thyroid gland inside human body. 3d illustration

Iodine is one of the main elements your body needs to produce thyroid hormones.

Your body is unable to produce enough iodine to do this on its own which is why it is an imperative part of any diet.

Iodine can be consumed through many foods (see Table 1). If you do not have enough iodine in your body, then your body will not be able to make enough thyroid hormones.

As such, you can end up with iodine deficiencies.

These deficiencies can cause your thyroid to enlarge, or cause hypothyroidism and mental retardation in unborn babies whose mothers have iodine deficiencies while pregnant.

Prior to the 1920’s iodine deficiencies were common in communities throughout the Great Lakes region, the Appalachian region, the Northwest parts of the United States, and parts of Canada.

Treatment for this deficiency was introduced through iodized salt.

This has actually helped to eliminate most of the issue in areas like this. In the meantime though, other parts of the world have not yet adopted the same treatment.

Without iodized salt readily available in diets throughout these areas, iodine deficiencies continue to present public health issues.

In fact, 40% of the population around the world is at risk for such a deficiency.

Sources of Iodine

Iodine is found inside seawater and soil naturally. There are different levels of iodine in food around the world. In the United States, people can get adequate iodine levels in their diet if they just replace salt in their food with iodized salt.

Eating foods which are high in iodine, like seafood and dairy, or taking a multivitamin with iodine in it can help provide an adequate level of iodine.

Below is a table that shows you just a handful of the foods in the United States that give you iodine necessary to prevent such thyroid issues.

TABLE 1. COMMON SOURCES OF IODINE IN FOOD:

  • Cheese
  • Milk from cows
  • Eggs
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Ice Cream
  • Iodine-containing multivitamins
  • Iodized table salt
  • Saltwater fish
  • Seaweed such as nori and kelp
  • Shellfish
  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Yogurt

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiencies:

The symptoms one would experience for iodine deficiencies are all similar especially with regard to their effect:

Goiter:

If you do not have proper amounts of iodine, then your thyroid gets bigger and bigger, developing a goiter.

This happens when it attempts to keep up with your body’s demand for thyroid hormones. Around the world this deficiency is most common cause of enlarged thyroids.

Within the goiter, nodules sometimes develop. People who have a large goiter might have problems breathing, swallowing, or even choking when they are lying down.

Hypothyroidism:

When levels of iodine in the body fall, hypothyroidism can develop especially because iodine is imperative for the production of the thyroid hormone.

This is somewhat uncommon in the United States but around the world this iodine deficiency is actually quite prevalent (see Hypothyroidism brochure).

Pregnancy-Related Issues:

Iodine deficiencies are even more important in women who are currently pregnant or nursing, since they are essentially supplying this mineral to two people.

Severe deficiencies in pregnant women has been linked to congenital abnormalities in birthed babies as well as miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and stillbirths. Children whose mothers had severe deficiencies during pregnancy sometimes face issues of mental retardation, and additional issues with speech, hearing, and growth.

If this condition persists for some time, underactive thyroids can even result in cretinism, a medical condition, due to maternal hypothyroidism, that results in much slower mental and physical developments. This, again, is not a common issue in the United States, but is common in other parts of the world.

Congenital hypothyroidism, the result of a deficiency in pregnant woman is one of the more treatable causes of mental retardation across the globe. Even a mild deficiency in a pregnant woman can result in low intelligence in children, but can be prevented.

Causes of Iodine Deficiencies

The body is unable to produce the amount of iodine necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, as mentioned.

It is because of this that you have to help supplement the iodine levels in your body with iodine in things like vitamins or food.

Now, around the world there are different levels of availability for iodine in different foods.

As mentioned, the table above (table 1) includes a generic list of iodine foods in the United States, but more specific food lists vary based on country and what foods are available in that country.

People in the United States can maintain healthy levels of iodine in their body, enough to properly produce thyroid hormones, by simple restricting the salt they consume and replacing any consuming salt with iodized salt. It is also beneficial to consume foods high in iodine like meat, eggs, seafood, and some breads.

People can complement this by consuming multivitamins daily which contain iodine.

Note that the list in Table 1 is incomplete. Thyroid.org’s Iodine Deficiency Brochure has more information on this topic and a pretty good list of foods rich in Iodine.

Diagnosing Deficiencies

Iodine deficiencies can be diagnosed better across whole populations rather than in individual’s Iodine is released by your body by way of urine.

