About Your Thyroid – Nutrition, Supplements, and More

The thyroid gland is located in the lower front part of the neck. Thyroid hormones are best known for regulating the body’s metabolism, which is your body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy. It also plays a role in breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, muscle tone, muscle control, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels, bone growth, body growth rate, nervous system development, brain, reproductive functions, and more.

Thyroid hormone receptor sites are found in every cell of the body. Every single cell of our body depends on thyroid hormones. If your thyroid doesn’t operate optimally, neither will the rest of your body.

This is an excerpt from the ridiculously long article, Holistic Guide to Healing the Endocrine System and Balancing Our Hormones I believe that it’s easier to heal the body when you understand how the body works, but understanding the endocrine system is big a task.  It’s a long article, but I think it’s worth it and I hope you’ll check it out.

Three Thyroid Hormones

Thyroglobulin is a protein (not a hormone) that’s produced by the thyroid, synthesized from amino acids and an iodide, and stored in the follicular lumen as colloid. This protein is used only within the thyroid gland for production of thyroid hormones. T3 and T4 are the two most well-known hormones the thyroid produces, and there’s also calcitonin.

Triiodothyronine or T3

T3 affects almost every physiological process in the body. The thyroid produces about 20% of the T3 in our body. The rest is converted to T3 from T4 in our cells throughout the body.

Thyroxin or T4

T4 (AKA tetraiodothyronine) is a prohormone (a committed precursor of a hormone, usually having minimal hormonal effect by itself) that the body converts to T3, a much more active and viable hormone. T4 is synthesized from residues of the amino acid tyrosine. A normal thyroid gland produces about 80% of the body’sT4 and about 20%of the body’s T3.

Calcitonin

Calcitonin lowers blood calcium and phosphorus levels by decreasing the rate of re-absorption of these minerals to bone.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid makes too much T3 or T4 (or both). This leads to elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, hand tremors, and many other symptoms. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease causes antibodies to stimulate the thyroid to produce and secrete too much.

Other causes of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Excess iodine
  • Thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland (causes T4 and T3 to leak out of the gland)
  • Benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland (causes pressure, hormones leak out)
  • Large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through dietary supplements or medication
  • A tumor of the ovaries or testes

Hyperthyroidism can’t last forever; it’s sure to wear out a thyroid eventually, leading to hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism

Around 20 million Americans and about 250 million people worldwide have low thyroid function. Up to 90% of all thyroid problems are autoimmune in nature. Hashimoto’s is the most common thyroid disorder. In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid.

List Of Hypothyroidism Symptoms

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Angina pectoris
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Bursitis
  • Conditions related to the cardiovascular system
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Carotenodermia (slight orange tinge to the skin, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of feet)
  • Cold extremities, intolerance to the cold
  • Coarse, dry, or thinning hair
  • Constipation
  • Decreased libido
  • Dry, rough, and/or itchy skin
  • Edema
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fallen arches
  • Fatigue
  • Fibrocystic breast changes
  • Fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Hoarseness
  • Infertility
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Hypertension
  • Itchy and/or flaky scalp
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings, irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Menstrual irregularities (amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, menorrhagia)
  • Neck pain, stiffness, aches (especially in the back of the neck)
  • Knee pain (due to fallen arches)
  • Pallor (an unhealthy pale appearance)
  • Pain in the trapezoid and/or neck area
  • Psoriasis
  • Poor mental concentration
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Postpartum depression
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Reactive hypoglycemia
  • Recurrent infections
  • Sluggishness, tiredness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Urticaria
  • Vasomotor rhinitis
  • Vertigo
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

How to Heal the Thyroid

Learning about the endocrine system is one the best ways to understand how incredibly connected each and every part of the body is and how imperative a holistic approach to healing is to repair the body. You can’t really heal the thyroid gland without taking care of the adrenals, the pituitary – the whole endocrine system.

Fresh, raw, organic produce heals. Produce heals everything. Other than that, foods high in iodine and foods that are high in selenium are known to aid in thyroid function.

