Over 114,000 prescriptions were written for the thyroid medication, Levothyroxine in 2018 making this drug for hypothyroidism the most prescribed drug in the United States.  The rates of thyroid disease like Hashimoto's and thyroid cancer have increased over the last 10 years but not enough to explain this huge increase in the use of Levothyroxine.

Over 26% of women in or near peri-menopause are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid.  And, there are an estimated 13 million undiagnosed cases of underactive thyroid according to the Center for Disease Control.   This begs the question, is the medication working?

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

  • Bone Loss
  • Hair Loss
  • Poor Digestion
  • Gallbladder and Liver Conditions
  • Hormone Imbalances
  • Poor Blood Sugar Control
  • High Cholesterol Levels- LDL
  • Storing Fat – Not Burning Fat
  • And, of course – Weight Gain

With so many people on medications, why are we not seeing a better resolution in these symptoms?  A majority of my clients are women and are on thyroid medication – some for thyroid cancer and auto-immune conditions but others were prescribed medication simply because they were gaining weight.

Overlooked Causes of Hypothyroidism & Weight Gain

  • One of the causes of hypothyroidism that is often overlooked is nutritional deficiencies.  When the last time your doctor said to you, are you getting enough iodine, vitamin D and selenium in your diet?
  • Poor gut health including IBS is also overlooked and not commonly connected to low thyroid hormone.  Low thyroid hormone can result from poor gut health because the gut microbiome converts over 25% of the inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to the active form of thyroid hormone (T3).
  • Chronic stress is perhaps one of the culprits that causing low thyroid because affects adrenal health leading to low production of thyroid stimulating hormone.  This causes an interesting effect, low TSH with hypothyroidism symptoms like weight gain and hair loss.

Did I Say Iodine Deficiency?

Yes, it is no longer a nutrient deficiency of the past – and this is for quite a few reasons.

  • Plants were grown in poor soil or soil that is low in minerals and nutrients.
  • Switching to sea salt like Celtic Salt, Himalayan Salt – that is not iodized.
  • Processed foods and eating out (non-iodized salt)
  • Avoiding salt due to high blood pressure or excess water retention.
  • Exposure to chemicals that block the absorption of iodine like bromide and fluoride.
  • Avoidance of foods high in iodine – shellfish, eggs

The number one way to correct iodine deficiency is to consume salt that contains iodine.  And, not avoid salt as it is a necessary electrolyte that our bodies need.  Women often avoid salt because it causes water retention but getting too little salt can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. I like to use sea salt that either has been iodized or I use seaweed crumbles into my salt grinder.  Did I say seaweed?  There are now many fun and tasty seaweed snacks like GimMe Organics on the market today so enjoy some with the next salad or soup.

Why Doesn't the Medication Work?

It is not uncommon for women to start taking the medication, lose weight and feel better.  But this is usually short lived and after about a 15-pound loss.  This is usually in the case where they were prescribed Levothyroxine or Synthroid with slightly evaluated TSH and struggling with their weight.

One of the reasons it does not work is that the Levothyroxine is the thyroid hormone, T4 only.  This means that your body has to convert it into the active thyroid hormone, T3.  It might be noted that the other medication known as Amour contains both T4 and T3.

The other reason the medication is not working is that hypothyroidism is not the cause of your weight gain, hair loss, fatigue or other symptoms.

Other causes would be metabolic health conditions like insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, liver dysfunction, and toxic burden. That is where the detective work comes in and why a functional nutritional assessment is the first step towards finding the underlying cause.

Chemicals Impact on Thyroid Health

There are many chemicals including birth control pills can impact your thyroid and your ability to metabolize thyroid hormone.

One of the biggest culprits are bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, and pesticides including glyphosate.  Opt for organic foods as much as you can afford to avoid GMO and glyphosate. BPA is found in plastics as well as sales receipts – say no to receipts unless you absolutely have to have one.

Parabens and phthalates are commonly found in personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaning products as well as artificial fragrances.

Fluoride and bromide also impact thyroid hormone as it blocks absorption of iodine.  Avoid fluoride by filtering your water and use toothpaste that does not flouride.  Bromides are commonly used in processed foods, white flour and soda.

Look for my Clean Corner in my newsletter for products that I use and endorse.

Did I Say Chronic Stress?

As noted earlier, diet as well as high levels of stress plays major roles in thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is usually diagnosed when the level of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) becomes elevated between 4.5-5.0 (depends on the lab).

But where we get confused is that the thyroid stimulating hormone is not a thyroid hormone.  It is actually produced by the pituitary gland with direction from the adrenals and hypothalamus.

With chronic stress the pituitary gland eventually gets exhausted.  The level TSH actually drops, now you don’t have enough thyroid hormone being produced and you get hypothyroidism symptoms with low TSH. This is way I test a full thyroid panel with my clients rather than just looking at TSH levels.

And, why I often recommend the hormone test, DUTCH – comprehensive hormone, neurotransmitters and nutrients.  From there you can determine is it chronic stress, nutrient deficiencies, chemical exposure or metabolic health that is cause of your weight gain.




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