Therefore the best way to figure out iodine deficiencies in a large group of people is to measure the levels of iodine found in their urine samples.

Having an iodine deficiency is when you have an average concentration of iodine in the urine which is less than 50 μg/L in a population (see Table 2). Throughout the United States, the levels of iodine in the population has remained about the same for the same two decades.

Levels dropped by roughly half during the beginning the 1970’s and then through the 1990’s. In other parts of the world through, particularly Europe, Asia, and Africa still face this as a large issue.

Below is a table that shows the median population values for iodine and iodine nutrition.

TABLE 2. MEDIAN POPULATION URINARY VALUES

MEDIAN CONCENTRATION IODINE IN URINE (μg/L) IODINE INTAKE (μg/day) NUTRITION
<20 <30 SEVERE DEFICIENCY
20-49 30-74 MODERATE DEFICIENCY
50-99 75-149 MILD DEFICIENCY
100-199 150-299 OPTIMAL
200-299 300-449 MORE THAN ADEQUATE
>299 >449 POSSIBLE EXCESS
[From WHO, UNICEF and ICCIDD 2001 Assessment of the Iodine Deficiency Disorders and monitoring their elimination. A guide for programme managers. WHO publ., Geneva. WHO/NHD/01.1]

 

How to Prevent Iodine Deficiency

As is the case with many diseases, one of the best ways to handle an iodine deficiency is to prevent the problem rather have to treat it.

The World Health Organization has worked hard to eliminate iodine deficiencies around the world. Iodized salt in fact has been used around the world to treat iodine deficiencies, especially around the United States.

In some areas of the world injections of iodized oil are used where iodized salt is not possible. In certain places around the world iodination of water supplies has been used as a main treatment for deficiencies.

Across the United States, the National Institute of Medicine has stated that there is a recommended daily allowance for iodine. For men and women that allowance is set at 150 μg per day.

Individuals who can add tablet salt to the foods they eat are better off using iodized salt for their foods. The reason being, one teaspoon of iodized salt has 400 μg of iodine. There are many iodine filled multivitamins on the market here too which have on average 150 μg of iodine in them, but you have to be careful when seeking out vitamins.

Not every multi vitamin has iodine in it. Roughly half of those on the market have iodine in them, which is why you need to check before you begin taking them to ensure you are taking the right ones.

Pregnant women should be consuming 220 μg of iodine each day. Women who are breastfeeding should take 290 μg iodine. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding are the ones who stand the highest risk of iodine deficiency.

Therefore, the American Thyroid Association recommends that any pregnant or breastfeeding woman in Canada and the United States take one prenatal multivitamin each day which contains 150 μg of iodine.

Taking Too Much Iodine

If you take too much iodine, it can cause problems.

This is especially the case in individuals who already have issues with their thyroid like autoimmune thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism, or nodules. Administering large quantities of iodine by way of medications, radiology procedures, or dietary excess can cause issues like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

It can also worsen existing conditions. Moreover, people who move from iodine-deficient regions to areas with adequate iodine intake can also develop thyroid issues because their thyroids have been trained to take up and use only small amounts of iodine. People facing this issue could develop iodine-induced hyperthyroidism.

For this reason, it is important to speak with a doctor or healthcare professional about ways to regulate intake and measure the amount of iodine in the foods, salts, or vitamins you might be taking. Combining all three might give you the right amount of iodine for your body or it might be slightly too much for the body. Chances are your body will help you to regulate naturally, and anything that goes beyond what is needed will be filtered out through the urine.

Overall, iodine is actually imperative for your body. Even people who have thyroid diseases need to consume iodine and regulate their consumption in order to help with their disease.

The thyroid gland influences almost all metabolic processes in the body through the hormones it produces. However, this gland is prone to various diseases or disorders that jeopardize patients’ health and quality of life. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and that 60% of people aren’t even aware of their condition.

The most common thyroid problems are associated with either excessive or insufficient production of thyroid hormones i.e. hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Nowadays, various herbs and plants are thought to have a beneficial impact on the thyroid gland, which is why supplements containing these ingredients are gaining popularity. Bacopa monnieri is one of these plants, but exactly does this plant help your thyroid?

Can Bacopa Monnieri Benefit Your Thyroid?

First, let’s get to know bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi a little bit better. It is a perennial plant native to the wetlands of southern and eastern India, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. Bacopa is one of many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine due to its potent health benefits. It was primarily used to address epilepsy, asthma, tumors and anemia.

