With 60,000 people being diagnosed in Australia with thyroid disease every year, and 59 million Americans suffering from Thyroid related diseases – this small barely mentioned gland is something all of us should know more about.
Just because most of us know nothing about it, does not mean it is not an incredibly important part of us. When it is not working properly, it really impacts us in multiple ways!
The thyroid is a ductless gland in the neck that manufactures two essential hormones – thyroxine (also referred to as T4) and triiodothyronine (also referred to as T3). When we are healthy most T3 circulating in the blood stream has been converted from T4. Both T4 and T3 have the same action on cells of the body but T3 is more potent. T4 mostly functions as a reserve for T3. Together these two similar hormones are called thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormone regulates the metabolic rate of almost all the cells of the body, and influences the health of the heart, brain and bones. It is also needed for normal development of the brain in children and for normal reproductive functioning.
There are two types of thyroid problems one is hyperthyroidism, which is the over activity of the thyroid gland, resulting in a rapid heartbeat and an increased rate of metabolism; and hypothyroidism, which is the abnormally low activity of the thyroid gland, resulting in retardation of growth and mental development in children and adults and a sluggish metabolism.
When the gland is healthy, it releases as much thyroid hormone as we need to keep our metabolism on an even keel. It knows just how much to release because of the feedback loop between a gland in the base of the brain, called the pituitary, and the thyroid itself. To function normally, the pituitary also requires a hormonal signal from a small part of the brain above it, called the hypothalamus.
The pituitary contains special cells that are very sensitive to levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. If the level is too low, the pituitary secretes a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.
When the level of thyroid hormone in the blood goes back to normal, the pituitary stops producing extra TSH.
If there’s too much thyroid hormone in the blood: the pituitary releases less TSH, and the thyroid makes less thyroid hormone. This whole process is normally smoothly regulated by tiny pulses of TSH; allowing our bodies to maintain normal levels of T4 and T3, and a normal TSH level.
The hypothalamus has a hand in this too. It stimulates the pituitary to produce TSH by secreting thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH). Tiny pulses of TRH are sent out cyclically throughout the day.
The whole system is called the hypothalamic -pituitary -thyroid axis.
When women go into perimenopause, then on to menopause and onwards, their lack of hormone production causes their thyroid function to slow down. This is often why so many of the symptoms below look familiar to a menopausal woman.
The causes of thyroid issues can be varied, but the 4 most common causes are; Toxicity caused through radiation and heavy metal exposure, a deficiency of iodine and selenium, food intolerances with the two main offenders being gluten and A1 Casein allergy ( found in milk) as well as hormone imbalance caused by high cortisol levels brought on by stress, carbs or too little healthy fats in the diet.
With the high statistics of thyroid issues as I mentioned up front, the importance of checking ones thyroid health should certainly be a priority, especially as many of the symptoms surrounding it can be attributed to other conditions, making diagnosis very difficult.
The following symptoms could all be related to thyroid issues. But please be aware, just because you may have one or the other symptom, do not instantly panic thinking you have problems! If you do have the symptoms, and you think you could possibly have thyroid issues, do go have your thyroid tested.
But in so saying, many tests do not pick up on thyroid issues if they are only mild. Many people with multiple issues have their thyroid tested to be told there is nothing wrong. But by following the dietary recommendations in this article, you should find your thyroid improving naturally.
- chronic muscle aches and pains
The thyroid is an essential part of the endocrine system, and many sufferers of thyroid issues experience chronic, generalized muscle pain in multiple parts of the body, including the wrists, back, upper back, arms, legs, neck and ankles.
· sore or swollen neck
The thyroid is located in the neck, and when a problem occurs with most organs or parts of the body, swelling and inflammation can occur. If you notice that your neck is swollen, is red or irritated, and is sensitive to the touch, it is usually the result of being sick, or potentially worse, a thyroid problem. If it is an acute issue, you could have the flu or a cold, but if it keeps on being an issue – then you should see your doctor.
· fatigue – so tired all the time
Are you always tired in the morning? Even after a good nights sleep of 8 – 10 hours? If you are constantly tired, you could have a problem, or you could have food intolerances or allergies!? Or if you have been under constant stress, this could also be a cause.