The thyroid gland requires iodine to function. Iodine taken by itself or ingested through fortified salt can be problematic. Good food sources include the usual: meat, seafood, yogurt, milk, and eggs, but there are vegan sources as well:

  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Seaweed
  • Himalayan sea salt
  • Navy beans
  • Cranberries

Selenium is required for the body to convert T3 into T4. Without enough selenium in the diet, the thyroid suffers. Seafood and meat are high in selenium, but there are also some vegan choices:

Vegan Food Sources of Selenium

  • Brazil nuts
  • Shiitake/white button mushrooms
  • Lima/pinto beans
  • Chia seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Seeds (sunflower, sesame, and flax)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach

Supplements For Hypothyroidism

A number of vitamins and minerals are critical to thyroid health, and many herbs can help boost thyroid function as well.

B Vitamins

Vitamin B12 is found in every cell of the body. It is required for cellular metabolism and energy production, so obviously, without B12, the thyroid can’t function optimally. B12 deficiencies are very common with hypothyroidism. A lack of B12 can cause and worsen hypothyroidism. Even though most people actually consume enough vitamin B12 in their diets, a deficiency occurs in many due to an inability to absorb the nutrient in the blood. This goes back to gut health. The body cannot absorb and assimilate nutrients properly with a poorly functioning digestive system.

In addition, a poorly functioning liver radically inhibits the body’s ability to utilize B12. Unless a knowledgeable naturopath recommends it for a limited amount of time, do not take vitamin B12, or any one B vitamin, without the entire B complex.

Vitamin D

Over a billion people worldwide do not get enough vitamin D. A recent study showed that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in people suffering from hypothyroidism than the general population. While vitamin D deficiencies and hypothyroidism do tend to take place together, a lack of vitamin D and pretty much every other disease (including cancer) coincide as well. It’s unlikely anyone’s hypothyroidism is primarily caused by a lack of vitamin D, but it’s a certainty that the body will not fully heal without enough vitamin D.

Vitamin A

We all know vitamin A is required for good vision. We also need vitamin A for the immune system, hormone synthesis, and the production of T3. Without enough vitamin A, thyroid hormone levels quickly drop.

Bromelain

Bromelain is the enzyme that makes pineapple the superfood that it is. Bromelain helps reduce inflammation.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has many benefits, including the ability to significantly improve liver function, and it can help stabilize cortisol levels. This helps stimulate T3 and T4 hormone synthesis.

Licorice Root

Licorice root can benefit the thyroid and adrenal glands for people who have low cortisol (adrenal fatigue).

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom is a good source of selenium, and it has a ton of other benefits including boosting the immune system.

Schisandra Chinensis

This is another adaptogenic herb that helps the thyroid and has many other health benefits.

Ginseng

There are many varieties of ginseng, all with their different strengths, but Siberian ginseng root, Brazilian ginseng root, Korean or Asian ginseng, American ginseng, and Chinese ginseng all benefit the endocrine system, and therefore the thyroid.

Selenium

Selenium is the major cofactor for the key thyroid enzyme 5’deiodinase. This enzyme converts T4 into T3 and can help normalize the thyroid hormone balance.

Zinc

A zinc deficiency has been shown to inhibit T3 production. Zinc also contributes to immune modulation, which may reduce thyroid antibody levels. Additionally, like selenium, zinc contributes to 5’deiodinase activity.

Iodine

A lack of iodine inhibits the body’s natural detoxification, leads to cancer cell growth, and causes hypothyroidism. The thyroid absorbs iodine and, in doing so, replaces other toxins it has accumulated.

It’s also important to avoid excessive iodine intake for anyone with Hashimoto’s or hyperthyroidism. As stated above, we highly recommend that any iodine consumed come from whole food sources unless otherwise recommended by a knowledgeable, competent professional.

Gluten, Hashimoto’s Disease, and Leaky Gut

When the thyroid is not functioning properly, there is a good chance the gut is hyper-permeable, or “leaky.” Many suspect leaky gut to be the main cause of Hashimoto’s. In this state where the gut is too permeable, undigested food proteins leak into the bloodstream. Human tissues have proteins and antigens very similar to those in foods, bacteria, parasites, and Candida. When the body senses these foreign molecules, it develops antibodies that attack the body, hence the name “autoimmune disease.” Gluten proteins are very similar to Candida proteins and proteins that make up the thyroid. This is probably why the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it.

