Thyroid hormones keep us fit, active and slim

There is little point in taking extra hormones if you keep on sabotaging your thyroid function

How do we make thyroid hormones? It's a fascinating process.

Did you know, for instance, that we make a reverse thyroid hormone that stimulates fat storage and slows down the metabolism? Let's take a look at how we can achieve optimal thyroid health before taking a prescribed medication or radiating this vital gland before it is too late to save it.

How do we get fat?Credit: Jim Visser

Common thyroid complaints:

  • Most people who take thyroid medications like Eltroxin complain to me that after a while that they need larger does. They begin to gain weight and don't fell well.
  • On the opposite end of the scale, people have their thyroid glands permanently destroyed in the hopes of controlling its activity.
  • The most common complaint is from people who have definite symptoms of thyroid problems yet their blood tests are what the doctor calls normal.

The largest iodine reserves are in the thyroid gland and in breast tissue

The thyroid gland weighs about 26g and usually contains 0.06% iodine (15.6mg). The total amount of iodine in the body is about 50 mg on average, but only 10 – 15 mg of this is found in the thyroid gland. The second largest reservoir of iodine is in breast tissue.

The healthy functioning of the thyroid takes care of the following activities:

  • Metabolism, protein synthesis and the transfre of calcium and body fats.
  • The thyroid hormone called T4 is an insulin antagonist in that it initiates the breaking down of glucose and fat burning and keeps us fit and slim.
  • It also regulates muscle contraction.
  • The thyroid gland is necessary for the central nervous system as well as skeletal and sexual maturation. Our thyroid hormone output is constant throughout life but increases temporarily at puberty and during pregnancy.

All we need to do is see that we supply the correct raw materials in order to make and balance our thyroid hormones. 

Iodine in seaweedCredit: Sue Visser

Making thyroid hormones is a complex process

In reaction to the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), iodine is absorbed from the bloodstream or small intestine as iodide. Calcium and magnesium are important for the activation of this hormone. Once in the bloodstream, iodide is transported to the thyroid gland, becomes iodine again and bonds to the amino acid tyrosine. After a little molecular rearrangement, the hormone T 4 (thyroxin) is formed.  T4 is stored in the thyroid gland and released into the bloodstream. From T4 it becomes the more active version: T3 (tri-iodothyronine) in the thyroid cells Selenium is required for this conversion by the enzyme: l 5"-deiodinase upon stimulus from the TSH. It bonds to a carrier protein and reaches cell receptors where the hormone is released. Energy release takes place deep within cell mitochondria.

The problem with taking medications like Eltroxin is:

Eltroxin supplies you with T4, the hormone with 4 iodine molecules, bound to tyrosine. Before you take a prescription of this popular medication, consider that you may only be lacking iodine and tyrosine. If this is the cause of the hormonal shortfall, your doctor may ba able to help you correct these deficiencies prior to prescribing more T4. To become active, T4 must be converted to T3, for which you will need selenium and other micronutrients. We can't take T3 directly, so it is important to attend to the technical details. Most people who take Eltroxin complain to me that after a while it does not work properly and they need larger does. Are you surprised?

Lugols iodineCredit: Sue Visser

Critical micro nutrients for the production of T 4 and the conversion to T 3

  • Calcium: but not with iodine at the same time. Calcium and magnesium separately.
  • Lugol’s iodine. 2-3 drops per day
  • Or iodine from kelp or enriched salt
  • L-Tyrosine: An amino acid. Found in protein meats like turkey. 500mg at least.
  •  Selenium: Supplement at least 200 mcg, combined with vitamin E.
  •  Vitamin A is necessary for the production of thyroxin
  •  Forskoliin: from Coleus Forskolii for cyclic AMP to activate T3 (tri-iodothyronine)
  •  Tin to balance iodine: Iodine and tin share either side of cell receptors that control thyroid and adrenal functions concerning the heart: (left cardiac output that affects breathing difficulties or asthma. Shortages of tin also show up as severe acne and pimples.) The right receptor involve iodine and tyrosine that affect the right hand cardiac output. Problems cause odema, particularly the swelling of hands and feet. Both sides need to be adequately supplied with nutrients to prevent fatigue and depression and tin plays a key role in maintaining the balance.
  • Other important nutrients are: potassium, zinc, manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, bismuth, lithium, most of the B-vitamins and especially vitamin B 6ColeusCredit: Sue Visser

Beware of the reverse thyroid hormone that makes you fat!

