Let’s take a look at one of the most common health conditions seen today: Hyp-O-thyroidism, or under-active thyroid.
What is the Thyroid gland and why is it so important?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of your throat, and it is indeed one of the most important regulatory organs in the human body. It is responsible for producing the hormones Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Thyroxine (T4), and Triiodothyronine (Free T3).
In a nutshell, it is the master controller of your metabolism - this doesn’t just mean that precious mechanism responsible for revving up our fat burning ability, it also refers to the metabolism of every cell in the body and the regulation of our internal thermostat. It is therefore extremely sensitive to the interplay of other hormones, and can influence and be influenced by them in turn.
An out of tune thyroid can wreak havoc on every organ system, and low thyroid hormone means common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Weight Gain or Inability to lose weight
- Hair Loss
- Dry skin
- Elevated Cholesterol
- Menstrual Irregularities and Fertility issues
- Constant feeling of being cold
- Depression/Mood swings
If you have a Hypothyroid diagnosis
If you get a diagnosis from your doctor of having an inefficiently working thyroid, it may require medication and should certainly be monitored by your healthcare professional. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to give your thyroid all the support it needs.
The thyroid requires very specific nutrition to work optimally. Often in hypothyroid situations, it feels as if taking any control over your body feels completely out of reach, but here are some nutritional changes you can start implementing immediately to make a difference to the health of your precious thyroid gland.
These deliciously crunchy nuts are one of the highest sources of Selenium you can get, and this nutrient is essential for the conversion of T4 to Free T3 – our activated form of Thyroid hormone. Selenium is also very protective to the thyroid gland, as it may help to prevent any damage from occurring due to excessive iodide exposure.
The Hypothalamus is more or less the master hormone controller in the brain, having regular conversations with many organs in the body including the thyroid. These conversations can occasionally get a little lost-in-translation as there are so many hormones being recognized and modulated by the Hypothalamus at any given time, and if one should err – that can affect the others.
Maca is a heart-shaped root vegetable related to the broccoli family, and can help to balance the hypothalamus, which releases Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), thus helping to regulate thyroid hormone levels. It also contains zinc, B vitamins and iron, which are essential nutrients for thyroid health.
Zinc is often an overlooked mineral when it comes to thyroid health, but considering it is required for the conversion of T4 to active T3 – it is indeed incredibly important. This is where Oysters come in, and prioritizing your thyroid health is a great excuse to indulge regularly in these sea delights. However, not all people are fans of oysters, so be mindful that zinc can also be found in red meat, pork, chicken, and pumpkin seeds.
We aren’t just talking fish and crustaceans here, but sea veg - such as kelp, nori, kombu and wakame - as well. These foods are a rich source of iodine, an extremely important nutrient relied upon to create both thyroxine (T4 hormone), and triiodothyronine (T3 hormone).
Being ‘gluten-free’ should not be the province of Coeliac sufferers and trend setters, it has also been associated with many autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – one of the main causes of Hypothyroid states. It goes without saying that gluten should be avoided in these cases if you do have this autoimmune disease, and replaced with high quality protein, plenty of fresh vegetables and healthy fats! See a naturopath or nutritionist if you need help establishing a healthy gluten free diet.
We are surrounded by thousands of environmental toxins every day, which affects our whole body in a variety of ways – particularly our thyroid. This is due to the fact that many toxic molecules are similar in structure to Iodine, the most utilized nutrient in the thyroid. So reducing your exposure is really important if you do have a thyroid issue, which is where organic fruits and veg come in!
It can be a little pricey to eat organic, but the reward is a significant reduction in exposure to the chemicals used in conventional farming to keep veg ‘bug free’. Remember… not all fruit and veg need to be organic, take a look at the dirty dozen, which lists the foods that tend to retain high levels of toxicity due to spraying.
Chlorella is a blue-green algae similar to Spirulina, and contains high amounts of phytonutrients, amino acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, potassium, phosphorous, biotin, magnesium, and B vitamins. Adding Chlorella to your diet can help to gently detoxify any heavy metal accumulation in the body, and even help prevent accumulation from happening in the first place with regular consumption.
An adaptogen herb does just that… help you adapt to stressors whether it be environmental or internal. Consider taking adaptogenic herbs such as Withania and Rhodiola, which are amazing at supporting endocrine and adrenal health. Withania also has a direct effect on the thyroid gland itself, and is believed to stimulate T4 synthesis in the thyroid via its effects on cellular antioxidant systems.
These herbs are generally very well tolerated, but please check with a Naturopath or Herbalist to get some guidance as to dosage and with your doctor before taking any new supplements if you are on pharmaceutical medications.
At Australian Natural Care we get a lot of people asking for supplements to help with thyroid health, but as testament to how important and vital this gland is, any supplementation of nutrients or herbs is best advised by a health care practitioner. The thyroid is incredibly sensitive, and therefore any mismanagement can have very significant consequences. Please talk to your health care professional with regard to your thyroid health, so as to ensure a tailor-made treatment for you.