19 Sep Are thyroid problems caused by environmental toxins? What role do heavy metals play in causing thyroid disorders?
The thyroid is a vascular gland that is located in the lower anterior part of the neck. The thyroid gland contains two lobes connected by a small tissue called the isthmus. Each lobe measures 50-60mm long and weighs 25-30g in adults. The hypothalamus located in the mid brain area releases the hormone called thyroid releasing hormone (TRH). TRH stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH in turn will stimulate the thyroid to produce the thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
The thyroid hormones affect a lot of different cells in the body. They increase the basal metabolic rate and help regulate bone growth and maturation of the nervous system. The thyroid hormones also regulate the metabolism of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
There are two types of thyroid conditions that are commonly known to patients; hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Although these conditions are commonly due to autoimmune dysfunctions in the body, there are multitudes of other environmental toxins that affect the thyroid directly or indirectly – causing future bodily harm.
Autoimmune diseases such as Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are influenced by various genetic factors. Additionally, genetic syndrome, such as McCune-Albright’s syndrome, is classically defined by fibrous dysplasia (a disorder in which normal bone tissue is replaced by fibrous tissue), café-au-lait spots and early onset puberty is associated with hyperthyroidism.
There are many toxins that affect the thyroid hormones synthesis, metabolism and action. Perchlorates that are used in rocket fuel additives are also found in well water, which happens to be commonly used in agriculture as well as for drinking. Perchlorates have been shown to cause thyroid disorders by altering the production of thyroid hormones. Perchlorates can also cause hypothyroidism and aggravate an already low thyroid function. Furthermore, when potential mothers drink water that has been contaminated with perchlorates- the byproducts can be passed down to the infant through breast milk. In addition to drinking water, perchlorates can be found in foods such as beef, lettuce, milk and berries, so consuming organic, hormone and additive free food is very important.
The list of toxins doesn’t stop there; thiocynates found in cigarettes, dioxins found in pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) can all alter the thyroid gland function. Bisphenol A found in consumer goods such as water bottles and sports equipment also affects the thyroid gland by affecting the receptor function.
Harmful elements, such as fluoride, chloride and bromide exposure, can cause inhibition of iodine transport and block the conversion of the T4 to T3 – the active thyroid hormone. Heavy metal toxicity from lead, aluminum and mercury can all trigger antibodies that trigger auto-immune thyroid conditions, such as the Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s disease.
At The Salerno Center for Complementary Medicine, we always check for thyroid disease through TRH and traditional TSH testing. TRH, a more sensitive test than TSH, offers an accurate analysis of the thyroid gland. Additionally, we also do a thorough testing for heavy metals through heavy metal challenge test. This test, which is performed by injecting calcium EDTA followed by oral ingestion of DMSA, is accompanied by a six-hour urine collection that allows us to evaluate the lifetime accumulation of heavy metals. This test is then compared to a non-challenge test that can be performed before or after the heavy metal challenge. And going a step further, we can also test the levels acutely through a blood test. Even though medicine has made critical advancements in the areas of diagnostic treatment, a few necessary steps can leave you feeling wiser, healthier, and disease-free.