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HYPOTHYROIDISM RECOVERY STORY
I grew up in upstate New York with very little seafood on the table (a rich source of iodine). When I was in my early 20's I had dropped out of graduate school and was just laying around with no energy, wondering why. I started reading nutritional information and came across information about iodine and the thyroid gland.
My mother had hypothyroidism, as did her two sisters, and one of those sisters had three daughters, all of whom had thyroid problems: two of them hypo and one hyper. That's six close relatives with thyroid problems!
Thinking I might be deficient in iodine, I went to the drug store and got a kelp supplement and began taking it daily. My energy went up and I got myself to California and have been going strong ever since with only a few down periods (which I'm now viewing as deficiencies of other minerals.) Ever since then, every time I have gotten sick, I've pored over nutritional books until I've come up with an answer.
I eventually became a vegetarian and gradually took more and more supplements to improve my health and have always taken kelp, usually 4-10 tablets a day. Iodine can be lost by sweating and a lot is lost in exercise so I've always taken a lot more than the one kelp tablet recommended. I've always exercised a lot and had lots of energy for work and play. Whenever I got sick I would eat fruit only, go on a raw food diet, or if necessary, fast.
In July of 1985 I started feeling heart irregularities for about a week until one day when I was taking my family in the van to go bicycle riding when I started feeling some pain in my heart and felt really sick. I stopped and when I got out of the van to rest I passed out. That began a long mysterious sickness which lasted on and off many years. My wife drove me home where I found relief only after taking an enema and drinking grapefruit juice.
Over the next few months, I would have "attacks" where my heart rate would slow, my blood pressure plummet and I would feel like I was going to pass out. I discovered that drinking a large quantity of fresh-squeezed lime juice and/or taking a lime or lemon juice enema would the the only way to feel better.
Although I had always avoided doctors like the plague, I went to a nutritional doctor who ordered a hair analysis and blood tests and waited for the results. Before my appointment a month later (for the hair results), I went on a scheduled family camping trip, hoping that would help me recover. I kept getting worse and by the time I returned home I was really sick.
When I returned to the doctor, the tests showed I was very deficient in B-12, zinc, chromium, selenium, and slightly deficient in copper. I also had low thyroid output and had candida, a yeast infection. The doctor put me on capristatin for the candida at the end of July on the theory that candida was the major problem, but my health continued to deteriorate. In September he prescribed various vitamins and B-12 injections, which helped a little but I was still in bad shape.
I felt so bad that as an experiment I got some Armour thyroid hormone from my mother and tried that. That really made a big difference and helped a lot. In October, the doctor prescribed zinc, selenium, and chromium and gave me a prescription to continue the thyroid hormone.
Within a few months after starting the mineral supplements which included zinc and selenium, I noticed a significant change one day. A couple hours after breakfast when I took my supplements and thyroid hormone I began sweating, trembling, and feeling hot. It was very unusual because most of the time I felt cold from the hypothyroidism. After a few hours of thinking that I was dying, I realized that my thyroid gland had probably recovered. Within a day of stopping the thyroid hormone, I felt relatively good! After months of taking the supplements, my thyroid recovered very suddenly.
The next summer (1986) I had another period of the same attacks which went on for a year until the summer of 1987. I fasted several times for 8-10 days, ate raw foods, eliminated nearly every potential environmental toxin I might be exposed to, but nothing seemed to help. I went to several doctors, all of whom failed to find anything wrong with me. I seemed to be getting allergic to more and more things and had the feeling that I was being poisoned. I felt I was being poisoned by the whole environment and everything I ate. I had a very bad case of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).
I gradually eliminated everything from my diet that adversely affected me and one day realized that there were only four foods that agreed with me: raw potatoes, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. I knew I was in really big trouble. My weight had gone from 175 to 142. I was going through attacks when I would feel terrible and have heart problems and the only thing that would stop it was a massive drink of fresh squeezed lime juice and water. It was so strange and despite poring over nutritional books I could not figure out what was going on.
One day I found a book about candida (which I was still suffering from) and silver amalgam fillings. The book described how mercury toxicity from dental fillings can cause candida and other symptoms of mercury toxicity. The descriptions of mercury poisoning seemed to match what I had been experiencing and I did have 12-15 silver fillings so it made sense to me. I decided to have my fillings removed.
I found a dentist who specialized in replacing mercury fillings and had them replaced with a plastic composite. He removed a quarter of the fillings (one quadrant) at a time and for two days after each session I would feel really terrible, but would gradually improve to the point where I felt better than before. Two days after the last fillings were removed, I felt significantly better. It seemed that getting rid of the mercury made a big difference for me.
