Are you constantly fighting fatigue? Do you suffer from regular brain fog, unexplained weight gain, random chills, or hair loss? Or perhaps the opposite is true for you: Are you often on edge, get excessively sweaty, or anxious? Your thyroid gland could be the culprit.
What is the Thyroid?
Derived from the Greek word meaning shield, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the windpipe (called the trachea) and just below the larynx or Adam's apple in the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed and major functions of your metabolism (the system that helps the body use energy) including weight management, how we use energy, how we metabolize food, and even how we sleep.
Thyroid disorders can slow down or speed up your metabolic rate by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones. When hormone levels become too low or too high, you are likely to experience a wide range of symptoms.
The thyroid is one of the most important and often, mismanaged glands we have. This great regulator of body and mind can sometimes goes a little haywire, particularly in women (it's nothing personal ladies) as hormones can shift out of balance during childbearing and menopause, and even under chronic stress, putting them at a higher rate of thyroid conditions than men, and at various times of life.
An under-active or over-active thyroid can impact upon health significantly. Symptoms of an under active thyroid can include weight gain, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss and cold intolerance.Sudden unexplained weight gain and tiredness with these other symptoms are signs that may well indicate Hypothyroidism.
Low basal metabolic rate is diagnostic of low thyroid even though it may often not be picked up by blood assays for thyroid hormones. Hyperactive thyroid symptoms include restlessness, rapid pulse and respiration and higher than normal temperatures, high Basal metabolic activity is diagnostic of hyper thyroid. There are many ways to support thyroid health easily and naturally, utilizing food and nutrients to encourage proper functioning.
The way we eat can actually help, or hurt, our thyroid gland. The nutrients our thyroid needs are easily accessible in many foods and dietary supplements. With the right information, we can make simple choices to improve thyroid health. Here’s how.
Iodine is a critical trace element for healthy thyroid hormone production. Without it, our thyroid does not have the basic building blocks it needs to make the necessary hormones to support all of the tissues in the body.
Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) are the most essential, active, iodine-containing hormones we have. We can help support the production of these hormones by eating more Iodine rich foods like sea vegetables (Kelp, nori, wakame etc) saltwater fish and other seafood.
This element is indispensable to our thyroid in several ways. Selenium is a chief component of the molecules which are necessary for your body to be able to create and use thyroid hormones, called seleno-proteins. If your level of selenium is low, your thyroid will have do its best to work harder to make it’s hormones, and your body will also have a more difficult job changing those hormones into a form your cells can use.
You may experience muscle pain or weakness, discoloration of hair or skin and whitening of the beds of your fingernails. Selenium-containing enzymes protect the thyroid gland when we are under stress. They help flush out oxidative and chemical stress, and even social stress – which can cause reactions in our body. Selenium-based proteins help regulate hormone synthesis, converting T4 into the more accessible T3.
These proteins and enzymes help regulate metabolism and also help maintain the right amount of thyroid hormones in the tissues and blood, as well as some of our major organs. Selenium also helps regulate and recycle our iodine stores. Good food sources of selenium include tuna, mushrooms, beef, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, organ meats, halibut and soybeans.
Now, magnesium isn't perhaps the first thing to come to mind for thyroid health but the thyroid cannot function without it. Magnesium is essential for the conversion of inactive T4 hormones into active T3 hormones that are essential to regulating metabolism.
Without magnesium, many of the thyroid enzymes that make thyroid hormone simply could not function. Magnesium deficiency is related to goiter, or an enlarged thyroid gland. Another important nutrient in preventing goiter is iodine, but magnesium is iodine's right-hand man.
Iodine and magnesium, like so many other vitamins and minerals, work together to perform at their peak. It is possible that even if you’re consuming sufficient iodine in your diet or through supplementation, your body isn’t able to access it properly due to a magnesium deficiency.
Raw leafy greens are one of the highest sources of magnesium you can get in your diet. Kale, collard greens, swiss chard and spinach, should all be consumed on a regular basis.
Zinc has many functions in the body but it most significantly impacts immune system function, hair growth, eye and skin health, digestive health, omega-3 fatty acid metabolism, growth and of course thyroid function. Zinc is involved in more than 300 known enzymes in the body.
Zinc is also the second most abundant element in the body, second only to iron. You must have adequate zinc levels to properly metabolize vitamin D and vitamin A, both of which are vital for thyroid health. Excessive cortisol levels will impair thyroid function in many ways including abnormal TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels, decreased conversion of T4 into T3, and elevated reverse T3.
For those who are under a lot of stress, zinc supplementation has been shown to lower cortisol levels thus reducing the negative effects of stress on your thyroid. The best foods that are highest in zinc are red meat, pork, chicken, oysters and whole grains.
While it is possible to get much of these vital mineral nutrients from a varied diet, it is worth considering a thyroid supplement, especially if you suspect your thyroid may not be performing at its best or to even prevent the onset of a thyroid dysfunction.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.