Make sure not to confuse bacopa monnieri with gotu kola and other medicinal plants which can also, sometimes, be referred to as brahmi. In fact, bacopa goes by multiple names, which is why some people don’t even notice they’re taking a supplement containing this ingredient. Other names for bacopa monnieri include herb of grace, herpestis herb, herpestis monniera, hysope d’eau, Indian pennywort, jalanimba and water hyssop.

The primary reason why bacopa monnieri’s usage in medicinal purposes persisted for centuries is the fact that it acts as an adaptogen, meaning the plant helps your body adapt to new or stressful conditions.

Bacopa monnieri and your thyroid

Bacopa is associated with a wide array of health benefits, but what most people don’t know is that this powerful plant can also help improve the functionality of the thyroid gland; it addresses a problem called hypothyroidism.

What is hypothyroidism? Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is defined as a condition wherein the thyroid gland doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of important hormones. Women are more likely to develop this condition than men, and it affects individuals older than 60 primarily. Causes of hypothyroidism are numerous including autoimmune disease, hyperthyroidism treatment, medications, thyroid surgery, and many others.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary, and they depend on the severity of the hormone deficiency. The most common symptoms of include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, puffy face, hoarseness, weight gain, impaired memory, depression, and muscle weakness. It is not uncommon for patients to experience higher blood cholesterol levels, muscle aches, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, heavier or irregular menstrual periods, and tenderness, pain, and stiffness in the joints.

How can bacopa help? It appears that the bacopa monnieri leaf extract has the potential to reverse the function of the thyroid gland in a bid to regulate hormone levels.  This is why bacoba is gaining popularity among those who prefer a natural approach towards health and wellbeing; they are starting to realize the plant can benefit the thyroid. That said; this subject is poorly studied. There is only one, but highly significant research on this subject, and its findings not only shed the light onto thyroid problems, but they also pave the way for future studies and the potential use of bacopa for hypothyroidism.

What did the study find?

This particular study was carried out by a group of researchers at the Devi Ahilya University in India. The primary objective was to analyze the impact of bacopa, aloe vera, and angle marmelos on the regulation of thyroid hormone concentrations. For the purpose of the research, scientists used male mice. Their findings, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, showed that while other plants decreased the production of thyroid hormones, bacopa monnieri increased it.

Based on these results, the group of researchers concluded that bacopa monnieri has a thyroid-stimulating role. In fact, the effect of bacopa on thyroid hormones production wasn’t meager; the plant increased the concentration of T4 by 41% without enhancing hepatic lipid peroxidation. Here, T4 is a thyroid hormone called thyroxine. The results suggest that bacopa monnieri can be used as a thyroid-stimulating drug.

It’s important to mention that during the study, mice were given 50% ethanolic extract of bacopa at an oral dosage of 200mg/kg a day for 15 days.

Do bacopa monnieri supplements have side effects?

Generally, if you have hypothyroidism, you shouldn’t use supplements or any other forms of treatment without discussing it with your doctor. The ingredients in any supplement can interfere with the efficacy of your medications, and that’s a scenario you want to avoid.

Since bacopa monnieri is a plant and is usually included in dietary supplements made of natural ingredients, the risk of adverse effects is low. Of course, it is highly important that you take only the suggested dosage. Don’t increase or decrease the dose of the supplement out of your own accord.

If you want to consume organic bacopa monnieri i.e. in leaf form, then t things can be a bit tricky. At this point, when it comes to bacopa in its plant form, there is no standard dosage that a person should take to stimulate thyroid hormone production.

It is very important to point out the obvious fact that you shouldn’t take bacopa monnieri if you have hyperthyroidism as the plant could only aggravate your condition.

Other benefits of bacopa monnieri

Now that you know how bacopa monnieri can benefit the thyroid gland, let’s discuss some other benefits associated with this plant.

