The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located around the windpipe, just behind and below the Adam's apple. It is responsible for producing several hormones, but most importantly, T3 and T4 and it weighs barely an ounce. The thyroid gland is the body's thermostat and catalyst. It regulates the temperature of the body by secreting two hormones that control how quickly the body burns calories and uses energy. A deficiency in these hormones is called Hypothyroid and an excess is called Hyperthyroid.
There is an intricate involvement of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland with respect to the release of T3 & T4. The entire process is reliant on the efficiency and efficacy of each component. T3 & T4 travel via the bloodstream and assist the cells in converting oxygen and calories into energy. If this process isn't completed perfectly, it is likely that you may suffer from depression, excess weight, and fatigue, to name a few. The hormone thyroxin determines the production of energy in the mitochondria of the cells. Regardless of the fact that depressed thyroxin levels are a result of an underactive pituitary, the thyroid still responds to thyroxin supplements.
Thyroid imbalances of any kind can contribute to diseases such as diabetes, lupus, cancer, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, infections, etc. Even simple things such as canker sores and light sensitivity can be related to a slow functioning thyroid. The minerals Iodine and Selenium play a huge role in the functioning of the thyroid although any imbalance can upset a thyroid condition. Either too much or too little of either of these minerals can result in the development of a goiter. A goiter typically results from a lack of iodine but will become even larger in the absence of selenium. If selenium is low and iodine high, a hyperactive thyroid results and conditions such as Graves' Disease and Hashimoto's Disease develop.
Adrenal Glands & Thyroid
The adrenal glands are important for numbers of vital biochemical functions such as weight control, sleep, stress, immunity, and sex hormone production. Long-term stress affecting the adrenal glands directly affects the thyroid. It is true that some women fail to balance hormonally and chemically after pregnancy and people with cancer almost always have a low functioning thyroid. Stressed adrenal glands and a poor diet both largely contribute to thyroid imbalances.
- Thyroid cancer has climbed to 8 people per every 100,000.
- The most prevalent carcinomas in US children and adolescents under 20 years was thyroid carcinoma at 35.5%. 75% of thyroid cancer is in adolescents between 15 and 19 years of age.
- Hypothyroidism affects 5 million people in the US, 90% of which are women. 50,000 new cases of thyroid arise each year.
- There is a huge relationship between Gulf War Syndrome and thyroid dysfunction due to the suppression of thyroid hormones in relationship to the amount of cortisol released under duress.
Thyroid dysfunction comes in many shapes and forms but typically diagnosis is difficult. Initially, it was thought that an elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level was required for diagnosis, but more recently it has been determined that a completely normal TSH does not necessarily indicate that all is well. It is estimated that over 90% of patients experiencing hypothyroid dysfunction have completely normal TSH level. Nearly 13 million Americans are estimated to have undiagnosed thyroid conditions, and many researchers suspect the numbers to be up to five times higher.
Whenever thyroid function is questionable, adrenal gland function must also be examined. There is a huge relationship between the two. If you have even one of the symptoms, it is safe to say that your thyroid could use support. Thyroid disorders are particularly common in the region of North America known as the goiter belt. This region was so named because of the high incidence of goiter that occurred there early in the 1900's. Goiters are essentially a pathological enlargement of the thyroid gland. Scientists determined that the areas of the goiter belt had very low iodine levels in their soil and drinking water.
It's All In Your Head
Thyroid imbalances produce such a wide range of conditions that an imbalance can easily go unnoticed for years. Gynaecological and hormone symptoms can mask a thyroid imbalance, as can stress, depression and fatigue. Often the depression is treated medically when in fact there is a thyroid imbalance. Be persistent when searching out the reasons for your emotional ups and downs. Don't settle for a simple diagnosis based on the conditions in your life. Are the conditions in your life creating the symptoms you are experiencing or are your symptoms the reason for the condition?
Causes of Thyroid Disease
The role of the thyroid is to create and secrete several types of thyroid hormones. These hormones are the governors, activators and controllers of metabolism and catabolism. Thyroid glands may be perfectly normal in their cell construction, integrity and function, yet still not function as they should. In so doing symptoms are created and disorders and disease result. If normal thyroid glands are overloaded beyond their capacity to create their hormones required for handling toxins, poisons and body wastes accumulate. It is clear that allergy-causing foods left over from incomplete digestion transform into acidic wastes. These wastes interfere with nearly every function of the body including the thyroid. If your body temperature falls (nose, hands and feet) when you are hungry and rises if you eat carbohydrates, this tells us that the liver in the primary cause of your underactive thyroid.
An over-taxed liver is the first organ to consider cleansing when there is thyroid imbalance. Certain foods have the ability to suppress the functioning of the thyroid. Beans (except string beans), peanuts, raw broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage, animal protein polyunsaturated oils, and beta-carotene are some of the foods identified for suppressing thyroid function. Foods that promote thyroid function are heart, butter, vitamin A instead of beta-carotene, and eggs. Thyroid function can also be affected by heavy metal residue. Estrogen, being a stress hormone, increases the metal absorbing ability of our body because it stimulates the uptake of iron. This excess iron depletes oxygen needed for respiration, which results in fatigue. As with all disease, diet is the primary area to examine but there are a variety of other factors that contribute significantly to the development of thyroid conditions.
- Radiation, radiation treatments, radium therapies
- Over consumption of goitrogenic foods such as soy, broccoli, cabbage, kale, radishes, etc.
- Foods including goitrogens that block iodine - peanuts and soy
- Fluoride and Chlorine from water
- Mercury, amalgam fillings, root canals, fungal infections of jaw bones
- Pregnancy, female hormone fluctuations
- Drugs, both recreational or pharmaceutical
- A saturated and congested liver
- All physical and mental stresses, toxins and body wastes drain the thyroid vesicles of their hormones.
