Hormone SERIES Thyroid 3 of 4: Low Thyroid Function(Hypothyroidism)

Posted in

Dr. Aaron Hartman

April 12, 2022


Thyroid Deficiency: The Epidemic Among Us

Low thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism, is incredibly common and becoming more and more prevalent. About 4% of the population currently has hypothyroidism as defined by elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels. But once you realize the nuances of subclinical and functional hyperthyroidism, the true picture is that likely 20% of the population has thyroid autoantibodies. We’re clearly missing a lot of low thyroid and other hormonal dysfunctions.


What Causes Low Thyroid?

What are some of the root causes of hypothyroidism and how can we address them?
First, we can address nutrient deficiencies, such as insufficient:

  • Iodine
  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Iron

For menstruating women, a ferritin level over 130 is optimal due to increased iron requirements, otherwise, ferritin over 100 is adequate.
Next, it is important to address stress.
Stress can affect your thyroid function in two ways. Unmanaged stress can directly elevate cortisol levels, which feed back and suppress TSH in your midbrain, thereby also suppressing thyroid function. Stress can also indirectly affect thyroid function through adverse effects on sleep.
Thyroid function can be affected by medications.
Many medications including estrogen replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and blood pressure medications can impact thyroid function.
An excess of certain minerals can reduce thyroid function.
Too much copper, for example, can cause low thyroid function. Calcium, in excess, can also suppress thyroid function. Just think about that for a second. All the calcium we’ve been told to take the last 20 years – which now actually NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the CDC), as well as the USPFTF (US Preventative Medicine Task Force), are no longer recommending – may have been causing low thyroid function in women.
These dietary factors can affect your thyroid function:

  • Too little protein in the diet
  • A diet too low in fat
  • Low carbohydrate diets
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Eating excessive soy and soy products
  • Consuming too many cruciferous vegetables

The problem with too many cruciferous vegetables is not with the vegetables themselves, but an issue with sourcing. Some cruciferous vegetables can have thallium in them, a heavy metal that can affect your thyroid function.

So what are some things you can do to support your thyroid?

First, you want to know your levels. As we discussed last week, it’s important to get them tested.
If you find that you have levels that are suboptimal, but not officially low, you could consider doing some basic nutrient repletion with fat-soluble vitamins, B vitamins, zinc, copper, selenium, and iodine, if appropriate. I always recommend testing and not guessing for all nutrients supplementation due to the intricacies and interactions of these nutrients.
There are also some herbals you can use to help support your thyroid function. These include ashwagandha, which is also a great herbal for helping balance cortisol. Coleus forskohlii and bladderwrack are also thyroid-supporting herbs to consider.
Overall, you want a comprehensive thyroid evaluation with adequate follow-through to find the root cause. If you have an autoimmune issue, it’s important to also consider gut health and toxins to see if they’ve triggered the autoimmune process. This can be quite complicated and require a functional medicine practitioner to help you sort this out.

Next Week

In our last post on the thyroid next week, we’ll dive into hyperthyroidism or excessive thyroid levels.
I hope this was helpful. If you like our content, please share it with others. To stay current on what we’re doing, follow us on Facebook and Instagram and sign up for our newsletter. Be sure to check out the resources on our website where you can access our blog and a full compendium of recommended books.
Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.


Don’t Miss Out

Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to know when Dr. Hartman posts a new article.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.