The Thyroid Gland
Located in the lower part of the neck, and approximately 6.3cm or 2.5 inches wide. The thyroid gland regulates the rate at which the body burns food and controls the production of certain body tissues such as nails and hair. The thyroid gland also regulates body temperature, breakdown of carbohydrates, mental clarity and well-being, energy levels and even vitamin absorption. Cholesterol levels, hair texture, nail strength, suppleness or dryness of the skin and sex drive are all directly influenced by the thyroid.
The Thyroid Body Shape
The Sluggish Thyroid
The first major consequence of a sluggish thyroid is a slow metabolism. Everything is slower. Brain processes can be suppressed, triggering depression, lethargy and a general apathetic feeling. A loss of libido (sex drive) can occur with a slow thyroid. It could also cause a complete loss of the menstrual cycle. Another manifestation is a feeling of being tired all the time, despite sleeping for long hours. This is chronic fatigue. Its distinct feature is feeling more awake in the morning but ready for bed at 8:00 p.m. The thyroid also controls the oil glands and blood flow to the skin.
Cold Hands and Feet
As mentioned above, the thyroid gland controls metabolism; in a non-optimum state, it begins to drive body temperature to well below normal, causing cold hands and feet. Sufferers need to wear extra clothing, even in moderate climates. Some people have to wear socks to bed. What’s interesting is I’ve never met a person with cold feet who didn’t have a spouse with warm feet — I guess opposites attract.
Brittle Hair & Eye Brows
A sluggish thyroid can mean dry skin and dry, brittle hair. With a thyroid problem, a person could attempt to curl her hair and not be able to maintain the curl. She might even lose the outer third of her eyebrows.Because everything is slower, the body will demand quick energy as in carbohydrate cravings.
The most common cravings I have observed with the Thyroid type are starches, especially bread, and in particular sour- dough bread just out of the oven with some butter. I had this guy tell me that he didn’t eat carbohydrates. I said, “Okay, what did you eat for breakfast?” He replied, “Apple pie from McDonald’s.” I told him, “That is carbohydrate.” He said, “No it’s not; it’s apples.” There seems to be some confusion about what a carbohydrate is, so let me define it. A carbohydrate is any of a group of substances made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, including the sugars and starches. There are several types of carbohydrates: grains, vegetables, fruits and sugars. Unrefined carbohydrates provide vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, whereas refined grains have little nutrient value. Vegetable starches such as potatoes, yams, corn, French fries and hash browns are easily converted to fat, and some of the sweeter fruits have a greater effect on insulin. This will be covered in more detail in chapter 9. The carbohydrates we are primarily concerned about are those that have been refined. Breads, pasta, cereals, crackers, pancakes, waffles, donuts, cakes, muffins, rice cakes, cookies, candy, chocolate, juice, alcohol, wine, beer and ice cream are all refined carbohydrates. And Thyroid types can crave any of these.
Have you ever eaten something that you knew you shouldn’t have? What have you normally said to justify it?
“I deserve it.”
“I’ll work out twice as hard tomorrow.”
“You have to die from something; might as well enjoy yourself.”
“If I eat it up, it won’t be in the house to tempt me.”
“It doesn’t count if no one sees me.”
“It’s a holiday.”
“They wouldn’t make it if it wasn’t okay to eat”
or, my favorite,
“Everything in moderation.”
The main problem with burning fat is this: in the presence of refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), your body cannot burn fat. I’m sorry! And to top it off, the excess carbohydrate is converted into fat and cholesterol.
