In the United States about 20 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. Mostly it is an under active thyroid (hypothyroid) but there are those who have an over-active thyroid which comes with its own problems.
Unfortunately there are no stats for South Africa.
What’s really surprising is that 60% of those who have thyroid problems are completely unaware that this is the root of their problems.
The American Thyroid Association reports that 1 in 8 women in the USA is affected by a thyroid disorder at some point during her lifetime.
Think of it as your body's thermostat.
It regulates your body temperature, hunger levels, sex drive, mood, how much energy use up during the day.
It is interrelated to every system in your body.
So if your thyroid is not running at its best then you are not running at your best.
Where is your thyroid?
It is a butterfly shaped gland in the middle of your neck and below your voice box.
Your thyroid produces the master metabolism hormones that control every function in your body. It makes sense that if your thyroid is not working at best case then there is going to be a knock on effect on every other system in your body.
There are 3 thyroid hormones all with long names!!! Their short names are T4, T3 and T2.
T3 is converted to Free T3 and Reverse T3.
Free T3 is what really matters.
This is the hormone that attaches to a receptor in every cell in your body and causes something to happen.
That could be body temperature rising, metabolism increasing or bowel functioning.
A sluggish thyroid will usually be experienced in these ways;
What can contribute to thyroid problems?
Genetics to lifestyle habits can all have an impact on the health of your thyroid.
There are a number of nutrients that play a role that are often overlooked in proper thyroid function.
These are iodine, selenium, zinc and B vitamins.
The number one cause of an under active thyroid or hypothyroidism is an iodine deficiency!
Iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones and the normal functioning of the thyroid.
So where do we find iodine rich foods?
Seaweed is a great source. But it is a bit weird in a Western diet, right!?
Sushi has seaweed so I guess we could all indulge in more sushi!! Other sea vegetables are dulse and kelp.
But for Westerners you can find iodine in raw dairy i.e. non pasteurised. Wild caught tuna, cod, sea bass and eggs.
When there is iodine present in the soil where crops are grown (remember iodine is a mineral) then these vegetables are good sources –
onions, mushrooms, lettuce, spinach, pineapple, cantaloupe, whole-wheat and green peppers.
Selenium helps to balance T4 levels of thyroid hormone.
Foods that are high in selenium are Brazil nuts, spinach, tuna, grass fed beef, turkey and beef liver.
Zinc and vitamins B5 & B12 are also important for thyroid health.
Vitamin B12 helps to balance hormones naturally and treats chronic fatigue syndrome. Eat grass-fed beef and beef liver, tuna, raw milk and cheese, cottage cheese, lamb and eggs.
Vitamin B5 has many of the same benefits as B12 for supporting the thyroid as well as supporting metabolism. Eat these foods as part of your meals; peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sesame and sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, spinach and ground flaxseed.
What else can you do?
Get enough rest and learn to manage stress.
Physical and emotional stress put your body in a fight or flight mode. When this happens then the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are heightened.
This causes the blood vessels to narrow, muscle tension increases and blood pressure too. Antibodies and inflammatory proteins that suppress immune function are released. All this damages the adrenal glands and thyroid.
So take stress seriously and find the root causes of your mental strain. Try multiple methods to deal with your stress.
Aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night.
Meditate, exercise, journal and look to be part of a community.
Either a faith based one or support group. And schedule enjoyable activities for yourself and the people that you enjoy spending time with.
Lab tests to determine if you have a thyroid problem.
Normally doctors only check for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4.
There are other tests though, that will show a better picture of whether you have a thyroid problem.
Ask your doctor to run these tests.
Dr Amy Myers is a leading a Functional Medicine doctor specialising in thyroid treatment. She herself has the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system turns against the body's own tissues. In this case the body turns against the thyroid.
According to her these are the optimal values for the lab results on the tests done…..
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