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Thyroid Thursday #69: Oxidative Stress & Hypothyroidism

Hey everybody it’s Doctor Eric Balcavage, we’re back for another edition of Thyroid Thursday and today I want to continue the discussion about hypothyroidism and oxidative stress. There was so much content last time, I want to go back and review that one more time.

In part one I discussed that when we have optimal cell health and optimal cell physiology, especially optimal thyroid physiology in your cells, your cells make energy. That’s what makes you feel good, feel alive, and have lots of energy.

The ability to make cell energy is driven by thyroid hormone (T3). Part of that energy process is the production of waste material. Just like a fire makes or creates energy, it also creates some smoke which you have to address.

Our cells have to deal with these waste products called free radicals and reactive oxygen species by either reducing them or clearing them out of the system. The ability to get rid of these free radicals and reactive oxygen species is driven by thyroid hormone. T3 needs to reach the nucleus’ of the cells.

T3 helps you reduce free radicals and reactive oxygen species in three primary ways:

  • T3 increases the activity and expression of something called UCP. UCP is the uncoupling protein. UCP helps your cells dissipate some of the energy and drive it down a heat production pathway versus energy production. We want to make sure that we only produce as much energy as we can manage.
  • T3 increases the activity of the potassium-ATP channels. When our cells and our mitochondria are producing energy, they’re pulling calcium into the cell and dumping potassium outside of the cell. If we build up too much calcium inside of the cell, that can become toxic. As calcium starts to build and as energy starts to be produced, these free radicals start to be generated. T3 increases the activity of these potassium-ATP channels to let the calcium out, bring the potassium back in. It’s a beautiful design.
  • T3 increase the activity and expression of antioxidants. I discussed how antioxidants are produced to combat the free radicals being produced. Enzymes like SOD, Catalase, and Glutathione Peroxidase and other anti-antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and glutathione. All of these things help reduce the oxidative stress and they’re all supported by your good old friend, thyroid hormone, T3.

When we have hypothyroidism at the cellular level, (cellular hyperthyroidism is a lack of T4 conversion to T3 or a lack of T3 reaching the nucleus of the cells), then we have decreased clearance of these free radicals and that produces increased oxidative stress, increases pathology, increases cell aging and eventually causes disease.

It is the accumulation of these free radical and the stress that they create that actually causes us to have a lot of our hypothyroid symptoms. They’re very similar to the symptoms associated with oxidative stress.

What do you do if you have symptoms of oxidative stress: brain fog, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint aches and pain, decreased eyesight, increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol? If you have all these signs and symptoms of oxidative stress, would do you do?

Before you start loading the body with more and more antioxidants, you want to reduce the stressors that are creating the problem first. Stress on your body, beyond your body’s ability to adapt at the cellular level, whether it’s physical, chemical, emotional or microbial, triggers a drop in energy and what we call a “cell danger response”.

One of the functions of the cell danger response is to down regulate cell metabolism. This occurs by the cellular deactivation of thyroid hormone. As we get deactivation of thyroid hormone, there is a decreased ability of cells to clear the free radicals that are being produced. This causes more cell damage and we become more symptomatic, more toxic.

Instead of taking those antioxidants, deal with these things. Take a look at your life. Do you have high levels of emotional stress? Whether it’s from relationships, work, your kids, your husband. Whatever those things are you have to deal with those.

If you have chemical stress because of what you eat, what you drink, what you smoke, the medications you take, your environment, the quality of the air, these are all things that will drive a stress response, deactivate thyroid hormone, lead to increase free radicals and make you not feel well.

Do you have too much physical stress? Are you an endurance athlete, a runner, a biker, or somebody that’s always active and always exercising but not giving yourself the time to recover, repair and regenerate. If that’s the case, you need to address that. If you’re a person who’s under-active, you don’t do much physical activity at all, that can be just as toxic and just as stressful as too much activity and exercise.

And lastly we need to look at microbes. Do you have bacterial overgrowth? Yeast overgrowth? Viral overload? Do you have parasitic overload? These are things that can create cellular stress, deactivate thyroid hormone, lead to increase reactive oxygen species, more damage to tissues, more cell aging and more pathology and disease.

So, look at your diet, look at you medication load, look at your home environment, and your work environment. Look at your thoughts. What’s going on between the six inches of your ears? Are you part of your own stress? What are you thinking about all the time? What are you saying to yourself all the time? What are your habits? Do you have habits that are more stressful or less stressful? Do you have things that help you heal and repair? Or do you have habits that cause more destruction?

Who’s the group of people your hanging around with? Are they positive people or more negative people? Are they always complaining? Are they spending too much time watching the news or complaining about other people on Facebook?

If you are around a group of people who are “negative nellies” remove some of those people in your life and get yourself centered around people who are more positive, more proactive, eat a better diet, and are more physically active.

What’s your activity levels? Are you doing activities that are more destructive or more beneficial for your health? What’s your sleep quality? Do you stay up too late? Do you get up too early? Do you not get good rest through the night? It’s during the night that your body heals and repairs. It’s during the night when you rest and sleep that we recover. If you don’t have good sleep habits, you’re not sleeping through the night, you need to get help for that because it is hard to help your cellular physiology when you’re not allowing your body to heal, rest and recover.

What’s your breathing like? Especially at night. If you’re a mouth breather, a snorer (I’ve talked about this on a couple of Thyroid Thursdays), hypoxia created by abnormal breathing will create chronic stress and that chronic stress will create thyroid hormone deactivation. Thyroid hormone deactivation will cause your bodies decreased ability to get rid of these free radicals and reactive oxidant species. They will build up in your cells, damage your cells, and create more damage.

You need to address your diet and lifestyle factors early on because there just isn’t enough medication and supplements to treat this process and they will not fix these lifestyle factors. You have to address diet and lifestyle factors.

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Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Balcavage, owner and founder of Rejuvagen. If you’re struggling with health issues or have questions, let’s chat. You can schedule a 15-minute call with me to get started.