Posted on by Paula Gallagher
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. It weighs only about 20 grams. However, the hormones it secretes are essential to growth and metabolism and regulate body function. Although the thyroid gland plays a role in metabolism and the regulation of temperature, this little gland is so much more than that. In fact, the thyroid is one of the most essential glands for regulating overall health. Unfortunately, it can be easily damaged by toxins, nutrient deficiencies and stress.
Functions of the thyroid include:
- Metabolic rate and maintenance of weight
- Healthy cholesterol levels
- Healthy cardiovascular function
- Learning, memory and mood
- Healthy development of embryo and fetus
The thyroid produces two main hormones, T4 and T3, which are made of iodine and the amino acid tyrosine. The majority of thyroid hormone production is T4 (the number 4 represents the number of iodine molecules attached to tyrosine), which is considered inactive and does not affect metabolism directly. T3, the active thyroid hormone, is formed within the cells of the body with the help of selenium.
It is estimated that almost 60% of people go undiagnosed with a thyroid condition. Diagnosis is usually done after a blood test, along with signs that your doctor may notice and symptoms reported. The following symptoms are often clues that your thyroid gland is not performing optimally:
Low energy can be caused by many things – however if you are constantly dragging and can’t function without coffee, it could be a sign of an underactive thyroid. Also, if you need to sleep more than 9 hours a night to feel refreshed, it could be an indication of an underlying thyroid imbalance. An imbalance an also affect your quality of sleep.
2. Weight Gain
Unexplained weight changes and issues can be signs of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (an under- or over-active thyroid). If exercise and a healthy diet aren’t helping with maintaining weight, it could be another sign that there’s something off with your thyroid.
3. Dry Skin and/or Hair Loss
With hypothyroid (low thyroid), hair often becomes brittle, coarse and dry. Increased hair loss or thinning hair are also common symptoms of hypothyroid. Skin can become very dry, flaky and scaly.
Depression or anxiety can be a symptom of thyroid disease. While there are often other underlying factors involved, the thyroid and adrenal functions should be the first areas of assessment when treating anxiety or depression.
5. Menstrual Problems and Infertility
Our hormones work synergistically together: when one hormone is out of balance, often another hormone pathway needs to be investigated. Heavier, more frequent and painful periods are sometimes associated with hypothyroidism. Infertility can also be associated with an undiagnosed thyroid condition.
Natural Ways to Boost Thyroid Function
It is estimated that 1 in 5 people have a suboptimal thyroid not detected through proper evaluation and testing. This is because often only TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4 are checked, which only provide part of the picture. It is important to have a thorough test done. A Thyroid Analysis panel provides a comprehensive analysis of thyroid hormone metabolism. It includes central thyroid gland regulation and activity, thyroid production and secretion, peripheral thyroid conversion, and thyroid autoimmunity. This test analyzes serum levels of TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, anti-TG antibodies, and anti-TPO antibodies to assess central and peripheral thyroid function, as well as thyroid auto-immunity.
If you have low thyroid function, there are nutrients that can help support its function. Before taking any supplement, consult with your primary care practitioner to make sure you are taking the right thing. In some cases, a prescription may be necessary.
Iodine: All you need is 150 mcg, and if you are a salt consumer, you may be getting all you need. Too much iodine can be as problematic as too little. If you use non-iodized salt, you may want to consider sources such as eggs and seaweed (kelp) to get iodine.
Tyrosine: If you are deficient in this important amino acid, your body will be limited to how much thyroid hormone it can make. Start off at a low dose of 200 mg or even less, and work up to 500 mg, if tolerated well. For some, L-tyrosine can be too energizing, so you wouldn't want to take it before bed.
Selenium (in the form of selenomethionine): Selenium is an important trace element and antioxidant required for healthy thyroid hormone production and metabolism. Shiitake mushrooms, salmon, Brazil nuts and garlic are all good sources of selenium.
Supplement blend: A comprehensive supplement blend can also provide all the nutrients above plus other essential vitamins, minerals, and standardized herbs to help support healthy thyroid function, metabolism and stress response.
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