The Cholesterol Myth
Are You Sure It’s Really Genetics or Eating Fatty Foods? There are rare genetic disorders characterized by an accumulation of large quantities of fat in the blood. If they’re rare, how do you explain the millions of people who have high cholesterol? Some people will even tell you it’s bad genes and you should have picked your parents more wisely. Good luck! And what about eating fat—does that cause high cholesterol? If that is true, then how do you explain why a person still needs cholesterol medication despite having cut all the fat out of their diet? There is another condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (excessive cholesterol in the blood), which shows up in seven out of a thousand people. So, rather than accept someone’s opinion on whether you have a genetic cholesterol problem, get evaluated to find out the facts. The point is, if your thyroid is not working correctly, your cholesterol could be high in spite of what you are eating and all your efforts to keep it low. Did you know that 75 percent of the cholesterol in your body is made by your body? Cholesterol is required by the body to make hormones. The need for vitamins greatly increases with a thyroid weakness. The weakness means the vitamins are just not absorbed. The body dumps them through the urine—expensive urine because these vitamins are wasted. Such people are usually taking vitamin supplements and not feel- ing any different. By the way, what was the first vitamin that was ever discovered? Was it C? No. How about D? No. The answer is A. Then came B, then C, then D and E. The body-fat pattern resulting from a sluggish thyroid is an overall fat distribution. The pictures below show the changes from a normal body shape through the progressive stages of the Thyroid type. As a side note, a person with a true sluggish thyroid problem is not solely retaining fat. They have a great deal of waste-like-fluid weight that contributes to the appearance of having an overall excess weight problem. As mentioned in chapter 2, this condition is called myxedema and is the result of a thyroid that is not working to full capacity. Many people think they have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when in fact they may have a weak thyroid. Have you ever known people who walked into a room and forgot why? Have you ever talked to someone you could tell was a bit checked out? This type of lethargy can be attributed to poor thyroid function. And without really spending the time to evaluate and find the true cause, a person could be put on Ritalin by mistake.
Skin, Hair and Nails
The skin, hair and nails are all made up of body protein, which becomes altered when the thyroid can no longer do its job. A person with a thyroid problem can have trouble with hair loss or thinning hair.
Sagging skin under the arms, chin or midsection can occur because the body protein that holds the skin firm is breaking down faster than it is building up. Have you ever met someone with these symptoms—a friend, neighbor, relative or co-worker?
Your nails especially are made from protein, and because the person’s body protein is breaking down faster than it can be built up, the fingernails can become brittle with prominent vertical (up-and-down) ridges.
Face and Tongue
A poorly functioning thyroid gland produces puffiness around the eyes and sagging of the eyelids. If it’s bad enough, the tongue even thickens, causing a slight slurring of speech, and the voice can become deeper and rougher in sound. The tongue can develop little dished indentations on the sides; it is getting bigger and is being shaped by the inside of the teeth.
Glands Work with Each Other
To complicate things, all the glands interact with one another, and we earlier looked at some of these relationships. In regard to the thyroid gland, if the ovaries overproduce estrogen, the thyroid will decrease in function as a secondary problem. This is why women notice weight gain and even a sluggish thyroid after pregnancy, or after taking birth control pills or being on hormone replacement therapy. Thyroid hormones can interfere with the adrenal hormones. Their inactivation can then signal the brain to direct the production of more adrenal hormones through its feedback mechanism.2 And since 80 percent of thyroid function occurs through the liver, without the liver working well a good portion of thyroid hormone activation can be inhibited. In fact, if the liver is damaged, the main thyroid hormone will not be broken down, leading to excess thyroid hormone in the blood. These are two reasons why you will begin this program with the Liver Enhancement Plan.
