Thyroid and Cardiovascular Disease connection
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
A middle-aged guy who came to my clinic had suffered a recent heart attack but the doctors and specialist couldn’t find anything at all wrong with his heart or vascular system. They told him that they didn’t know why it happened, so made no recommendations. He of course lived with the fear of it happening again, hence the appointment with me.
On examining him, I thought it would be important to check his thyroid as I saw in his eye examinations (sclerology and iridology) that he had weakness in the thyroid area that was showing quite brightly (acute) and there is research suggesting that an underactive thyroid can affect the cardiovascular system.
But his doctor refused to arrange the thyroid test because the client wasn’t overweight or cold (common symptoms of an underactive thyroid) and although he was tired, the doctor put that down to the heart attack. So we then had to arrange for the thyroid tests to be done privately, which cost him more.
His thyroid showed to be very underactive (high TSH), so he went back to the doctors with the results and was promptly put onto medication for an underactive thyroid.
We also worked on why his thyroid was underactive. To do this we tested his levels of key nutrients needed for a healthy thyroid such as zinc, B6, B12, folate, tyrosine, iodine and selenium. We checked his heavy metal levels, gut function and for any food intolerances.
We also checked antibodies for thyroid and other cardiovascular markers such as homocysteine (the B12 and folate are also relative to cardiovascular health).
When the results came back we saw that he had low B12 levels and also an intolerance to gluten. As a ‘meat eater’ he would have been consuming enough B12 foods, but because his gut was affected by gluten, he was probably unable to absorb or convert the B12 in his system.
Conversion of B12 needs the help of good levels of friendly bacteria which were also showing low in his digestive testing. Because of low B12 his homocysteine level was elevated, which is a cardiovascular risk factor, and may have been a contributing factor. While the homocysteine level wasn’t super high, the combination with the low B12, low thyroid activity and low gut bacteria was a recipe for something disastrous, which for him was the heart attack.
By removing the gluten and associated cross-reactive foods from his diet (see the list below), his gut healed well and his B12 level came back to normal. Initially we did use supplementation of B12 sublingual (under the tongue) but checked later and found that he was absorbing enough B12 from his diet alone now.
After three months of the diet change we re-checked his thyroid function and the level was dropping too low so he was taken off his medication by his doctor and all was well again.
Six years have passed since I first saw him. He hasn’t had any issues with his heart or thyroid since and his energy is back to normal.
Below is a list of common foods that cross-react with gluten, because they have a similar protein structure. Gluten is found in products made from wheat, barley, spelt and rye.
- Dairy, i.e. milk and cheese (alpha-casein, beta-casein, casomorphin, butyrophilin, whey protein)
When a body is inflamed and irritated by gluten, it may think that these foods are also gluten and react to them just the same. For some people, this may only occur until the gut has healed from gluten, but for others, some of these foods may remain reactive.