Thyroid and Other Hormones
Note: The following discussion is for informational purposes only.
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 likewise 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.
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 the years add on. 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, 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 doctor's start their patients on hormone supplementation, they frequently find themselves supplementing several hormones at the same time because of this hormonal interaction.
So what are some the major hormones we'll discuss?
- 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.
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!
That is not to say that you shouldn't consult with your physician about concerns with your thyroid. Some people will require some thyroid hormone prescription. This is true for me, personally. I was very hypothyroid.
Women will always require higher doses of iodine than men. Why? Breasts!
Breast tissue actually requires more iodine than the thyroid.
You may be interested in knowing the RDA for iodine supplementation is about 100 times to small - and is the barest amount necessary for preventing goiter.
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 that large amounts of the population were 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's 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 detailed description of virtually everything a person would want to know about iodine and the thyroid gland can be found in a fabulous book by Dr. David Brownstein.
Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Guy Abraham are the pioneers in thyroid research in the last couple of decades. I owe them many thanks for their research and perseverance. We all are the beneficiaries of their work.
Progesterone is by far, the most common hormone deficiency in women. This deficiency is probably responsible for most of the long-term “female” problems.
In my opinion, birth control pills have destroyed a woman’s ovarian production of progesterone. Exposure to “xenoestrogens,” which are synthetic chemicals in the environment having estrogen-like effects, have also suppressed ovarian production of progesterone.
Nearly 100% of women who have underactive thyroids are also progesterone deficient. Thyroid deficiency and progesterone deficiency march in lockstep with one another.
As women age, estrogen deficiency become more and more problematic, accounting for many health related issues.
For more detailed discussions about estrogen deficiencies, please view:
Estrogen Deficiencies Link
Adrenal Hormones (Cortisol, DHEA, pregnenolone)
The adrenal hormones of cortisol, DHEA and pregnenolone are not well understood. They are also difficult to manage, hence the reason why supplementation is not done as often.
This 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 being chronically fatigued.
Supplementation with cortisol is complex. It provides an incredible energy boost for several hours, but then a person "crashes down" once it cleared from the blood stream.
DHEA is an androgen and a precursor to testosterone. DHEA production falls off a cliff around age 21.
DHEA helps with libido and may also convert (albeit slightly) to testosterone for bone building and muscle building. 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 strength is too high. This is completely reversible by stopping it. Lower strength work just fine for the intended purpose.
This one is over-rated in my opinion. Supposedly it is good for memory. Maybe it is - maybe it isn't. I see no harm in taking it.
There are a couple dozen other adrenal hormones 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. But mainly because testosterone production nosedives when men hit 40 - a host of health-related issues often follow on the heels of this decrease.
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 and libido.
Unfortunately, testosterone has been so politicized that it's treated like cocaine according to the government. So doctors are afraid to prescribe it. Very few do.
Note: This is an academic discussion of the availability of human growth hormone - and not intended to promote any specific product.
In the United States and elsewhere, growth hormone supplementation is available only by a doctor's prescription. It does require daily injections, and it is quite expensive. Plus, the screening process is lengthy and involved, and many physicians just don't want the legal hassles that go along with 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 zip.
Believe it or 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 the whole world was deficient in iodine, Vitamin D deficiency is even worse. An incredibly large segment of the world's population is deficient. The New England Journal of Medicine puts it this way: “Vitamin Deficiency is Pandemic”.
Vitamin D should be considered 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 thereafter.
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. It has also been marketed as a means to avoid jet lag. It does help many people in this respect.
As melatonin is deactivated by light, using it at bedtime would be your wisest choice. 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 literally 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. Make sure you choose a QUALITY supplement - one guaranteeing freshness and purity. If the fish oil you take tastes off or "fishy" - throw it away. That means the product has already started to go rancid.
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. GLA is found in borage oil or primrose oil.
Finally, oleic acid is an omega-9 essential fatty acid found in olive oil. You should consider having more extra virgin olive oil in your diet. It's not only good for you - but tasty! When cooking with oils, try to use olive oil or coconut oil rather than hydrogenated vegetable oils. (Coconut oil stands up to higher temperatures than olive oil. If the oil starts to smoke, the heat is too high.)
Andrew Jones, M.D
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