Dr. Alan Christianson and Ashley James
To heal your thyroid holistically is not as complicated as it seems. There have also been numerous opinions on whether iodine is good or bad for our health in the long run. To enlighten us about how to heal your thyroid holistically and other health issues linked to our thyroid, I’m so happy to have Dr. Alan Christianson back on the show.
Dr. Alan Christianson has helped so many people over the years addressing thyroid and adrenal issues. A significant component of how to holistically heal your thyroid is through the right diet. That’s why Dr. Alan Christianson wrote the book, The Metabolism Reset Diet, which is launching on January 29.
Dr. Alan Christianson says thyroid health does affect a lot of systems in the body. Especially brain development on kids. And to date, he says it’s been estimated that there’s a lot of billion people on planet earth who didn’t get the brain function they deserve because they lacked iodine as they grew up.
And whenever the topic is about how to heal your thyroid holistically, iodine often comes up. For those who are unaware, iodine is one of the first elements that is ever isolated. The name itself comes from the violet color the element has.
“The thyroid medication contains active thyroid hormones. And they are built from iodine. And getting too much can seem a lot like too little regarding how it affects the body,” explains Dr. Alan Christianson.
He adds, “The amount that you need is about a hundredfold of what you find in the bloodstream. So, the bloodstream concentrates iodine. And the concentrator is important because it’s a nutrient that you wouldn’t get on a consistent basis. But the pitfall about that concentrator is that if we get a lot of it, we shut down the factory.”
Too Much or Too Little Iodine?
Before you embark on the journey of how to heal your thyroid holistically, there’s a lot of tests available in the market to aid you in finding the best solution. There are spot urine tests, which means random samples of urine is analyzed.
Dr. Alan Christianson also shares that there are the 24-hour urine test and a recent thing called iodine challenge test. The iodine challenge test is where you take a big dose and see how much you excrete in the time afterward.
“A lot of those tests are decent to gauge how much iodine a population has. So, if you were to go to Central Africa and screen a thousand people with spot urinary iodine test, you get a good hunch,” said Dr. Alan Christianson. “But because there is so much variation in any one person’s random urine sample, you have to test thoroughly.”
He adds, “Some of the best tests would only require about 200 tests for one person to have 90% of accuracy. So, there are no good tests, but thankfully there’s also no known human diversity regarding iodine absorption or excretion.”
To heal your thyroid holistically, diet is a critical component. Dr. Alan Christianson reveals that one population can be at risk for getting low iodine if their food is more stringent and that’s pregnant women. And with the healthy intake of seafood and a good variety of produce in the diet, it’s easy not to become deficient.
The other group that can be at risk are raw food vegans who don’t use any iodine-fortified salt. Dr. Alan Christianson likes sea salt for general use because this way, you get some magnesium. So, if someone was consuming no animal products and especially just raw foods, they can get low iodine.
“Sea vegetables are rich in iodine. Most forms of sea vegetables have enough to be useful but not enough to throw your way out of the ballpark,” said Dr. Alan Christianson. “Kelp helps a lot. Tiny amounts could be useful. Nori has pretty reasonable amounts of iodine.”
Dr. Alan Christianson also mentioned that by adding iodized salt to food, people could get reasonable amounts. He also said that pretty much all multi-vitamins will have between a hundred or two hundred micrograms.
Too Much Iodine While On Medication
Dr. Alan Christianson explains that if someone is between their supplements, their diet, and medication, it creates more overall resistance to thyroid hormones in their body. So, the amounts that we need regarding thyroid and iodine are a small quantity, like one to two hundred micrograms or a tenth of a grain of salt.
“Some studies show that megadose iodine is an effective treatment for fibrocystic breast disease. We have to think through side effects, and thyroid complication as whether or not is it worth it overall,” said Dr. Alan Christianson.
A Japanese physician discovered Hashimoto’s because the Japanese have the highest rates of autoimmune thyroid disease and thyroid cancer. According to Dr. Alan Christianson, they also have the world’s highest iodine intake.
In the U.S., Dr. Alan Christianson reveals that we have a lot of goiter cases especially in a lot of great lakes and areas where there is a lot of fresh water. But we didn’t have autoimmune thyroid disease.
