T3 and T4 are stored in the thyroid gland, to be released as the body needs them.
T3 helps to control metabolism of the body, meaning heart rate, fat burning, body temperature, production of many other hormones and many more functions.
T4 is the "storage" form of thyroid hormone, and although slightly effective in metabolism, is much less effective than T3.
T4 converts to T3, the "working thyroid hormone" as the body needs it.
If we have too much or too little thyroid hormone, the hypothalamus alters output of TRH, and the cycle begins again.
This is perhaps an over-simplified version, but the point is that if anything goes wrong in these processes, the resulting thyroid hormones may be too high, too low, too variable, or in the wrong proportion.
Because the thyroid hormones control so many other hormones, the body's equilibrium can get upset easily.
We have a "feedback loop" between the pituitary and the thyroid, in that when we have too much thyroid hormone, the pituitary reduced TSH so thr thyroid produces less T3 and T4 and vice versa.
This tends to be confusing, as we expect high TSH to mean high T3 and T4 output.
This is why if we have thyroid symptoms of any kind, doctors should not rely on TSH tests alone.
Why we need thyroid hormonesNormal brain development requires adequate thyroid hormones, especially during the first 3 years of life.
A foetus starts making it's own thyroid hormone around the 12 week stage of pregnancy.
Before 12 weeks, the foetus is entirely dependant on the mother for thyroid hormone supply through the placenta.
After 12 weeks, the foetus is still reliant on iodine from the mother to be able to make thyroid hormones.
Pregnant women or those seeking to become pregnant should aim for TSH levels between 0.5 and 2.0 because levels between 2.0 and 4.0 considered to be "safe" by the lab can lead to miscarriage or reduced IQ in the infant.
Thyroid-deficient mothers may give birth to children with a lower IQ, and generally the lower the thyroid hormones, the worse the possible intellectual disability.
Congenital hypothyroidism occurs when a baby's thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormones are required in older children for normal growth and development.
Adults need thyroid hormones to regulate metabolism.
What causes Hyperthyroidism?Hyperthyroidism is usually (but not always) accompanied by low TSH levels, and can be caused by:
Graves Disease is the most common form and is an autoimmune disease where an antibody mistakenly stimulates the thyroid to produce too much hormone.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is another autoimmune disease, often occurring more in families.
Sometimes associated with other autoimmune conditions like celiac disease or type 1 diabetes.
In women, Hashimoto's thyroiditis is 5 to 10 times more common than in men and usually starts in adulthood.
Blood tests reveal increased antibodies against thyroid-specific proteins, including thyroperoxidase and thyroglobulin.
T lymphocytes attack the thyroid gland causing inflammation which eventually destroys it, and because there is no pain it is often not diagnosed in time for treatment.
Eventually little or no thyroid hormone can be produced and the patient becomes hypothyroid, requiring thyroxine (thyroid hormone) or similar treatment for the rest of their life.
Hyperthyroidism symptoms start as excess thyroid hormones "leak out" as the gland is attacked, then later Hypothyroid symptoms occur as the gland can no longer produce thyroid hormone.
Non-cancerous tumors in nodules of the thyroid gland cause Toxic nodular goiter.
Secondary hyperthyroidism results when the pituitary orders the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone by excess TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).
The pituitary is a small gland located at the base of the brain that regulates the release of hormones from the thyroid and several other glands.
Between 5% and 10% of women suffer thyroiditis after a pregnancy.
Sometimes only hyperthyroidism, sometimes from hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism, sometimes hypothyroidism alone.
Caused by inflammation of the thyroid, and usually starts within two to four months from childbirth.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland)
- Goiter containing nodules (abnormal growths)
- Taking too much thyroid medicine (given for hypothyroidism)
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Benign thyroid tumour (a toxic nodule)
- Pituitary gland damage, affecting TSH production
- Pregnancy during the first trimester where slight elevation is normal and beneficial to the foetus
Hypothyroidism - low thyroid hormone levelsUsually (but not always) accompanied by high TSH levels, and can be caused by:
- Thyroiditis or other thyroid disease
- Pituitary gland disease
- Destruction of the thyroid gland by surgery or radiation
- Destruction of the thyroid gland by infection or an autoimmune condition
- Underactive thyroid gland
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis (most common cause of hypothyroidism)
- Pituitary tumour altering TSH levels (rare)
- Not taking enough thyroid hormone medication for an underactive thyroid
Consequences of Thyroid Killers - the Halogen GroupHere is a good place to discuss Iodine.
