Thyroid and Other Hormones
Your thyroid gland is just one of many hormone glands in your body. Hormones are everywhere and control virtually every facet of your body. Your thinking, digestion, sugar maintenance, weight control, muscles, bones, fluid balance, even your moods and personality are controlled by hormones. Every cell in your body has a receptor for every hormone your body makes.
Hormones are manufactured by glands. In addition to your thyroid gland, other glands (called endocrine glands) are located in your adrenal glands, pancreas (maker of insulin and other digestive hormones), intestine (makers of digestive hormones), liver (converter of hormones), kidneys (another hormone converter), thymus (immune hormone), and the brain is full of hormones. Let’s not forget that your sexual organs are full of hormones and hormone-producing glands.
The brain is especially interesting when it comes to hormones. Not only do parts of the brain manufacture hormones (pituitary gland and pineal gland), but it also monitors their activity in the blood stream and controls the release of “pre-hormones” called releasing factors that induce other glands to make their hormones.
There are undoubtedly many more hormones than we know. Many have yet to be discovered.
The power of hormones is incredible. If you don’t think hormones are powerful, just remember what pregnancy does to you. Your hormones are in complete control and make massive changes to your body. You are just along for the ride.
If you understand the following two points, then you know as much about hormones as any endocrinologist:
- Hormone production peaks around the age 25 and then declines by 1-3% annually thereafter.
- All hormones are related and interact with another.
Restated, the older you are, the fewer hormones you have and this is why your body tanks as you get older. There are some cliffs you can fall off along the way – like menopause for women and “andropause” for men.
Because hormones are inter-related with each other, when one hormone is deficient, then this can affect the proportion of the other hormones. Many hormones have feedback mechanisms on each other so that if one is up, the other is down. Similar classes of hormones can share protein carriers in the bloodstream. Relative amounts of one hormone can affect the protein binding of another hormone.
When you start supplementing one hormone, you frequently find yourself supplementing several hormones at the same time because of the hormone interaction. It is very rare to simply supplement one hormone (for example, thyroid) by itself. We almost always end up supplementing some progesterone (and occasionally estrogen) with it.
So what are the major hormones that we deal with?
- Adrenal hormones (cortisol, DHEA, pregnenolone)
- Growth hormone
- Vitamin D
Of course, we will begin with thyroid, the focus of this website. The main page describes thyroid fairly well. The bottom line is that almost the entire planet is deficient in iodine. From there, it doesn’t take much to start developing symptoms consistent with low thyroid output (hypothyroidism).
Only in the last 2 years have we stumbled upon the logical conclusion that since the thyroid is absolutely dependent on iodine to make thyroid hormone, and if there is a deficiency of iodine in your body – then don’t be surprised if you don’t have enough thyroid hormone as a result!
So the obvious remedy is to start taking iodine. This is so simple and it so works.
Iodine supplementation works so well, that now we are scrambling to get our patients off the prescription thyroid hormone drugs. If you are not already taking thyroid hormone prescription, life is much simpler. Just take the iodine and start feeling better in a month or too.
For details on dosage requirements on iodine click here.
That is not to say that some people will still require some thyroid hormone prescription in addition to their iodine. That is true for me, personally. I was very hypothyroid. My score on the Thyroid Questionnaire was 94.
I am still taking a small amount of Armour Thyroid in addition to my 25 mg of iodine supplementation every day. But I did get to reduce my overall dose of Armour Thyroid by 2/3 and the same pattern can be expected of most other people.
Women will always require higher doses of iodine than men. Why? Breasts.
Breast tissue requires more iodine than the thyroid, actually. This is why fibrocystic breast disease responds so well to iodine supplementation.
Another thought about the iodine supplement: You may notice that the minimum recommended amount (12.5 mg) is about 100 times the RDA recommendation. This is true – and necessary (and well tested).
Some background on the RDA levels of 150 ug (that’s micrograms, not milligrams) per day: This began about 75 years ago with the observation of large amounts of the population walking around with big goiters. (A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that is the extreme form of iodine deficiency.)
