Don’t pass the salt

May
27
2016
by
thayne
/
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Thyroid disease is one of the silent epidemics of our time. Around one in every 100 people in Britain suffers from an underactive thyroid, and many more walk around with a general feeling of malaise without knowing why.

According to the American Thyroid Association, some 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, 60 per cent of whom are unaware of their condition. In fact, one American woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder at some point in her lifetime.

Thyroid disease is one of the silent epidemics of our time. Around one in every 100 people in Britain suffers from an underactive thyroid, and many more walk around with a general feeling of malaise without knowing why.

According to the American Thyroid Association, some 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, 60 per cent of whom are unaware of their condition. In fact, one American woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder at some point in her lifetime.

One cause of depression

As New York psychiatrist named Kelly Brogan has just detailed in her new book A Mind of Your Own, thyroid problems are also likely to be the unrecognized cause of many cases of depression.

As well as regulating things like temperature and metabolic rate, thyroid hormone receptors in various parts of the brain affect the expression of genes and proteins involved in nerve function and signaling. Whenever the thyroid isn’t working at full throttle, patients can experience mental symptoms – including mental fog and depression.

Just what’s going on here to produce this extraordinary epidemic? We know that most thyroid disorders are autoimmune, where the body begins attacking itself. No one is sure why this happens, but many medical pioneers are beginning to suspect allergies and emotional or environmental assaults as possible triggers.

Drugs taken for other conditions can cause thyroid problems. Lithium, used for manic–depressive illness, brings on hypothyroidism in up to a third of long-term users, as can some heart drugs. Even cholesterol-lowering drugs have been known to cause an underactive thyroid.

More misguided prevention

Nevertheless, much of the blame has to be laid at the door of yet another well-intentioned but misguided effort at prevention. Ever since medicine discovered that iodine is necessary for the healthy function of both the thyroid and pituitary glands, it has recommended that salt be iodized (that is, enriched with iodine) in many countries.

This is regardless of whether the area already has sufficient iodine in the food supply or the population consumes adequate amounts of fish, vegetables or sea vegetables, all of which contain plentiful amounts of iodine.

In most countries, salt is iodized and routinely recommended for use regardless of whether the area is deficient in the mineral, so some populations may be exposed to too much iodine over many years. And in places that have ample indigenous iodine, taking too much extra iodine—even just a few milligrams a day—can cause your thyroid to either over- or underproduce.

In fact, this preventative measure has now turned the situation on its head, causing a massive incidence of thyroid disease. In one study in Galicia, in the northwestern Iberian peninsula of Spain, where the population is obliged to use iodized salt, the incidence of overactive thyroid is much higher than usual, particularly among women.

In the case of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, the highest prevalence occurs in countries with the highest intakes of iodine, such as the US and Japan. Even in areas where iodine is deficient, iodine supplementation trebles the incidence of conditions that prefigure hyperthyroidism; the prevalence of thyroid antibodies has also risen to more than 30 per cent over five years.

Drugs that damage the thyroid

Extra iodine doesn't just come in salt. Cough expectorants, antiseptics, drugs and even radiographic contrast agents can cause either thyroid hypo- or hyperactivity.

What's happening with iodine is similar to the situation with fluoride. Those of us in countries where iodized salt is mandatory are getting bombarded with a substance that naturally occurs in adequate amounts in a well-balanced diet.

By employing a crude solution more appropriate for a famine, medicine unintentionally has created the very problem it sought to solve—and possibly set off another rampant epidemic: the blues.

thayne

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