The T3 hormone has 3 atoms of Iodine attached, and T4 has 4 atoms of iodine.
Sounds simple? Remembering back to High School Chemistry, in the Periodic Chart of the Elements there is a Halogen Group consisting of five chemically related elements:
Fluorine (F), Chlorine (Cl), Bromine (Br), Iodine (I) and Astatine (At).
Astatine is only found in the radioactive decay of heavier elements and has a short half-life so is very rare.
The common halogens found in nature are Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine and Iodine, and because they are atomically very similar, the thyroid gland cannot tell the difference.
When the thyroid wants to make some T3 or T4, it waits for an Iodine atom to come along in the blood.
If a Fluorine, Chlorine or Bromine atom comes along first, the thyroid grabs it and makes T3 or T4.
The worst is Bromine as it is taken in by the thyroid much more readily than the others.
Whichever one is taken in, ONLY Iodine will make any useful thyroid hormone, and all of the others will make "fake" thyroid hormone, totally useless to the body.
Unfortunately a lab test cannot tell the difference between T3 and T4 with Iodine, and fake T3 and T4 with no Iodine!
So we can have terrible symptoms of Hypothyroidism (more so than Hyperthyroidism) yet the lab results are fine.
The Doctor typically says "it's all in your head" when they cannot explain the thyroid symptoms when the lab says we are OK.
A hundred years ago this was not much of a problem but today things are very different.
Our tap water is contaminated with Fluoride and Chlorine, and flour products include Bromide, a "dough conditioner".
Bromide is banned in many countries but still finds it's way into many flour-based products.
All of these things clobber the thyroid, so the thyroid-healthy diet is free from all products made from flour, and free from tap water.
There will still be Fluoride in food irrigated with tap water, and still some Chlorine even though some of the Chlorine may have "boiled off" before too much is absorbed.
If we take a five-minute shower in the morning, we can absorb more Chlorine through the skin than drinking Chlorinated water all day!
To reduce this toxicity, install a vitamin C showerhead, or use rainwater, or at least lower the water temperature, as we absorb much more Chlorine at higher temperatures.
Although Fluoride is banned in many coutries, it is still used in tap water in most parts of Australia, USA and Japan, in spite of the science condemning this practice.
Studies show that children have higher IQ's in non-fluoridated areas.
LeanMachine uses rainwater, filtered to 1 micron, run through a carbon filter, treated with ultra-violet light to destroy parasites and other pathogens, for all use in the house except flushing the toilet where tap water is considered good enough.
All water for drinking is then passed through a reverse osmosis system.
In cases where we run low on rainwater and have to top up the tank with tap water, we then:
- Add the tap water in small doses to give the chlorine time to "boil off" in the tank
- Add a distiller at the end of the process to remove the last of the chlorine.
The Thyroid Blood TestsMost doctors only ask for a TSH test, but this test alone is insufficient for an accurate diagnosis.
Generally, doctors only order tests for other thyroid hormones if TSH is less than 0.5 or greater than 4.0 when actually the top end of the range (hypothyroidism should be 2.0 rather than 4.0
Different labs use different equipment so typical results vary.
It is a good idea to use the same lab each time so that any changing numbers over time can be used as clues to various medical conditions or states of health.
Each lab has a reference range, which is simply an average of many previous tests of the same type, for similar age, sex, etc.
These results are just a guide, and the doctor should evaluate results based on each individual's health and other factors, including results of other tests required.
Values outside those listed here may still be normal for you or your lab. Labs can measure TSH, total T4, FT4 (free T4), total T3, FT3 (free T3), T3U (uptake T3) FTI (Free Thyroxine Index), and T3R (Reverse T3).
Almost all of the T4 in the blood is attached to a protein called thyroxine-binding globulin, leaving less than 1% unattached (free).
Total T4 blood tests measure both bound and free T4. Free T4 affects body functions, but bound T4 does not.
FT4 (Free thyroxine) can be measured directly (FT4) or calculated as FTI (Free Thyroxine Index), which indicates the level of free T4 compared to bound T4.
Abnormal amounts of thyroxine-binding globulin is indicated by FTI.
Most T3 in the blood is also attached to thyroxine-binding globulin, and again, less than 1% of T3 is unattached.
Total T3 blood tests measure both bound and free T3 (triiodothyronine).
