The World Health Organization recognizes diseases of the endocrine system as being part of a worldwide disease epidemic (Sears, 2011). It is not uncommon for teenagers to be diagnosed with thyroid disorders. Environmental toxicity has only recently, in 2013, been confirmed as a leading cause of thyroid and many other diseases. Research demonstrates that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) alter proper thyroid function via multiple mechanisms resulting in autoimmune disease. This development explains why conventional and holistic treatments for hormone replacement therapies in autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves Disease have not been effective and often result in surgical removal of the gland or treatment with radioactive iodine. Research now shows that the thyroid gland is being over stimulated in a chronic positive feedback mechanism because the thyroid hormones are not reaching or being received and utilized by the target cell receptors to perform their programmed function.
Recognizing this trend, the current integrative theory is that EDC’s and other toxins alter and mimic normal endocrine functions (Sciarrillo, 2008) and must be removed or detoxified from the body (Johnson, 2014). This report will explore current nutritional and detoxification strategies being used clinically to accomplish EDC detoxification in thyroid disease, especially the autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves Disease. The EDC detoxification strategies presented here are currently being clinically tested by numerous doctors and nutritionists in the USA and internationally most notably led by Dr. Bob Marshall of Premier Research Labs and Dr. Michael Johnson an expert on thyroid disorders. To meet this objective, we will explore the development of this detoxification theory and present the research to discuss how the thyroid is affected by EDC’s. We will then present the current integrative nutritional and detoxification strategies being clinically tested to support, strengthen, rebalance and detoxify the system in an effort to restore proper function to the thyroid and other organs of the body especially in the case of auto immune thyroiditis.
Thyroid Function and Disorder
The thyroid is the largest endocrine gland in the body and secretes thyroid hormone (TH), which are two iodine containing hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid gland manufactures, stores, and releases T3 and T4. Every cell in the body has a receptor site for TH. Iodine, tyrosine and glucose are essential for the production of thyroid hormone (Johnson, 2014).
The function of TH is to control metabolism ( Marieb, 2013). TH regulates basal metabolic rate of body temperature, appetite, and weight. TH functions to control the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins by breaking down glucose, metabolizing fats and enhances liver synthesis of cholesterol. TH also promotes normal development and function of the nervous, cardiovascular, skeletal, gastrointestinal, reproductive and integumentary systems (Marieb, 2013).
Thyroid disorders result in severe metabolic disturbances and are currently measured by Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels. Causes of thyroid disorders include loss of the thyroid gland, insufficient iodine levels and disturbances in the synthesis of T3 and T4 (Marieb, 2013). Hyperthyroidism is over active TH, hypothyroidism is under activity of TH. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has symptoms of both over and under active thyroid (Johnson, 2014). According to the latest research from the Journal of Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders, 90 percent of hypothyroidism is caused by autoimmune conditions (Johnson, 2014). Both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Johnson, 2014) and Grave’s Disease (Marieb, 2013) are classified as autoimmune diseases. In autoimmune diseases of the thyroid, chronic inflammation results in excitotoxicity and the immune system begins to attack the gland itself (Johnson, 2014).
Endocrine Disrupting Chemical and Detoxification Theory
Current research demonstrates that environmental toxins found in air, water and food, are a leading risk factor to the development of thyroid disease. Hashimoto’s is now linked to EDC and other environmental toxins (Johnson, 2014). Many toxins are known endocrine disruptors, which alter and mimic the function of hormones resulting in cancer and diseases of the endocrine system. EDC’s are a class of synthetic chemicals that bind to and modify both nuclear and extra-nuclear receptor sites (La Rosa, 2014) and alter endocrine system function, disrupting homeostasis through various pathways including nuclear, steroid, nonsteroid, and neurotransmitter receptors (De Coster, 2012). EDC’s include pesticides, plastics, dioxins (Melnic, 2002) pharmaceutical agents, synthetic chemicals used as industrial solvents /lubricants and heavy metals (De Coster, 2012) including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury (Sears, 2011). They bioaccumulate in the environment and are toxic to humans at even very low doses (Melnic, 2002). The Parathyroid gland is very sensitive to heavy metals including mercury from dental amalgams.
