Healing the thyroid part three: the liver and detoxification
Part of overcoming and healing thyroid disorders (as well as any other health issue) is that sometimes you see setbacks. You get better, and then for some reason, you may start to feel crummy again.
For me, this happened last week. I’ve felt a lot better since my lab tests right before Christmas, more energy, better frame of mind, and my thoughts and projects were much more organized. But after a couple of days of eating some indulgent foods and a couple of late nights, I again began to feel very tired and fatigued.
But I also know that my body is healing because even after a setback, I’m bouncing back better than I had before. And as an added bonus, I’m beginning to really understand what’s going on and listen to my body. When I’m tired, I rest.
So on to the slightly delayed third part of our series on how to naturally heal the thyroid. (If you’ve missed the others, you can check them all out here: Healing the Thyroid)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that our fallen world is a bit toxic. Well, depending on where you live it might be more than a little toxic. We’ve discussed much of that here on the blog and in my book, I go into a bit more detail on some specific toxins and how they affect our bodies, so I’m sure most of you have a basic understanding of how our bodies become overloaded with toxins.
For those of you that are new to this information, we are often exposed to toxins and chemicals in our environment and they get into our bodies. Just a few of the ways our bodies are exposed:
- Mercury from amalgam fillings, coal plants, and sometimes fish.
- Aluminum from personal care products and cans
- BPA and xeno-estrogens (synthetic compounds that are similar in structure to our natural estrogen) from plastics, hygiene products, and household materials.
- Synthetic hormones, chlorine, and fluoride in our water supply
- Pesticides from produce
Our bodies were wonderfully created and have a natural cleansing system to get rid of these things, in small amounts. We detoxify every day through sweating, breathing, urination, and defecation. The problem comes when we’re exposed in large amounts, or our detoxification pathways aren’t working properly due to poor diet.
The liver is one of our largest organs and its main responsibility is to break down chemicals and toxins through it’s two-stage detoxification process, which renders them harmless and secretes them out through our digestive system.
“When the detoxification system is overwhelmed, the liver is unable to remove these harmful substances from our body. These dangerous substances then begin to accumulate in different cells of the body. As more and more cells of the body accumulate these harmful substances, the cells begin to lose their ability to work and communicate properly.
It has been my observation that it is impossible for someone to overcome illness and achieve optimal health without optimizing their detoxification systems.” – Overcoming Thyroid Disorders by Dr. David Brownstein, MD
Dr. Brownstein also writes in his book that he finds heavy metal toxicity in a large percentage of his patients (>80%) and in the case of autoimmune disorders, that percentage is almost 100%. It’s suggested that the metal toxicity causes the immune system to malfunction.
“Mercury has been shown to bind to the thyroid gland and disrupt it’s functioning. Mercury binds very tightly to fatty tissues of the body (i.e. the brain) and to cells with sulfhydryl groups. Many enzymes contain sulfhydryl groups that cause many crucial reactions to happen in the body. One of those is the enzyme that converts the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3, iodothyronine 5’deiodinase*.”Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, pg 256
This enzyme is also dependent on adequate selenium levels, but selenium is also one of the most potent chelators of mercury, meaning it binds to it to assist its removal from the body. So not only does mercury affect the thyroid directly, it may contribute to selenium deficiency and the lack of T4 to T3 conversion.
(*the book Autoimmune, the cause and the cure also mentions this specific enzyme)
So how do we help our bodies let go of toxicity?
Let me first say that heavy metal toxicity should be handled by a holistic health practitioner. This way they can test you (usually through hair and urine analysis) and observe and guide you through the process. Some doctors choose to use chelation, others may take different steps with supplements and herbs.
1. Get away from the toxins
Reducing our exposure to toxins is extremely important and one of the reasons I choose to use as many natural and homemade products as I can. This helps me to lower the amount of toxins I’m exposed to on a daily basis, because there will always be toxins around that I can not control.
So choosing natural cleaners and beauty products along with getting rid of things like non-stick pans and plastic food storage containers will help lessen the toxic load on the body.
(You can also check out the 31 Days to Cleaner Living if you need some help and/or encouragement in making changes)
2. Focus on food
It always comes down to food for me, it’s the foundation to health! If you can lower the amount of toxins you ingest in the foods you eat by choosing organic produce and meats, you’ll be leaps and bounds healthier in this aspect. But you can also use foods to help support your natural detoxification system as well.
I’ve talked about cleansing with whole foods before, but as a quick overview you can decrease the foods that are either harder to digest OR take longer to digest, (foods like grains, sugar, and animal proteins) and instead increase your consumption of foods that support the liver and bile production (foods like beets, lemon, garlic, and asparagus).
Making sure you’re eating a nutrient dense diet will also help build nutrients that are important in detoxification.
3. Work on digestion
We’ve already covered healing the digestive system, but it’s also important to note it here as well since our digestive system helps us rid the body of toxins, in probably the largest amount compared to our other outlets. When our digestive system is working properly, and we are urinating multiple times per day and having at least one or two bowel movements in the same period of time, we can be sure that any toxins we take in are being moved out in a timely fashion.
Dr. Brownstein also recommends adequate water intake (between meals) to helps flush out toxins as well as carry nutrients into cells.
Other important aspects
- Sweating also allows the body to clear out toxins as well as clear the lymph system. Dr. Brownstein recommends a sauna, especially if a person doesn’t normally sweat.
- Herbs can also be effective at helping the body rid itself of toxins and there are multiple herbs to look into. A couple of my favorites for liver support are nettle and milk thistle, though you can also find packaged blends specific for liver cleansing.
Depending on your state of health, cleansing the body may take weeks or even months. And the sicker you are, the more you should work with a holistic health practitioner to guide you through the process.
Have ever done a specific detoxification program or been tested for toxins/heavy metals? Please share your experiences!