Dr. David G. Williams - Each month in Alternatives, I report on practical tools and techniques you can use to both protect and improve your health. I also try to step back a bit and spot overall trends in our lifestyles or diets that could have a profound effect on our future health. Often by making a simple change or two in your diet, for example, you can help prevent problems that will be common in the general population years down the road. Two good examples that I've been following closely have to do with iodine and vitamin D.
The mineral iodine is essential for the thyroid gland's production of the hormone thyroxin. The thyroid uses this hormone to regulate numerous functions, most importantly metabolism. An inadequate intake of iodine can result in lower levels of thyroxin. When this occurs, one will often experience fatigue; poor circulation to the extremities resulting in cold hands and feet; obesity and inability to lose weight; irritability; low sex drive; headaches; low blood pressure; dry, thickening skin; cracking of the heels; nervousness; high cholesterol; irregular menstrual cycles; mental confusion and difficulty in concentrating—all classic symptoms of an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism.
In the 1920s, health officials in this country decreed that all of the table salt in the U.S. had to be fortified with iodine. This was done in an effort to counteract the increasing incidence of goiter. The term goiter refers to an enlargement of the thyroid gland as it tries to produce additional thyroxin from an insufficient amount of raw materials. Once a goiter is noticeable, it means that the hypothyroid problem has become quite serious. More commonly, one will experience many of the symptoms I've mentioned above months—if not years—before a goiter ever develops.
After iodine was added to salt, the incidence of hypothyroid dropped dramatically in this country. The use of thyroid medications also dropped, and doctors pretty much "forgot" about this previously widespread condition. As a result, if a patient today exhibits the aforementioned symptoms, most doctors in this country will overlook the possibility of thyroid problems unless blood tests actually indicate the patient's thyroxin level is less than normal. Unfortunately, doctors simply cannot detect most underactive thyroid problems by utilizing conventional laboratory blood testing procedures. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people are unnecessarily suffering from undernourished and underactive thyroid problems. Based on a recently uncovered trend, we can expect the problem to get even worse.
Shaking the Salt Habit Has Left Many of Us Iodine-Deficient
I recently investigated a study indicating that in only the last 20 years, the number of Americans with a lower-than-normal iodine intake has quadrupled. The researchers conducting the study haven't yet identified the exact cause of the drop in iodine intake, but several factors immediately come to mind:
For starters, the use of table salt has been on a steady decline as more and more Americans have become concerned about the link between salt and high blood pressure. Another factor may be that the use of iodine as an ingredient in bread and milk has been decreasing since the mid-1980s. Finally, there's the fact that much of the iodine in the soil is being depleted, resulting in less iodine-rich vegetables and foods.
This latest study helps explain the ever-increasing numbers of patients being diagnosed with underactive thyroids in alternative medical clinics. Even mainstream doctors are now finding that if a patient has all the symptoms of a hypothyroid (underactive thyroid), the blood tests may still indicate that everything is still within the "normal range." If doctors go ahead and treat these patients anyway for an underactive thyroid, they find that the patients see a remarkable improvement in their condition.
If you have several of the symptoms I've listed above, it would be well worth your time and money to test your thyroid on your own. One of the first things you should do to see if your thyroid is functioning properly is check your basal metabolic rate. You can best check this rate by taking the temperature of your body at your underarm with an oral thermometer. I've described this test in the past, but for any newcomers and those of you who might need a refresher, here's how to do it:
Place a thermometer by your bed. Make sure it's been shaken down to at least 96 degrees.
When you wake up the next morning, immediately place the thermometer in your armpit and leave it there for 10 minutes before getting out of bed. Just relax and remain still during the test.
Record the temperature.
Men, premenstrual and perimenopausal women can do the test any time. Women in their menstrual years get the most accurate readings on the second or third day after menstrual flow starts.
Anywhere between 98.2 and 97.2 degrees is considered normal, while temperatures outside that range generally indicate a thyroid imbalance. If your temperature is below 97.2, I would recommend that you take the following measures that have been shown to improve hypothyroidism.
You Can Easily Improve Your Thyroid Balance on Your Own
One of the most effective ways I've found to rebalance the thyroid gland is to take a liquid iodine product called Iosol. I've used it successfully for years without any problems whatsoever. For the first two weeks, I recommend four drops of Iosol in water each day, and then reduce the dosage to two drops per day. (Note: Under no circumstances should you ingest antiseptic or topical iodine.)
If the Iosol 'alone does not seem to alleviate the symptoms of hypothyroidism, then I would suggest that you take three tablets of a glandular product called Thytrophin along with just one drop of Iosol per day. Thytrophin can often be used in place of prescription thyroid medications. Roughly three tablets of Thytrophin are equivalent to one grain of hormone.
You might find Iosol (made by TPCS Distributors) in larger health food stores; if not, you can order it online.
Thytrophin is made by a highly reputable and reliable company called Standard Process Products in Palmyra, WI. Unfortunately, they will only sell their products to medical professionals, so you'll have to obtain a prescription or find an alternate source. One that's worked for us in the past is For Your Health Pharmacy at 800-456-4325.
For more information, check out www.drdavidwilliams.com and his newsletter alternatives.