Enzymes in the liver activate reverse thyroid hormone (r T 3) that is also made out of thyroxin (T 4) to shut down excessive thyroid activity. Your metabolic rate is controlled by sending out both these hormones for stop and start signals under the direction of the pituitary gland in response to feedback from the brain. When something goes wrong with the metabolism, it is because of the dominance of r T 3 or T 3. They have opposite effects and favour different parts of thyroid receptors on cells. T 3 favours beta-adrenergic receptors on cells that bind with messengers known as calchetomines (ephedrine and nor epinephrine) and thus metabolism is increased.


Fat torso thin arms cortisol imbalamceCredit: Sue Visser

This is how starving makes you fat: In times of stress or fasting the liver releases enzymes to make the dreaded reverse thyroid hormone to protect your flesh (including the spare tyres) out of T 4 instead. These emergency flesh conserving hormones displace T 3 (the fat burners) on the alpha-androgenic receptors. This shuts down metabolism as a counter measure to slow you down and stop you stressing yourself to oblivion. Nature does not care about your weight or that your clothes are too tight. So starvation causes a shut down!

If there is a selenium deficiency or there are too many toxins or heavy metals floating around, it can also happen. This is why slimmers get so frustrated! Stress, starvation diets, micronutrient deficiencies, toxins, liver congestion, renal disease, pregnancy and drugs like cortisone are all on the side of reverse thyroid hormones. 

Balancing your thyroid hormones

When a thyroid problem is present it affects the adrenal function as well, because of overlapping symptoms such as constant tiredness, lack of concentration, poor sleep, headaches, skin discolouration and weight problems. T3 is not as abundant as T4. T3 has a half life of 1 day whereas T4 lasts for 1 week. rT3 that is also made out of T4; but in the liver, competes with T3 for the same receptors, so either a catabolic or an anabolic effect occurs. A patient who is steadily gaining weight and not responding to T4 (Eltroxin) supplementation needs more T3 to help displace rT3 that has been overwhelming the receptors.

According to the research of Martin Milner, the patient needs a blend of T4 with a slow releasing T3, because it has a much shorter half – life. Without a constant and reliable supply of T3; levels of rT3 remain too high for too long. Balancing out these hormones and setting up a dosing schedule requires skill and patience. It is only when the patient is relieved of symptoms and not “shutting down” that all is well. Cyclic AMP (adenosine monophosphate ) plays a critical role in powering up T3. plant is effective in boosting levels of cyclic AMP and assisting the fat burning activities of T3. Soil depletion has led to deficiencies of iodine and selenium.

Other key nutrients for efficient thyroid function are: tyrosine, anti oxidants, zinc, copper and essential fatty acids. Most important of all is to know the symptoms of iodine deficiencies that cause both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Patients with hypothyroidism and even goitre respond well to iodine supplements and may not even require popular medications. Lack of iodine is also associated with autoimmune inflammation or thyroiditis to a large degree (antibodies to constituents of thyroid cells).

How iodine affects hyperthyroidism and Grave's disease

With hyperthyroidism (over active) and autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid (Hashimoto’s Disease) and Grave’s disease, patients may need a 24 hour urine analysis to first determine their iodine status. When iodine deficiency has been established, patients respond well to iodine supplementation with the thyroid returning to normal size. When deficient in iodine, the thyroid readily absorbs radioactive iodine and this can ruin thyroid function for life. First give iodine a chance.

Slow downCredit: Sue Visser