It has long been accepted that estrogen has an indirect effect on thyroid function. This makes sense, since thyroid disorders are much more common in women (typically occurring between puberty and menopause, and often following pregnancy). Recent research also suggests that estrogen and the way that estrogen receptors function may have a direct effect on thyroid cells and even play a role in the proliferation of thyroid cancer cells.
Research also suggests that exposure to environmental toxins can also play a role in many cases of thyroid disease. For example, a recent study published by Rezaei, M. et al revealed a correlation between higher levels of certain trace metals and the incidence of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The study also showed a significant connection between elevated levels of certain trace metals and thyroid cancer. The researchers concluded that “toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and chromium can increase the risk of developing hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer.”
Iodine plays a critical role in how the thyroid functions, acting as a building block for two of the hormones the thyroid produces (T3 or triiodothyronine, and T4, which is known as tetraiodothyronine or thyroxine). People don’t produce iodine naturally, so we need to get iodine through food or supplements. Once absorbed into the bloodstream, iodine travels to the thyroid where it is used to make T3 and T4. Too much iodine (e.g., following a radiation treatment) can lead to hyperthyroidism, while too little iodine (e.g., due to a nutritional deficiency) can result in hypothyroidism.
Dr. Terri shares the best ways to get iodine naturally, here.
These are but a few of the many causes of thyroid disorders. Autoimmune disorders like Graves’ Disease, which enlarges the thyroid, can cause hyperthyroidism, as can variations of thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid). Hypothyroidism may result due to a recent pregnancy, medications (lithium, amiodarone, iodine) or a congenital defect. Thyroid issues can also occur due to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition where the white blood cells make antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing it to enlarge or shrink.
The thyroid also needs various vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to work optimally, so nutritional deficiency is a common culprit. In addition, thyroid resistance may be caused by certain disease states, including heart disease, digestive disorders, liver malfunction, lupus, muscular pain, neurological impairment, sinusitis, TMJ and sleep apnea.