Ask The Doctor: Hypothyroidism

Question: I am a 51-year-old female who has been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I have recently passed through menopause, and besides a few hot flashes, the hormonal changes do not cause any symptoms. I have gained about 15 pounds in the last few years, feel more tired than a few years ago, especially after exercise, and have occasional trouble with insomnia, constipation and dry skin. My doctor has suggested I go on synthroid for the rest of my life. Is there any natural approach to my problem?

Answer: As you may know, hypothyroidism is a very common problem for women of your age. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women older than 50 have at least some degree of low thyroid function. Hypothyroidism is not a benign disorder, because besides contributing to weight gain and lethargy, hypothyroidism also is a risk factor for coronary artery disease and breast cancer. The reason for this elevated risk is that, rather than being an isolated underproduction of a hormone, hypothyroidism means that your metabolism is slowing down– it is a sign of metabolic aging. Simply adding extra synthetic thyroid medicine does not reverse this metabolic aging; therefore, it is not a thorough treatment. What is needed is stimulation of your metabolism, not only to reverse this premature aging but also to stimulate the thyroid to produce more of its own hormone.

The first step is to adopt a diet based on the principles in Nourishing Traditions and The Schwarzbein Principle. In particular pay attention to the advice in Nourishing Traditions on soaking grains, using only healthy fats and oils and avoiding goitrogens, such as soy foods and raw cabbage. Avoiding excess carbohydrates, as suggested in The Schwarzbein Principle, will also help wake up your metabolism.

In addition, a combination of medicines from Standard Process can be used to successfully treat hypothyroidism. This method is appropriate when the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is under 8.0 (normal is about 0.3 – 4.8). I use organic iodine (1 tablet, two times per day) to supply extra iodine to the thyroid gland. Along with this I use cataplex F tablets (1-2, three times per day). Cataplex F contains extracts of the 2 essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic acids) plus arachidonic acid and other polyunsaturated fatty acids that are often low in people with hypothyroidism. The effect of these fats is to help transport the blood calcium (and probably other blood minerals) into the tissues, where it can be used to fuel metabolic and enzymatic processes. The source of these fats are flax seed oil, beef liver lipids and testicular extract. The third medicine I use is Standard Process thyrotrophin, the thyroid protomorphogen. I recommend 1-2 tablets, three times per day. Protomorphogens are specially prepared extracts of the nuclear material of the source gland, in this case bovine thyroid gland. Protomorphogens bind with and neutralize antibodies that can destroy our tissues and organs. In the case of hypothyroidism, often Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is involved, which is an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid gland. Neutralizing these attacking antibodies gives the gland a chance to rebuild itself by sheltering it from the attacking antibodies.

With this treatment, most patients report increased energy and, within a few months, the loss of about ten pounds. In six months your TSH should be back under 5. The treatment should be continued for two years or more. This treatment is less effective when the TSH reading is over 8.0, in which case thyroid hormone may be required. Most doctors use the synthetic hormone Synthroid, but natural thyroid hormone is available. Such treatment must be carried out under the supervision of a licensed health care professional. (526)

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation