Thyroid Testing— Is your doctor missing something?

Similar to the gas pedal in your car, the thyroid controls the “speed” of your metabolism. It fine-tunes the function of virtually every tissue in the body, from the lowly cells responsible for creating fingernails to the nerve cells in the brain that guide memory and thought.

Your thyroid hormone level has to be just right. Too high and you are anxious and lose weight despite eating like a horse. Too low and no matter how meticulous your diet or how many calories you cut back, you fail to lose weight or gain weight. Just right and your efforts are rewarded by natural weight loss when nutrition is managed properly. Thyroid dysfunction, sufficient to impair weight loss, is unfortunately very common. Much of this initiated by wheat and grains.

Is your thyroid simply misunderstood? Thyroid issues are often undiagnosed, underappreciated, and misunderstood by doctors. Approximately 20 percent of people starting the Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox are deficient in iodine, the trace mineral required by the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. This is why iodine is included in the list of essential strategies to add after wheat and grain elimination. If iodine is the cause for failed weight loss, as well as hypothyroid symptoms such as cold hands and feet, hair loss, and low energy, then iodine supplementation is the fix. The only people who should not take iodine on their own are those with a history of autoimmune thyroid disease. For many people there is more to the thyroid question than iodine.

Your thyroid is sensitive. The thyroid gland sits on the front of your throat like a miniature bow-tie. Of all endocrine glands, the thyroid gland is the most susceptible to autoimmune damage. When the immune system is unable to distinguish proteins in the colon, thyroid gland, pancreas, or brain from foreign organisms invading the body, it recruits B and T lymphocytes into an army to wage war on its own organs. We call this autoimmunity. The most common trigger of autoimmune thyroid diseases (Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is the gliadin protein of wheat and related proteins of other grains. Gliadin antibodies occur in 50 percent or more of people with thyroid disease. Therefore, eliminating wheat and grains potentially removes the trigger for autoimmune thyroid damage.

Those “Love Handles” really aren’t showing you any love! If visceral fat is present in the tummy, then this unique fat also disrupts thyroid function due to the flood of inflammatory proteins it releases that interfere with the function of thyroid hormones. This can occur with or without interference of thyroid function by autoimmune inflammation. In other words, this visceral fat is not only unattractive, it’s actually impairing weight loss.

It’s scary out there! We are living in a dangerous era, a time when industrial compounds have proliferated to such an extraordinary degree that literally everyone is exposed to chemicals that cause some form of endocrine disruption. Disruption can occur at the brain level (hypothalamus and pituitary that control the thyroid), at the thyroid gland level, or even at the level of tissues, such as fat cells, liver, and muscle, which are all dependent on thyroid hormones. Thyroid disruption can originate with perfluorooctanoic acid residues from Teflon in your cooking, restaurant food, or groundwater. It can be caused by triclosan in antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers. It can be due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers from the flame retardant in carpeting and clothing, contaminants in the water supply, and plastics that are everywhere and in everything, from cars to the lining of canned foods to water bottles. They are even in the rainwater and air we breath. Nobody, and I truly mean nobody alive today, has avoided exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals.

It’s unavoidable. Here are the numbers to prove it. The Environmental Working Group tested blood from the umbilical cords of newborns and uncovered 287 different industrial compounds, including mercury, 21 different pesticides, and components of industrial lubricants— this was in newborns, not 60-year-olds who had worked a lifetime in factories or other contaminated environments. Endocrine disruptive industrial chemicals can be detected in hair, urine, blood, liver, kidneys, and just about any other bodily fluid or organ. One recent study assessed individuals for the presence of perchlorates, a residue of synthetic fertilizers. Of 2,800 people tested, all 2,800 had detectable levels of perchlorates in their bodies. You’ve heard that saying about death and taxes? Well, add industrial chemical exposure to the list of things that are unavoidable in life.

There is no quick fix for this. Unfortunately, there is no “detox” program that has been shown to reduce perchlorates or polychlorinated biphenyls from the thyroid gland or remove perfluorooctanoic acid residue from the adrenals. You can’t unwind the effects of fungicides like vinclozolin just by taking some purging supplement or submitting to four enemas per day. The thyroid gland and its production of thyroid hormones typically do not recover from the beating, and prescription thyroid hormones are usually still necessary, even long after autoimmune inflammation has subsided.

Is your doctor missing something? Most doctors are unaware of the above issues, unaware that the old rules for diagnosing thyroid dysfunction no longer apply due to disruption by industrial chemicals. Thyroid status that is disrupted at the hypothalamic or pituitary level cannot be diagnosed with the usual screening methods because in these cases the TSH level (normally the only lab test used to assess thyroid function) is typically normal— even if substantial hypothyroidism is present. It means that, even if doctors manage to diagnose hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone), they will only prescribe the T4 thyroid hormone but neglect to address T3, the truly active form of thyroid hormone. This results in someone taking T4 as levothyroxine (Synthroid), being told that their thyroid status is fine, yet continuing to struggle with hypothyroid symptoms such as weight gain, cold hands and feet, hair loss, depression, water retention or edema, thinning hair, disrupted bowel function, peculiar rashes, and increased cardiovascular risk due to disruption of T3 function or blocked conversion of T4 to T3 (how most T3 in the body is produced).

What can you do? Look for a functional medicine practitioner, a naturopath, or someone who uses a compounding pharmacy to mix individualized thyroid prescriptions (ask the pharmacist at a compounding pharmacy in your area, one that is licensed to mix its own individualized prescriptions). The key is to identify a health care practitioner who is enlightened on thyroid issues if you have such symptoms or if you have been prescribed T4 without T3. The solution is usually as easy as replacing the T4 with a T4/ T3 combination preparation (such as Armour Thyroid or Nature-Throid) or adding T3 (as liothyronine or Cytomel). Taking the right combination of medications will control thyroid dysfunction. Your body will finally be released from the misguided gate keeper (your thyroid) and the weight loss will begin.

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Dr. William Davis

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