Aging Thyroid Patients: What we need to know
As our bodies are aging so can the optimal function we once had. Here are seven areas which may or may not affect you…yet…but are worth considering. Let your doctor know, too.
NOTE that when the word “aging” or “getting older” are mentioned, there’s no way to actually say “this or that age”, unless mentioned below.
1) DIGESTIVE ENZYME FUNCTION CAN GO DOWNHILL — what to do about it
Most of our lives, we get benefit from digestive enzymes which help digest/break down that food we eat in order to absorb important nutrition for the running of our bodies.
For example, eating can tap our pancreas to release “pancreatin” which contains several different enzymes (amylase, lipase and protease)1 which can break down the protein, carbs/starches and fats you eat. i.e. specific enzymes work on specific foods. Amylase targets those carbs/starches like fruits, potatoes, sweet products, etc). Lipase targets those fatty foods like cream, oils, nuts and fat on meats, etc). Protease targets the protein foods such as eggs, cheese, meats and even nuts.
There’s also another important enzyme not released by the pancreas, but made via bacteria, called Cellulase. Cellulase breaks down fiber and cellulose. There are more enzymes, but you get the drift.
But as the body ages, the body’s ability to trigger (due to less stomach acid) and produce all these digestive enzymes may decline in some individuals. And in some, it can happen sooner than others!
Check out “digestive enzymes” on a site like Amazon or others and read the reviews on various brands. I find this to be an excellent way to find a good product.
2) STOMACH ACID LEVELS CAN FALL — what to do about it
I, Janie, especially saw this in my mother-in-law as she aged. Her worsening acid reflux was a sure sign. And this becomes even worse if we are still on T4-only meds, which in itself causes a fall in stomach acid. Then you add the aging cause of lowered stomach acid on top of a poor thyroid treatment and you’ve got a disaster.
Why is stomach acid so important? It plays a role with enzymes in breaking down your food and supplements for digestion, plus the absorption of nutrients. And breaking down the food better empties the stomach better, which means less stomach problems.
What to do? Patients report adding 1-2 teaspoons of either Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice into every drink with meals. It brings the acid back into the stomach, they are reporting, which improves absorption of nutrients from better digestion.
3) THE ABILITY TO CONVERT THE THYROID HORMONE T4 to T3 CAN DECLINE — what to do about it
There are a variety of issues which can affect conversion of the storage hormone T4 to the active hormone T3, and aging appears to be one of them. i.e. there’s an enzyme called 5′-deiodinase, and it’s responsible for the breakdown of T4 to T3. And even research underscores that it can become less effective as one ages.2
Based on comments by older individuals, they are making sure to have direct T3 in their treatment, whether adding synthetic T3 to our T4, or using Natural Desiccated Thyroid–the latter which contains all five thyroid hormones. Healthy levels of T3 appear to end up towards the top “area” of the range–not a specific number, just up there. ***Optimal iron and cortisol are important to achieve it. And contrary to what doctors are being told, older individuals seem to need direct T3 in their treatment even more because of conversion problems…and they report needing optimal amounts to counter the feedback loop! SHARE THIS PAGE WITH YOUR DOCTOR if he or she is being influenced by false information.
4) GENE MUTATIONS INHERITED FROM OUR PARENTS MAY REAR THEIR UGLY HEADS — what to do about it
Gene mutations can be activated at any age.
But with aging, there may be more mutations expressing themselves more acutely than before. That’s where using 23andme.com to get one’s genetics may open up ideas as to what just might start expressing itself. It’s a guessing game, of course. But if we see things that imply a gene mutation is now active, there is all sorts of information we can look up to see what we might do about it, as well as forums. Many doctors are becoming more informed about genetic mutations, as well, and can help.
5) B12 CAN FALL (or go too high) — what aging patients are doing about it
B12, which is one of eight B vitamins, is such an important nutrient! It contributes to brain and memory health, better mood, optimal functioning of your nervous system, the formation of red blood cells, and overall good health.
Conversely, if B12 falls low, or if the MTHFR mutation causes you not to break it down well for use, you might notice issues like memory problems, depression, paranoia, numbness sensations in your little fingers, hands, legs or feet, overall weakness or fatigue, or even a swollen tongue and more.
Studies 3,4,5 show that B12 can start to fall after age 60 or earlier due to decreased absorption, and you might not even realize it until symptoms take over. What to do about it? Many doctors recommend supplementation.
On the label, B12 is called cobalamin and there are four types: 1) The Cyano- version, though cheap, is the least recommended as it’s the least absorbable. 2) The Methyl- version is more highly recommended since it’s already broken down for use. But if you have an active MTHFR mutation, it can build high in your blood and not break down for use..so if this happens…3) The Hydroxy- version is then recommended if you have the MTHFR mutation. It’s easily broken down to the active B12 and safe for more people, say studies. 4) The Adenosyl- version of B12 is also recommended, as it’s stored in the mitochondria and helps break down carbs and proteins for energy.
6) THE ABILITY TO RECOVER FROM STRESS MAY DECLINE — what aging patients are doing about it
Studies show that as we age, we tend to have higher levels of cortisol in response to stress, plus lower levels of DHEA–the latter which have been falling substantially with every decade. And those higher levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on our brain6 and immune function, just as low DHEA can decrease one’s immune function.
What to do about it? For one, experts recommend taking certain adrenal-supportive supplements when we are under a lot of stress. Herbs which help counter stress range from rhodiola, ashwagandha, schizandra, astragalus, gingko, holy basil, korean ginseng, and licorice root. Many preparations will also include adrenal glandular with the herbs. DHEA supplementation is also recommended–your doctor can help you with the amount.
Sometimes, we may not treat the stress in time, and we end up with low cortisol. For the latter, herbs won’t be enough. This is where we order the 24 hour adrenal saliva test to see how we stand. If cortisol is low, we take adrenal cortex, or a prescription of Hydrocortisone from our doctors for more serious low cortisol.
Also recommended when under stress is taking walks, eating healthy, napping, and sleeping as long as we can during the nighttime.
7) LEVELS of CoQ10 FALL WITH AGE — what to do about it
CoQ10, know as Co-enzyme Q10 or ubiquinone, is a substance similar to a vitamin and known to be a powerful natural antioxidant. Besides having a major positive effect on heart health and your mitochondria’s ability to produce energy, Life Extension7 states that CoQ10 also has “protective effects in the brain and nervous system, in asthma and chronic lung disease, in diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, on ocular health, and even on the aging immune system.” Studies even show a correlation between the right amount of CoQ10 and lowered risk of dementia.8
And with the aging of your body, your ability to break down ubiquinone to the active ubiquinol may be decreased, as well as your ability to absorb CoQ10 from food.
The solution? Cutting edge doctors recommend supplementation. And the majority seem to agree that taking “ubiquinol”, the active form, is a better choice than “ubiquinone”. Recommended doses range from 100 mg to 600 mg depending on who you read. Work with your doctor on this.