Fatigue, anxiety, digestive issues, weight problems. All very common ailments, and all symptoms of thyroid problems. The biggest issue is that our current environment is perfect to continue worsening the function of our thyroid. The water we drink, the food we eat, the food we don’t eat, lack of sunlight, toxic metal exposure, genetics, stress… all affect our basic thyroid functioning.
In the first part of my series of articles regarding thyroid function we will firstly look at our water. We drink water in copper pipes which adds trace amounts of copper to our water – this adds up over time, accumulates in stagnant water and is higher in older degrading pipes. Copper competes with zinc in our body, so basically the more copper we consume, the less zinc we will have. Zinc is an essential metal and is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in our body – that means our body requires zinc for many important functions, including hormones, immunity, responding to DNA damage, gene expression, brain development, insulin responses, wound healing and neurotransmitter secretion. Zinc is also important for the thyroid as it is involved in transforming T4 to active T3 for our thyroid. Our hypothalamus also requires zinc to signal the pituitary gland to activate the thyroid. In 2009 a study showed that serum thyroid levels improved in goitrous patients after they took zinc for 6 months (a goiter is swelling of the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland).
So, zinc was one thing – but let’s get a little bit deeper. Next comes the chlorine and fluoride in our water. We should take a second to look at a periodic table:
Okay, I understand that mostly it can be a confusing mess of letters & numbers. What does it mean? See where the red box has circled the pink boxes – those pink boxes are the Halogen family. From top to bottom is Fluorine (F), Chlorine (Cl), Bromine (Br) and Iodine (I). These compete. Therefore, the more chlorine, fluorine, bromine you have, the less iodine you will have in your body. How is this relevant? Every time you drink tap water you get a dose of chlorine & fluoride. Being as these compete directly with iodine, the more Cl & F you consume the more at risk you will be of iodine deficiency – therefore the more at risk you are of thyroid problems because iodine is essential for making thyroid hormones.
To quote the Nutrient Bible by Henry Osiecki (9th ed. p176), “The most important consequences of iodine deficiency in the general population are goiter hypothyroidism, and in the most severe cases, mental retardation, cretinism and increased neo-natal and infant mortality and cardiovascular disease.” Extreme iodine deficiency was commonly seen in China and India with resulting high recurrences of cretinism. Iodine deficiency is an extremely common cause of brain damage & mental retardation in our modern world, which can not be reversed once the damage is done.
So. Do you still want to drink tap water? I should hope not.
Just for arguments sake, here’s the list of food that are reported to be good sources of iodine: Asparagus, cod, dairy products, garlic, iodized salt, irish moss, lima beans, mushrooms, oysters, seaweed, sunflower seeds.
Notice how the above list said dairy products? In the 1960s dairy farmers used to clean milk containers with iodine for sterilisation – so, dairy really was a great source. But it’s not so much the great source it used to be. Since about the year 2000, chlorine was encouraged to use as a disinfectant instead of iodine. So not only did we lose a great source of extra iodine from the contamination in our milk, we now get a dose of chlorine in the milk. And what does consuming chlorine do to iodine? Go back to the discussion above and you’ll see how it competes with iodine.
As you can see, our standard tap water contains many minerals that compete with others which affect the basic functioning of systems in our body, especially the thyroid. The best thing you can do to prevent this is to invest in a water filtration system that removes 100% of fluoride. Many will only remove 40-60%, so be hyper-vigilant and do your research – ask a lot of questions regarding what the filter/system removes. Spring water is a perfect alternative to tap water, however the accumulation of bottles has a negative environmental impact so this should only be considered an intermediate option until you can invest in a suitable filtration system.
That sums up part 1 of the perfect environment for an imperfect thyroid – stay tuned for part 2!
Yours in health,