Numerous studies have linked EDC’s to thyroid dysfunction. De Costa, (2012) researched the mechanism of action and found that EDC reactions with target cell receptors occurred during the prereceptor regulation of ligand availability. In Graves disease the disturbance appears to be the inability of TSH to bind to the thyroid receptor (Natural Standard, 2014). Sclarrillo, (2008) found lizards exposed to fungicide methyl thiophanate showed decreases in thyroid gland cell height and nuclei size and shape with reduction in cytoplasm size. Functional alterations were decreased T4 and T3 plasma levels and inhibition of TSH.
Nutritional strategies include eliminating exposure to toxins, correcting nutritional deficiencies, supporting healthy digestion and liver function and reducing inflammation. Avoiding and reducing exposure to environmental toxins is the first line of defense against exposure to toxins. Current avoidance strategies include consumption of organic non- genetically modified (GMO), hormone and antibiotic free foods, and avoid drinking tap water. Eliminating toxic cleaning, personal care, and lawn care products are also recommended. Less recognized is reducing exposure to radiation from microwave ovens, cell phones, cell phone towers, computers and even hair dryers. There are devices you can use to remediate radiation from your environment.
Correcting nutritional deficiencies is an important strategy to strengthen the system and prevent disease. Medical evidence exists that nutritional status with adequate levels of calcium, vitamin D, zinc and iron modify the absorption of toxic elements (Sears, 2011). Omega 3 fatty acids and selenium have been shown to counteract toxicities of methyl mercury and persistent organic pollutants (Sears, 2011). Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function.
Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism because it is essential for the production of both T3 and T4. Deficiency occurs when urinary iodine excretion falls below 100mcg/L (Natural Standard, 2014). Iodine deficiency is also linked to neurological disorders, low IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for healthy thyroid function and disease prevention. Cells of the body must accept T3 and cannot do so without an ample supply of minerals (Johnson, 2014). Every cell in the body has a calcium-binding site, without adequate calcium levels the binding site is now left unprotected, an open door to allow toxins to enter the cell (Carpenter, 2013). This is extremely problematic in the GI tract where toxins can recirculate through an open calcium receptor site to the liver (Marshall, 2013). Mineral deficiencies also result in acidosis (Marshall, 2013). Acidity creates an environment for bacteria and viruses to flourish and increases the risk for heavy metal toxicity and infections (Marshall, 2013), all which cause free radicals (Johnson, 2014) and inflammation.
As we age, it is difficult to maintain healthy digestive function without supplementation of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, (HCL). Lack of enzymes and HCL results in poor digestive function (Marshall, 2013) resulting in inflammation and suppression of the immune system as 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut (Marieb, 2013). The human body was not designed to eat cooked food (Marshall, 2013). Eating cooked food destroys essential enzymes and depletes levels of HCL. Hydrochlorhydria, low stomach acid, can promote bacterial overgrowth and pathogens attracted to the higher pH (Carpenter, 2012). Enzymes are needed to break down carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, the nutrients essential for life and cellular metabolism. Cooked food destroys enzymes.
Insufficient production of HCL causes cellular demethylation at the molecular level (Marshall, 2013). Methylation is essential for proper cell replication, repairing damaged DNA, and to fix mutations that occur in genes (Johnson, 2014). Methyl groups are also vital for liver detoxification, protein synthesis, decreasing inflammation by controlling homocysteine metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis. Inadequate methylation leads to birth defects, depression, cognitive decline and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Johnson, 2014).
Healthy liver function is essential for healthy thyroid function (Johnson, 2014). Sixty percent of T4 is converted to T3 in the liver. Tyrosine is needed to make thyroxine T4 and adrenaline. Processed “enriched” white flour contains rock forms of iron not bioavailable for synthesis of thyroxine. Marshall (2013) and Johnson (2014) agree that the consumption of enriched flour signals the liver to not absorb iron, which is essential to produce tyrosine. Thus, eliminating white flour from the diet is a key strategy to reduce the toxic load on the liver (Marshall, 2013).