When healing the thyroid (or the body in any way), regardless of whether or not it’s due to Hashimoto’s, modern wheat is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons.

Check out this Leaky Gut article for more information.

Calcium regulationParathyroid

There are four parathyroid glands; they’re located two on each side of the thyroid. Although the parathyroids are attached to the thyroid gland anatomically, and the glands are connected to the thyroid, they have no related function. The parathyroid release parathormone, or PTH, or parathyroid hormone. PTH has the opposite job of calcitonin (the lessor known thyroid hormone); PTH increases levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. It accomplishes this by increasing the cells of the bone (osteoclasts), which reabsorb calcium. It also increases urinary re-absorption of calcium by the kidneys. In addition, it causes the kidneys to form calcitriol, a hormone made from vitamin D that increases absorption of calcium from the GI tract.

Parathyroid Adenoma

Hyperparathyroidism refers to increased PTH production, usually because of a benign tumor of one or more of the parathyroid glands (parathyroid adenoma). When PTH is excessively produced, calcium is reabsorbed back into the blood from the kidneys, bones, and stomach. This leads to a condition sometimes called “stones, bones, groans, and moans,” which refers to the classic set of hyperparathyroidism symptoms: kidney stones, osteoporosis, groans of pain due to intestinal distress, and moans due to psychosis.

Removing a parathyroid adenoma, a fairly simple, typically successful surgery, can cause an immediate return to healthy function.

Natural remedies for hyperparathyroidism generally include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, vitamin C, desiccated glandsg, and vitamin D supplementation (extreme caution should be taken with large dosages of vitamin D when blood calcium levels are high). A holistic approach for tumors on the parathyroid will take time, but fortunately, hyperparathyroidism has a very slow progression.

Conclusion

Diet is, as always, paramount. A slightly alkaline diet full of fresh produce detoxifies the endocrine system and keeps it healthy. Check out Detox Cheap and Easy Without Fasting – Recipes Included. And again, this is only an excerpt from the ridiculously long article, Holistic Guide to Healing the Endocrine System and Balancing Our Hormones. It’s worth the read for anyone wanting to get well.

Related Reading:



12 Signs You May Have a Thyroid Problem : Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck is often not given importance as it should be given. This butterfly shaped gland is largely responsible for a wide range of body activities. The thyroid gland releases hormones and regulates many aspects of your health from breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels, and much more.

And if you are a woman over 35, your odds of having a thyroid disorder are high – more than 30% according to estimates. According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have a thyroid problem than men, and 1 woman in 8 will likely develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.

So the question that arises here is why are so many affected by thyroid disease?

Experts have a number of theories regarding this but no hard answers.

According to experts, the major factors that influence the rise in thyroid cases are:

  • The chemical toxins in the environment are linked to an increased risk of thyroid disease. Major culprits include perchlorate, pesticides, phthalates like bisphenol-A (BPA), and thyroid-disrupting endocrine disruptors, also known as environmental estrogens.
  • Radiation and nuclear exposure is another contributing factor that can trigger thyroid disorder. The radiation exposure that resulted from the Chernobyl disaster was a major trigger for thyroid disease, according to experts and similar effects can be seen down the road after Fukushima’s disaster.
  • Medical treatments that involve radiation to the head or neck area are also known to increase risk.
  • Certain bacteria and viruses, the food-borne bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica for example, are known to trigger autoimmune disease and inflammatory thyroid conditions.
  • Then there are other controllable factors like cigarette smoking, gluten allergies, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, overconsumption of supplemental iodine, and overconsumption of soy products.

According to reports, up to 60% of those with a thyroid condition are unaware and undiagnosed. Thyroid conditions can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction and more.  So you can understand, why it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms.

12 Most Common Symptoms of a Thyroid Problem

You don’t need to have all these symptoms in order to have a thyroid problem, but here are the 12 most common signs.

Cognitive Decline

If your thyroid isn’t functioning as it should, it can affect your cognitive functioning. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can cause difficulty concentrating and too little (hypothyroidism) may cause forgetfulness and general brain fog.