T3 is usually in much smaller amounts than T4, but T3 has a greater effect on the body's metabolism than T4.
|T4 - Total thyroxine|
|Newborns to 14 days old||152 - 252 nmol/L||11.8 - 22.6 mcg/dL|
|Babies and Children||83 - 172 nmol/L||6.4 - 13.3 mcg/dL|
|Adults||57 - 148 nmol/L||5.4 - 11.5 mcg/dL|
|FT4 - Free thyroxine|
|Adults||10 - 26 pmol/L||0.7 - 2.0 ng/dL|
|T3 - Total triiodothyronine|
|Newborns to 14 days old||0.49 - 3.85 nmol/L||32 - 250 ng/dL|
|Babies and Children||1.3 - 3.8 nmol/L||82 - 245 ng/dL|
|Adults||1.2 - 3.1 nmol/L||80 - 200 ng/dL|
|FT3 - Free triiodothyronine|
|Adults||4.0 - 7.4 pmol/L||260 - 480 pg/dL|
|FTI - Free thyroxine index|
|TSH - Thyroid Stimulating Hormone|
|Newborns||1 - 39 mIU/L|
|Children||0.7 - 6.4 mIU/L|
|Adults||0.5-4.0 mIU/L (lab)
0.5 - 2.0 mIU/L (should be)
Wrong Lab Ranges for TSHLabs usually use the range 0.5 to 4.0 for TSH, although some are now reconsidering their position.
When the doctor looks at the results, they generally don't look at the numbers, only the results "outside the normal range".
This means that everyone who tests between 2.0 and 4.0 is recorded as OK, when in fact their thyroid hormones are on the very low side of normal, and this requires further investigation.
Other TestsThyroid antibodies test
Measures presence of antibodies against thyroid tissue.
Antibodies can indicate an autoimmune disease, e.g. Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Graves' disease.
TBG (Thyroxine-binding globulin) test
TBG is the important protein in the blood which carries the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. TBG testing is not done very often.
Thyroid scan, Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test, Thyroid Ultrasound and Parathyroid Ultrasound, and Thyroid Biopsy may be carried out depending on results of other tests.
Factors Affecting Test Results
- Taking corticosteroids, levodopa, heparin, dopamine, methimazole, or propylthiouracil
- Taking estrogen, progesterone, birth control pills
- A recent X-ray using iodine dye
- A test using radioactive materials
- Severe stress or chronic illness
- Blood-thinning medications like aspirin, heparin, warfarin (Coumadin)
- Anti-seizure medications like Tegretol, Dilantin
- Heart medications like amiodarone, propranolol
- Bipolar medications like Lithium
- Unusually high supplemental or dietary iodine
Congenital HypothyroidismBabies suffering from severe cases of Congenital Hypothyroidism are at risk for mental retardation if not enough thyroid hormone is produced.
T3 and T4 are needed for normal brain growth of the brain, especially during the first 3 years of life.
Older children also need adequate thyroid hormones for normal growth and development.
Newborns are tested for congenital hypothyroidism, but because of common false-positive results, tests may be repeated in a few days.
More tests are required if abnormal results are still found.
Thyroids and PregnancyI have already discussed how important correct thyroid function is for pregnant women.
To elaborate further, it is the very high levels of the hCG hormone (responsible for severe forms of morning sickness - hyperemesis gravidarum), as the major cause of transient hyperthyroidism.
Transient hyperthyroidism normally disappears during second and third trimesters or after giving birth as hCG levels normalise.
Sometimes hyperthyroidism disappears during the third trimester, only to return after the birth, sometimes weeks or months later, as postpartum hyperthyroidism.
However, for a small number of pregnancies, serious hyperthyroidism develops and persists, which can cause foetal tachycardia (fast heart rate), small babies, prematurity, stillbirths and even congenital malformations.
Another reason to check and treat hyperthyroidism as well as hypothyroidism in the mother.
Dangers of hCG for weight lossSome weight loss advisers claim that giving hCG hormone to anyone overweight, combined with a very low calorie diet, allows fast shedding of excess weight.
Logically anyone following this regimen may then suffer from hyperthyroidism where the risks to health would far outweight any benefits.
Excess weight is always best treated with a diet free of processed foods and plenty of excercise and water.
Natural Supplements for Thyroid Problems2000 to 4000 mg daily of L-Carnitine will not change thyroid hormone levels, but can replace carnitine lost in muscles due to hyperthyroidism.
800 to 2000 mg of Acetyl L-Carnitine is another alternative.
L-Carnitine can make patients feel a lot better and reduce some hyperthyroid symptoms.
