Sluggish Thyroid?

August 24, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

No wonder you’re gaining weight!

A small butterfly-shaped gland located just below the larynx, the thyroid plays a behind-the-scenes role in health. Problems with this critical gland impact women eight times more often than men.

Starting in their mid-30s, many women feel tired and moody, put on pounds, have trouble sleeping, and often lose interest in sex. Sure, these are common symptoms during perimenopause—but they’re also signs of a slowdown in thyroid activity, called hypothyroidism.

What most people don’t realize is that thyroid function is closely intertwined with the adrenal glands. When combined with a little body fat, the adrenals can make up for declining hormone output before and during the change.

By the time many of us enter our 40’s and beyond, our adrenals are in a state of burn out—often from the stresses of our 24/7 world.  Adrenal burnout also contributes to blood sugar problems, weight gain, and diabetes.

By the time we reach 60, half of all women may also have a sluggish thyroid. But, it’s not just associated with aging. One recent study finds that 4 percent of pregnant women suffer thyroid dysfunction.

This isn’t something to take lightly. Thyroid problems have been linked to breast cancer, digestive disorders, heart disease, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis. Even borderline hypothyroidism is associated with high blood pressure during menopause. British researchers suggest that thyroid dysfunction may also increase the risk of glaucoma.

Synthetic hormone replacement therapy, first and second-hand smoke, pharmaceuticals (antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, corticosteroids, and other meds), systemic candidiasis, plus exposure to dangerous radioactive iodine (especially for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest), ionizing radiation and surgery for Graves disease and thyroid cancer can cause hypothyroidism. Thyroid cancer rates are rising, even as overall cancer incidence falls.

Researchers suspect the growing use of medical scans for everything from neck pain to plaque in the arteries may contribute to this increase in thyroid tumors. Radiation exposure, especially in childhood, and the current obesity epidemic are likely factors.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

Hypothyroidism is as epidemic as obesity!

In my own experience, 7 out of 10 women are in adrenal burnout and have sluggish thyroids. Why? I would agree with the research on this one. There are certain other environmental and dietary factors that are suspect, however, when it comes to low thyroid, I think that a lack of iodine (an ingredient of thyroid hormones) due to interference from fluoride, chlorine and/or bromides (think vegetable oils and certain sodas) may be a primary cause. I have also observed that overdoing soy due to its high copper content can lower thyroid function.

Interestingly, many of the same nutrients support both of the body’s “energy” glands: the thyroid and adrenals. These include antioxidants, B complex vitamins, and tyrosine (a key amino acid that is a precursor to both thyroid and adrenal hormones.) All are available—along with the highest-grade raw bovine whole adrenal gland and raw bovine adrenal cortex from New Zealand—in UNI KEY’s Adrenal Formula. The shortage in raw materials for natural desiccated thyroid is another reason I recommend this ultimate energy booster along with Ioderal, a source of high-potency iodine/potassium iodide.


Related Articles and Podcasts

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.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Verna McGregor

    How do I know if I need these two supplements?
    Is there some type of testing to show this?

  2. P. Arndt

    I’ve been on synthetic thyroid replacement for years, are you suggesting I get off that and take
    cow thyroid adrenal glands can that be measured for proper TSH level control? if it isn’t the right amount or inefdfective then my
    health/energy goes downhill immediately.

  3. Helen Werdegar

    I’m terrified whenever I see the word “bovine”. How can one determine if the source is safe? How is it extracted exactly? Is there a vegetarian source for dessicated thyroid supplement?

  4. liz

    So….my main concern is perimenopausal weightgain….I have successfully addressed several other menopausal issues except for that…including hair loss, depression, anxiety and no sleep….all MUCh better through the use of various herbals, vitamens and armour thyroid and cytomel….but no matter what I do with exercise or eating the menopausal 20 pounds refuse to leave…help!!!!

  5. ann bruning

    I don’t have a thyroid and am on synthroid. My test results show it is ok, but I am gaining and can’t seem to lose about 20 lbs. What can I do?
    I am even on your fat flush plan.