Causes of the Thyroid Body Type
Some medical journals say that the fundamental cause of a sluggish thyroid is a deficiency of thyroid hormones, which control metabolism. But the question that should be asked is, WHY is there a deficiency of these hormones in the first place? There is accumulating information today that toxic environmental factors, such as Estro Scientists who study poisons in the environment are finding this connection. The following are a couple of examples of what is being discovered. In his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Menopause, Dr. John Lee states: “My hypothesis is that estrogen inhibits thyroid action in the cells, probably interfering with the binding of thyroid to its receptor” [part of the cell that connects with hormones].3 Mary Shomon writes in her book Living Well with Hypothyroidism: “Hypothyroidism [low thyroid] is sometimes considered a symptom of estrogen dominance.”4 Past infections can be a factor with the Thyroid type. The virus that causes Mono (kissing disease), also known as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), can sometimes affect thyroid function later in life. Other viruses and even bacteria can influence the thyroid. Injuries to the thyroid from being hit in the neck — an example being a seat belt injury from an auto accident — can influence thyroid function. I knew of a patient who had played baseball and a ball had hit her in the lower throat. Several years later, she ended up with a thyroid problem. I had another patient who developed thyroid disease after being exposed to radiation. This was the 1986 Chernobyl accident (radioactive fallout) in Ukraine. Your own ovaries could be causing your thyroid problem (unless you’re a man, of course). A cyst or fibroid on the ovary can produce excessive estrogen in the body. This includes polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—a condition where multiple small cysts form in the ovaries (poly means “many”), related to the ovary’s failure to release an egg. PCOS can create facial hair, weight gain, insulin resistance and a disruption in the menstrual cycle. So, there could be primary ovarian problems causing a secondary thyroid problem. This could trigger thyroid symptoms, yet the true problem would be the ovaries. FYI: If you have PCOS, I would recommend avoiding all estrogen triggers—hormones in our food supply, soy products, and foods that have been sprayed with pesticides; consume organic produce as much as possible. One of my female patients always had a flair-up of cysts when she ate commercial ice cream, which contained extra hormones and chemicals. gen mimics, can be linked to thyroid deficiencies. Another activity that inhibits thyroid hormones is low-calorie diets. When you fast or cut calories, your thyroid compensates by lowering the metabolic rate. This is a survival way of adapting to less food. That is why it’s crucial to never again restrict calories and to not let yourself get hungry.
Estrogen inhibits thyroid function. Some women develop thyroid problems after pregnancy due to the high levels of estrogen produced; and if a woman who has a thyroid weakness goes through pregnancy, her thyroid medication will usually need to be increased. These statements raise two key questions: If estrogen inhibits thyroid function, then how are we being exposed to increased amounts of estrogen? And how much estrogen exposure does an average person get on a daily basis? Estrogen is the number one hormone added to the feed of animals we consume. It is fed to cattle, turkeys, chickens and farm-raised fish. This hormone makes these animals grow faster and plumper. It is more costly, for example, to grow hormone-free chickens for 22 weeks than to grow hormone-fed chickens for only 6 weeks. I believe out of all the things that go into your body, commercial milk contains the highest amount of estrogen. Always drink organic milk, if you’re going to drink it at all. Most European countries do not use growth hormones on their animals and some refuse to buy American hormone-fed meats. Could this be why Americans are fatter? A common argument against this concept is that the hormone amounts given to animals are so small they have no effect upon the body. But there is far too much evidence available that supports the effects of estrogen. It takes very minute amounts of estrogen in the body to create effects.6 And pesticides, insecticides, DDT and many other chemicals mimic estrogen in the body, adversely affecting the thyroid. Another common argument is, if these chemicals are this damaging to our hormones, why doesn’t the Environmental Protection Agency advise the public of the thyroid-chemical connection? The reason is that there is a long delay time between exposure and showing symptoms, which makes it hard to pinpoint the actual cause. It could take more than 30 years. If you have a Thyroid body type, I highly recommend you reduce your dietary food exposure to estrogen by eliminating foods that contain growth hormones. It would also help to reduce the consumption of chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, DDT, etc.) that mimic this hormone, by either introducing organic foods into your diet or at least scrubbing your fruits and vegetables before eating them. Red wine unfortunately has estrogen-like compounds. I would advise cutting back to no more than two bottles a night—I’m just kidding. You need to avoid all alcohol on this program. Come on, we need to give your liver a break! I know what you are saying — you drink it for health reasons, right?
Cruciferous Vegetables and Iodine
Cruciferous vegetables, which belong to the cabbage family, include kale, radishes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, etc.—you know, the foods that people normally never eat. Cruciferous vegetables are anti-iodine, meaning they tend to deplete iodine, which the thyroid needs in order to function.5 When I say “tend to deplete iodine,” I mean very slightly. You would have to eat ALL cruciferous and nothing else to create this effect. Most of the other foods you eat put the iodine right back, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. But if you feel unsure about this and want to eat cruciferous vegetables, just take some extra iodine — sea kelp, dulse or alfalfa — and go ahead and receive the benefits of these vegetables, because they are also anti-estrogen foods. I believe their benefits far outweigh any liability. The following are symptoms the Thyroid type can experience from a poorly working thyroid gland.