Can A Slow Thyroid Cause Low Bone Density?
The incidence of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, has reached epidemic proportions. Synthroid (levothyroxine), typically prescribed to accelerate the gland’s activity, is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, especially for people over the age of 50.
Besides the frustrating symptoms and overall effect on your health, a slow thyroid is also damaging to your bones. Let’s explore why, but first…
Just What is Hypothyroidism?
When the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck, does not produce enough thyroid hormone, it’s said to be slow or underactive.
Hashimoto’s disease is not the same thing as hypothyroidism, although Hashimoto’s can result in an underactive thyroid. Hashimoto’s refers to a specific condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
A slow thyroid may cause pain and discomfort in the throat, especially when swallowing. In addition, here is a partial list of other symptoms that may be present:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold all the time
- Puffy face
- Dry skin
- Weak muscles
- Hoarse or “gravely” voice
- Difficulty remembering things
- Hair loss
- Joint pain and/or stiffness
Any time a major gland in the body is not working well, it is cause for concern.
Your Doctor Will Never Tell You This: Osteoblasts “Communicate” With Thyroid Hormone!
To understand the role your thyroid plays in bone metabolism, we need to back up a little and talk about how the thyroid works.
Your thyroid gland is stimulated by a hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), which is secreted by the pituitary gland. The thyroid then produces its main hormone, T4.
But recent research has shown that TSH has a dual function: it also communicates with osteoblasts, the bone-building cells.
Osteoblasts actually have TSH receptors, and they are constantly “listening” for signals from TSH, which “tells” them whether to build bone or back off a bit. It’s a fascinating balancing act, and …
Too Much or Too Little TSH Can Throw a Wrench in the Whole Process
Excessive TSH can result in too much thyroid hormone, which in turn can stimulate excessive bone resorption. An Australian study showed that “thyroid hormone can act on osteoblasts to indirectly stimulate osteoclastic bone resorption.”1
Hormone Conversion: a Delicate Balance For Proper Bone Mineralization
Your thyroid’s main hormone, T4, must be converted to T3 to be of use in bone metabolism. T3 acts as an energy regulator for the osteoblasts, providing them with the fuel they need to manufacture and build bone. In addition, T3 stimulates the production of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme produced in the liver and crucial to bone mineralization.
In Other Words, T3 Sets the Bone-Building Tempo
And like all tempos, it needs to be consistent and regular to produce harmonic results, and it involves many key players. For instance, osteoblasts actually “play an important role in mediating the thyroid hormone stimulation of osteoclastic resorption,”2 according to a study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology. This means that osteoblasts act as mediators between thyroid hormone and osteoclasts (the cells that tear down bone).
Without sufficient T3, then, normal bone remodeling is disrupted, and bone resorption happens at a more rapid rate than bone building. The result: decreased bone density and osteoporosis.
Both an Over- and an Under-Active Thyroid Can Hurt Your Bones
But an under-active thyroid – hypothyroidism – is much more prevalent. Why?
There are various potential culprits behind the hypothyroidism “epidemic,” but one of the biggest ones is…
Fluoridated Tap Water
As I write in The Missing Link, a free report on water that is included with the Save Our Bones Program, “scientists hypothesize that fluoride may be the culprit of the recent hypothyroidism epidemics, as it interferes with iodine metabolism.”3
Fluoride’s ability to slow down the thyroid has actually been well-known for some time. In fact, “Not so long ago, fluoride was used as an anti-thyroid medicine specifically to slow down an overactive thyroid. For instance, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology published an article by Drs. Galetti and Goyer confirming that fluoride slows down thyroid activity.”3
How much fluoride did doctors give their patients? Doctors found that only 2 milligrams a day of fluoride was sufficient to decrease thyroid activity.4 But here’s a startling fact – if you drink fluoridated tap water, you’re likely ingesting more than 6 milligrams of fluoride per day!4 That’s more than enough to slow down your thyroid.
In The Missing Link, which is part of the Save Our Bones Program, you can read more about the ravages of fluoride.
The Correct Dosage of Synthetic Thyroid Hormone is Tricky
Remember the delicate balance discussed above? Quite a few players are required to create the harmonious “symphony” of thyroid hormone balance and, consequently, healthy bones. Patients can easily end up taking too much or too little thyroid medication, causing accelerated bone loss.
For example, the dose you’ve taken for the last year may be too large or too small the following year. Changes in lifestyle, diet, medical conditions, and a host of other factors can all influence thyroid levels. Some doctors recommend 6-month evaluations in an attempt to maintain normal levels of thyroid hormone, and yearly check-ups are considered the minimum. If you change dosage or brands, your doctor will likely want to see you back in 6 weeks for another evaluation.
This is a far cry from a healthy body’s constant, around-the-clock regulation of thyroid hormone. So if you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, make sure you avoid fluoride as much as possible.
Till next time,
1Britto, J.M., et al. “Osteoblasts mediate thyroid hormone stimulation of osteoclastic bone resorption.” Endocrinology. Jan. 1994. 134(1): 169-76. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8275930
2Langdahl, Bente L. and Eriksen, Erik F. “The influence of thyroid hormnones on bone nturnover in health and osteoporosis.” European Journal of Endicrinology. 1998. 139 10-11. Pdf
3The Missing Link.
4National Research Council. (2006). Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. National Academies Press, Washington D.C. p 197.