Unpredictable Bowel Movements

Disruption in hormone production can greatly influence your digestive system. Hypothyroidism patients often suffer from long-term constipation and often their constipation does not respond to treatment. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism patients due to their overactive thyroid can suffer from diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.

Anxiety and Depression

Hypothyroidism is typically associated with depression whereas hyperthyroidism is more commonly associated with anxiety, panic attacks, and bipolar disorder. With your thyroid gland making either too much or too few hormones, the body functions can play havoc. Moreover, depression that does not respond to antidepressants may also be a sign of undiagnosed thyroid disorders.

Irregular Menstruation

Hypothyroidism cause more painful, frequent, and heavier periods while hyperthyroid women have infrequent and shorter menstruation, or even experience the cessation of their menstruation.

Recurrent Miscarriages

Another sign of thyroid disorder in women is the event of recurrent miscarriages. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can interfere with ovulation, which impairs fertility. Pregnant women with thyroid disorders are at greater risk for premature delivery and other pregnancy complications.

Swollen Face

Hypothyroidism is associated with edema or swelling which usually begins around the face, particularly above or below the eyes and along the jaw line. However, the skin on the side of the upper arms may be thickened early in the course of the disease, which will eventually spread throughout the body’s connective tissues.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Extremities Pain

Carpal tunnel syndrome involves pain in the wrist, a tingling sensation or numbness in the hand, wrist, and fingers, and may involve swelling as well. This is a symptom of undertreated or untreated underactive thyroid. Patients could also suffer from shooting pain and a compressed tibial nerve in their legs due to tarsal tunnel and stabbing pain in their feet due to plantar fasciitis. Hyperthyroidism patients, on the other hand, experience pain or weakness in their upper arms and calves.

Hoarse Voice

Hoarseness is yet another sign of a thyroid disorder where your voice box (larynx) bears pressure from a thyroid nodule, which produces a hoarse sound when you speak. It could also be a sign of thyroid cancer. Also, when the thyroid becomes enlarged, this is known as ‘goiter’ and can be a sign of either hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Changes in Hair and Skin

When all the major body systems are slowed down due to hypothyroidism, your body naturally sets some priorities for critical survival. Hair and skin are particularly vulnerable. The most unique and specific of all symptoms is the loss of the outer edge of the eyebrows. In both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, hair can become brittle and dry and break easily. Skin can also become coarse, thick, dry, and scaly. Also, an unusual rash can appear on the skin of the shins called pretibial myxedema or thyroid dermopathy.

Cold Sensitivity

Hypothyroidism is associated with the sensation of cold or chills as your thyroid is underactive, i.e less energy to be burned by cells, so less heat. Whereas, in hyperthyroidism, cells are on overdrive as a result of an overactive thyroid causing feelings of  warmth and profuse sweating.

 Weight Loss/Gain

Thyroid patients can experience a drastic shift in their weight from high to low or vice versa. For example, hyperthyroidism patients could see a surprising drop in their weight, unable to gain further while the hypothyroidism patients could gain weight, making it difficult to lose even with diet or exercise.

Fatigue

In hypothyroidism, you feel the need to rest and restore energy throughout the day, although you have had your 8 hours of sleep. Taking naps during the day can be added to the symptom list. Hyperthyroidism, however, keeps you awake during the night, while leaving you exhausted the following day.

Understanding your symptoms is key to identifying your specific thyroid disorder, which makes it all the more important to know the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Having your thyroid removed is not the final word for you. Exercise has proven to be quite effective; besides, you can normalize your thyroid functioning by eating the right foods. The last thing you want is an undiagnosed thyroid. Your doctor will aim to bring your thyroid activity back to a normal pace—not too fast or too slow. You must cooperate with your doctor—negligence can make the disorder lifelong. Having a thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH) done will help you boil down to a clear and accurate result.

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Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Thyroid Function

If your thyroid isn’t working well, you can improve your thyroid function with diet. Of course, the optimal way to fix any health problem is to eat raw, organic produce. These types of foods help the body heal. If you’re specifically concerned about your thyroid, there are a number of easy, simple steps you can take to help it heal.

Eat the Right Foods

Certain foods help support thyroid function. Look for foods that are high in selenium and iodine. Good sources of iodine include meat, seafood, yogurt, milk, and eggs as well as seaweed, blackstrap molasses, navy beans, cranberries, and Himalayan salt. Good sources of selenium include organic meats, seafood, Brazil nuts, and shiitake/white button mushrooms as well as lima/pinto beans, chia seeds, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach.

Get the Right Supplements

Being deficient in some vitamins can inhibit thyroid function. If your body is low in vitamin B12, vitamin A, or vitamin D, your thyroid will show down its production of thyroid hormones. If your body is low in vitamin A, your levels of thyroid hormones will drop quickly. By supplementing with natural sources of these vitamins, you can help your thyroid function as well as possible. With B12, it is best to take a B vitamin complex that has extra vitamin B12 instead of taking vitamin B12 alone.

Avoid the Wrong Foods and Drinks

There are a number of foods and beverages that are important to avoid if you have thyroid issues. Consuming these substances aggravate your thyroid problems. Caffeine, and more specifically coffee, can inhibit your thyroid from producing thyroid hormones at optimal levels. Unfermented soy is a known endocrine disrupter, and as such, it will inhibit the proper function of your thyroid. Other foods that cause thyroid issues are foods that contain gluten. Wheat, barley, malt, and rye are some of the more common grains that contain gluten. If your body cannot tolerate gluten, it can damage your gut, causing leaky gut syndrome. So much of the body’s health is related to gut health. By avoiding caffeine, unfermented soy, and gluten you can help your body heal the damage to your thyroid and encourage it to produce at optimal levels.

Detoxify the Body

In order for your body to fully heal damage to your thyroid, you need to detox properly. While a number of specific detoxes would be helpful, these are the most important ones to focus on. The most important one is the gut. If you are suffering from an overgrowth of Candida, it is extremely important to rid your body of that pathogen, as Candida constantly assaults the body with toxins. Another important detox to focus on is ridding the body of heavy metals. If your body is toxic with mercury, arsenic, aluminum and/or other heavy metals, the thyroid will never be able to heal. Getting mercury fillings removed is vital. The blood is another important detox. If the blood is thick or toxic, it puts added stress on your glands, including your thyroid. A cheap and easy way to detoxify your blood is to use this cranberry lemonade recipe.

Conclusion

Taking just a few of the steps mentioned can help bring immediate relief to your thyroid symptoms, but the thyroid takes time to heal. A leaky gut is likely to be the source of the matter, so check out Gluten, Candida, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Autoimmune Diseases and be sure to see Understand Hypothyroidism – Prevention and Natural Remedies.

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Five Symptoms Your Thyroid Needs Help

Millions of Americans today suffer from thyroid dysfunction, and many of them do not even know it. Startling enough, over 80% of people who suffer from poorly functioning thyroids do not show problems on standard thyroid tests. Knowing some common symptoms of thyroid problems can help you get proper treatment early.

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system that produces our body’s hormones. When the thyroid is not working properly, chances are the adrenals, the pineal gland, the hypothalamus, and all of the other glands are not working optimally either.

Neck Pain or Swelling

One common sign of thyroid problems is persistent neck pain. More specifically, a subluxation in the C3 through C7 vertebrae in your neck can be a major indication of problems with your thyroid. When your thyroid is not working optimally, it becomes inflamed and swollen. This pushes one of the nearby vertebrae out of place, causing a subluxation in the cervical spine.

Low Energy & Poor Sleep

Feeling sluggish and tired all the time is another sign of poor thyroid function. When your thyroid is not producing enough thyroxine (T4) and/or triiodothyronine (T3), it can affect your energy levels during the day as well as your sleep at night. Thyroid issues can cause insomnia or poor quality sleep in many people. If you find yourself always feeling tired during the day, despite sleeping enough hours at night, it is very likely that your thyroid is not working well.

Joint Pain

Another common sign of thyroid problems is joint pain anywhere in the body. Achiness, swelling, or a feeling of “being out of place” in any joints is your body’s way of telling you that your thyroid is not functioning properly. Most commonly this can show up in the neck and shoulders, wrists, elbows, or hips. Bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are frequent joint problems as well that indicate thyroid problems.

Hair & Skin Problems

A frequent, though not well-known, sign of thyroid issues is hair and skin problems. Dry, brittle, or thinning hair is a telltale warning that your thyroid is struggling. A dry, flaky, scalp is another sign as well. Also, if you notice that your eyebrows are thinning out, especially at the outer corners, then your thyroid is likely not working optimally. Dry, rough, and itchy skin are other warning signs of hypothyroidism or related thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism can also cause your skin to develop a yellowish tinge as a result of your body’s decreased ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.

Sudden Weight Changes

One last major sign of thyroid problems deals with sudden weight changes. If you have sudden weight gain or struggle to lose weight despite exercise and a healthy low-calorie diet, chances are your thyroid is not working well and you may have a case of hypothyroidism. If you find yourself losing weight rapidly, you might have hyperthyroidism, a condition where your body overproduces thyroid hormones.

Conclusion

If you find yourself suffering from one or more of these symptoms, there are things you can do to improve your thyroid function. Thyroid conditions can be managed and fixed naturally with proper diet and supplementation. For more information, see Understand Hypothyroidism- Prevention and Natural Remedies.

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Thyroid Disease Epidemic – How is Yours Doing?

Is your hair thinning or falling out? When you look in the mirror, does it seem that the outer edges of your eyebrows have disappeared? Have you gained or lost weight without changing your diet? Are you tired all the time? You may be one of the millions of Americans with undiagnosed thyroid disease.

Thyroid disease has become epidemic in the United States with numbers of confirmed cases at more than 12 million and estimates of undiagnosed cases doubling that number. Radiation exposure from Fukushima, perchlorate contamination of municipal and well water (trace amounts of this chemical used to make rocket fuel damage the thyroid), damage to the thyroid due to prescription drug use, and the explosion of auto-immune disease, which is a high risk factor for thyroid disease all suggest thyroid disease is on the rise.

Often, thyroid disease is misdiagnosed, especially in the elderly, as clear symptoms of the disease are passed off as aging, while doctors neglect to administer diagnostic tests.

So how do you know your thyroid may not be functioning properly? Who is at risk? And what are the symptoms?

Risk Factors for Thyroid Disease

Risk Factors include: race (Caucasian), gender (female), age (over 60), family history (family history of auto-immune disease or thyroid disease), an existing auto-immune disease (including Celiac disease), iodine deficiency or taking medications with high levels of iodine, heavy caffeine use, radiation exposure, smoking tobacco, pregnancy, or within six months of giving birth.

Thyroid Diseases and Thyroid Dysfunction

The two primary malfunctions of the thyroid gland are overproduction of hormones (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction of hormones (hypothyroidism). Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid tissue in such a way it causes hyperthyroidism, whereas, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism. These two diseases are responsible for the vast majority of hyper and hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism include: weight loss, nervousness, moodiness, weakness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, shaky hands, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, hair loss, and red, itchy skin.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism include, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, fatigue, thinning hair, thinning eyebrows or loss of outer edges of eyebrows, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, impaired memory, adult onset ADHD, slow healing, feet or hands that get cold easily, insomnia, poor sleep habits, poor sleep quality, daily sleepy spells, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, nightmares, dry skin, and yellow skin (due to difficulty converting beta carotene to vitamin A. Muscle and joint pain (which can be severe and may be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia) may also be experienced.

Six percent of the American population suffer from one of these two conditions; 78.7% suffer from hypothyroidism, while 21.3% suffer from hyperthyroidism.

Other diseases and conditions of the thyroid include: thyroiditis, an overall inflammation and swelling of the thyroid gland caused by a viral infection or an autoimmune disease; goiter, a singular non cancerous swelling that can be associated with Hashimoto’s or an iron deficiency; thyroid nodule, a small, abnormal, non-cancerous mass or lump that may secrete excess hormones causing hyperthyroidism; thyroid storm, a rare form of extremely high hyperthyroidism that causes extreme illness, and thyroid cancer.

Structure and Purpose of the Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system, a network of glands that make and secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream. The thyroid, which is located in the front of the neck, above the clavicle, directly below the Adam’s apple, is a butterfly shaped organ with tissue that traverses the windpipe and lobes that rest on either side.

Generally we only think of the thyroid gland in relation to metabolism: an underactive thyroid causes weight gain and an overactive thyroid causes weight loss. However, hormones from the thyroid gland regulate the growth and activity of many of the body’s systems and activities including: the synthesis and breakdown of proteins, the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, growth and development, heart rate, body temperature, vitamin metabolism, calcium levels in the blood, bone growth and density, and the individual cells’ ability to take in nutrition and oxygen and dispose of waste.

Hormones of the Thyroid and Connection to Other Hormones

The pituitary gland releases the hormone TSH to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is used throughout the body affecting nearly every psychological process. T3 is 20 times more potent than T4. However, most of our T4 is converted into T3 by the body’s organs, if the body has the correct nutrients to convert it.

Calcitonin is also produced by the thyroid gland. This hormone’s function is to maintain the proper homeostasis of calcium in the bloodstream, reducing calcium levels when they become too high. It prevents calcium loss in the bones at times such as pregnancy and lactation.

How to Prevent and Treat Thyroid Disease Naturally

Both iodine and selenium are necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Without iodine, the thyroid cannot produce T3 and T4. Without selenium, the body cannot convert T4 into T3. However, too much iodine or selenium can do more damage than good. You may consider testing your levels and working with your health care professional if you decide to supplement with iodine or selenium unless you take a thyroid supplement that is properly balanced. (see below)

Foods That Benefit

The thyroid gland must have iodine to produce T3 and T4. Good food sources include the following:

  • Shellfish—shrimp, scallops
  • Seafood—cod, sardines, salmon, tuna
  • Yogurt and milk
  • Eggs

Selenium is essential to the process of the body breaking down T4 into T3. Many sources of selenium are the same as iodine:

  • Seafood—cod, sardines, salmon, tuna (tuna is the highest)
  • Shellfish—shrimp, scallops

But also:

  • Poultry—turkey and chicken
  • Meat—Lamb and beef
  • Brazil Nuts (2-3 a day) …and many other foods

Foods to Avoid

If you have hypothyroidism, medical professionals warn against eating raw cruciferous vegetables or suggest you radically limiting their intake. Foods in question with hypothyroidism include: broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soy, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, millet, cassava, mustard greens, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. They also recommend we avoid alcohol and tobacco, and while we agree with that, we don’t necessarily agree with the cruciferous vegetable recommendation. We believe that a varied diet of fresh, raw vegetables can fix almost anything, including any adverse reaction to the foods themselves. Though, obviously you have to use common sense; if you smoke, drink lots of coffee, or rarely get enough sleep then a large kale smoothie and a kale salad every day isn’t the smartest choice.

For those with severe thyroid disorders, occasionally (depending on the thyroid disorder and the person’s diet), cruciferous vegetables can be debilitating if not cooked first. It doesn’t take much heat to remove the _____.

Supplements, Herbs, and Alternative Therapies

B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, a good multivitamin with minerals, vitamin C, and probiotics will all benefit your condition. For hyperthyroidism, you will need good anti-oxidant support.

For hypothyroidism: L-tyrosine (500 mg two to three times daily. Never take this without your doctor’s approval if you are taking conventional hormone medication or if you have mania or high blood pressure).

For hyperthyroidism: L-carnitine decreases thyroid activity. (May thin the blood.)

The following herbs may help with hypothyroidism: Coleus (Coleus forskohlii),  Guggul (Commiphora mukul), and Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus). Do your research on these herbs if you are taking any prescription medications or have any other medical issues. Avoid these herbs if you have hyperthyroidism.

The following herbs may help with hyperthyroidism:  caffeine free green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, and hydrotherapy may also be of benefit.

Regardless of the treatment you choose, your foundation of health will always be a diet filled with densely nutritious foods; 80% raw, organic, produce. Avoid all processed foods, artificial flavorings and colorings, MSG, GMOs and trans-fats, sugar, and caffeine. Drink plenty of clean water each day. Exercise and get plenty of sleep. Give your body the foundation that will allow it to heal. Check out Understand Hypothyroidism – Prevention and Natural Remedies for more on thyroid health.

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