February 10, 2014

Thyroid-Basics

The thyroid gland, one of the largest endocrine glands is found in the neck region. It secretes two main hormones called tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine hormones which are responsible for controlling the rate of metabolism, growth and development and maintaining body temperature. The body’s entire blood supply filters through the thyroid gland once every hour. It stores in iodine found in the blood which is utilized to manufacture hormones.
Function of Thyroid
  • The thyroid produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.
  • Regulates protein synthesis within the cells and electrolyte transportation
  • It affects mental processes, sex drive and menstrual regularity
  • Allows for better muscle and cardiac activity and influences heart rate
  • Regulates growth in children
  • Helps convert food into energy, enhances the secretion of gastric juices, and improves fat metabolism
  • Assists in converting beta-carotene into Vitamin A
  • Thyroid secretions accelerate bone repair

Common Thyroid Problems
The problems tend to be worse in women, and worse in adults than in children.
Common types of thyroid imbalances include:
1. Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
2. Myxedema (very low thyroid activity)
3. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a mild infection of the thyroid gland.
4. Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism.
5. Thyroid nodules.
6. Goiter
7. Thyroid cancer.

Why is thyroid disease so common today?
1. Stress: Stress can cause many cases of thyroid imbalance.  The stress can be physical, emotional, financial, structural or other.  Any of these weakens the thyroid gland.

2. Iodine antagonists in the environment:  This is a very serious problem that few talk about. However, the water and food supply is loaded with halogens, which are elements that can replace iodine in the thyroid gland.  They mainly include fluorides, chlorides, and bromides.  These elements compete with iodine for absorption and utilization in our bodies.  When they replace iodine, the thyroid gland simply stops working properly.

3.Copper and mercury toxicity in almost everyone: According to the research copper and mercury can easily interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland.  They may do this by antagonizing or opposing the action of zinc, manganese and selenium, or perhaps by other mechanisms.  Unfortunately, copper and mercury toxicity are almost universal today.  Mercury gets into our bodies due to mercury in dental fillings, mercury in all fish except perhaps very small fish like sardines, and in some cases other sources of mercury. Copper imbalance is due to many factors.  Among the most important are adrenal insufficiency, vegetarian-type diets, zinc deficiency, stress and a few others.

4. Nutrient deficiencies:  These include low levels in our food of bioavailable zinc, selenium, iodine, manganese and others that are needed for proper thyroid functioning.

5. Autonomic system imbalances: This cause is related to stress of a certain type.

6. Other:  Infections, cancers and other things occasionally arise in the thyroid gland.   This is the case with Hashimoto’s disease.  I find it goes away easily and one should not take hormones for it.

However, in most cases, these causes are secondary to the first five causes listed above.  If those are taken care of, the infections and even cancers go away on their own.

Nutrients necessary for normal functioning of Thyroid


  • Iodine - This is a crucial trace element. The essential thyroid hormones that circulate in the body are the only iodine-containing hormones in humans. Iodine deficiency can lead to impaired activity of the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency can lead to Hypothyroidism.

Sources:
Sea vegetables/weed (kanten, kelp, dulse, hijiki, nori, arame, wakame, kombu)
Seafood (clams, shrimp, haddock, oysters, salmon, sardines)
Iodized sea salt
Secondary sources: eggs, asparagus, lima beans, mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, summer squash, Swiss chard, garlic

  • Selenium - Selenium is another indispensable element to healthy thyroid function. Selenium-based proteins and enzymes regulate thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism, convert T4 into T3 which is more accessible to the body and maintain just the right amount of thyroid hormones in the blood, tissues and organs. Selenium helps the body to efficiently recycle its iodine stores.
Sources:
Brazil nuts, tuna, organ meats, mushrooms, halibut, beef, soybeans, sunflower seeds

  • Zinc - This trace element plays a vital role in healthy thyroid function. Therefore, it directly affects the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones such as T4 and T3. Research has shown that both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can sometimes result in a zinc deficiency.
Sources:
Fresh oysters, sardines, beef, lamb, turkey, soybeans, split peas, whole grains, sunflower seeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, ginger root, maple syrup