  • Brain health and cognitive abilities – active compounds in bacopa positively influence brain cells and support the regeneration of brain tissue. For instance, one study showed that bacopa has a tremendous potential to safely enhance cognitive performance in elderly participants
  • Liver health – bacopa is also useful for encouraging liver function following toxin damage
  • Addresses neonatal hypoglycemia – low blood sugar or hypoglycemia in newborn infants can lead to serious and immediate brain damage and other negative health outcomes. Active compounds from bacopa exhibit neuro-protecting effects in hypoglycemic babies
  • Promotes healthy blood pressure – bacopa increases the utilization of nitric oxide and encourages vascular muscle function. Both these factors are essential for healthy blood pressure
  • Antioxidant – antioxidants fight free radicals in order to protect our body from oxidative damage. Bacopa is known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which is yet another reason this plant is popular
  • Sexual function – bacopa monnieri is also used to treat sexual dysfunction and fertility problems. Due to the utilization of nitric oxide and the fact it promotes healthy blood flow, bacopa is a standard ingredient in male enhancement supplements that aim to help men have stronger and long-lasting erections

How to take bacopa monnieri

Although bacopa monnieri can be found in nature, most people find it easier to take it as a supplement. As mentioned above, if your doctor approves the use of bacopa monnieri, you should stick to the dosage he recommends. In most cases, the dose is 300mg. It is also possible for some patients to to get the plant in leaf or powder form, and the dose in that case is usually, 750-1500mg.

Back in time, bacopa was consumed with ghee which is a clarified butter that originated in India. This tradition was actually useful because bacopa is fat soluble, which means it needs a lipoid transporter in order to be fully absorbed by the body and exhibit its benefits.That’s why the right way to take bacopa is alongside a meal.

Tips to improve thyroid function

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables
  • Munch on Brazil nuts
  • Lower consumption of gluten
  • Increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, and foods containing iodine, selenium, zinc
  • Manage stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use sauna and heat to eliminate the stored toxins known for their negative impact on thyroid functionality
  • Decrease the consumption of soy products

Conclusion

The thyroid is an important gland which produces hormones that play a role in a wide array of metabolic processes. It is not uncommon for people to experience different thyroid problems, and besides following doctor-recommended medications, making certain lifestyle changes is a good way to manage that condition. Bacopa monnieri is well-known for its medicinal properties, which is why the plant plays a major role in Ayurvedic medicine. According to Thyroid Advisor and other studies, bacopa has the potential to increase the production of thyroid hormone and help individuals suffering from hypothyroidism.

 

The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Thyroid

The dangers of high blood pressure are well-known yet this condition can often go undetected due to a lack of symptoms. High blood pressure, or hypertension, isn’t always a standalone health concern either. Secondary hypertension is fairly common and can occur as symptom alongside many health conditions, such as thyroid disorders.

Thyroid disorders are surprisingly common yet often go undiagnosed. The reason for this is not clear, but could be a combination of people not knowing common symptoms of thyroid disorders and doctors not testing for these issues often enough. Without treatment a thyroid disorder will only worsen over time, and if combined with hypertension can lead to severe health problems.

Thankfully more studies are being done on the link between hypertension and the thyroid, as the connection between the two was fairly unknown until recently. Early recognition of an ill thyroid gland and sudden high blood pressure is important for faster patient recovery.

Which Thyroid Disorders are Associated with Hypertension?

When hypertension is present in a patient with a thyroid abnormality it is often the thyroid gland that started this problem.

There are three types of thyroid conditions associated with secondary hypertension:

  • Hypothyroidism – Too little thyroid hormone being produced
  • Hyperthyroidism – Too much thyroid hormone being produced
  • Hyperparathyroidism – Overactive parathyroid glands

Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder, affecting roughly 20 million Americans. It was once believed that an underactive thyroid gland would actually cause low blood pressure but studies have shown otherwise. Hypertension occurs in those with hypothyroidism because of how the thyroid hormones affects blood vessel and arterial constriction. Healthy thyroid hormones levels have an important dilating effect on the vascular system. When this hormone is suddenly not being produced at adequate levels, blood pressure rises because of vasoconstriction.

Hyperthyroidism is more rare, with only about 2.5 million Americans believed to have this disorder. While cases of hypertension are greater in patients with hypothyroidism, this is due to a much higher number of people having this disorder. When it comes to hyperthyroidism patients are actually more likely to develop secondary hypertension. A spike in too much of the thyroid hormone can lead to increased blood pressure. Interestingly, hyperthyroidism is more likely to cause isolated systolic hypertension. Those with this type of hypertension will notice that only the top number in their blood pressure reading spikes.

Hyperparathyroidism is more rare than the two main thyroid disorders but still has a correlation to hypertension. The parathyroid glands are actually four very small glands located on the back of the thyroid gland. These tiny but powerful glands produce the parathyroid hormone which controls calcium in the blood. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when these glands malfunction and allow too much calcium into the bloodstream. Too much calcium leads to higher blood pressure, which will develop into a disorder when it happens consistently.