“The thing with Hashimoto’s as an autoimmune disease, if you don’t see it then you don’t know that it’s not there,” Dr. Alan Christianson said. “So, people have hypothyroidism, and sometimes the doctor may test for thyroid antibodies. Half the time, the thyroid antibodies are negative.”
He adds, “But people who have Hashimoto’s disease, half the time their thyroid antibodies never show up. So, there are few cases of hypothyroidism that are not autoimmune.”
Graves’ disease, on the other hand, is also known as toxic diffuse goiter. It is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. Based on numerous case studies, it often results in and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Apart from that, it frequently results in an enlarged thyroid.
“The part about being hyperthyroid perpetuates the autoimmune attack. You may see odd things that may not be helpful but seems to be effective for one person,” Dr. Alan Christianson explains. “And with more appropriate treatment, in pulling someone out of hyperthyroidism and getting iodine right, many can heal and stay stable again.”
He adds, “It’s not about the pill. The question is always can I be vital and happy and thriving again. So, focus on that one. It’s really about how you’re going to feel and function.”
Advocating For Ourselves
Dr. Alan Christianson says the patient’s well-being is most important. But thyroid levels also affect health in ways that you wouldn’t know based on symptoms alone. Your TSH signal, for example, that’s a growth signal to the thyroid. And it can be a growth signal for something connected with health issues like heart disease and diabetes.
“So, it’s important to monitor our thyroid levels annually, to make sure we’re not getting too much or too little. Cancer that’s growing the fastest among women is thyroid cancer. The rates have gone up since the end of the 90s. It has gone up three-fold,” shares Dr. Alan Christianson.
Dr. Alan Christianson also believes that people with thyroid disease should have a minimum of a baseline ultrasound when the thyroid is down. The American College of Gynecology, in fact, recommends self-neck checks on a monthly basis as part of wanting to heal the thyroid holistically.
Dr. Alan Christianson stressed that selenium is essential for all things thyroid. Those who are low in selenium are more likely to have an iodine deficiency and vice versa.
“So, it’s most important to get a screen for your TSH and your thyroid antibodies. And it’s important to know not just what’s normal but what should optimal look like,” said Dr. Alan Christianson. “There’s a certain amount of thyroid antibodies that are considered perfectly fine.”
Dr. Alan Christianson says the number of people who have thyroid problems is much higher than people who have perfect thyroid function. And when you look at the healthiest populations, their average scores of T4 and T3 pretty much are the average scores in the blood test. T3 and T4 are highly regulated by the body, and they only reflect the state when the body is off by extremes.
On the other hand, T2 is not measurable. Dr. Alan Christianson says healthy people have reasonable amounts of that. People who are on thyroid treatment that does not include T2, tend to be lacking in it. He also said that T2 by itself seems to have the most significant roles to play in metabolic rates, and also would regulate ovarian function.
Truth About Cortisol
There have also been references wherein popularized the idea of how the adrenals are unable to produce cortisol. Dr. Alan Christianson mentions that there’s a disease called Addison’s disease. He went on to say that at a surface look, someone with Addison’s disease could have very similar cortisol levels to another.
“If you assume the problem is low cortisol, somebody is likely to think of giving more cortisol. And a lot of cases like that where someone is giving you a lot of cortisol at your worst, you might feel a lot better short-term,” said Dr. Alan Christianson. “But you can also measure the brain talking to the adrenals, in the same way, the brain talks to the thyroid.”
And the difference between Addison’s disease and adrenal fatigue is that in adrenal fatigue, the brain is telling you to slow down. That’s why Dr. Alan Christianson believes that prognosis can differ from person to person.
Hence, in wanting to heal your thyroid holistically, one has to do the research apart from finding an excellent practitioner who is knowledgeable. Ultimately, it’s about how to become a self-advocate for your health.
“Stay active with their work and hold on to it. You can radically transform the quality of your life by doing the right things with your lifestyle. Don’t give up on having that vision come through for you,” said Dr. Alan Christianson.
Dr. Alan Christianson is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist who focuses on Thyroid function, adrenal health, and metabolism.
Dr. Alan Christianson has been actively practicing in Scottsdale since 1996 and is the founding physician behind Integrative Health. He is a NY Times bestselling author whose books include The Metabolism Reset Diet, The Adrenal Reset Diet, and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease.
Dr. Alan Christianson regularly appears on national media like Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and The Today Show.