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Sluggish Thyroid Function Linked to Mental Decline

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According to recent scientific studies, the thyroid plays a huge role in mitochondrial regulation, which is responsible for mental changes that can lead to health problems including depression, mental deterioration, and even Alzheimer's disease. Learn more about the connection below.

Did you know that your thyroid is not only responsible for regulating your weight, but may also be responsible for keeping your sanity?

According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the mitochondria is the portion of the brain responsible for the prevention of many different chronic diseases- including Autism Spectrum Disorder and other muscular, nervous, gastronomical, and mental diseases. Many adults and children with these diseases have a dysfunction in the mitochondria. The T3 hormone, created in the thyroid, is responsible for proper mitochondrial function and T3 levels may contribute to the malfunction of the mitochondria.

According to thyroid and functional medicine expert Dr. Kelly Brogan, some of the mental deterioration and mental illnesses present today may be related to poor thyroid health. She believes that all individuals suffering from mental issues have their thyroids checked, and that regulation of the thyroid may prevent the development of certain mental diseases.

The Thyroid and the Brain

Studies show that the thyroid plays a large role in mitochondrial activity. T3, one of the main thyroid hormones, is necessary for the proper regulation of the mitochondria, which itself is responsible for regulating behavior. A 1996 study published in Biological Psychiatry found that hypothyroidism (a sluggish thyroid) was responsible for the presentation of mental issues including depression, lack of cognitive function, and bipolar disorder. The effects were particularly marked in the elderly.

A 2004 study published in Encephale journal states what role the thyroid plays in the brain:

"Thyroid hormones receptors are predominantly present in cerebral cortex, amygdala, plexus choroideus and structures of adult neurogenesis: hippocampus and olfactory bulb. Thyroid hormones modify the expression of genes encoding myelin, neurotrophins, and proteins involved in intracellular signaling pathways. They have also neuroprotective and vasodilatory effects."

Although time and again research shows that thyroid function plays a huge role in memory loss and mental decline, few medical professionals examine the link between mental disorders and thyroid function on either side of the issue, which is leading to a serious disconnect in the medical industry.

Why Your Current Thyroid Treatment Plan Isn’t Working

Usually, when a patient goes to the doctor for suspected thyroid issues several tests are performed to gather information on whether the thyroid is within “normal” functioning range. The trouble with this approach is that it is a one-size-fits-all method that doesn’t nearly begin to cover all the nuances that go along with thyroid health.

According to Dr. Brogan, many doctors ignore any dysfunction in the endocrine system while looking at thyroid health. This, combined with the fact that some synthetic T4 hormones suppress natural T3 production, not only prevents effective treatment of the thyroid, but could also cause future problems in the brain and necessitate the eventual need for psychiatric medications.

Can Thyroid Treatment Heal Mental Diseases?

Several studies have been conducted on the role of thyroid hormones in mental health. The results of the studies may surprise you:

A study from the University of Calcutta in 1980 examined the hormone levels of patients with manic bipolar symptoms. This study revealed that these patients had elevated T3 hormone levels and were 2.55 times more likely to have abnormal free hormone levels. Abnormal free hormones and elevated T3 hormone levels lead to the panic-like symptoms often seen in manic mental disorders.

A clinical trial conducted by Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin in 2014 found that bipolar women who received a combination of T4 hormones and bipolar medication had a high success rate when compared with women who received bipolar medication alone.

Preventing Thyroid-Related Mental Decline

Your thyroid is tied up in the regulation of nearly all body systems, from the brain to the immune system, to weight regulation. It is in your best interest, for many reasons, to keep your thyroid functioning properly. Unfortunately, Harvard Medical school estimates that up to 30 million people in the United States are suffering from a thyroid disorder. That is nearly 10 percent of the total population who are at a higher risk for developing mental problems currently, or later in life. Luckily, thyroid problems are fixable. Find out more about how you can heal your thyroid and keep your brain sharp at the same time below.

What Causes The Thyroid to Slow?

Dr. Brogan says there are four big offenders that are contributing to today’s thyroid malfunction epidemic. These four factors include:


Excessive amounts of gluten have been linked to the development of celiac disease. Studies show that poor stomach and intestinal health is linked with mental decline, like a 2010 study from McMaster University in Canada that found intestinal microbiota was linked with anxiety-like symptoms. Hashimoto's disease, which is an immune function disorder of the thyroid, has been linked with intolerance of gluten in a 2001 study from the University of Torino in Italy.

Based on the findings of these studies, essential thyroid function is likely tied into intestinal health- which is greatly affected by gluten in individuals with gluten intolerances and sensitivities.