  • Iron - There is a link between iron deficiency and decreased thyroid function.  Iron is essentially needed for iodine uptake by thyroid.
Sources:
Clams, oysters, organ meats, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, white beans, blackstrap molasses, lentils, spinach

  • Copper -This trace element play a vital role in healthy thyroid function. It is essential in production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Copper deficiency leads to decreased production of T4 that is required for body’s cholesterol synthesis. It may also lead to hypothyroidism.
Sources:
Beef, oysters, lobster, shiitake mushrooms, dark chocolate, crabmeat, tomato paste, pearled barley, nuts, beans (soybeans, white beans, chickpeas), sunflower seeds

  • Antioxidants - Beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, and vitamin E are important antioxidants that help your thyroid gland neutralize the oxidative stress it encounters on a daily basis. The thyroid gland has a high need for Vitamin B-1, especially when over activity is the problem. Niacin, or vitamin B-3 is needed for smooth functioning of all the endocrine glands. B-6 improves iodine assimilation. A supplement of essential fatty acids may help decrease excessive thyroid hormones. The amino acid L-tyrosine is a precursor to the thyroid hormones thyroxin and triodthyronine. A deficiency of Vitamin A can reduce the thyroid’s ability to assimilate iodine and contribute to goiter.
Sources:
Vitamin A - Kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash/pumpkin, spinach, cantaloupe, broccoli, asparagus, liver, lettuce
Vitamin C - Guava, peppers (chili, Bell, sweet), kiwifruit, citrus, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, papaya, parsley, greens (kale, turnip, collard, mustard)
Vitamin E - Whole grains, almonds, soybeans and other beans, sunflower seeds, peanuts, liver, leafy green vegetables, asparagus

B vitamins - B2, B3, and B6 are also important for thyroid function because they are involved in manufacturing T4.
Sources:
Vitamin B2 - Almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, egg yolksm Organ meats
Vitamin B3 - Rice bran, wheat bran, peanuts (with skin), liver, poultry white meat
Vitamin B6 - Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, fish (tuna, salmon, trout), liver, beans (soybeans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, garbanzos, pinto beans), walnuts, brown rice, bananas
Pointers
  • Get tested for a full thyroid hormone panel along with tests for iodine, selenium, and vitamin D levels. 
  • Address stress issues as the thyroid is very sensitive to stress. Give mind, body and thyroid a break by sitting in a comfortable space while you eat. Enjoy your meals in peace and allow the food you consume to nourish the thyroid, too.
  • The thyroid gland becomes damaged by the excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar and refined carbohydrates, all of which stimulate pituitary activity, and damage its ability to produce the necessary hormones that activate thyroid function.
  • Support your thyroid with herbs. Herbs like bacopa monnieri, hops, sage, ashwagandha, and coleus forskohlii all support healthy thyroid function. T-Balance, herbs put together with iodine and selenium is a thyroid support formula to help boost energy and support healthy thyroid function and metabolism. 
  • Other herbs that can naturally support thyroid health are
1.Bugleweed herb is used to reduce an enlarged and hyperactive thyroid. It is a thyroxine antagonist.
2.Irish moss moistens dry skin and soothes swollen glands. 
3.Motherwort herb calms heart palpitations, hot flashes, anxiety, skin hypersensitivity and thyroid    enlargement.
4.Mullein leaf is used for hyperthyroidism and to reduce glandular inflammation.
5.Nettle seed are considered a thyroid tonic
  • Apricots, Parsley, Swiss chard, Tahini and Watercress and sea weed also help in maintaining good thyroid function.
  • Swimming in clean salt water will also benefit the thyroid gland. Exercise in the open air is also of great benefit. 

Avoid gluten if you have a thyroid condition. A distinct connection between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and autoimmune thyroid issues has been observed.
Sources:

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