· skin and hair not looking great
The thyroid plays an important role in managing our hormones, and hormones have a huge impact on the health and condition or our skin and hair as most women find out thought out their lives!
An increase or decrease in certain hormones can lead to hair loss, brittle and dry hair, as well as dry, cracked and scaly skin. If you notice that there hasn’t been any change in your environment or behaviour, and you notice as sudden change in your skin and hair, your thyroid could be the cause.
· weight issues
Metabolism is one of the most important and most noticeable systems the thyroid regulates. If
you start having extremely difficultly losing weight, no matter how much you diet or exercise or you find that it is impossible for you to gain weight no matter how much food you eat, then your thyroid could be the culprit.
Severe and painful ongoing constipation is another symptom of an underlying thyroid problem; however, due to its association with many other conditions; bowel troubles can often get overlooked.
If you find yourself chronically constipated, before thinking you have thyroid issues, ask yourself the following questions. Have you changed your diet at all? Are you experiencing more stress at work or at home?
Mental health can be a great indicator of an underlying physiological problem; however, it, like many others, can be difficult to diagnose.
Have you, suddenly experienced dramatic changes in mood? Have you noticed that when once you were normally quite happy and yet suddenly feel irritable or depressed? These signs can all be your bodies’ way of reacting to a thyroid problem. If you notice that your routine is relatively the same and there are no additional points of contention in your life, you may have an issue.
· menstrual issues
If your normal regular monthly period suddenly changes drastically be it in regularity or intensity, this could also be an issue – but this could also be due to stress, or that you have started perimenopause if you are over 38 years old.
Because thyroid regulates your metabolism, along with many other internal functions that heavily rely on hormones, things like cholesterol levels can be affected.
If you haven’t made any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, and yet you notice a rise in your cholesterol levels, it can be an early indicator of a thyroid problem. If this occurs, try changing your diet to deal with this problem – if no change after a period of time – a trip to the doctor is a must.
So beside taking medication can I improve my thyroid health?
There are natural ways you can improve your thyroid by yourself, if you even think there could be a thyroid issue – following the below is definitely worth a go – if for no other reason than just for your health.
- Remove gluten and A1 casein from your diet. The most common allergies and food intolerances today are from wheat and dairy products because of the hybridized proteins of gluten and A1 casein. These proteins can cause “Leaky Gut” which in turn will cause inflammation of the thyroid and effect it’s function. You can still drink A2 milk, goats milk and sheep milk, sheep and goats cheese and sheep and goats yoghurt.
- Remove BPA from your life. Bisphenoland can disrupt your endocrine system and effect your thyroid. Only drink out of glass, stainless steel, or BPA free plastic bottles.
- Get an iodine blood test. If they are low take a kelp or organic liquid iodine supplement. If you do not want to do the test, taking a kelp supplement daily will do you no harm – it in actual fact is good for you!
- Do a heavy metal detox. Use a combination of Milk Thistle, Turmeric, Chlorella, and Cilantro to detox these harmful metals from your cells and organs. I recommend you follow Dr Axe’s detox – good for everyone! https://draxe.com/heavy-metal-detox/
- Increase your selenium intake. Make sure you’re getting enough selenium in your diet but also don’t go overboard. Some of the best selenium containing foods are brazil nuts, salmon, sunflower seeds, beef, mushrooms and onions.
- Take Adaptogen Supplements. What are they you ask? Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: They help balance, restore and protect the body. As naturopath Edward Wallace explains, an adaptogen doesn’t have a specific action: It helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions.
- They can recharge your adrenal glands, helping you to respond to stress. Adaptogens include Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Ginseng,Licorice root, Holy basil, some mushrooms and Rhodiola.
- Lower your carbohydrate intake. Lower your intake of sugars and grains and replace them with healthy fats. Most women especially consume far too many carbs which increase estrogen and negatively effect the thyroid. Instead consume healthy fats that will balance hormones, like: coconut oil, coconut milk, avocado, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, chia, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds.
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