By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Medicine
July 16, 2012
Thyroid Series #1:
- Why you might be feeling sick and tired all the time
- How we are still living in the Dust Bowl
- When it's time to go to the doctor
It's one thing to make an appointment to see the doctor when you have a concrete, specific set of symptoms. Or to head to the ER if you're bleeding or have a broken bone.
But what do you do when your health complaints are vague and general? Maybe you feel tired all the time. Doesn't everyone? you wonder. Or maybe your skin is dry, or your hair falls out in the shower. Who remembers to mention such minute details during an annual exam?
After all, you don't want to sound like a complainer. Or worse, a hypochondriac.
Medically speaking, we call these "subclinical" complaints. They aren't very specific, and they often don't make their way into the doctor's office. Still, you don't feel quite right.
Well, if this is you, you're not alone. In fact, far from it.
These all-too-common, subclinical complaints are happening in epidemic proportions – with most of them pointing to the thyroid. That's why this is the first of a three-part series covering some of the most important information you need to know about your thyroid.
Today, I'll fill you in on how thyroid problems became so common, and when you should make an appointment to check yours out.
In the next issue we'll look at why thyroid problems remain such a mystery, and often go undiagnosed for years. And finally, in the third issue, I'll discuss what you can do to properly feed and strengthen your thyroid.
But first, to understand why thyroid problems are at epidemic proportions today, we have to go back as far as 1936…
An unfortunate combination of the drought of the 30's and decades of negligent farming practices put America into an unanticipated nutritional deficit. Goiters – an abnormally large thyroid – became common, along with scurvy, rickets, and other diseases linked to malnutrition.
In 1936, there was a bill introduced to Congress that would have replaced the lost minerals in the top soil. When the bill didn't pass, generations of good health were lost along with it.
The top 24 inches of soil should be the end result of the grinding of rocks in the mantle making their way to the surface. Minerals such as manganese, zinc, selenium, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and calcium are all essential to our health, even though we only require them in relatively small amounts.
When these minerals were no longer in our top soil, they were no longer in our food at the levels we needed them – and they still aren't.
Have you noticed that we have "enriched" bread? Or that our milk is "fortified" with Vitamin D? These additions to our food are the band-aids we have been using to make up for a grave nutritional deficit going back 80 or more years.
Which brings me to iodine and your thyroid.
Our body requires iodine to make thyroid hormones. It's also important for fetal development, breastfeeding, and your immune system. And not having enough iodine also makes you susceptible to thyroid cancer.
Now, you might think of salt when you think of iodine. This was the solution the government came up with to get rid of the goiters… adding iodine to table salt (you don't find it in high concentrations in sea salt, by the way). And you might also think that most people eat too much salt… So how is it possible that so many people are not getting enough iodine to keep their thyroid healthy?
Well, the loss of iodine has been a slow, incremental process. When bread makers started using bromine to make yeast rise, the bromine reduced our iodine a little. Then, we added fluoride to water, and it knocked our iodine down a little more. Then, we added chlorine to pools and water, and even to our sugar substitutes in the form of Splenda, and iodine took another hit.
Even the solution of adding iodine to salt stopped working as doctors warned against high blood pressure and manufacturers created low sodium foods, and there went a little more iodine. And then fish became so tainted with mercury that many of us now eat little or no fish, which is our highest source of iodine.
You get the picture. Little by little, iodine has vanished from our diet. And millions of thyroids around the country are under-nourished and not producing the hormones we need to feel like ourselves. The condition is called hypothyroidism, and it can take years to develop.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms… do they sound familiar?
At first, you may barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and sluggishness, or you may simply attribute them to getting older, being too stressed out, not getting enough exercise. Often, people don't seek treatment until their condition is quite severe. But if this list is ringing any bells, I suggest you stop putting off a visit to the doctor. It's simply not necessary to live this way:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- Puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Muscle weakness
- Heavier than normal menstrual periods
- Brittle fingernails and hair
Of course, one of the biggest challenges of hypothyroidism is getting a clear diagnosis. This is because the tests conventional doctors use aren't measuring the right hormones.
In the next installment of this three-part series, I'll tell you which tests you should request to make sure you get your thyroid back to full health.
Additional Articles of Interest
The Lowdown on Thyroid Health
Hope for Hypothyroidism