“Chronic inflammation is the hallmark of all disease,” according to Dr. Carpenter, (2013). Current research shows that individuals diagnosed with an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or hypothyroidism, should first be supported with strong minerals and digestion we have discussed and now follow with anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as green tea, In most cases it is also necessary to first strengthen and cleans the lymphatic system with Pau D’Arco, Fo-Ti, Tumeric, Stinging Nettle and Cordyceps mushroom (Marshall, 2014). It is also sometime necessary or recommended to detoxify and support the cardiovascular system with Tumeric, Bitter Melon, Motherwort, Hawthorn and Bear Garlic to thoroughly prepare the system for detoxification (Marshall, 2013). Removal of as many inflammatory biomarkers as possible is the best strategy to calm and support an overactive immune system.
Green tea is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals (Cousins, 2013), inhibit free radical generation, and chelates transitional metal ions that catalyze free radical reactions (Ostrowska, 2006) characteristic in auto immune diseases. This is important in thyroid treatment because when the thyroid is iodine deficient in autoimmune or other conditions, it will absorb mercury and other heavy metals which are toxic to both the thyroid and parathyroid gland resulting in chronic inflammation (Cousins, 2013). Green tea has been shown to prevent lipid peroxidation of LDL cholesterol by protecting the antioxidation of LDL-alpha-tocopherol (Ostrowska, 2006). Green tea was shown (Oyama, 2010) to have anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory properties effective in reducing IL-6 in male smokers.
Chronic exposure to environmental toxicity necessitates the development of strategies to gently and effectively detoxify and eliminate environmental stressors to the thyroid and other organs. Empirical and clinical research demonstrates that various strategies are effective in the removal of some accrued toxicants (Sears, 2011). How various nutrient and minerals reduce or eliminate toxicants occurs via different pathways including preventing the absorption of toxicants, facilitating the elimination of accrued toxic compounds, and preventing enterohepatic recycling in the GI tract (Sears, 2011).
Thermal depuration, or sweating, from the skin is a major detoxification method as a vast amount of toxins are excreted through perspiration. Research shows there is no difference in the excretion rate of toxins from different methods including exercise, or infrared or dry saunas (Sears, 2011). In addition, exercise also stimulates the movement of the lymphatic system essential for elimination of waste by-products of metabolism.
Chelation therapy is an exciting new “renaissance rediscovery,” which shows great promise in eliminating EDC’s and other toxins from the system. Certain chelating agents form chemical bonds with some toxic elements. Live source chlorella is a popular source of chelating heavy metals form the body. Animal studies and research reports show that chlorella induces the excretion of mercury and lead (Sears, 2011). Heavy metal chelation requires that the toxins are able to be excreted from the system and not recirculated through the GI tract back to the liver. Maintaining pH in the range of 6.4-7.0, accomplishes this essential prerequisite for chelating heavy metals (Marshall, 2013).
Bentonite clay taken internally binds with heavy metals, many EDC’s, persistent organic pollutants, and mycotoxins and eliminates them through the GI tract. Some clays are combined with zeolites, nano-sized particulates that are able to enter the cell membrane and collect stored toxins from organs and glands. Combined together this powerful detoxifying agent penetrates the cell and draws toxic chemicals out of the cell and safely eliminates EDC’s and many toxins through the GI tract by selective ionic trapping (Carpenter, 2012). It is both hydrophobic and lipophobic so are not absorbed in the cell. The calcium component in the clay prevents the toxins from being reabsorbed in the GI tract. According to Dr. Bob Marshall (2013), owner of Premier Research Labs, the use of these clays in various combinations are the “greatest, nutritional health discovery of the 21st century”.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Current nutrition and detoxification strategies are showing great promise in the prevention and treatment of thyroid disorders. Evidence based research with human subjects are essential. Increased industrialization has brought toxic overload to the planet and international environmental epidemiological data show a corresponding increase of diseases including breast, prostate, testis cancer, diabetes, obesity and decreasing fertility rates to correspond with increased industrialization (De Coster, 2012). Perhaps the increase in toxicity and decrease in viable healthy food sources over the past 50 years have altered the ability of the system to eliminate chronic infections resulting in an increase in auto immune conditions and disease. Only through collective allopathic and homeopathic experimentation and collaboration of research and education will integrative therapies be found to both prevent and reverse disease.
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