Determining if you have a thyroid disorder can be done through a blood test. While you can get an idea of whether you might have hypo or hyperthyroidism by comparing common symptoms, the only way to know for sure is with lab work. It is a good idea for those that are more apt to developing thyroid conditions to regularly check in with their doctor so a potential gland issues will be caught more quickly. This includes those with a family history of thyroid disorders, overweight or obese people, and women who have entered menopause.

What is Secondary Hypertension?

Secondary hypertension is less common than primary hypertension and the most common high blood pressure disorder associated with the thyroid. Secondary hypertension is simply high blood pressure that is a symptom of another health issue. This type of hypertension is fortunately more easily identified and treated compared to more complex primary hypertension.

Hypertension of either type can lead to serious health consequences, made even more dangerous since secondary hypertension can show few symptoms. Some common signs of high blood pressure being secondary hypertension include:

  • Resistance to high blood pressure medication
  • Unusually high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure medication gradually losing its effect
  • Rapid development of hypertension

Unlike primary hypertension, those with secondary hypertension may have no history of high blood pressure and could otherwise be fit or at a health weight. Essentially secondary hypertension cause occur even when a patient’s lifestyle wouldn’t normally prompt a blood pressure issue.

It can be argued that secondary hypertension can be more of an issue than primary. The reason for this is that the hypertension will not only worsen the original health problem, but it also can cause it’s own negative side-effects. This can make treatment more difficult. Left untreated secondary hypertension can cause:

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the arteries)
  • Aneurysms
  • Kidney Damage
  • Loss of Vision
  • Heart Failure

Untreated hypertension can also induce further metabolic disorders which weakens the body, increasing the chances of serious health problems like diabetes. Even if the hypertension hasn’t yet reached a threatening high, consistent hypertension will begin to affect your daily life by harming memory and brain function. The risks of heart disease and even stroke make secondary hypertension just as serious as primary.

Treating secondary hypertension will often not only control the high blood pressure concern, but aid in alleviating the underlying disorder that originally caused it to happen. If a thyroid disorder is the cause of your high blood pressure, you won’t be able to completely solve this problem unless both issues are treated. In some cases just getting on medication for the thyroid will bring blood pressure back down to a healthy level without further treatment.

How are Thyroid Disorders with Secondary Hypertension Treated?

If you suspect a thyroid disorder you should schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. As mentioned above a blood test is the only way to determine if you have a disorder. There are actually four different blood tests to determine a thyroid disorder, which include:

  • T3
  • T3RU
  • T4
  • TSH

Of these four the first test most doctors call for is the T4 or the TSH. Both tests can be used to detect either of the thyroid disorders. The T4 test will show high for hyperthyroidism and low for primary or secondary hypothyroidism. The TSH blood panel will show the opposite – low for hyperthyroidism, high for primary hypothyroidism and low for secondary hypothyroidism.

The names of these tests, such as T3 and T4, are named so after the thyroid hormone. There are two thyroid hormones present in the body, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Typically if a thyroid test comes back with abnormal or unclear results, your doctor may do another blood test for further lab work.

If you are experience hypertension and a thyroid test comes back with an abnormal result, it is likely that your high blood pressure is secondary hypertension. Treatment of secondary hypertension will differ greatly depending on your physician and the severity of your disorder.

For example, if your doctor determines that your secondary hypertension isn’t severe and it stemming from your thyroid, you may only need to be put on thyroid medication to solve both issues. On the other hand, if you doctor finds you have a severe thyroid condition and hypertension, typically both health issues will need to be tackled at once. This may include a treatment plan of both thyroid medication and high blood pressure medication.

If your doctor determines that you have hyperparathyroidism treatment will differ from hypo or hyperthyroidism. Instead of a T4 medication or other treatment your doctor may instead use hormone replacement therapy, bisphosphonates or calcimimetics. Sometimes surgery is required. Those with secondary hypertension and hyperparathyroidism may be more likely to need to go on a blood pressure medication until the hyperparathyroidism is under control.

Secondary hypertension and thyroid disorders can have dangerous effects on health when left ignored, but thankfully the average person with these issues can have both cured with medication and physician supervision. Those with a family history of hypertension should pay special attention if they suspect a thyroid issue.