It seems like everyone’s got thyroid problems these days. Luckily, there’s a prescription for that and you don’t need to worry your pretty little head over something as minor as a major organ going kaput in your twenties.
While I am, of course, being facetious, the attitude exists in medicine today that we can easily treat thyroid problems with thyroid replacement hormone like Synthroid or levothyroxine is completely backwards. If it was your heart or kidneys or lungs that just stopped working at 25 the medical establishment would run thousands of dollars in tests to determine why. For some reason the thyroid gland is treated completely different.
Maybe it’s because we have medications that seem to do a great job replacing the lost or diminished hormone levels. The scary thing is that the reasons for thyroid hypofunction or failure can be very serious and if your doctor does not spend the time to dig for answers (or worse–is not even aware there are answers…) your health can be at risk.
I have heard Dr. Jeffrey Bland refer to the thyroid as the “yellow canary of the human body” when it comes to environmental toxicity. This means that, when you are exposed to toxic chemicals, whether from heavy metals, flame retardants, stress, food allergies or pesticides in your water supply, your thyroid is the gland screaming out to you that something is wrong first. It’s your early warning to clean up your body and restart your thyroid.
But alas, we ignore that and medicate. Even worse, we treat labs values and not the patient themselves. How often have you heard from friends or family members that his or her doctor said the lab numbers (usually only TSH is checked) were good and so there was no reason to adjust thyroid hormone levels? Yet the patient is constipated, depressed and dragging his or her feet every hour of the day. Doesn’t seem to make sense.
The studies linking environmental toxins and thyroid dysfunction are quite common (you can read about many of them in previous blog articles that can be read by clicking here). But of particular concern is the compound ammonium perchlorate in drinking water. It is used in the manufacture of rocket fuel, ammunition and fireworks and has been discarded in large quantities in Nevada since the 1950s. This has led to contamination of the Colorado River as it picks up perchlorate from the soil. From there, it can last in water for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, perchlorate is known to block the action of thyroid hormone. This obviously creates a problem and has been shown to create thyroid problems. Luckily, you can just take your Synthroid and ignore the fact that a known environmental toxins continues to run through your bloodstream and body tissues.
Just to demonstrate that the approach that most physician take for thyroid problems is dead wrong, I present this particular study. In it, researchers looked at the pregnancies of 21,846 women. Of these, 487 were hypothyroid during pregnancy. In these 487 women, first trimester perchlorate levels were evaluated. In those who showed the highest 10% of perchloarate levels, the children’s IQ was assesses at 3 years of age. Here’s what they found:
- Perchlorate was detectable in all women and iodine levels were low.
- Those moms in the highest 10% of perchlorate levels had a 314% higher risk of having her child’s IQ being in the lowest 10%.
- Here is the important point: thyroid hormone therapy did not have an impact of perchlorate on offspring IQ.
This article is not about the IQ levels of the children. This article illustrates that merely medicating the lab findings of an altered TSH does nothing to fix the problem. With the thyroid, there is a very high likelihood that something is wrong. Whether it’s prediabetes, stress, nutritional deficiencies or exposure to common toxic chemicals, it needs to be identified and addressed.
Maybe you can’t manage to get all the flame retardants out of your life (besides–who wants to risk bursting into flames at work?), but paying attention to where your exposures are and doing your darnedest to reduce these exposures is still going to pay off. This is the only way to address it.
So, the next time your doctor tells you that you have thyroid problems and you ask him or her for what environmental exposures might be causing the problem and all you get is a blank stare, it might be time to find a new doctor.