Is Your Sluggish Thyroid Weighing You Down?

April 12, 2012
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Strategies to kick up energy, mood and pare the pounds.

Hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid) is epidemic today, particularly among women. The incidence of this condition increases with age. I would estimate that about three out of every four of my female clients over the age of thirty five is low thyroid.

The thyroid gland is the body’s energy burner and thermostat. When this gland slows down, so does metabolism, as well as heart and muscle strength.

Some signs of an underactive thyroid include:

– Fatigue
– Menstrual changes
– Brain fog
– Depression
– Delayed reflexes
– Loss of libido
– Sensitivity to cold
– Unexplained weight gain
– Puffy face and extremities
– Constipation
– Dry, thinning hair

Dietary iodine deficiency, inflammation, radiation, surgery, and some viral infections can cause hypothyroidism. And now environmental toxins have been linked to slow thyroid function.

Perchlorate—a contaminant found in rocket fuel, fireworks, explosives, matches, and some water disinfectants—inhibits the uptake of iodine in the thyroid. Not only do water supplies throughout this country contain this toxin, but the Centers for Disease Control also found perchlorate in powdered baby formula.

Anything that interferes with iodine uptake by the thyroid interferes with prenatal and infant development—as well as normal metabolism and mental development in adults. Experimental research in China even finds that thyroid hormone may be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease.

The Iodine Connection

Iodine insufficiency also leads to low levels of healthy stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCl). You need iodine to enable chloride in HCl to enter the cells of your stomach. Without enough HCl, your body won’t digest protein or use minerals (like calcium, iron, magnesium) effectively.

By the time you hit age 60, HCl levels have decreased by almost half. Upping your iodine intake is one good way to increase your HCl production, improving digestion.

Because iodine is critical to so many bodily functions, I suggest sea vegetables (agar, hijiki, kombu, nori, wakame), as well as an iodine-rich seasoning (Seaweed Gomasio) for flavor and health, at least three times a week. Many concerned hypothyroid sufferers supplement with Iodoral, which contains 5 mg of iodine and 7.5 mg of potassium iodide.

The Copper Connection
Besides being affected by iodine, your thyroid can be suppressed by an elevated copper level. In my experience with tissue mineral analysis (TMA) over the past two decades, I’ve observed that an elevated tissue level of copper is frequently linked to hypothyroidism.

There are many external sources for copper exposure. This mineral occurs naturally in drinking water in some areas and may even be added as copper sulfate to other municipal water supplies. Post-pregnancy use of prenatal vitamins, birth control pills, copper IUDs, dental fillings and crowns, copper cookware, and copper water pipes also increase levels of this mineral in your body.

A typical vegetarian diet is generally high in copper, and eating phytate-rich grains (whole grains) lowers levels of zinc, a mineral that balances copper. To combat this, avoid yeast, black tea, cocoa and chocolate, wheat germ, and soy—all high copper sources.

A copper-zinc imbalance also lessens the liver’s ability to detoxify. Post-partum depression, food cravings, frontal headaches, mood swings, menstrual irregularities, yeast infections, and weight gain result from bio-unavailable copper levels.




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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

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  1. Nikki

    I have had several co-workers warn against using sea vegetables, as most come from Japan and are probably exposed to radiation. Is this a legitimate worry? If so, what sre the alternatives?

    • Mera

      I was just diagnosed with reverse T3 syndrome. Doctor put my on Iodoral, naturethroid and thyrosol. Any comments on RT3S. I never heard of it.

  2. BT

    What if someone has been diagnosed with Hashimotos?

    Copper is also in pressure treated wood – so don’t use around edible plants!

  3. liz

    Radiation is a concern. It is hard to know to what degree. Sea veggies come from the water and may be packaged and distributed in Japan, so wouldn’t be as exposed as plants grown in the soil. The alternative would be to take an iodine supplement.

  4. patricia

    I would like to know if you sell any product thats speeds up metabolism

  5. Kay

    I too have Hashimoto’s … the Iodine is a “no-no” for me since I have to be on hormone replacement to calm the auto immune attack. Really struggling to see any improvement on T4 only hormone, but T3 gives me weird heart palps.
    So despite using FF…not losing weight and still have all over body aches and severe fatigue.
    Any suggestions for those of us who have to be medicated on T4?

  6. Sarah

    If sea veggies or seasonings containing iodine are recommended 3 days per week, should Iodoral be taken 3 days a week or daily?

    • liz

      You certainly could try the Iodoral a few days a week. Everyone is different in the amount of iodine they need, based on their deficiency. The best suggestion is to take an Iodine Loading test to see where you are.

  7. Alexandra Knudsen

    What is a good substitute for cranberry juice. I break out into a rash and severe itching. I have a lot of food sensitivities, this doesn’t surprise me. I am also grain free, need a low sugar juice, am trying to prevent Pre-diabetes. Also have PCOS and Hashimotos and I am on T4.

  8. administrator

    Nikki – There are many sea veggies from the coast of Maine – these would be 100% preferable over anything from Japan or Japanese waters where radioactive particles have been dumped by the tons.

    Patricia – Fat Flush Body Protein can be helpful in resetting body metabolism.

    BT and Kay — Thytrophin may be very helpful for conditions such as yours.

    Alexandra — You can try a couple of tablespoons of ACV in 32 oz of water twice per day to sub for the cranwater.

    • johnna

      where do you purchase the sea vegetables from Maine..I have not seen anything sea vegetables sold from Maine.

  9. Mary

    What is ACV? Your Sub for cranwater. I have friends that will not do the LLC. Can’t or won’t drink the juice. I’d like them to try with Stevia. Is that allowed? Thank you

  10. administrator

    Mary: ACV is apple cider vinegar. Stevia Plus is allowed but not recommended, according to ALG. Thanks for your query.

  11. Angelik

    I had started the FF last July and was very successful, losing actually more weight than I wanted to, 33lbs. I was able to gain some of it back. Since last Winter, I have had huge hair loss, seeing my scalp now and had very think hair. I have been taking raw adrenal support and thyroid support recommended by accupunturist. My metabolisn was good last fall, but then all changed. I wasn’t sure if the hair loss was due to fast weight loss, but my metabolism has not come back after the thyroid was increase to twice daily.
    After reading this blog, I’m still wondering if all my symptoms are related to thyroid, iodine defiency. What do you recommend? I take Opti L Zinc regularly too.
    What test would be recommended to see if I’m taking the right dosage for thyroid, if that is the problem.

  12. administrator

    Angelik: We would recommend that you take a typical blood test to assess iron status and consider a product called Ferrofood which has been helpful to restore hair after significant weight loss. If you cannot find it near you, please call UNI KEY where a customer service rep will be able to assist you. In addition, a TSH, T4 and T3 blood test will help you assess your current thryoid status. A TMA (tissue mineral analysis) may further assist you in determining your glandular status and nutrient needs.


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