The thyroid is an endocrine gland that produces and directs various hormones in the body. The health of the thyroid is paramount to overall well being, playing a vital role in cell growth, metabolism and energy levels. The thyroid produces two major primary hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 is the more bioactive version of the hormone, while T4 is considered the less active, storage form. Surprisingly, the thyroid outputs roughly 20 times more T4 than T3.
Lesser known, the thyroid’s secondary role is the production of the calcium-regulating hormone calcitonin, which regulates and balances blood calcium levels and calcium deposition in bones.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released from the pituitary helps regulate the hormonal output and balance of the thyroid, regulating how much of the primary T3 and T4 hormones are manufactured and released. Before all of that happens, the TSH release is first stimulated by the area of the brain that controls neuroendocrine and central nervous system function. The hypothalamus then sends out its own stimulatory hormone called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH).
This gland – and the hormones it secretes – work to do many things, such as:
- Electrolyte transportation
- Cellular protein synthesis
- Regulate cardiac and muscle activity
- Improve metabolism and help the body turn food into energy
- Repair bones
- Turn beta-carotene into vitamin A
- Regulate growth during childhood
- Affects mental processes
- Aids in the regulation of a person’s sex drive and a woman’s menstrual period
The most common forms of thyroid disease are:
- Graves Disease (the autoimmune form of Hyperthyroidism)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (the autoimmune form of Hypothyroidism)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Let’s dig into those a bit.
1. Grave’s disease
Is an autoimmune disorder, wherein the immune system has an abnormal response that causes the thyroid gland to produce an overabundance of thyroid hormone. If left untreated, this disease can lead to over activity of the thyroid gland, otherwise known as hyperthyroidism.
Is defined as an overactive thyroid gland which produces an overabundance of T3/T4 hormones.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- heart palpitations
- excess sweating
- weight loss
- muscle weakness
Causes are as diverse as its symptoms, but nevertheless are important to understand. Autoimmunity (attack of self) of the thyroid often leads to Grave’s Disease, a disorder that results in an overactive thyroid. Also, nodule formation and/or goiter formation in the thyroid, leading to inhibition of necessary hormone feedback loops, contributes to excess production of thyroid hormones. Excess dietary iodine intake can also increase risk for hyperthyroidism.
Conventional approaches to hyperthyroidism include beta blockers and anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, and surgery. Natural approaches are numerous and often boil down to one thing: diet. Eliminating goitrogenic foods may be helpful, as would removing fluoride, bromine and chlorine from water via a high-quality filtration system.
Here are some examples of Goitrogenic foods:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Mustard Greens
- Soy-Based Foods
Reducing dietary gluten and dairy casein may also help protect the thyroid gland in sensitive individuals. Nascent iodine, lithium orotate, probiotics, vitamin D3, omega-3 fats, L-dopa (mucuna pruriens), and L-tyrosine are possible helpful supplements that can be taken for supporting thyroid health. Make sure to get plenty of sleep to recharge the thyroid, and avoid synthetic chemicals whenever possible. Deep breathing meditation and general relaxation may also be helpful for reducing stress associated with the thyroid.
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