THE THYROID GLAND
Is a butterfly shaped gland, located in front of the neck. It increases in size from childhood to an approximate size of 4.5cm x 3cm wide and 2cm thick.
It produces the thyroid hormones - thyroxine and triiodothyronine. It is such a small organ but hugely impacts the development of the whole body from birth. For instance, children born with hypothyroidism have a stunted growth, do not feed properly, are constipated, suffer mental retardation and sleep excessively to name a few.
The functions of the thyroid gland are to regulate:
-Metabolic rate (break down of foods and formation of energy)
-Skin and hair
Signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism (Under active thyroid) are;
2.Dry hair and skin
5.Muscle aches and pains
Signs and symptoms of Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid) are;
2.Unexplained weight loss
5.Increased heart rate
Predisposing factors to hypo- or hyperthyroidism
These are circumstances or conditions that increase the possibility of developing one of these conditions:
-Being Female – women are more likely to suffer than males.
-Over the age of 60 – possibly due to hormonal reduction.
- Family history of over or underactive thyroid
-Iodine and selenium deficiency
-Exposure to large amounts of radiation
-Medication that affects thyroid function
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
When you experience signs and symptoms mentioned above, or you do not feel like yourself or you instinctively know/feel something is not right, speak to your Health practitioner. Because you can be sure that whatever you are feeling or seeing right now, has been brewing for a while!
Contributory Factors to hypo- and hyperthyroidism
Though there are pre-disposing factors to developing these thyroid conditions, many times, the disease manifests because of some triggering circumstances. Here are some situations that can be worked on to prevent hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
Stress is said to play a crucial role in the shift in balance of thyroid hormones, because the release of stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline – interfere with the production of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. This is because the stress hormones and thyroid hormones synthesis require the amino acid Tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid, from protein foods.
At stressful times, particularly when stress is chronic, high levels of stress hormones require more tyrosine, therefore limiting its availability to the thyroid gland.
Stress is indirectly implicated in thyroid disease, where autoimmune disorder is tiggered by excessive stress hormone levels and manifests as Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland).
2.Iodine and selenium deficiency
Iodine is required for the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is common worldwide. Selenium is equally needed in converting the less active thyroxine, to the more active triiodothyronine.
When diet is lacking in a variety of protein sources, it becomes difficult to meet the body’s needs to produce hormones and neurotransmitters that are dependent on the amino acids. This is also the situation in cases of impaired protein digestion.
Smoking, lack of exercise, generally bad diet, and sleep.
*Maintaining good Thyroid function*
1. Work on Stress and Stressors
Given that stress and chronic illnesses is a top reason for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, action needs to begin there. Managing stress and stressors will gradually shift the balance. These are some ways to manage stress - Exercise, Meditation, Deep breathing, Mindfulness, Sleep, Good relationships, Living a purposeful life, be in Nature, Positive Affirmations, Hobbies, Creativity and Spirituality/Faith. Mix and match any of these ideas. Your stress hormone levels will drop and so will the inflammatory markers and inflammations resulting from excessive stress.
2. Fresh and Complete Diet
A fresh, healthy, variety of foods in line with the healthy plate will provide you with the sources of amino acids and minerals needed to produce your thyroid hormones. Here are some food source of tyrosine - Fish, Turkey, Eggs, Yoghurt, cheese, chicken, Nuts, sesame seeds.
3.Sources of Iodine
Sources of iodine are seafoods like seaweed, shellfish and sea salt. Iodine can be present in land-grown foods based on the natural components of the soil in which it was grown. The body only needs an ever so tiny amount of iodine daily. Excessive intake is counter productive and will cause hypothyroidism.
4. Sources of Selenium
Selenium is present in Brazil nuts, wholegrain cereal, sunflower seeds. Again, the level of selenium in the foods vary with the soil content in which food is grown.
There are resources to help with stopping smoking from Pharmacies and General practitioners. Some have in-house consultations, or you can just purchase nicotine replacement products if you feel confident enough.
Keep up the Healthy Living!
Jerome Sarris & Jon Wardle Clinical Naturopathy – An evidence-based guide to practice
The Harvard Health Publication, Thyroid disease – Understanding hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.