In 1998 I tried to put all my medical records together in an attempt to unravel the whole mystery of my years of illness. I went back over dental records and discovered that about a week before my first symptoms appeared in July of 1985 when I fainted, I had had a large amalgam filling put into one of my molars. The next July (1986), just a week before my relapse, a dentist had put in two amalgam fillings. This was as much proof as I could want: both year-long bouts of sickness began within days of getting mercury fillings put into my teeth.
I have pieced together what happened. Selenium is an essential potent anti-oxidant which protects the body from free radical damage but it also has an important function in preventing mercury from damaging the body. Selenium and mercury combine together and the combination is eliminated from the body. Without selenium, mercury poisons the body. As my hair analysis showed, I was deficient in selenium and therefore the mercury which was released from the new fillings was not properly eliminated from my body. Mercury removal is a top priority of selenium and this caused a severe deficiency of the selenium. Selenium is essential for both the production of thyroid hormone and for the conversion of the T4 hormone that the thyroid makes into the T3 hormone that the cells use. My hypothyroidism was the direct result of a combination of too little selenium and too much mercury from dental amalgam fillings. This is why the hypothyroidism ended after I had the mercury removed from my body and I began supplementing with selenium.
It is also possible that a deficiency of zinc may have contributed to the hypothyroidism. I've read that selenium and zinc perform many similar functions and can spare each other. A selenium deficiency can also cause zinc to be used fulfilling many functions that selenium should perform. This can cause zinc to get depleted. My theory is that zinc and copper work together to regulate the thyroid. A deficiency of zinc leads to hypothyroidism and a deficiency of copper (with excessive zinc) leads to hyperthyroidism.
Another mineral that I feel is very important to combat hypothyroidism is chromium. Broda Barnes, who is an MD and an expert on hypothyroidism, feels that diabetes and hypothyroidism share so much in common that they might be considered the same disease. Wallach states that diabetes is a disease caused by chromium and vanadium deficiencies and therefore these two elements might be critical to prevent hypothyroidism.
While hypothyroidism causes people to put on excess fat, chromium has been shown to cause people to lose fat, even if they don't exercise. Perhaps the mechanism is the thyroid gland, the regulator of the metabolic rate? A chromium deficiency seems to cause the thyroid to slow down.
Once a couple years later when I was very deficient in chromium I felt like I was experiencing hypothyroidism. Supplementing with chromium restored my ability to handle sweet foods like fruit and increased my energy significantly. I think it's a supplement all people with hypothyroidism should take and may one day be proved to be essential for thyroid function.
I was very slow about taking a chromium supplement. At first I would feel terrible after taking chromium and and I would discontinue it. I struggled for years to find a chromium which didn't make me feel worse and now use chromium picolinate. Now I think I may have been in error to discontinue the chromium supplementation and feel that perhaps when you are very deficient in a mineral you may experience feeling very sick initially, but gradually you'll feel better than ever. Chromium, in particular, is involved in producing many detoxification products that the body requires. Replenishing chromium after a long deficiency could result in a rapid elimination of toxins which would be associated with discomfort.
Although I've studied nutrition for 27 years, most of my studies centered on vitamins. I rarely considered minerals, feeling that our foods contain lots of minerals. Lately, however, I've realized that the plant based diet I've been trying to live on for years may be very deficient in minerals. Farmers fertilize their fields with NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) but rarely with trace element rich fertilizer. Consequently, although the produce and grains look great, they are very deficient. As years go by, the situation only worsens.
Now I believe that to maintain excellent health, we have two options: one, widening the variety of foods we eat to include more meat (especially liver, which is the body's mineral storehouse), seafood (especially the bottom-feeding shellfish we've been educated to avoid, like oysters, clams, crabs, and lobsters), and foods grown on volcanic soil; or educating ourselves about minerals and trace elements and making sure we get adequate amounts of the 60 or so essential ones daily. I plan on doing both.
If you start taking the mineral supplements I recommend to get your thyroid working properly again, I suggest that you don't reduce your thyroid hormone first. Wait until you feel the hot, sweaty, trembling feeling you probably already know is from too much hormone. Then gradually reduce the hormone until you feel right again. When I went through that, I was taking only 30 mg of Armour thyroid a day and stopped it all immediately. You may be different.
Some people have written to me wanting a natural alternative to Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone. Dr. Julian Whitaker wrote in his newsletter "Health & Healing" in December, 1997 about this. He states that, "natural thyroid...is desiccated porcine (pig) thyroid gland and contains all the gland's hormones and components, versus the more popular levothyroxin (Synthroid), a synthetic version of only one of the thyroid hormones, T4."
One natural thyroid hormone is Armour (the meat-packer), which is what my mother uses. She had a lot of problems when a doctor tried to switch her to Synthroid. Many people seem to feel that Armour is better although a few do better on Synthroid or levothyroxin.
Also of importance are a class of foods called goitrogens, which interfere with the thyroid's metabolism and can cause goiter when consumed in large quantities. They include nitrates, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and some raw nuts. It's a good idea to avoid eating a lot of these.
