Could your thyroid be at the root of your health problems?

September 12, 2016

The thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, is probably one of the most important glands in your body. It helps control heart rate, body temperature and regulates how fast we use energy from food. It also affects your appetite, mood and weight.

It is extremely sensitive and can be affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, smoking, environmental toxins and prescription drugs. It’s therefore hardly surprising that thyroid problems affect as many as one in six people over the age of 55.

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A delicate balance

The thyroid produces three hormones: thyroxine (T4 – active form), triiodothyronine (T3 – inactive form) and calcitonin. T3 and T4 are extremely important since every cell in the body relies on these hormones to regulate their metabolism.

Most thyroid problems are cause by either too little or too much thyroid hormone.

Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) develops when too little thyroid hormone is produced. However, the problem is not simply a case of having an under-performing thyroid gland. In many cases, it is due to a faulty conversion of thyroid hormone from the inactive form T4 to the active form T3.

This delicate balance and its intricate mechanism is part of the reason why many doctors often misdiagnose thyroid problems when patients have all the symptoms but blood tests show that their levels of T4 is normal.

Hypothyroidism causes sluggishness, cold intolerance, constipation, headaches, dry hair and skin, brittle nails, weight gain, hearing problems, loss of libido and impotence.

Patients with hypothyroidism can take a long time to heal and doctors often fail to explain the wide range of symptoms caused by this disease. For example, anaemia is diagnosed in 20-60 per cent of patients with hypothyroidism and after diet, thyroid disease is the most common secondary cause of high cholesterol.

According to a 2002 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a shortage of thyroid hormone is linked to increased levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. Depression is also very common in patients with hypothyroidism.

Too much thyroid hormone, on the other hand, causes hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid).

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease – an autoimmune inflammatory disorder in which the body’s immune system targets the thyroid causing it to produce excess hormone. It can run in families and can occur at any age, although it is most common in women between 20-40 years of age.

The over-production of thyroid hormones causes the body to use up energy from food faster and as a result, metabolism is accelerated. Other symptoms, such as excessive sweating and the inability to tolerate a hot environment are directly related to heat generated within the body due to increased metabolic activity.

Hyperthyroidism causes a wide range of symptoms including nervousness, restlessness, heat intolerance, palpitations, increased appetite, frequent bowel movements and weight loss.

In some people who have heart disease, untreated hyperthyroidism places additional stress on the heart, causing problems such as heart failure, irregular heartbeat (arterial fibrillation), or abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), and can be fatal.  Uncontrolled it may also cause osteoporosis (brittle bones).

Important note: If you have diabetes, you may also find that your diabetic symptoms, such as extreme thirst and tiredness, are made worse by hyperthyroidism.

Start a thyroid friendly health regime

Thyroid problems can have serious consequences and it is important to see your doctor if you suspect that you may be suffering from either hypo- or hyperthyroidism.

Conventional treatment is fairly straightforward, but as expected the prescription drugs for both conditions – levothyroxine and liothyronine, carbimazole and propanolol – don’t come without side effects…

Luckily, there are plenty of natural supplements and alternatives providing safe and effective treatment options:
Iodine: It is important to have the right balance of iodine in the body, as it is needed for your body to produce and use thyroid hormone properly.

In cases of severe iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism can occur. However, an excess on the other hand, can disrupt thyroid function leading to weight gain, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and changes in the incidence and types of thyroid cancer. Get your levels checked by your doctor.

Severe iodine deficiency is now rare in developed countries, but you could have a borderline deficiency if you don’t eat fish and seafood, which are the best sources of this mineral. Taking 225mcg of kelp (a type of seaweed) each day will help ensure you have adequate iodine levels.  Animal food sources of iodine include dairy products and fish. Plant-based sources of iodine include cereals and grains, such as whole wheat and rye.

Selenium: Selenium is essential for healthy thyroid function. This trace mineral is critical for the enzyme that converts thyroid hormone T4 to its active form T3. It helps maintain the correct amount of thyroid hormones in the blood and tissues, including the liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland, as well as the brain.

Selenium-containing enzymes “detox” the thyroid gland especially when we’re under stress and it helps the body to recycle its iodine stores more efficiently especially as we grow older.

Food sources of selenium are: Bananas, breadfruit, guava, leeches, mango, passion fruit, pomegranate and watermelon. Dates are a rich source of selenium in particular.

Zinc, copper and iron: Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can result in zinc deficiency. When zinc is low in the body, thyroid- stimulating hormone (TSH), T4, and T3 can, in turn, become low in the body. In some cases, supplementing with zinc can reverse hypothyroidism.

Copper is needed to produce TSH and T4, so when copper is low in the diet, the rate at which T4 is produced lowers. T4 keeps the body’s cholesterol synthesis on track. A link may exist between copper deficiency, high cholesterol and related heart problems – especially in people with hypothyroidism.

As stated iron deficiency anaemia is common in hypothyroidism and so iron-rich foods must be eaten.
Good food sources for zinc, iron and copper, are: Avocados, figs, dates, blackberries, pomegranates, raspberries, spirulina, pumpkin and swiss chard.

B vitamins and Antioxidants: Beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), vitamin C and vitamin E, along with selenium and iodine, are important antioxidants that help the thyroid gland neutralise oxidative stress.   The B vitamins (B2, B3, and B6) are also vital for thyroid function because they play an important part in manufacturing T4.

Tyrosine: Tyrosine is an amino acid (a building block of protein) essential to help manufacture thyroid hormones from iodine. The function of this amino acid is closely-knit with neurotransmitters and hormones in the body and is essential for normal mental functions.   Fortunately, there are many natural food sources of tyrosine, these include: fish, chicken, pork, whole grains, wheat, oats, milk, cheese, yoghurt, avocados, bananas, legumes and beans. Nuts and seeds are also good sources, such as almonds, lima beans, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.


5 Responses to “Could your thyroid be at the root of your health problems?”

  1. lorna on September 13th, 2010 8:35 pm

    I take kelp as a suppliment daily.

  2. Jiellie on September 21st, 2010 12:32 pm

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

  3. Mortimer on September 26th, 2010 11:55 pm

    Great post, I’ve been waiting for that!

  4. Jim on September 27th, 2010 8:49 pm

    yeah my dad will like this

  5. Ala on October 1st, 2010 4:20 am

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