It was determined that a small amount of iodine – 150 ug – was sufficient to keep the thyroid gland from turning into a goiter. However, there is a big difference from the absolute minimum to stave off a goiter and the necessary amount to supply your thyroid with enough iodine to produce thyroid hormones for normal long term function.
A great detailed description of this and virtually everything you want to know about iodine and the thyroid gland can be found in a fabulous book by Dr. David Brownstein. Go to www.DrBrownstein.com and order his book.
Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Guy Abraham are the pioneers in thyroid treatment in the last couple of decades. I own many thanks to them for their research and perseverance. You are the beneficiaries of their work.
My recommended iodine supplementation product can be ordered here.
Progesterone is by far, the most common hormone deficiency in women. This deficiency is probably responsible for most of the long-term “female” problems including ovarian cysts, fibroid uterus, endometriosis, migraine headaches, PMS, depression, mood swings, blood clots, infertility, heart disease, painful or prolonged periods, etc.
Birth control pills have destroyed a woman’s ovarian production of progesterone, in my opinion. Exposure to “xenoestrogens”, which are synthetic chemicals in the environment that have estrogen-like effects, have also suppressed ovarian production of progesterone.
Nearly 100% of women who are hypothyroid are also progesterone deficient. Thyroid deficiency and progesterone deficiency march in lockstep with one another.
Progesterone deficiency is so rampant, that I have joked about putting it in the water supply. A daily dose of 50 – 100 mg of progesterone a day would really help a lot of women. Dosing is dependent on many factors. Maximal doses now go up to 800mg/day in severe cases.
Most women that I treat take 100 – 200 mg/day in divided doses. Another consideration is whether a woman is still menstruating or not, and whether she still wants children or not. This influences whether progesterone is taken every day or just in the second half of your menstrual cycle.
If you have special questions regarding progesterone supplementation, you can write us through the “Contact Us” feature of the website or just Click here.
Estrogen deficiency accounts for the symptoms of menopause: hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. There is a more detailed explanation in another section of this website. Click here.
Also a great reference website for menopause: www.1-Menopause.com
Adrenal Hormones (cortisol DHEA, pregnenolone)
The adrenal hormones of cortisol, DHEA and pregnenolone are not understood very well. They are also difficult to manage, hence the reason why supplementation is not done as often.
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for energy boosting and immune regulation. Many people exposed to chronic long-term “stress” will burn out their adrenal glands. Hence they become deficient in cortisol and end up with a chronic fatigue syndrome. This is closely related to hypothyroidism, too.
I believe there is a big overlap of chronic fatigue syndrome with fibromyalgia. In fact, I think they are a continuum of the same disorder and closely related. Both involve rather severe hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency. There are also some energy metabolism issues that deal with some nutritional deficiencies as well.
Supplementation with cortisol is complex. It provides an incredible energy boost for several hours, but then crashes down once it cleared from the blood stream. So multiple doses a day are required. The other problem is that supplemental cortisol can suppress other adrenal hormones (of which there are many – maybe a couple dozen) that we don’t supplement.
DHEA is an androgen. This is a precursor to testosterone. DHEA production falls off a cliff around age 21.
We recommend DHEA highly because it helps with libido and also hope that some of it converts to testosterone for bone building and muscle building. For women, the daily dose is 25 – 50 mg/day. It is pretty cheap and you can get it at any drugstore.
The only caveat with DHEA for women is that it can cause some acne and facial hair if the dose is too high. This is completely reversible by stopping it. Lower doses work just fine for the intended purpose.
Pregnenolone is over-rated. You can buy at any drugstore. Supposedly it is good for memory. Maybe it is? There is no harm in taking it.
There are a couple dozen other adrenal hormones that I have not mentioned. Some regulate salt and water balance and many are just intermediate steps along the sex hormone pathway. (Yes, your adrenal glands can make sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, too – but in very small quantities).
Testosterone is wonderful. Men need it to survive and be a manly man. Seriously, all men over the age of 40 should take testosterone. Why do you think men die so young and are overweight with big bellies and have erectile dysfunction? Yes, they have bad habits, but mainly because their testosterone production falls off a cliff when they hit 40.
Women need testosterone, too – just not in big quantities. A little bit of testosterone goes a long way in women. It is great for the brain – generating self-confidence, self-esteem and initiative (not to mention great for memory function). Also, it strengthens bones, muscles, libido, reduces heart disease and eliminates incontinence.
