The thyroid gland, or Glandula Thyroidea as it is called in Latin, is a hormone-producing gland located in the throat just below the larynx. The thyroid hormones regulate several important functions in the body, such as metabolism, the body's heat production and calcium metabolism. If the thyroid gland produces is not producing enough hormones, it will cause a state known as Hypothyroidism. It produces too many hormones it will cause Hyperthyroidism.
Without a properly functioning thyroid gland, it will be a challenge to try to feel well. The thyroid gland regulates all of the body's energy production, and it's easy to understand how important it is that the thyroid gland operates optimally. The thyroid gland can cause lifelong diffuse, but difficult, health problems, which can dramatically reduce the quality of life. The goal is to make the thyroid gland to function well again. Giving the thyroid gland a boost, with a proper diet, good nutrition and stress reduction is a good first step towards a better functioning thyroid gland and, thus, a higher quality of life.
The following is advised for thyroidal problems:
- Eat selenium, zinc, copper, manganese and L-tyrosine
- Eat iodine if iodine-deficient has been proven
- Make sure to have sufficient levels of Vitamin C as well as Vitamin B6
- Avoid soy products
- Make sure that the adrenal glands are functioning well
- Treat stress
- Be careful with your diet, avoiding refined carbohydrates
- Particularly during hyperthyroidism, Omega-3 can be beneficial as it reduces inflammations in the body
- Eat the herb Aswhaganda
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones, the body's metabolism will go into overdrive. Hyperthyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, goitre and Basedow's disease (Graves' disease) are all conditions caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormones. Basedow's disease is an autoimmune disease where the antibodies inherent in the bloodstream do not suppress, but rather stimulate, the operation of the thyroid gland, leading to an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Patients suffering from any kind of hyperthyroidism are often fatigued but have a hard time coming to rest. Restlessness, nervousness, cold perspirations even when it is cold, palpitations and tremor are not uncommon. Constant hunger and being underweight despite a large food intake are also symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Patients suffering from hyperthyroidism can also have looser stool, high blood pressure, feeling blear-eyed and that the eyes are sensitive to light and wind.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
There are several levels of too low thyroid hormone production: The primary level and the secondary level. Regardless of whether the patient has primary, secondary or just a minor reduction in thyroid gland functionality, the symptoms can be many and difficult. Some of the ailments associated with hypothyroidism include fatigue, feeling cold, memory problems, constipation, increased need for sleep, reduced metabolism, hair loss, dry hair, brittle nails, muscle cramps, insomnia, overweight (occasionally also underweight), reduced ability to sweat, reduced pulse, but even symptoms such as depression and suicidal thoughts can occur as a result of reduced thyroid functionality. Unfortunately, these symptoms are more or less vague, and it is not always that blood samples will provide a definitive answer to whether the patient has thyroid problems or not. Hypothyreosis are therefore never detected for many patients in the health care system. However, the symptoms never lie. In order to know what to do to make things easier for the thyroid gland, one first has to understand its functionality.
The functionality of the Thyroid Gland
Hypothalamus in the brain gets information on the levels of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream. Based on this input it sends a small or large amount of the hormone TRH to the brain's pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then produces another hormone called TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) which is sent to the thyroid gland, giving the signal to produce the prohormone thyroxine (T4) as well as the active thyroid hormone tri-iodine-tyrosine (T3). Most of the T4 is converted in the liver into T3. The kidneys, muscles and brain can also convert T4 into T3. The thyroid hormone T3 is then transported into the individual cell, where it tells the cell at which rate to set the metabolism in order to uphold a fundamental metabolic pace in the body. Since cells, when producing energy, also produce heat, an underproduction of thyroid hormones will also give a lower energy production and therefore also a lower heat production. This is the reason why those with hypothyroidism feel cold. When the levels of T3 and T4 in the bloodstream are low, the hypothalamus in the gland will, as mentioned, through a so-called "negative feedback", influence the pituitary gland to produce more TSH in order to make the thyroid gland produce more thyroid hormones. The opposite is also true, that is when the levels of T3 and T4 in the bloodstream are high, the hypothalamus will signal to the pituitary gland to lower production of TSH and thus lower the production of thyroid hormones. The levels of thyroid hormones do not vary that much on a daily basis, but more on a weekly basis. This can be a reason why patients feel a thyroid hormone-related fatigue when the seasons change since the thyroid gland has trouble keeping up with the changing temperatures.
Causes - conventional medicine
Regular hypothyroidism is characterised by increased levels of TSH, as well as by low levels of T4 and T3. TSH levels are increased since the pituitary gland is trying to make the thyroid gland produce more thyroid hormones. The most common reason for underproduction of thyroid hormones is, according to conventional medicine, an autoimmune disease causing antibodies to destroy the tissue in the thyroid gland, causing T4 not to be produced at the proper rate. Other potential reasons include iodine deficiency or a problem with the pituitary gland, which is therefore also a problem with TSH production. Temperature changes also affect the thyroid gland, which has to adjust its hormone production to different temperature levels, this however usually corrects itself within a matter of weeks.
