Did you know that your inability to lose weight could be the result of an under-active thyroid rather than a lack of willpower? There are many factors involved when we try to lose weight, both physical and emotional, but a sluggish thyroid can have more of an effect than you might realise.
The chances of developing an under-active thyroid increase with age, with 40 per cent of those over the age of 60 suffering in some way. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, about one in eight women will develop a thyroid problem in her lifetime.
Dr John Lee, who was the pioneer of bioidentical natural progesterone usage for women at menopause, wrote that he was very surprised in his own medical practice withe the much greater numbers of women than men taking thyroid supplements. Low thyroid tends to cause low energy levels, cold intolerance and weight gain. He also noticed that these women were suffering from oestrogen dominance, where their oestrogen levels are not in balance with their progesterone as happens after menopause, or a hysterectomy
He used bioidentical natural progesterone to correct this situation and rebalance their hormones and found that it was then common to see their need for medications reduced. Many women with thyroid conditions do safely use natural progesterone but if you are using thyroid medication your thyroid function should regularly monitored. This is because progesterone supports normal thyroid function and thyroid medication may over stimulate the thyroid gland.
Why your thyroid is so important in weight loss
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormone thyroxine, which stimulates your metabolism. It also regulates your heart rate and bowel movements, and also affects the appetite and ability to lose weight.
The thyroid gland relies on iodine to help it function and to produce sufficient levels of thyroxine. Without iodine, your thyroid soon becomes thyroxine-deficient which can cause a disorder known as hypothyroidism – an under-active thyroid. If left untreated it can affect more than your weight, including conditions such as heart failure, anaemia and depression.
Are you suffering from an under-active thyroid without even knowing it?
There are several variants of the hormone thyroxine, but the most important are called T4 and T3. The T4 variant is the actual hormone produced by your thyroid gland. This needs to be activated by your liver and other organs in your body into the more energetic form, called T3. Your body then uses T3 as and when required.
Thyroxine does not work on its own but is controlled by other hormones, which are produced by a gland in your brain called the hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus gland regulates and balances the amounts of thyroxine produced. This process can become unbalanced due to a variety of reasons, including infections, a genetic predisposition, neck operations, auto- immune disorders (where your body ends up attacking your thyroid gland and depletes its hormone-producing cells), tumours or – as happens at menopause – increasing age.
Symptoms of an under-active thyroid include:
* a slow heart rate
* swollen and puffy face
* dry skin
* thinning hair and brittle nails
* weight gain and increased difficulties in losing weight
* poor memory, confusion and depression.
But you can still have an under-active thyroid and no symptoms at all, or they are so subtle that they are not seen to be linked to a thyroxine deficiency.
What can you do?
An under-active thyroid can normally be detected by a blood test, which checks the concentration of thyroxine in your blood, but unfortunately such tests are not always accurate.
Mild cases often go undetected and many health practitioners believe this is because conventional tests are based on a ‘normal’ range that is simply too low. In addition, slightly low levels do not officially qualify as a low score on the tests, so mild disorders are often missed.
Conventional medicine treats an underactive thyroid using synthetic thyroxine hormone tablets and regular blood tests and monitoring by your GP are necessary to check that the amount of thyroxine given is sufficient.
These are helpful:
If you do have an underactive thyroid then natural alternatives can provide effective relief from symptoms.
Natural progesterone supports thyroid function and in mild cases can help stimulate the thyroid, but if you are on medication it is important to regularly monitor your intake and symptoms to avoid over-stimulating the thyroid.
The amino acid tyrosine (found in soya products) has shown successful results in helping to increase the production of thyroxine in your body.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
Co-enzyme Q10 found in deep coloured fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots and broccoli. These prevent age-related damage to your thyroid cells by protecting them against free-radical attacks.
Minerals such as selenium, manganese and zinc can also be very effective. A deficiency of selenium is linked to the development of auto-immune-related thyroid problems, because of the mineral’s impact on certain immune system enzymes. Taking 200mcg of selenium a day could help correct this underlying problem.
Iodine is an essential compound necessary for the production of thyroxine. Foods like seaweed or kelp can be beneficial for iron. However, do be aware that too much iodine, if taken for too long or in large quantities, can cause further problems such as thyroid swelling (goitre).
Thyroid extracts can help boost a sluggish thyroid gland and are taken from the thyroid glands of animals. These specially prepared extracts contain natural amounts of thyroxine, as well as other beneficial nutritional factors. And, unlike synthetic variants, these extracts are almost identical to human thyroid hormones. Armour Dessicated Thyroid and other forms of dry thyroid powder such as Thyroplex are available on prescription.
Hormones DHEA and melatonin are only available on prescription in the UK and can also help stimulate a sluggish thyroid but should be taken with medical supervision.
For more information on the different range of thyroid disorders contact The British Thyroid Foundation, P.O.Box 97, Clifford LS23 6DX.