Is your Thyroid Gland Functioning Optimally?

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The thyroid gland is a little butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front of the neck that has a huge impact on how you feel. If you are feeling tired all of the time, suffer from a hormonal imbalance or struggling to keep weight off despite your best efforts, then keep reading.

The thyroid is responsible for the metabolism of every cell in your body so it controls how fast or slow you burn fuel, how well your bowels move and how much energy you have, to name a few!

The thyroid gland is a complicated little thing and is influenced by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and produces the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

Hypothyroidism is the most common pathological hormone deficiency, it means that your thyroid gland is under active and is considered more common than hyperthyroidism.

Due to the dynamic interrelationship of the endocrine system, an issue with one area can often affect another. This is seen with hypothyroidism and reproductive health with low libido, infertility, menstrual irregularities, and heavy bleeding. Other signs and symptoms associated with low thyroid function include but are in no way limited to…

  • Fatigue, lethargy, forgetfulness
  • Cold intolerance
  • Weight gain (unexplained)
  • Constipation, bloating, flatulence
  • Poor immunity
  • Dry skin and mucous membranes
  • Hair loss, thin and brittle nails

About 90% of hypothyroid conditions are found to be autoimmune, indicating a condition called Hashimotos. This means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland creating thyroid antibodies, which is definitely not ideal!

The thyroid hormones fluctuate regularly so sometimes blood test result can be misleading and need to be monitored regularly if there is a problem. The best thing that you can do is ensure the consumption of key nutrients needed for thyroid gland function.

These key nutrients include….

  • Selenium – Selenium is an essential component of the enzymes required to convert T4 to T3, this mineral is needed as a potent antioxidant, reducing free radical damage and helps to modulate the immune system.
  • Vitamin D – Low vitamin D levels correlates with thyroid antibodies and abnormal thyroid function. It is an essential vitamin for the correct functioning of the immune system. Depending on deficiency, supplementation is recommended and we also get vitamin D from the sun so ensure 10-15 minutes of safe sun exposure each day.
  • Iodine – Iodine is to be used with caution when a thyroid condition is autoimmune. Supplementing with too much iodine can disrupt function even further. Iodine has other essential functions in the body such as an essential component of some of our white blood cells and its use in breast tissue, where iodine protects against oestrogen dominant breast cancer.
  • Tyrosine – The amino acid tyrosine is an essential precursor to thyroid hormones. Eating a diet of wholefoods containing green leafy vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, lean meats such as chicken and salmon and eggs will provide this essential amino acid.
  • Iron – Low levels of iron parameters can impair thyroid hormone synthesis, as iron is needed to convert the amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine. Supplemental amounts are specific to each individual and pathology tests need to be consulted to determine the correct amount needed. Other factors influencing iron deficiency include suboptimal digestion and absorption. Vitamin C aids iron absorption so include foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruit and broccoli when eating iron rich foods.

There are other areas in your diet and lifestyle that can exacerbate a thyroid condition.

The brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower all contain goitrogens when raw. Goitrogens, in large doses can prevent the uptake of iodine at the thyroid gland, but lightly cooking these veggies reduces their goitrogen content so still enjoy these nutritious vegetables in their cooked state.

Gluten has been implicated in autoimmune thyroid conditions so it is best to avoid gluten if you have tested positive for thyroid antibodies.

Chronic stress and subsequent excessive cortisol levels can also disrupt thyroid function. It is essential to reduce stress levels in thyroid autoimmune conditions. Every individual case is different but identify where stress is in your life and work out a way to minimise it if possible. Take some time out for yourself to do activities you enjoy and when you find yourself in a highly stressed state take 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths to calm down and let your adrenal glands know that all is ok. It is important to reduce stimulants in your diet such as caffeine.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into what you can do to keep your thyroid gland healthy and functioning optimally!

Nikki x