  6. Liz Beck

    You can tell if you need these supplements by your symptoms, but a more accurate way is to take a Tissue Mineral Analysis. This test, using a sample of hair will show how your adrenals and thyroid are responding to stress. If they are over-active or burned out, there are foods, and specific supplements that can help balance your body chemistry and revive these glands.

  7. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Thanks for your feedback. One of the most accurate methods of assessing gland health is the Tissue Mineral Analysis (hair testing) that Liz Beck posted. You can call UNI KEY for this at 1-800-888-4353. Two ratios – the calcium to potassium ratio as well as the sodium to potassium ratio can tell you if your glands are functioning up to par and if not, what to do about it. The other key test is the Salivary Hormone test. Although the test measures six hormones, simply doing the estradiol to progesterone ratio can be so helpful for adrenal function because progesterone is also used by the adrenals for stress control. It is both a reproductive and adrenal hormone, in essence.
    With regard to synthetic vs natural thyroid supplementation, we are NOT all created equal biochemically. Some thrive on Synthroid, others on the natural RNA/DNA blueprint of animal glandulars from pristine sources. Your choice; your body:)

  8. DB

    I am on Armor Thyroid and take synthetic T3- most docs do not address this!!, along with Iodine supplements 2x daily and Adren all- similar to this Adrenal supplement. It is starting to work. It is hard. Hashimotos Disease, sluggish adreanals, hyperinsulimia- Even Fat Flush will not work yet.

  9. donna Hutton

    Have been on synthic for years am worried about my weight…nothing seems to help!

  10. Barbara

    I agree…I am on a natural thyroid. Armor..and bio-identical hormones….I still gain weight and have been eating well, working out….no one can get it!!! I have been to the experts…what can I do?

  11. Ann Louise Gittleman

    I feel your frustration! That’s why getting a handle on the glands is imperative. BOTH the thyroid and adrenals play a see saw game in weight balance. Taking either The Adrenal Formula or something pretty darn close is a good start as well as an iodine supplement. The Ioderal from UNI KEY is about 12 mg of iodine and some individuals take 4 per day. I would personally err on the side of caution and cut the Ioderal in half for a while and see how you do. Some individuals can get skin breakouts when the iodine starts kicking out toxic chemicals like bromides. Getting tested is your best bet and Liz, a nutritionist, can consult with you further 🙂

  12. Betty Pankau

    Can you address Lipedema? Not well known by doctors. Are there success stories with Fat Flush Plan? Internet information says you can’t lose weight in areas of your body where the problem is, I can verify that, but maybe you know a trick or two. Thanks.

  13. Mary Anne Sharp

    Just to be sure: Are you saying that although I am taking 90 mg daily of Armour Thyroid that it is ok to take 2 Ioderal daily. I was reading somewhere else that if you are taking Armour that it could cause problems if you take an Iodine/Iodide supplement. Like you, I am erring on the side of caution. Thanks

  14. Mary Anne Sharp

    One more thing. I read that if you stop taking Armour it will wash out of your system in a week. Is that true- and if so can I take more Ioderal of stay at 1/2 (and for how long). I don’t feel that my Dr. is up on all this and I also read that if you are taking too much Armour you can feel “hot” inside – which I am. Thanks for your quick response.

  15. Sandra Landis

    Does this analysis come with a receipt/findings that can be used for insurance reimbursement or flexible spending plan reimbursement?

  16. Lucille Patrone

    My concern with the bovine adrenal formula is the risk of prion disease such as Mad Cow and Jacob Creuzfeldt. Would appreciate your thoughts on this.
    Thank you.

  17. Sandra Landis

    Also, re: Tissue Mineral analysis, are the results affected by hair coloring and dyes?

  18. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Hello: Please call UNI KEY and speak to LIz about insurance reimbursement. Off the top of my head, I don’t think TMAs or Salivary Testing is reimbursed without a doctor’s note. But at least with self-health testing, you don’t have to pay for a doctor’s visit on top of any possible insurance co-pays.
    Lucille: Your concerns are justified. So be assured that all of the bovine adrenal tissue glandulars are from pure New Zealand cattle who are tested for disease. I have become wary of organic and non-cloroxed fruits and vegetables because of the salmonella and E. Coli scares.