Can also hep prevent muscle weakness in hypothyroid patients.
Vitamins B, C and D3 are helpful, also probiotics and green tea.
Do NOT take iodine supplements unless instructed by a doctor. This may only "fuel the fire".
Avoid metabolism-stimulating products such as panax (Korean) ginseng, bladderwrack, ashwagandha, caffeine.
Preventing Thyroid ProblemsThe most dangerous forms of thyroid disease, where the thyroid gland is destroyed or tumours form, is best avoided by the following:
- Vitamin D3 supplementation, especially if aged over 40, if regular exposure to blue-sky sunlight does not happen.
- Diet of fresh food, not processed in any way.
- Zero trans fats, i.e. no fast/junk food, no fried food, margarine.
- Eat at least one meal a day raw (e.g. salads) to retain enzymes (enzymes are always destroyed in cooking)
- Never use Canola oil! Only coconut oil for cooking, and olive oil for cold salad dressings
- Avoid typical food allergens such as dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream), wheat (gluten), bread, soy, corn, preservatives, and chemical food additives
- Take B-group vitamin-rich foods and/or supplements
- Eat antioxidant foods - bluberries, etc
- Supplement with Vitamin C
- Probiotic supplements such as Acidophilus
- If taking thyroid hormones (thyroxine), avoid taking iron supplements as this may prevent absorption of the thyroid medication
- Organic food where possible
- Lose excess weight
- Get plenty of exercise
- Give up smoking, alcohol and caffeine
Auto-immune diseases generally start because of toxins (e.g. processed foods) causing the immune system to violently and relentlessly attack all incoming toxic invaders to such an extent that the immune system no longer recognises the good guys from the bad, and starts to attack blood cells and organs because in the overworked state, the immune system can no longer tell the difference.
In effect, the immune system becomes like a "punch drunk", swiping at everything in sight.
When we change to a diet free from toxins, the immune system has a well-deserved rest, swinging into action only as needed for the occasional infection.
LeanMachine advocates this diet because in 5 years of clean eating, all allergies have disappeared, and no colds, flu or even a headache in any of those 5 years!
ParathyroidsWe have four parathyroid glands, each the size of a grain of wheat, one in each corner of the thyroid gland.
Although the name is similar, the function us unrelated, but we will see why I mention them here shortly.
The parathyroids monitor the calcium level in the blood.
Too much calcium, and the parathyroids use the bones and teeth as a "calcium bank", making calcium "deposits".
Too little calcium in the blood, and the parathyroids make calcium "withdrawals" from the bones.
This works with the body's acid/alkaline balance. Our blood needs a pH of 7.35 to 7.45 (slightly alkaline).
If blood pH drops below 6.8 (acidic) or rises above 8.0 (alkaline) we are dead.
In general, the body does a good job of keeping values in the correct range.
In the case of acidic blood, calcium is leached from the bones and teeth to alkalise the blood.
No wonder those who drink fizzy drinks (pH around 3.0) have very bad bones.
Back to the parathyroids: Even though their job is unrelated, they are attached to the thyroid.
If the parathyroids develop tumours, then those tumours may well then migrate into the thyroid.
Again, a healthy, alkaline diet and plenty of vitamin D3 will reduce risk of all tumours by around 95%.
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DisclaimerLeanMachine is not a doctor, and everyone should consult with their own health professional before taking any product to ensure there is no conflict with existing prescription medication.
LeanMachine has been studying nutrition and health since 2011 and has completed many relevant studies including:
Open2Study, Australia - Food, Nutrition and Your Health
RMIT University, Australia - Foundations of Psychology
Swinburne University of Technology, Australia - Chemistry - Building Blocks of the World
University of Washington, USA - Energy, Diet and Weight
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Health Issues for Aging Populations
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - International Nutrition
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Methods in Biostatistics I
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Methods in Biostatistics II
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Principles of Human Nutrition
TUFTS University, USA - Nutrition and Medicine
TUFTS University, USA - Lipids/Cardiovascular Disease I and Lipids/Cardiovascular Disease II
Technical Learning College, USA - Western Herbology, Identification, Formulas
Bath University, England - Inside Cancer
WebMD - The Link Between Stroke and Atrial Fibrillation
LeanMachine has now read thousands of studies, journals and reports related to health and nutrition and this research is ongoing.
Updated 11th December 2016, Copyright © 1999-2017 Brenton Wight and BJ & HJ Wight trading as Lean Machine abn 55293601285