The hormones progesterone and estrogen seem to affect the thyroid. Excess estrogen seems to suppress the thyroid, while progesterone seems to stimulate thyroid function. Birth control pills may have synthetic estrogen, synthetic progesterone, or both. If you are taking estrogen replacement therapy or birth control pills with estrogens, these may be suppressing your thyroid function.
Zinc seems to promote more progesterone production, while copper stimulates estrogen production. Both hormones are necessary, but in hypothyroidism it seems that there is a progesterone deficiency. Supplementation with these recommended nutrients should bring the hormones into balance and restore normal thyroid function.
Here is a list of supplements I feel were important in healing my thyroid gland and enabling me to get off of thyroid hormone:
Multiple vitamin/mineral. It's easiest to get a good multiple and then add the necessary nutrients as necessary to get the amounts listed below.
Zinc (30-100 mg/day) There are various forms but I find the citrate or picolinate work best for me. Zinc can give you more energy since it stimulates the thyroid and some people take up to 100 mg a day to get more energy. Don't take more than 100 mg a day. Always take zinc in the morning (at the end of breakfast so you don't get nausea) Taking it at suppertime may keep you awake at night. If you start having trouble sleeping or have any rapid heart beat, take less zinc. Always take copper with zinc and eventually you'll want to get your zinc/copper ratio close to the ideal of 8:1 (zinc to copper). Taking excessive amounts of zinc without copper may cause hyperthyroidism. Phytates in grains and beans interfere with zinc absorption. You may want to limit your consumption of whole grains and beans (especially soybeans) until your thyroid function is normal. Zinc is involved in many enzymes and it is reported to be necessary for conversion of T4 to T3.
Copper (2 mg/day) I use a chelated copper, but other types should be fine. Take copper at the end of a meal because it will cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach. If you already have a sufficient amount of copper in your body, additional copper may slow your thyroid down more and you don't want that. If you feel that happening, stop the copper for awhile and let the zinc get built up and then resume the copper. Copper is the brake for your thyroid, so you don't want your thyroid to get going without having a sufficient amount of copper in your body. So start with 1 mg a day and work up to 2 mg when you can (after the zinc gets built up). Once your thyroid starts working properly, you may want to increase the copper to 4 mg and decrease the zinc to maintain the optimum 8:1 zinc/copper ratio to ensure that you don't get hyperthyroidism. Copper is also essential for iodine absorption.
Selenium (200-400 mcg/day--don't overdo) I use a sodium selenite (yeast free). Selenium is supposed to be very beneficial for hypothyroidism. I believe this was crucial in stopping the mercury poisoning which may have put me into hypothyroidism. If you have any silver amalgam fillings, this is very important.
Chromium (200 mcg/day of chromium picolinate-don't overdo). This is very important in insulin formation which will stabilize blood sugar. Chromium is important to reduce body fat without losing muscle. Chromium deficiency leads to both hypothyroidism and diabetes.
Iodine in the form of Kelp (start with one tablet and work up to not more than 10 tablets a day--each tablet contains about 225 mcg of iodine). This is crucial. Iodine is excreted in sweat so supplement accordingly for exercise and in hot weather. There are also trace elements in kelp which are important. If you are very deficient in copper, you may experience hyper symptoms from taking kelp. Stop it until your copper gets built up and then try again very cautiously.
B-12 Get tested for a deficiency. If you've been a vegetarian or close to it for years, you could be very deficient. Without B-12 (cobalt) everything falls apart (anemia, etc.) I had to have shots to replenish my body's stores. This really helped.
Calcium/Magnesium People vary tremendously in how much they need and how well they absorb different forms. I've been using a citrate lately and it seems to absorb well.
Manganese (5 to 10 mg a day). An essential trace element to make thyroid hormone.
Iron (10-18 mg a day) Iron is important in thyroid hormone production.
Trace elements (follow directions) Try to find an ionic form of trace elements, but colloidal is better than nothing.
Vitamin E. (400 IU natural with mixed tocopherols). Assists progesterone production and thereby stimulates the thyroid. Don't take more than 400 IU per day, and take it in the morning. If you've never taken E before start with no more than 100 IU per day.
B-complex-50 mg. Each B vitamin seems to facilitate the utilization of specific minerals. Zinc is facilitated by vitamin B-6, so you may want to try extra B-6 to increase zinc metabolism.
Niacin (100 mg a day). B complexes and multiples have niacinamide, which is a synthetic niacin. I feel that niacin addition is essential. Niacin seems to increase serotonin production, assists mineral metabolism, and increases the production of sex hormones which stimulate the thyroid.
Seafood--Essential to provide protein and essential trace elements. Minerals are transported to the cells by amino acid transporters, so without sufficient protein in the diet, minerals may not get to the cells.