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Hormone health - What you should know about the thyroid gland

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

When we speak about hormonal health, we often think directly to reproductive and sex hormones such as testosterone, oestrogens and progesterone. However, there is a body system named the endocrine system made up of a complex matrix of organs which all secrete hormones. These hormones have a vital role in all the functions within our body, essentially communicating with cells and directing them what to do. Endocrine glands are found from our brain down to our reproductive organs such as the ovaries and testes, and everywhere in between, such as our adrenal glands and our thyroid gland.



Are you feeling tired? Struggling to lose weight no matter how many HIIT classes you do? Dry skin? Losing hair? Having difficulty conceiving?

We have a hint for you – it may be your thyroid.

Thyroid conditions are extremely common and frequently seen in clinic. Our practitioners commonly see thyroid conditions that have been misdiagnosed or subclinical.

WHAT IS IT & WHAT DOES IT DO ?

The thyroid is a master regulator of the body. It is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck.

The hormones it produces namely triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), aswell as calcitonin, have effects all over the body. Calcitonin is a hormone responsible for bone health and calcium balance, acting on bone cells. T3 and T4 however, act on all cells of the body, therefore, they implications on every single part and function of our body. And this is why it is so important to address.

Thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH is a hormone produced by our pituitary gland (located in our brain) stimulating activity and hormone release from the thyroid, triggering how much to be released and when This is the importance of treating the whole body holistically as everything is connected (Dosiou et al., 2020).

WHAT ARE SOME MARKERS WE LOOK AT?

We look into optimal ranges rather than just reference ranges alone, aswell as the combination of levels as patterns reveal different mechanisms and causes. This is in line with addressing the root cause, rather than covering symptoms like a band aid. We look into TSH, and thyroid hormones as explained above, but also thyroid and thyroid receptor antibodies (anti-TPO and TRAb) if we suspect there may be underlying autoimmune component driving the underactive or overactive thyroid functioning (Hashimoto’s disease or Grave’s disease).

Hypothyroidism is most commonly seen, which is broken down into three categories including;

- Primary hypothyroidism. This is the combination of low thyroid hormones and elevated TSH, where the body is stimulating the thyroid from releasing TSH from the pituitary gland but the thyroid gland is not manufacturing hormones properly leading to under functioning.

- Secondary hypothyroidism is characterised by an issue with the pituitary gland and secretion of TSH.

- Cellular hypothyroidism is characterized by normal levels of TSH and thyroid hormones however low functional thyroid activity, or uptake into cells.

SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM MAY INCLUDE

- Fatigue

- Weight gain

- Depression

- Decreased heart rate

- Thinning hair

- Dry skin

WHAT CAUSES HYPOTHYROIDISM?

The most prevalent cause of an underactive thyroid is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune condition meaning the body creates antibodies against itself and attacks the thyroid gland. This comes down to a major component of inflammation and where it is coming from will be totally individual whether it’s from the gut or somewhere else in the body.

It may also be caused but nutrient deficiencies impairing production of thyroid hormones. Postpartum status can also affect thyroid function.

Hyperthyroidism is less common however still important and is classed as general or autoimmune (Grave’s disease). Symptoms may include;

- Increase heart rate

- Weight loss

- Sensitivity to heat

- Anxiety

SOME SIMPLE TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR THYROID GLAND

  1. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS – In particular omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which have a positive impact on inflammation. They make up cell membranes and have an essential role in communication between cells, aswell as positively improving dyslipidaemia that can come along with hypothyroidism (Ihnatowicz et al., 2020). Think fatty fish, nuts and seeds.

  2. SELENIUM – An antioxidant found in large amounts within brazil nuts that plays an important role in protecting the thyroid gland from oxidative stress (Stuss et al., 2017).

  3. ZINC – Found in foods such as oysters and shellfish aswell as nuts and seeds in smaller amounts. Zinc is essential for immune function but also critical for producing thyroid hormones.

  4. IODINE – This is dependant on hypothyroid or hyperthyroid picture, as it is an essential component of thyroid hormone synthesis, therefore deficiency can lead to insufficient hormones produced. Found in sea vegetables and fish. However, if there is a hyperthyroid or autoimmune picture, caution needs to be taken especially with supplementation as discussed with your practitioner (Teng et al., 2011).

  5. VITAMIN D – Get some sunshine! Vitamin D plays autoimmunity through decreasing certain autoimmune antibodies and also modulating the immune system as a whole (Chahardoli et al., 2019).

TREATMENT

Nutritional and Naturopathic treatment aims to target the root cause of your individual presentation, your condition, what is driving it and then treating accordingly. We take into account your test results and symptom picture to come up with a tailored plan for you to address nutritional requirements, stress, environmental factors, aswell as any other condition or symptoms you may have going on.


Book here with our practitioners or book a discovery call where you can begin to address your individual needs.

References

Chahardoli, R., Saboor-Yaraghi, A. A., Amouzegar, A., Khalili, D., Vakili, A. Z., & Azizi, F. (2019). Can Supplementation with Vitamin D Modify Thyroid Autoantibodies (Anti-TPO Ab, Anti-Tg Ab) and Thyroid Profile (T3, T4, TSH) in Hashimoto's Thyroiditis? A Double Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial. Hormone and metabolic research = Hormon- und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones et metabolisme, 51(5), 296–301. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-0856-1044


Dosiou C. (2020). Thyroid and Fertility: Recent Advances. Thyroid : official journal of the American Thyroid Association, 30(4), 479–486. https://doi.org/10.1089/thy.2019.0382


Ihnatowicz, P., Drywień, M., Wątor, P., & Wojsiat, J. (2020). The importance of nutritional factors and dietary management of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine : AAEM, 27(2), 184–193. https://doi.org/10.26444/aaem/112331


Stuss, M., Michalska-Kasiczak, M., & Sewerynek, E. (2017). The role of selenium in thyroid gland pathophysiology. Endokrynologia Polska, 68(4), 440–465. https://doi.org/10.5603/EP.2017.0051


Teng, X., Shan, Z., Chen, Y., Lai, Y., Yu, J., Shan, L., Bai, X., Li, Y., Li, N., Li, Z., Wang, S., Xing, Q., Xue, H., Zhu, L., Hou, X., Fan, C., & Teng, W. (2011). More than adequate iodine intake may increase subclinical hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis: a cross-sectional study based on two Chinese communities with different iodine intake levels. European journal of endocrinology, 164(6), 943–950. https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-10-1041

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