Thirty million people suffer from hypothyroidism, which is approximately 10 percent of the population. This number is probably conservative. 25-50 percent of this thyroid population has been diagnosed. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is 8 times more prevalent in women than in men. Approximately 25 percent of women will develop hypothyroidism in their lifetime and 97 percent of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto.
Hashimoto is named after a Japanese doctor. Most people suffering from thyroid issues don’t realize that the majority of the cases (97 percent) are actually autoimmune. Autoimmune disease is what happens when your immune system attacks various tissue and in the case of Hashimoto, the target is your thyroid. Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ weighing 60-100 grams. You shouldn’t be able to feel your thyroid gland, which is situated at the lower front part of your neck. Synthroid, which is used to treat an underactive thyroid, is the most commonly prescribed medication in the United States.
Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid include feeling cold, loss of the outer third of your eyebrows, coarse hair, fatigue, weight gain, dry cracking skin and foggy thinking. Conventional lab testing for hypothyroidism typically only tests your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is actually testing your pituitary function. Having a full thyroid panel can help uncover any glitches that can be helped through nutrition.
For example, your thyroid needs zinc, selenium, iron and iodine to convert T4 to T3, which is your active hormone. If one is deficient in one of these cofactors you can suffer from hypothyroid even if your TSH levels are within normal levels. Food sources of zinc include shellfish, beef and seeds. White spots on your fingernails can indicate potential zinc insufficiency as well as lack of smell. Red meat and spinach are a good source of iron as well as liver. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium. Iodine is again found in shellfish, which isn’t readily consumed in the Midwest or the so called “goiter belt.” Another part of a thyroid panel helpful to include are antibodies.
Elevated antibodies can mean an autoimmune process is occurring. Your functional medicine practitioner can order a full thyroid panel including antibodies and make recommendations to get you back on a better path to health.