  19. Ann Louise Gittleman

    TMA results are impacted by hair colorings and dyes. We need just one little tablespoon from the nape of the neck of “virgin” hair:) So, even if your hair is long, just cut off the “colored” part and get us the non-colored newest hair near your scalp.

  20. Peyton Parker

    I had cancer and then the weight gain after chemo. I was put on synthroid – felt worse, gained weight. Went through T-3 therapy to “ump start” myt thyroid with a European trained MD (you are correct, most doctors know NOTHING and treat you like an idiot). T-3 did not work and I was put on Armour. I have spoken to the drug maker (numerous times) at Armour – these are actually special herds of animals and they are very professional and careful – they have to be. Heard of any mad cow from from them? NO!!!Be careful because your insurance company will slip in some generic that is not Armour without your insistance and additional payment. Many symptoms improved but not all. I still feel like something is missing, fatigue AND no matter how well I eat, diet, exercise, etc. I cannot seem to lose a pound! Exhausted trying to get help. I have had all these tests run in the past (the standard test prove normal/nothing), chemo just wiped out all function. Suggestions? I am worn out from years of trying to get well. Thank you.

  21. DB

    Ah, Peyton, you and me both!I had actually lost my first 9 lbs in 4 years!!! Then I went on vacation- ate correctly, but the flying and change in climate did something- Also, as my body adjusted to the 120 mg of Armor, my body chem changed- The antibodies were acting up again, so doc put me on the Synthetic T3- 10 mg per day to supplement- Iodine 2x a day- 5mg each?? not sure. Adren All, and lots of other stuff.He is an Interactive doctor- treats the whole body. Many things have gotten better, but my weight has essentially stayed the same- and it hurts to carry around more than your body can handle.

  22. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Sounds like there are mineral imbalances that are still at play with the latest posters. Can’t encourage TMA enough. It is relatively inexpensive and may shed light on your weight gain. Since we are all so biochemically unique and it appears that this is indeed a hot topic, testing should definitely be considered, I truly believe. There is an answer out there…

  23. Mary Anne Sharp

    I’m thinking you didn’t see my second post – so I have copied it and will submit again. Thank you.

    One more thing. I read that if you stop taking Armour it will wash out of your system in a week. Is that true- and if so can I take more Ioderal of stay at 1/2 (and for how long). I don’t feel that my Dr. is up on all this and I also read that if you are taking too much Armour you can feel “hot” inside – which I am. Thanks for your quick response.

  24. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Mary Anne: I do not know whether the first part of your question is true or not. Some people take Armour and can lower the dosage – that I do know. And since thryoid impacts circulation and bodily temperature, you can feel too hot if you take too much; just the way, you can feel cold if your thryoid is not functioning properly. I cannot give you a definite answer on the Ioderal. What I can say is that there is an iodine loading test which can assess exactly how much you may need as an individual. I have made general recommendations about iodine levels based upon my experience with hundreds of clients. The tests that I have mentioned throughout will help determine what is most appropriate for each individual.

  25. Renee

    I had my thyroid removed due to cancer. I am taking 137mg of Levothyroxin. I feel fine, no weight gain. I’ve recently started supplementing with 660mg of Kelp. I’ve started to wonder if this is a good idea. Not because I’m feeling any ill effects but just because I find all this tyroid – iodine info confusing. Does it sound like what I’m doing is safe?

  26. Dorothy

    I have very dry skin,what can i do? Help

  27. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Renee: If it isn’t broken, no need to fix it – sounds OK to me but the iodine loading test form UNI KEY is the most accurate way to assess. If interested, contact [email protected].
    Dorothy: Make sure thyroid is functioning optimally using TMA testing. I would also suggest about 4 grams of Super EPA and 8 GLA-90s for a week’s loading dose of moisturizing EFAS and then cut in half thereafter 🙂

  28. mary

    How much is this iodine test? I am pretty sure I have a sluggish thyroid for many reasons, I was n steroids for years and i can’t drop a pound plus about 10 other symptoms of sluggish thyroid. I was tested TFREE and TSH, my results came back negative but all my symptoms are still there, doctors are not being helpful, saying m symptoms can be anything
    I’m 37, taking healthy supplements to support adrenal and thyroid, but would love to take a test to give me more answers and mabe start taking iodine as well!

