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Q: I've been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and have started taking thyroxine. Can you please give me some advice on how I can help myself deal with this condition.

A: Thyroxine is a hormone (body chemical) made by the thyroid gland in the neck. It is carried round the body in the bloodstream. It helps to keep the body's functions (the metabolism) working at the correct pace. Many cells and tissues in the body need thyroxine to keep them going correctly.

Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroxine. It is often called an underactive thyroid. This causes many of the body's functions to slow down.

Many symptoms can be caused by a low level of thyroxine. Basically, everything 'slows down'. Not all symptoms develop in all cases.

  • Symptoms that commonly occur include: tiredness, weight gain, constipation, aches, feeling cold, dry skin, lifeless hair, fluid retention, mental slowing, and depression.
  • Less common symptoms include: a hoarse voice, irregular or heavy menstrual periods in women, infertility, loss of sex drive, carpal tunnel syndrome (which causes pains and numbness in the hand), and memory loss or confusion in the elderly.
  • Symptoms usually develop slowly, and gradually become worse over months or years as the level of thyroxine in the body gradually falls.

Two of the factors contributing to hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency and selenium deficiency

Iodine Deficiency

The major problem stems from a lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine is one of the essential components of thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, the production of thyroid hormones is limited.

Iodine consumption has dropped dramatically in this country over the past 20 years. This drop is due in part to the depletion of our soils and in part to less iodized salt being used as an ingredient in our foods.

Selenium Deficiency

The second factor contributing to hypothyroidism is selenium deficiency. You might have heard how important this mineral is to your immune system, but chances are you haven't heard how important it is to proper thyroid function. That's unfortunate, because the effects of a selenium deficiency are very serious. Selenium is an essential component of an enzyme required by the thyroid gland and a selenium deficiency can be responsible for an underactive thyroid.
As with iodine, our soils have become deficient in the trace mineral selenium.

In the last few years, researchers have found that certain selenium-containing enzymes are responsible for the conversion of thyroid hormone T3 to T4. The thyroid produces several hormones, and must produce them in a somewhat balanced ratio. Without selenium, this balancing process is hindered. In simple terms, selenium-deficient diets are also a primary cause of hypothyroidism.

Now, I know that you said you were taking thyroxine but there are also a number of measures that you can take to help yourself.

1. Firstly your immune system. A weak and inefficient immune system will begin to malfunction causing an autoimmune disorder where the body begins to attack its own thyroid tissue. Therefore to maintain a balanced, regulated immune system working at the correct level is vital. I would suggest that you try a supplement rich in  the African Potato tuber, which contains a high concentration of phytosterols (plant fats). Plant fats are in all fruit and veggies but, because of the way our food is processed these days, levels of these importanbt plant fats are low. They have been shown to have an ability to regulate our immune system. Take such a supplement for  a minimum of 6 to 8 months.

2. Cayenne is one of the most potent herbs for hypothyroidism as it aids in blood circulation and regulates the body's metabolism. 

3. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet by doing the following:

  • Eliminate saturated fats from your diet. They interfere with thyroid function.
  • Eat organic/farm meat to avoid meats loaded with hormones.
  • Eat foods rich in Vitamin B3 or take a B3 supplement.
  • Eat sea vegetables and kelp that are high in iodine. Iodine is used by the body to make thyroid hormone.
  • Eat radishes because they are known to keep thyroid hormones balanced and have been used to treat thyroid problems
  • Take a Gentian supplement because it is known to normalize thyroid function.  
  • Take selenium and zinc supplements. Severe deficiencies of these nutrients can decrease thyroid hormone levels.

Note that it is advisable to eat the following foods only in small amounts as they have an adverse effect on the thyroid gland: cabbage, kale, cauliflower, spinach, brussels sprouts, soya beans, turnips and beans.

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