Unfortunately, testosterone has been so politicized that it is treated like cocaine according to the government. So doctors are afraid to prescribe it. Very few do, and you will pay the price (in dollars) to get it. My other joke is that testosterone is another item that should be in the water supply.
Growth hormone is incredible and everyone should have it. This is even more politicized than testosterone. Shame on the government and the FDA.
Two other major drawbacks are the fact that it requires a daily injection and it is very expensive. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it and most people can’t do it.
Growth hormone is completely gone from your system by the time you are 20 years old. As a kid your body made incredible amounts of it. As an adult you get zero. It is very similar to testosterone in that it works wonders on your muscles and energy levels.
Believe it not, Vitamin D is a true hormone. Over the last 2 years an incredible amount of research has turned up wonderful uses of Vitamin D. It is the “Wonder Vitamin”.
If you thought that the whole world was deficient in iodine, Vitamin D is even worse. Everyone is deficient. The New England Journal of Medicine said in a big headline, “Vitamin Deficiency is Pandemic”.
Vitamin D suppresses inflammation. Inflammation is what kills you slowly. Almost all chronic diseases are caused by inflammation. Think heart disease, cancers and lupus-like diseases. Vitamin D reverses this process. It all has to do with Vitamin D’s effects on NF-kappaB. NF-kappaB is the primary facilitator of inflammation. Because Vitamin D shuts down NF-kappaB, it therefore does some wonderful things.
There’s more: Vitamin D is also a wonderful acute pain pill (and long term pain pill). Powerful studies show how Vitamin D makes pain go away from people with a range of pain from acute injuries to chronic back pain.
Hint: mix 10,000 IU’s (International Units) of Vitamin D with 2 fish oil gel caps and you have a better, more effective remedy for pain than Motrin of Alleve.
Otherwise, Vitamin D should be taken by all men, women and children. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending Vitamin D be given to newborns and infants in the first days of life and supplementing forever.
Current guidelines say that you should take 5000 IU’s of Vitamin D daily – forever. This is simple and cheap, too. I have a recommendation for a wonderful Vitamin D product that comes in 5000 IU capsules and can get for about $6/month: Go to Vitamin D site.
Melatonin is the third hormone that drops off rapidly after age 20 or 21. DHEA and Growth hormone are the other two.
Melatonin is most known for its sleep inducing properties. This is true. It has also been marketed as a means to avoid jet lag. It does help. It also plays a role in suppressing inflammation.
I recommend melatonin to use at bedtime every night forever. You can easily take 3 grams a night. It is cheap and available at any drug store.
Essential Fatty Acids
These are the essential fatty acids:
- DHA - docosahexaenoic acid
- EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid
- ALA - alpha linolenic acid
- GLA - gamma linolenic acid
- Oleic acid
Essential fatty acids are not hormones, although they are probably just as powerful. Without them you die.
Many people think of essential fatty acids as omega-3 or fish oil. That is true, but there are more essential fatty acids then just confined to the omega-3 class. There are also omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, too.
By the way, the “essential” means that your body cannot make them by itself. It must come from external sources, like your diet – or supplements since very few people consume enough dietary sources of these ingredients.
The fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid), primarily. You can get these anywhere from a multitude of supplement products. For years, I preferred the Krill Oil variety.
ALA (alpha linolenic acid), found in flaxseed oil, is another omega-3 that is almost always omitted in common omega-3 formulations. It should be included.
Recently, I discovered that excessive intake of DHA and EPA can lead to a GLA (gamma linolenic acid) deficiency. Additionally, GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is important for its anti-inflammatory properties. GLA is found in borage oil or primrose oil.
Finally, oleic acid, is an omega-9 essential fatty acid that is found in olive oil. This should be part of your supplementation, too. When cooking with oils, try to use olive oil rather than hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Everyone should take DHA, EPA, ALA, GLA and oleic acid, every day. Be careful about taking just DHA and EPA without paying attention to ALA and GLA.
Minimum dosage of total essential fatty acids should be 2000 mg per day.
Andrew Jones, M.D
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