Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the lower neck.  As part of the intricate endocrine system, it has three major functions: cellular differentiation, growth and regulation of metabolism.  Two key hormones (thyroxine in the form of T4 and triiodothyronine or T3) promotes the body’s growth & development and, with help from the parathyroid gland, it helps control bone formation and control of calcium in the blood (hormone calcitonin). The small double lobed gland claims to fame are also attributed to: sleep patterns, weight maintenance, moods, immune system, muscle agility and heart rate, etc.  In fact, every cell in your body has thyroid receptors!

Thyroid Gland image

The thyroid, being an integral part of the endocrine system and is part of a negative feedback “loop”  (which means more than one gland actually controls the release of thyroid hormones and affects the amount released).  The hypothalamus, located in the brain, releases TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone) which tells the pituitary gland (the master endocrine gland) to release TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and how much of it to release.  The thyroid then releases T4 (about 80% of the hormone is in this form) and T3 into the system.  T4 converts to T3, however much of the conversion of T4 to T3 converts in the liver, adrenals, and pancreas (and to a lesser extent, the ovaries and testes).  Assuming the endocrine system is healthy and functional, this goes off without a hitch.  If the liver, for example, is “backed up” with toxins such as happens with estrogen dominance, or insulin is imbalanced and dsyfunctional, or even cortisol levels are uncontrolled (as is the case with adrenal fatigue) or other hormonal imbalances are at play, this system becomes dsyfunctional.

As part of the negative feedback loop, if the thyroid has released the proper amount of thyroid hormone, the thyroid lets the pituitary “know” that it can release more TSH and the pituitary lets the hypothalamus monitors the amount of thyroid hormone in the system to know when to prod the pituitary.  If there isn’t enough thyroid hormone in the system the pituitary pushes on the “gas” and releases more TSH (which is stimulated by more TRH).  This is known as hypothyroidism. If there is too much thyroid hormone in the system, the pituitary presses the “brakes” on TSH and produces less.  This is often a sign of hyperthyroidism.

When this system is working well, metabolism is high due to the active nature of T3 allowing oxygenation of the cells.  When the system is dysfunctional, many factors can occur.  In a state of constant stress the adrenals secrete cortisol which, in the wrong combinations, release RT3 (reverse T3) which take up the same receptors as T3 but do not allow cells to oxygenate, thus slowing down metabolism.

Thyroid function needs iodine to manufacture thyroid hormone.  (Iodine binds with the amino acid tyrosine.)  It can also use other halogen compounds such as chlorine, (think about the chlorine in a swimming pool, bleach absorbed through the skin or in food, or water from your shower), flourine (flouride in the water system or in your toothpaste), or bromine (present in leavening agents used in baked goods, in pesticides, water as a purification process, medications, fire retardents, etc.)  The thyroid hormone produced by these halogens are very low in quality and the latter and rather unusable by the body. Bromine, can actually inhibit thyroid production by utilizing the same receptors as iodine.  The body’s preferred material for proper thyroid hormone production is iodine.

Iodine is a mineral present in soil (though is rapidly depeleting due to conventional farming methods stripping these crucial elements out of the soil), sea vegetables, free-range (foraging) eggs, shellfish, wild fish (farmed fish generally do not contain nearly the amount of iodine as is sustainable for the body), and even raw milk and bone broth.  It is also added to table salt much of the time in Western countries (however, the iodine added is often ill metabolized by the body and should not be used as a primary source.)

Side note::  The Japanese consume 89 times the amount of iodine as we do in the US and they have a dramatic reduction in the instances of chronic diseases and cancer. (Mainly due to their consumption of seafood and sea vegetables.) Our RDA of iodine is 150 mcg a day which most experts agree is sub par in comparison to the average 13800 mcg/day eaten by the average Japanese.

13 million Americans have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  The cases of undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction are, in reality, probably much higher.  Considering our obesity rate is over 50% currently, and diabetes and other chronic diseases are skyrocketing, the chances of at least secondary hypothyroidism is, more than likely closer to 1 in 3 Americans suffering from some sort of endocrine disruption.

Tomorrow we will be talking about what influences thyroid function and in subsequent posts we will be discussing a functional and holistic nutritional approach to treating your thyroid to encourage it to function normally.

So how do you know if your thyroid could be either at the root of your problem or contributing to your health issues?

Symptoms of low thyroid are::

*Feeling tired/Sluggish
*Cold hands and feet
*Weight gain even on low calorie diet or easy weight gain despite a healthy diet
*Headaches in the morning
*Needing  more sleep or sleep more often
*Difficult or infrequent bowel movements
*Depression/low motivation
*Mental sluggishness
*Dry skin or scalp
*Thinning hair or hair loss
*Thinning or loss of out third of eyebrow
*Weak brittle nails

Bear in mind these symptoms can be symptoms of primary hypothyroidism (when repairing the thyroid will cause an improvement in symptoms) or secondary hypothyroidism (where more than one part of the endocrine system needs to be addressed).

Symptoms of the thyroid working overtime or hyperthyroidism::

*Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and the amount and type of food you eat remain the same or even increase
*Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute — irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or pounding of your heart (palpitations)
*Increased appetite
*Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
*Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
*Sweating
*Changes in menstrual patterns
*Increased sensitivity to heat
*Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
*An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
*Fatigue, muscle weakness
*Difficulty sleeping
*Skin thinning
*Fine, brittle hair

Looking at your body as an entire system (a holistic functional view) instead of the sum of allopathic parts goes a long way to treating a myriad of symptoms and to putting you on a path to balanced radiant health. Join us over the next few weeks as we show you natural nutritional ways of nourishing the entire endocrine system.