Causes - complementary medicine
According to complementary medicine, hypothyroidism can occur as a result of malnutrition (see below). Also, a large intake of a product containing isoflavonoids, such as for example soy, affects the thyroid gland negatively. Overconsumption of raw food containing so-called goitrogens, which prevent iodine absorption, can affect the thyroid gland negatively: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, cauliflower, cassava, hirs, cabbage and kale (note that all of this food is nutritious, maybe with the exception of hirs and cassava, but when having a problem with the thyroid gland they can worsen the condition if consumed raw and in large amounts). Smoking affects the thyroid gland negatively, especially the Basedow's disease. One reason why smoking affects the thyroid gland negatively is that the cyanide that can be found in cigarette smoke, turns into thiocyanate which reduces the function of the thyroid gland by preventing the absorption of iodine and the production of thyroid hormones. There are other substances in cigarettes which affect the thyroid gland negatively by preventing T3 from connecting to the receptors on the cells.
Giving a diagnosis
Conventional health care almost always diagnosis hypothyroidism with a blood sample measuring the levels of T4, T3 and TSH. If TSH, T4 and T4 all show normal levels, the patient is not considered to suffer from hypothyroidism no matter how many symptoms there are. Blood samples can, however, be a pretty blunt tool for diagnosing the thyroid gland. Urine samples are considered more reliable since it can show subclinical hypothyroidism which is not discovered through blood samples.
The hormonal medicine Levoxine is used in Sweden to treat hypothyroidism. If a patient is suffering from iodine deficiency, the medicine can worsen the condition as it increases the body's need for iodine and thus reduces the iodine levels in body tissue's. Before taking Levoxine, it is advisable to do a checkup on the iodine level. If there is an iodine deficiency, there is a risk that no symptoms will improve with a Levoxine treatment; the symptoms can even become more severe. This applies both to hypothyroidism from an autoimmune disease and to hypothyroidism with other causes.
The thyroid gland and nutrition physiology
From a nutritional physiology perspective, hypothyroidism can also occur under the following conditions: If the thyroid gland lacks the nutrients needed to produce T4, and there is also a deficiency in the nutrients the cells need in order to perform the instructions signalled to them by T3, the same symptoms can occur as if there was a T3 deficiency. These conditions can unfortunately not be seen via a thyroid hormone test. neither if done via a blood sample nor via a urine sample. A patient with symptoms of hypothyroidism (also a patient taking medication) can improve their thyroid gland functionality by consuming the nutrients which will improve the thyroid hormone production, improve the conversion of T4 into T3 as well as improve the ability of the cells to utilise thyroid hormones. The following nutrients are important for optimal thyroid gland functionality: Selenium, zinc and copper are necessary for the liver to converse T4 into T3. The thyroid gland is also the organ in the body with the highest selenium concentration. Manganese is also needed in order to make it easier for antioxidant enzymes in the thyroid gland and liver so that both organs will function optimally. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid, converting dopamine into noradrenaline with the help of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Noradrenaline is a signal substance in the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to start producing thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland via the hormones TRH and TSH. Iodine is needed in order to produce T4. B vitamins can improve the cell's response to the instructions from T3. Without all nutritions listed above, the thyroid gland has a less favourable work environment. There are also herbs that have a positive effect on the thyroid gland. The herb Commiphora Mukul has proven to stimulate the production of thyroid hormones in animal studies, due to its direct influence on the thyroid gland, but also by increasing the antioxidant properties of the liver. Another herb by the name Ashwaganda has a positive effect on the thyroid gland by stimulating antioxidants in the liver. T4 is, as stated, converted into T3 in the liver; a well functioning liver is thus extremely important for the good state of the thyroid gland.
Negative stress affects the thyroid gland
Negative stress is, as most people know, not good for the body's various functions in general, but it is particularly bad for the thyroid gland. The enzyme used to convert T4 into T3 is impeded by cortisol, which is formed during stressful situations. Cortisol is an important hormone, produced by the adrenal glands in order to manage occasional stressful situations. When the stress turns chronic and the body produces too much cortisol during too long a time span, the thyroid gland is affected very negatively. The state of the adrenal and thyroid glands are intimately linked, which can make treatment situation harder. Medication with thyroid hormones can in a worst-case scenario not give any results or worse results than expected in regarding the treatment of the symptom if the adrenal glands do not function as they should. It can then be necessary to test both adrenal glands and the thyroid gland and treat both simultaneously. Stress reduction and stress management are very important to be able to handle the thyroid problems but also to handle the functionality of the adrenal glands. Read the article on adrenal glands here.
Some final words
Every day you stand in front of multiple options which can either improve or degenerate the state of your health. Start today and remember that health isn't something which comes to you suddenly; it is the fruit of conscious decisions made daily, one step at a time, and during thyroid ailments a first step can thus be: