Thyroid Health | Why your Thyroid Gland is so Important.
Talking about thyroid health is something that honestly brings me so much joy. As a clinical Naturopath, I know there is so much that we can offer in order to support & nourish the thyroid. We have an abundance of tools in our kit and whilst yes I may be slightly biased, it really couldn’t be more true.
My strong interest & fascination with thyroid health began a number of years ago with my own diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease. My understanding of the complexities of thyroid dysfunction (& function) are from personal, biochemical & naturopathic points of view.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland located at the front of the throat, below the Adam’s apple.The thyroid operates as part of the endocrine system and is responsible for producing & secreting hormones which regulate most metabolic processes (metabolism) in the body including energy & temperature control. This means the rate by which the body produces & uses energy from nutrients & oxygen is controlled by the thyroid.
In fact, every cell in the body relies on thyroid hormone to function efficiently. When there isn’t enough everything slows down & becomes sluggish, when there is too much the opposite occurs.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is our ‘master gland’ and regulates energy production within every body system. Every cell in our bodies needs thyroid hormone to function adequately, hence why the list of symptoms for thyroid disease seems almost endless, everything is affected by too much or too little thyroid hormone. For normal thyroid function the following hormones need to be produced:
TSH or ‘Thyroid Stimulating Hormone’ -is secreted by the pituitary gland in response to T3 levels. Travels via bloodstream to stimulate production of T4
T4 (thyroxine) - iodine attaches to tyrosine to produce adequate T4, therefore insufficient dietary intake of these nutrients can result in reduced production of T4. Over 90% of the hormone made in the thyroid gland is T4. The remaining is T3, however T4 is also converted to T3 in the liver.
T3 (triiodothyronine) – commonly referred to as ‘active thyroid hormone’, is the predominant thyroid hormone utilised by the body. T3 makes its way into the cells, binds to the nucleus receptors and increases metabolic rate. Conversion from T4 to T3 is dependent on selenium. Approx. 20% of T4>T3 conversion also occurs in the gut, therefore a healthy microbiome is essential.
Why is the Thyroid so Important for Good Long-Term Health?
Adequate thyroid hormone is needed for the following body function to operate properly too much & things speed up, too little & they slow right down:
Digestion: Thyroid hormone is required for regulation of bowel motility & time food takes to move through the gut. Thyroid hormone is also required for the production of gastrin, a hormone which is responsible for stomach acid production, enabling adequate digestion (especially of proteins) & nutrient absorption to occur. Insufficient stomach acid may be associated with deficiencies of B12, calcium & iron.
Liver: Thyroid hormone is required for a number of liver pathways to function correctly, therefore detox & elimination of toxins is reliant on these hormones.
Glucose metabolism: Uptake & utilisation of glucose within the cells relies on adequate thyroid hormone. Stable blood glucose is essential for good energy, happier moods & better sleep.
Focus & Concentration: Because our brain requires glucose to function well, when cellular uptake of glucose is impaired focus & concentration will subsequently be impaired.
Hormone balance (Oestrogen & Progesterone): Because the thyroid is implicated in ensure the liver is metabolism adequate, under-active thyroid can effect the metabolism of oestrogen via the liver resulting in relative hormone imbalances (i.e. relative oestrogen excess). Thyroid hormone also allows the body's cells to uptake progesterone readily & function within the cell correctly. Progesterone is necessary for improving thyroid receptor signalling & T4 production via thyroid peroxidase (TPO).
Menstruation: As the thyroid is a significant mitigator in hormone balance, imbalance of oestrogen & progesterone can greatly impact menstruation causing an array of symptoms including heavy bleeding, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), headaches, weight gain & fluid retention.
Circulation: Thyroid hormone is required to facilitate healthy blood flow around the body, reduced blood flow may result in dry skin, cracked heels & cold extremities.
Cellular regeneration: Adequate thyroid hormone is required for growth hormone secretion which is responsible for regenerating cells & tissues.
Body temperature: Adequate thyroid hormone is needed to regulate out body temperature & keep us from running too hot or too cold.
Factors which can impact our beloved thyroids include (especially in susceptible individuals) :
Stress (every type of stress: physical, emotion, biological, psychological)
Diets high in refined foods (especially wheat/gluten & sugar)
Regularly/excessive alcohol consumption
Nutrient deficiency (i.e. Iron, Iodine, Vitamin D)
Lack of self-care & rest, overworking yourself.
Chronic infections (parasitic, viral, bacterial)
What happens when things go pear-shaped?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
General fatigue & low energy (regardless of amount slept)
Depression/ Low mood
Unexplained weight gain
Intolerance to cold temperature
Poor focus & concentration
Dry skin & hair
Slow heart rate
Goitre (enlarged thyroid gland)
Muscle aches & soreness
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
Anxiety & Irritability
Shortness of breath
Unexplained weight loss/increased appetite
How can Natural Medicine help?
For the thyroid to properly function it is reliant on a number of nutrients, many of which people are in fact deficient. Nutrients including selenium, iodine, zinc & tyrosine are absolutely essential, just to name a few. Ensuring adequate nutritional intake is paramount in supporting thyroid function & improving quality of life.
Depending on the origin of your thyroid condition a number of herbal medicines may also assist greatly. These come in the form of herbs which support adequate digestion, nervous system & adrenal health, common systems in the body which can be dysfunctional in many people with thyroid disease. We live stressful, overly stimulating lives, our bodies need much more support than it is given unfortunately.
I would love to help....
If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms or have already been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction and would like some extra support I would love to meet you. To book a consultation with me please call Vive Health on (07) 3399 1002 or click here.