Thyroid problems are getting more and more common which could be due to deficiencies, stress, fad dieting etc. But do we know what our thyroid does and how to help avoid problems?

The thyroid is two inches long and it is wrapped around the windpipe (near the Adam’s apple in the neck). It is very important and produces several hormones including T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) that are key in regulating growth and metabolism.

T3 and T4 hormones are essential because they-

  • Work to increase the Basel Metabolic Rate- the amount of energy you burn just sitting still
  • Determine growth and development of many tissues in the body, including brain and skeleton
  • Help cells convert calories into energy
  • Control body temperature and the rate at which the body functions

The pituitary gland produces TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone), which stimulates the production of the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. T4 is the inactive form of the hormone, so it has to be converted into T3 to be of any use to the body. The production of these hormones is dependent on sufficient iodine intake from foods and supplements. The hormones then work to regulate cell growth, development, converting protein, fats and carbs into energy etc. However, it is not just iodine that is needed; vitamin D is needed as well.

When we are healthy the thyroid gland produces the right amounts of T4 and T3, T4 is converted into T3 and everything is working well. However, when things go out of balance (too much or too little), it can cause major health issues such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism- Underactive Thyroid

Hypo (not enough) is when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the essential hormones (either one, or both T3 and T4). This can be caused by removal of the thyroid gland, inflammation, stress, oxidative stress, radiation exposure, Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune) or a condition present at birth. It could be that you are just not converting enough of your T4 into the active form of T3, due to stress, heavy metals, fad dieting etc. When this happens, you will be producing reverse T3 (rT3). This form of the hormone is very inflammatory and causes a lot of oxidative stress, so it is important to get it tested. However, the issue here is that it is very rare for GP’s to test for T3 or rT3, so it may not be picked up.

You are more likely to develop hypothyroidism if-

  • You’re a women
  • You’re over 60
  • You’ve been pregnant in the last 6 months
  • It runs in your family
  • You have another autoimmune disease

Symptoms include weight gain, joint pain, depression, infertility/irregular periods, tightness in the throat, sensitive to heat and cold, dry skin, hair loss, difficulty metabolising carbohydrates and sugars etc.

Diagnosis is made by a GP by measuring blood levels of the thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH). Generally, if TSH is above normal, it means hypothyroidism. A low T4 level can also indicate hypothyroidism.

Treatment includes taking a synthetic hormone replacement (Thyroxine- T4). TSH levels are tested regularly to determine dosage. Although adequate intake of iodine is necessary, excess amounts may cause or worsen hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism- Overactive Thyroid

Hyper (too much) thyroid hormones are being produced. Body functions speed up, including metabolism.

You’re more likely to develop hyperthyroidism if-

  • You’re a women
  • You’re over 60
  • You’ve been pregnant in the last 6 months
  • It runs in your family
  • You have a B12 deficiency
  • You have type 1 diabetes

Symptoms include insomnia, weight loss, mood swings, irritability, development of a goitre (swollen thyroid gland), nervousness, irregular heartbeat etc. It can be caused by Grave’s disease, lumps, inflammation, too much iodine and too much synthetic hormone to treat hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis is made by the GP after a few blood tests. Usually TSH levels are low and T3 and T4 are high.

Treatment is trickier for hyperthyroidism then for hypo and more individualised depending on the cause and severity. Treatment can be radioactive therapy, surgery, and/or medication for the symptoms.

 

 

If you have any of the symptoms above, see your GP and ask for a full thyroid panel (very difficult get a full panel from the GP)-

  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Free T4 (free thyroxine)
  • Free T3 (free triiodothyronine)
  • Reverse T3
  • Antithyroglobulin antibodies (anti-TG)
  • Antithyroid peroxidise antibodies (anti-TPO)

If your GP won’t test these, we offer a complete thyroid panel test.

Holistic approaches

Obviously holistic approaches are individual and depend on what the cause of the problem is. However, there are some things you can do to boost your overall thyroid health-

  • Exercise! Regular aerobic, low intensity exercise can stimulate the production of the thyroid hormones.
  • Eat organic! This will reduce exposure to environmental toxins which can lower T3 hormone and produce more reverse T3 (which blocks active T3 from gaining access to your body, it is very inflammatory and causes oxidative damage).
  • De-stress! Under periods of stress, the stress hormone cortisol suppresses TSH production. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, sleep, exercise etc is one of the best ways to ensure your thyroid gland doesn’t slow down!
  • Detox through sweating! Saunas and steam baths help to detox environmental toxins.
  • Nutrients! Selenium, iodine, vitamins A, C, D, and E are all important for thyroid hormone production. Vitamin D is essential for their efficacy in your body’s cells.
  • Reduce the gluten! It causes inflammation and can trigger autoimmune thyroid issues.
  • Introduce seaweed into your diet. This can be in the form or a powder (in your smoothies), sprinkled in many dishes including casseroles and salads. Seaweed is naturally high in iodine.
  • Introduce brazil nuts into your diet. At least 4 a day. These are high in selenium which is essential for the conversation of T4 to the active T3.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us to book in for a consultation.

Comment