Recognizing the Symptoms
The following are lists of possible symptoms related to both an over and under functioning thyroid gland. Remember that it is not necessary to have all the listed symptoms, but rather, it is possible that having only one symptom may be a sign that your thyroid gland could use some help. Which of these apply to you?
When your body goes into overdrive and your heart beat escalates, blood pressure elevates and unusual weight loss occurs, it is likely that you are experiencing Hyperthyroidism. An overproduction of thyroid hormones sends your body into upheaval producing some or all of the listed symptoms.
Hyperthyroid symptoms may include:
- pulse above 90 beats per minute at rest
- heart palpitations
- protruding tongue quivers
- extended hands shake or tremble
- strong drive followed by exhaustion
- fail to gain weight in spite of a good appetite
- erratic, "flighty" behaviors
- protruding eyeballs
- warm, fine, moist skin
- irritability, nervousness, hyperactivity
- rapid speech
- frequent bowel movements, diarrhea
- excessive sweating without exercise
- feel warm and flushed at room temperature
Hypothyroidism occurs when there is a lack of thyroid hormone produced. Hypothyroid is at the bottom of many conditions and can leave you feeling exhausted and irritable.
Hypothyroid Symptoms may include:
- muscles stiff in morning, feel need to limber up
- feel stiff or "Creaky" after sitting still for some time
- heart seems to miss beats or turn "flip-flops"
- coughing, hoarseness, muscle cramps that are worse at night
- nauseated in morning
- start slow in morning, gain speed in afternoon
- motion sickness when traveling
- dizzy in morning or when moving up and down
- cold hands or feet
- sensitivity to cold, prefer warm climate
- hair scanty, dry brittle, dull, lusterless, lifeless
- flaky, dry, rough skin
- sleeplessness, restlessness
- poor short term memory, forgetfulness
- poor response to exercising
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- hyper cholesterolemia (elevated serum cholesterol)
- diminished sex drive
- gain weight easily, fail to lose on diets
- difficulty concentrating, easily distracted
- yellowish tint to skin on palms of hands or soles of feet
- clogged sinuses
- low pulse rate
- low body temperature, especially at bed rest
- low blood pressure, recurrent infections
- puffiness of face or eyes
- multiple food allergies/flow, PMS
Emotions and the Thyroid
An underactive thyroid gland may produce emotional symptoms such as the following:
- "go to pieces" easily, cry easily
- Dislike working under pressure
- Dislike being watched
- Mental depression
- Mood swings
- Low self esteem
The Truth About Fats, Oil and Soy
The worst offenders when it comes to thyroid health, are vegetable oils or polyunsaturated oils. The most common of these oils is soybean oil. Since the surge of these particular oils into the food industry since World War II, many changes in hormonal health have occurred. These unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, and its ability to enter into the bloodstream. Because the thyroid hormones are responsible for making the protective hormones of progesterone and pregnenolone, the absence of thyroid hormones means that increased levels of estrogen are in circulation. Too much estrogen is at the base of numbers of diseases, and cancers. The thyroid hormones are also used to lower cholesterol therefore anything that blocks the them will indirectly raise cholesterol. Elevated adrenal stress is also known to raise cholesterol levels which in turn suppresses thyroid function.
Soy products introduced to infant formulas in 1960 has resulted in 31% of teenagers with autoimmune thyroid disease. Soy is goitrogenic which simply means that it suppresses the functioning of the thyroid. With the influx of soy and soy derivatives into the marketplace, it has become even more important to be a label reader. Be informed - read about the hazards of soy before deciding to include soy in your diet.
Coconut oil has been proven to increase metabolism and energy levels by complimenting the functioning of the thyroid. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easily absorbed and quickly supply energy. Because of their many benefits, they put little strain on the digestive system and provide a quick source of energy. The pancreas, the liver and the digestive system are less stressed which is important for those suffering from metabolic problems. Other oils are stored in the adipose tissue to be used later whereas coconut oil is absorbed quickly into the blood stream and used for energy. The body burns coconut oil for energy the same way the body burns carbohydrates for fuel. Medium chain fatty acids provide the cell with a quick and efficient source of energy which ensures that coconut oil is not stored as body fat.
Solutions to Thyroid Problems
If you suspect you have a thyroid condition, taking thyroid hormone replacement drugs for the rest of your life does not correct the problem or feed the thyroid what it needs. These medications simply by-pass the thyroid without any attempts to restore it to health. Thyroid hormones also make a hormone called calcitonin that allows calcium to be absorbed into the system, but in the absence of these hormones, calcium absorption is compromised. It is common, therefore, that those with thyroid conditions eventually experience osteoporosis. If you are considering incorporating alternatives to drug therapy into your health regime, it is extremely important that you share this decision with your doctor. Reducing medication can cause problems. As you experiment with alternative choices for thyroid support, watch for signs that your thyroid is beginning to function. There may be a rise in body temperature or a racing heart. Some claim to experience anxiety or elevated emotions as their thyroid begins to function. Be aware and adjust your medication accordingly, as recommended by your primary health practitioner.
If your medical tests are abnormal, your doctor may suggest thyroid replacement therapy. Insist upon natural thyroid hormone. Ensure that the following minerals are consumed on a daily basis:
- Tyrosine - 3000 mg
- Riboflavin - 100mg
- Fat-soluble thiamine - 300 mg
- Magnesium - 1,000 mg
- Iodine - 1 mg
- Zinc - 50 mg
- Copper - 3 mg
- Niacin - 250 mg
- Vitamin B-6 - 50 mg
- Vitamin C - 3,000 mg