Did you know that a tiny, butterfly shaped gland nestled in your throat is responsible for producing and regulating the most important hormones in your body? This mighty gland is called the thyroid, and while a healthy thyroid is relatively small in size, it’s actually the most important gland in the endocrine system, and is responsible for the three master hormones that regulate every function in the body.
The thyroid produces special hormones that affect the entire body that interact with all your other hormones (like insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone). We’re still learning so much about how the endocrine system works. But, when we look at how intimately all of hormones in the endocrine system communicate with each other, it’s no wonder so many symptoms and diseases are tied to a poorly performing thyroid!
How does the thyroid gland work?
Almost all of the hormones the thyroid produces are in an inactive form called thyroxine, or T4. The liver is triggered by the production of T4 and produces an enzyme that converts the inactive thyroid hormone into triiodothyronine (or T3); the active form of thyroid hormone which the body uses to regulate all kinds of functions. The third form of thyroid hormone, known as diiodothyronine (or T2), is still relatively mysterious to scientists and is now the subject of multiple studies so that they can learn more about it.
In a healthy body, the thyroid knows to produce the right quantities of T4 hormone, and the liver can effectively convert that T4 into useful T3. But, if something is negatively affecting either the thyroid or the liver, then this normally tickity-boo communication becomes something more like broken telephone. What can disrupt this communication? As with many other critical body processes, nutritional imbalances, toxins, allergens, infections, and stress can all be problematic to the proper function of the thyroid, leading to dysfunction of the gland, and potentially to wider spread systemic disease.
What happens when the thyroid can’t function normally?
When the thyroid is compromised, they body is unable to produce or convert the right amounts of thyroid hormones. Consequently, we experience disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. In fact, thyroid diseases are highly prevalent in North America. In fact, thyroid diseases are highly prevalent in North America, with an estimated 20 million Americans having some form of thyroid disease, and over 12% of Americans developing a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Because thyroid conditions are tied to so many symptoms, up to 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. And, women are more affected than men, with one in eight developing a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. That’s five to eight times more frequently than men.
Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer are the most obvious because ‘thyroid’ is in the name. But, poor thyroid function is also tied to less obvious disorders including acne, autoimmune diseases, eczema, fibromyalgia, gum disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and infertility. But, because the thyroid is tied to every bodily function, symptoms of an underlying thyroid problem are wide and varied, making it more difficult identify the root cause of the disorders as the thyroid itself. As a result, when we’re diagnosing and treating health complaints, we often try many other clearer routes before reaching the conclusion that something deeper could be at play.
A number of symptoms often point to an underactive thyroid, which is the basis of hypothyroidism.
Lethargy or fatigue in the form of being unable to sustain energy like you used to, heavy headedness (that’s a big key!), depression, weight gain even if you’ve been exercising and eating well consistently, persistently rough/scaly skin and/or dry/tangled hair that are unresponsive to treatments, hair loss (particularly in women), perpetual sensitivity to cold including an inability to warm up in a sauna or to sweat during exercise, and a consistently low basal body temperature.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body overproduces thyroid hormones. While they are opposites in function, the symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are unique to each disorder. Women tend to suffer from hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis in far greater numbers. Studies show that 2 in 100 women and 2 in 1,000 men in the UK develop an overactive thyroid at some stage in life, and while it can happen at any time, it is more common in older adults.
Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism include feeling restless, nervous, or emotional, poor sleep quality, fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty concentrating, frequent bowel movements, disappearance of or irregular menstruation, weight loss, rapid, forceful, or irregular heartbeat, eye problems (associated with Graves’ disease) or swollen thyroid/goitre.
Given that the thyroid is so deeply important to overall health, whether you have an obvious thyroid dysfunction or not, it’s imperative to understand how the thyroid works so that you can keep your endocrine system and your body functioning optimally.
Thankfully, you can maintain your thyroid health naturally!
When it comes to managing the optimal function of your hormones, the building blocks are almost always found in nutrition first.
Using Nutrition to maintain a healthy thyroid:
1 – Go gluten and dairy free:
Most people go gluten and dairy free only when there is an obvious sensitivity to either type of food. Sensitivity to gluten and dairy is much more subtle when it comes to the thyroid and often goes unnoticed. The inflammation caused by these foods can lead to leaky gut syndrome can then cause the body to accidentally attack the thyroid instead of the food particles it’s trying to destroy. Removing these foods can prevent the autoimmune reaction that can cause the thyroid to go into overdrive.
2 – Say goodbye to unfermented soy:
The phytoestrogens in soy are potent anti-thyroid agents that can cause hypothyroidism and even thyroid cancer. Be extra careful with baby formula too. The consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease in infants. This doesn’t mean that all soy is off the table. You can keep enjoying fermented soy foods like natto, miso, and tempeh. It’s the unfermented soy products like soy meat, soy milk, and soy cheese that should be avoided.
3 – Focus on your iodine level:
Iodine is present in almost every organ and tissue and has a direct effect on the thyroid. Iodine might just be the most important part of your thyroid health as our diet and environment make maintaining dietary iodine levels difficult to maintain. Chemical agents in commercial food ingredients have the side effect of lessening iodine in finished foods. Daily exposure to chemicals such as bromine, fluorine, chlorine, and perchlorate negatively impact iodine levels by attaching themselves to iodine receptors in the body. You can see why focusing on consuming enough of this chemical nutrient is so important. You can increase your iodine levels by:
Choosing to eat organic to minimize exposure to chemical pesticides
Avoid eating, drinking, or storing food and drinks in plastic containers
Look for “no bromine” or “bromine-free” labels on organic whole-grain breads and flours if you eat grains
Increase your dietary intake of seafood and ocean fish
Use natural personal care products to minimize absorbing toxic chemicals through the skin
4 – Seek out foods containing zinc and selenium:
Zinc and selenium are two micronutrients that play critical roles in hormonal and thyroid health. Because they can be toxic in too-large doses, it’s best to achieve healthy levels through diet. Zinc rich foods include: oysters, beef, pork, and chicken while selenium rich foods include: brazil nuts, fish, and liver.
5 – Manage stress:
Stress and hormone health are inextricably linked. Make sure you’re taking time to meditate, relieve stress, and get your mindset on track so you can enjoy the benefits of overall health.
You can gain control over your health by learning how to manage and maintain your hormones through nutrition, lifestyle, and medical support. If you’re dealing with, or suspect you have, thyroid issues, we can help. We are happy to refer you to a practitioner that is well versed in Thyroid health.
To a long and healthy life,
The Team at People’s Choice Pharmacy
About People’s Choice Compounding Pharmacy
Serving Richmond Hill, Toronto, Markham & Vaughan
Free Ontario-Wide Shipping on all Bioidentical HRT
Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, People’s Choice Pharmacy is a state-of-the art, innovative, full service compounding pharmacy serving Toronto, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan, and shipping across Ontario. Our certified technicians with 45 years of experience will custom compound your medications using top quality, lab tested ingredients. Call to speak to a friendly, knowledgeable Pharmacist today!