So what is the thyroid and what does it do? Generally speaking, the thyroid is a butterfly or bat-shaped gland located in the front of the neck near the Adam’s apple. Although it is small, the thyroid is fierce. Since the thyroid gland converts thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3), the metabolically active hormone, it is responsible for your body’s production of T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones help to regulate metabolism, vital signs, brain development, menstrual cycles, and so much more.1
What Is Hypothyroidism?
To put it simply, hypothyroidism is suboptimal activity of the thyroid. Some clinical features of hypothyroidism include fatigue, muscle weakness, weight gain, low oxygen levels, decreased body temperature, coarse hair, hoarseness, and constipation. Additionally, hypothyroidism can also cause swelling of the eyes, hands and feet.2 Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. In these cases, your body’s own immune system attacks your thyroid. In doing so, it inhibits the thyroid from properly releasing and regulating T3 and T4. Not to mention, this also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Yikes! Approximately 5% of the U.S. population has hypothyroidism, and women are 7 times more likely than men to be affected.3
So, what can we do about it? Like most diseases, there are many factors that affect thyroid hormone production. In particular, nutrient deficiency, genetics, environmental toxins, certain medications, and other conditions can all negatively affect the thyroid.
Raise Your Hand If You’re Stressed!
I don’t know a single person who isn’t stressed. Notably, stress can cause an increase in the production of cortisol, which can block T4 from converting to T3. However, there are ways to decrease stress and how you handle it. Exercising is not only a great stress relief, but it helps combat fatigue, weight gain, and depression.3 In fact, exercise also helps stimulate the thyroid gland increasing hormone secretion. For other daily stressors, licensed therapists and counselors (or even good friends) can help provide tools to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
The Female Hypothyroid Epidemic and Your Diet
Now let’s talk about food. The Standard American Diet, or SAD, predisposes people to autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s. The SAD tends to be very pro-inflammatory due to the vast amount of processed foods Americans typically consume. In studies of mice, the SAD demonstrated increased fat, decreased lean muscle, reduced bone density, and showed a longer recovery time. SAD consumption also demonstrated elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in blood serum.4 Elements such as lead, mercury, bromide, and fluoride can block or inhibit T4 to T3 conversion. For this reason, avoiding processed foods and trying a Paleo or whole foods diet can help decrease inflammation and auto-immune response.3
Supplements for a Healthy Thyroid
Indeed there are other vitamins and minerals which support healthy thyroid function that could be missing from your diet. For example, iodine is essential to healthy thyroid function. Americans have recently started getting nearly ¾ of their salt intake from processed food instead of iodized salt. As a result, this has decreased their iodine intake.5 Vitamin D, B12, and selenium are also vital to thyroid health. A great all-in-one nutrient support supplement that our healthcare professionals at NexusHP recommend is Thyrotain from OrthoMolecular. Overall, Thyrotain helps optimize thyroid function by delivering clinically studied amounts of various vitamins, minerals, and stress modulating herbs.
Nutrient Support for Thyroid Function
|Paleo or Whole Foods-Based Diet||Eliminates many processed and inflammatory foods that lead to overly reactive immune system.|
|Vitamin D||Tightens gut lining avoiding leaky gut and overly reactive immune system. Optimizes immune function.|
|Iodine||Necessary for creation of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones|
|Selenium||Cofactor in converting T4 to active T3. Cofactor for glutathione peroxidase enzyme which helps protect thyroid from oxidative damage. Modulates immune response reducing TPO antibodies.|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||Lowers chronic inflammation and related damage to thyroid gland.|
|L-Glutamine||Helps maintain gut barrier to lower excess immune response and chronic inflammation.|
|IgG||Helps gut function by eliminating pathogens and repairing intestinal lining to optimize immune response. It thereby lowers chronic inflammation and related damage.|
|Probiotics||Maintain healthy gut flora and immune function.|
You may have noticed that many of these nutrient support therapies are more targeted at supporting the gut and/or immune system than the thyroid gland directly. This is because many autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism being the most prominent) are thought to be onset by various factors leading to chronic inflammation and dysfunction of the immune system, the majority of which is in the gut.6
When In Doubt, See Your Doctor
Overall, don’t forget to always to talk to your doctor, if you think you have symptoms of thyroid disease. Your doctor should be able to run various tests to see if thyroid function is a problem. Indicating thyroid problems may require a variety of tests. These tests include: TSH, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, anti-thyroperoxidase (TPO) antibodies, and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. In summary, increasing your health education and taking care of your health before the onset of medical problems is always the best strategy.
Dianne Swiezy, BS Biology
Dr. Casey Greene, PharmD
1. Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR, Mayor G, Ridgway EC. The Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(4):526-534.
2. Pizzorno JE, Murray MT (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine (4th edition). St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone.
3. Garber JR, Cobin RH, Garib H, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6):988–1028.
4. Stacie K. Totsch, Tammie L. Quinn, Larissa J. Strath, Laura J. McMeekin, Rita M. Cowell, Barbara A. Gower, Robert E. Sorge Scand J Pain. The impact of the Standard American Diet in rats: Effects on behavior, physiology and recovery from inflammatory injury. 2017 Sep 16 Published online 2017 Sep 16. doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2017.08.009.
5. Dietary supplement fact sheet: iodine. Office of Dietary Supplements website. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-QuickFacts. Reviewed June 24, 2011.
6. Guilliams TG. Supporting Immune Function: A Lifestyle and Nutrient Approach. Principles and Protocols for Healthcare Professionals. Point Institute. 2014.
Any health, nutrition and/or fitness advice provided through Nexus Health Partnership, Inc. is not intended to be a substitute for a relationship with a licensed and qualified healthcare practitioner. While every effort is made to provide the most accurate and useful communication possible to support our customer’s health and nutrition goals, it must be understood that we are working with a very limited amount of customer specific health information, if any, do not practice medicine, and cannot diagnose and/or treat any disease state within our online scope. Nexus Health Partnership, Inc. highly recommends that all of its customers maintain a working relationship with a local licensed healthcare practitioner for medical care. If having a medical emergency call 911 and/or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.