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Hypothyroidism

More than 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with thyroid disease, and another 13 million people are estimated to have undiagnosed thyroid problems. About 10 percent of the adult population is afflicted with this frequently overlooked disease of epidemic proportion. A dysfunctional thyroid can affect almost every aspect of health. It is one of the most under-diagnosed hormonal imbalances of aging, together with estrogen dominance and syndrome X.

Thyroid Basics

Thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around the windpipe. The cells inside the thyroid takes in the iodine, obtained through food, iodized salt, or supplements, and combines that iodine with the amino acid tyrosine. The thyroid then converts this into the thyroid hormones called T3 and T4.

Once released by the thyroid, the T3 and T4 travel through the bloodstream. Under normal conditions, 80 percent of thyroid hormones are in the form of T4 and 20 percent in the form of T3. T3 is the biologically more active and is several times stronger than T4. The conversion of T4 to T3 takes place both inside the thyroid as well as in some organs other than the thyroid, including the hypothalamus, a part of your brain.

The thyroid gland acts like the body's barometer. Its main function is to help cells convert oxygen and calories into energy. It regulates:

  1. Heart rate

  2. Blood pressure

  3. Body temperature

  4. Metabolism

  5. Growth

Thyroid, like other hormones, is regulated by an extensive negative feedback system. The system starts in the hypothalamus of the brain that releases Thyrotropin-releasing Hormone (TRH). TRH signals the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). TSH in turn instructs the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones and release them into the bloodstream. When the level of thyroid hormone in your body is high, a negative feedback system exists to reduce the production of TSH, and vice-versa. Therefore, a high TSH is indicative of hypothyroidism, while a low TSH can be indicative of hyperthyroidism.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

There are varieties of factors that can contribute to the development of thyroid problems:

  1. Exposure to external radiation such as occurred after the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion.

  2. Over-consumption of isoflavone-intensive soy products such as soy protein or powder because isoflavones act as potent anti-thyroid agents, and are capable of suppressing thyroid function, and causing or worsening hypothyroidism.

  3. Some anti-thyroid drugs, such as lithium and the heart drug Cordarone.

  4. A history of radiation treatment to the head and neck areas.

  5. Over-consumption of uncooked goitrogenic foods, such as broccoli, turnips, radish, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are all substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland.

  6. Radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism/Graves' Disease.

  7. Post-surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid due to nodules or cancer.

  8. Adrenal insufficiency (commonly caused by chronic stress).

  9. Mercury intoxication (due to dental amalgams which are 50 percent mercury). Amalgam fillings have been associated with a variety of problems such as Alzheimer's disease, infertility, neurotransmitter imbalances, and thyroid problems.

Risk of Hypothyroidism

You have a higher risk of developing thyroid disease if, among a variety of factors:

  1. You have a family history of thyroid problems

  2. You have a history of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  3. You are a female and over menopausal

  4. You are over the age of 60

  5. You have been exposed to radiation or certain chemicals (i.e., perchlorate, fluoride)

Associated Disease

As many as 10 percent of 98 million Americans with high cholesterol and high LDL (bad) cholesterol may not know that their cholesterol is high due to an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Older women with sub-clinical or under-active hypothyroidism are shown to be twice as likely as women without this condition to have heart attacks.

Thyroid disease is also intricately tied to adrenal gland and ovarian function.

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