Fluoride was introduced into drinking water in the 1940s after dental researcher Dr. H. Trendley Dean discovered that teeth with fluorosis were more resistant to decay. In a 15-year study on fluoridated water in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it was found that the dental decay rate of the children in the town dropped by 60 percent after fluoride was added to the water.

This was good enough for most other cities in the US, and now most public water supplies are supplemented with added fluoride. Although the original researchers thought Fluoride worked by strengthening the teeth, recent studies show that fluoride works by discouraging bacteria from sticking to the teeth, which does not require ingestion.

A 2013 study published in the ACS journal Langmuir, found that fluoride reduces the amount of bacteria that sticks to the teeth, which is why the rate of tooth decay is less. However, other studies have proven that there is no internal benefit to ingesting fluoride and actually a variety of risks- including the risk of thyroid suppression.

A study from the MM College of Dental Sciences and Research in India published in 2011 found that consuming fluoride leads to a suppressed thyroid and interferes with iodine placement and body tissue integrity. This connection is so well-known that past treatments for hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) included supplementing with fluoride.

What this means for the modern water-drinker is that every time you drink fluoridated water, you are essentially taking medication to slow your thyroid.

Birth Control Hormones

Pregnancy naturally slows the metabolism and the thyroid, so it makes sense that pregnancy-stimulating hormone pills would also have a slowing effect on the thyroid. Even mainstream medical sites like Web MD admit to the thyroid-altering effect of birth control hormones.

Endocrine Disruptors

A wide variety of endocrine disruptors, such as phthalates, BPA, industrial chemicals, and flame retardants can interfere with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal signaling, which can lead to hormone upset, a 2010 study published in Thyroid Journal found.

What Can I Do to Prevent Hormone Disruption?

Simply eliminating as many of the above four factors can help improve thyroid function. Not everyone will need to remove gluten either- if tests indicate you have no sensitivity to gluten then you probably can continue to eat it. Basic Prevention Steps The following steps can help you regulate your thyroid and boost your cognitive function at the same time:

Avoid Chemicals

Try natural cleaning products and personal care products, drinking filtered water, and removing plastics from your home and clothing as much as possible. Stay away from large sources of chemicals as much as possible, such as chlorinated pools, non-filtered water, farms, and manufacturing plants.

Eat Better

A healthy diet is essential for proper thyroid function. Gluten, sugar, vegetable oils, junk food, and dairy may all have an adverse effect on your thyroid and brain. In general, stick to healthy, unprocessed foods. Avoid drinking fluoridated water. A 2012 study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that grains can let peptides through the stomach lining where they can interfere with hormone production in the thyroid as well as many other systems in the body.

Stop Birth Control

Women who are on birth control should stop taking the hormones. It can take a while for hormones to regulate after coming off birth control. Make sure to discuss the possible repercussions with your doctor before stopping the pill.

Manage Stress

Stress can also play a role in the hormone production in the thyroid. The adrenal glands are responsible for creating a variety of hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can interfere with the proper production of thyroid hormones. Reducing stress and learning to deal with stress in healthy ways can promote the proper balance of hormones.

You can learn to manage stress by implementing practices like exercise, relaxing, sitting with a relaxed posture, taking warm baths, and drinking relaxing warm beverages before bed. Getting enough sleep is also essential to eliminating stress. The National Sleep Foundation advises that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

Supplement Wisely

A variety of supplements and vitamins have been linked to proper thyroid function. Studies show that individuals who have thyroid problems are often low in iodine, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins. Supplementing with these vitamins and adding vitamin and nutrient-rich foods to your diet can provide extra building blocks that can help regulate your thyroid faster.

Vitamins and Minerals that Boost Thyroid Function
  • B vitamins
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Iodine
  • Copper

 You can find these nutrients in supplement form as well as in natural foods. Look for these nutrients in the following foods:

  • Sea vegetables and seaweed
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Dairy products (only if you are tolerant of dairy)
  • Eggs
  • Strawberries
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Oyster
  • Oranges
  • Spinach

Regulating the Brain with a Balanced Thyroid

Your thyroid is responsible for a wide range of systems in the body. Studies indicate that many mental disorders could be improved by regulating the thyroid. Some medical professionals, like Dr. Brogan, believe that some mental disorders are erroneously diagnosed and actually indicate the presence of a thyroid hormone imbalance.

Regulating the thyroid will not only protect the immune system and regulate the metabolism, but it may also reduce your risk of developing mental instability today and mental deterioration in the future. Since the thyroid is such an important part of the body, isn’t it worth it to protect its function in the body?

Luckily, restoring thyroid balance is possible with the right combination of diet, exercise, and hormone balance- which can be achieved by avoiding hormone disruptors and living a stress-free lifestyle.





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