  29. Dorothy

    Liz,Can i get the TMA test from anna Louse,if it’s low what do i do,and inercourse is very painful.

  30. Angela

    My lab tests show I am hyperthyroid (lab value 0.7) rather than hypothyroid and I have been told by a Naturopath that my adrenals are stressed. Also, I definitely do not have signs/symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

    Also, off the subject of thyroid. I attempted to start the Fat Flush diet and drank a couple of glasses of cranberry juice, like it said in your book, and it put me in a serious depression for probably about half a day.

    Can you shed some light on the above?

  31. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dorothy: TMA can be ordered through UNI KEY at 1 -800-888-4353. It comes with a 20-page readout and will make dietary, supplement, and lifestyle suggestions. If you still need some assistance, Liz at UNI KEY can arrange a professional consultation to go over the results.

    Angela: The hyperthyroid issue can also be related to an iodine insufficiency. There is an Iodine loading test (available on the website under the testing section) or you can do a patch of tincture of iodine on your arm and see if it disappears within 24 hours. If so, you may be in need of more idoine to help regulate your thyroid.

    with regard to the cranberry juice, please dilute the formula by 1/2 and see how you do. If your system is truly acidic, this may have caused your symptoms.

  32. Paige

    How do you know if you need Iodoral? I am low thyroid PLUS adrenal fatigued. Also, I am interested in the Adreanl Formula but I am a vegetarian. Do you have a non-animal formula??

  33. marci

    Ladies–natural dessicated thyroid (ie Armour, NatureThryoid, WestThroid) is NOT made from BOVINE sources- it comes from pigs. Sadly the FDA has forced makers of NDT to halt production- see Mary Shoman’s blog on for more info.

  34. Rita

    If a person is allergic to shellfish can they take ioderal?

  35. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dear Friends:
    I would love to answer each and every single one of your queries, as I have done to the best of my ability, in the past. The popularity of this Blog has grown to the extent that I can no longer provide that service but I am in the planning stages of an Internet – TV show where you can call in and get those questions answered by me in person! Please stay tuned for this exciting development. I first must complete a new manuscript and then will make some exciting announcements. In the interim, may I suggest that if you have questions about products, call UNI KEY at 1-800-888-4353. The folks there are helpful and will direct you accordingly. If you are concerned about a particular health condition, then by all means check out the Testing Kits on my site which will help you to determine underlying causes. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest!

  36. Terri

    Hello. I just came across your website. Thank God.
    I am on Synthroid 50 mg. I just recently got over bronchitis and had to take 2 rounds of antibiotics. Then I came down with a urinary track infection. Then I came down with a stomach virus. With all that, I decided to quit smoking the 2 pks.a day habit I’ve had for 10 years and the 3 44oz. Dr. Peppers a day habit. I think my system is in shock! I’ve been off both habits now for 3 weeks. I now feel weird, fatigued, clammy skin, numbness off and on in my thighs, loss of taste, anxiety when trying to sleep. No energy and muscle fatigue. HELP! This all happened after the sickness and I can’t lose weight.I’m a mess.

  37. Dorotjy seidenburge


  38. c. lock

    October 2012
    I have Hashimoto’s disease – iodine is apparently not reccommended as a supplement in this case. Yet of course I probably need iodine. I am not sure how to get it. I did take porcine extract instead of Levothyroxine to some good effect, I felt better at first, along with compounded bio-identical HRT, but lapsed in use of these as I don’t have a doctor here to refer to to adjust dosages and nutrition.
    In July I was still not producing T4 and in August reverted to Levothyroxine to try to address this, instructed by my doctor – I am yet to have tests re T4 levels, but it’s been 2 months and I’m not feeling great. I am wondering about stress, cortisol and adrenal issues, but as said do not have a practitioner here and am not confident about self-prescribing etc. It is not good here re women’s health resources.
    Cerri – Australian in the Middle East

    • Sierra

      Hi Cerri!

      I would recommend doing an Iodine Loading Test.

  39. balwyn

    Remarkable! Its in fact amazing post, I have got much clear
    idea on the topic of from this post.



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