Your thyroid is a big engine and a crucial driver of your bodily operations! It is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body and influences everything from heart rate and body temperature to your metabolism. The thyroid hormones secreted by the thyroid glands are the crucial components of your overall well-being. If your body makes too little or too much thyroid hormone, it spells trouble for your weight and health. Hence, knowing how your thyroid works and understanding what foods improve your thyroid health will help you care for your thyroid glands and enjoy robust health.
What is a thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland that is located at the base of the neck. It produces two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These two hormones impact your health because they influence vital functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and all aspects of your metabolism.
The thyroid gland's primary function is to convert iodine into thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). The thyroid hormones then support your body's metabolism or energy production. A well-functioning thyroid gland is critical to several bodily functions, including growth, brain development, heart rate, body temperature, and central nervous system function.
Signs and symptoms of thyroid issues
Your thyroid is responsible for regulating the body temperature, heartbeat, and blood pressure. So, any changes to thyroid function directly impact your hunger, sleep patterns, and energy levels. The two types of thyroid problems are hypothyroidism (your thyroid glands under function) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid glands).
In case of hypothyroidism, your body slows down, which results in,
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Dry hair and skin
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Some cases depression
In case of hyperthyroidism, your thyroids are on overdrive which results in,
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Muscle weakness
- Thin and brittle hair
- Sleep issues and insomnia
- Large, bulging eyes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive perspiration.
According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. And over 60% of those with thyroid issues are unaware of their condition. In addition, women are the most affected by thyroid issues, with one in eight women developing thyroid problems during their lifetime.
What are the risk factors for thyroid issues?
- Being deficient in nutrients like iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc.
- Genetic factors
- Eating processed foods that sabotage gut bacteria and gut health.
- Taking immunosuppressive medications
- Chronic stress and anxiety can interfere with the body's hormonal secretions.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Too much caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Exposure to environmental pollutants
What nutrients help your thyroids function well?
Vitamins: Antioxidant vitamins A and C combat free radicals that are otherwise damaging to thyroid glands. Additionally, having enough vitamin D levels helps in the optimal function of your body's endocrine system. Research shows that having low levels of vitamin D to be associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and Graves' disease (GD). Impaired vitamin D signaling has been reported to encourage thyroid tumorigenesis as well.
Selenium: Selenium is a trace mineral that helps to convert the thyroid hormone thyroxine to its active form, T3. Research shows that low selenium levels cause autoimmune conditions in the thyroid gland leading to thyroiditis or Graves' disease. Another interesting fact is that selenium is essential for producing glutathione, your body's natural antioxidant. Glutathione helps detoxify and remove harmful toxins that affect thyroid glands. Maintaining selenium levels is especially helpful for patients with underactive thyroid or Hashimoto's condition. Researchers of a 2017 study concluded that maintaining optimal selenium levels in the body is a prerequisite to prevent thyroid-related diseases and conditions.
Iodine: Iodine is the primary nutrient that helps convert and release thyroid hormones. Since iodine is not made by the body, it is essential to get this nutrient from the diet. In the absence of enough iodine, your body cannot produce sufficient thyroid hormones, which puts you at risk of thyroid disorders.
Zinc & Copper: Zinc is an essential trace mineral in thyroid hormone metabolism. When zinc levels are low, TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is not created, which tampers the production of thyroid hormones. Besides, zinc is also an essential part of the enzyme deiodinase, which converts T4 hormones into T3, the active form of thyroid hormones. In the case of low zinc levels in the body, T3 is not produced by the thyroid gland. Along with zinc, your body needs a sufficient amount of copper to keep your thyroid glands functioning at their best. Studies reveal that copper stimulates the production of the thyroxine hormone T4 and prevents the over absorption of T4 in the blood cells by controlling the body's calcium levels. Additionally, copper synthesizes phospholipids, necessary for activating TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).
Besides the above nutrients, research shows that three Ayurvedic herbs promote better thyroid health - coleus, guggul, and ashwagandha.
Coleus: Coleus extracts contain forskolin, which has been shown to promote adenylate cyclase activity. This enzyme stimulates the pituitary gland to produce TSH. TSH, in turn, supports the production of T4 and T3 thyroid hormones.
Guggul: Guggul (Commiphora mukul), also known as the Mukul myrrh tree, is widely used in Ayurveda. The herb contains guggulsterones that help convert T4 to active T3 hormones and thereby stimulate thyroid activity in underactive thyroid issues.
Ashwagandha: A double-blind placebo-controlled study that examined the effects of 600 mg of ashwagandha on hypothyroid patients found that the herb was beneficial in restoring the levels of thyroid hormones. Ashwagandha complements the action of coleus and guggul.
With appropriate nutrition and supplements, thyroid issues are no longer a life sentence. Take a consult with your health care provider for the best ways to keep your thyroid glands healthy. Your doctor will guide you on the precise supplements and dietary measures.
There are many types of thyroid supplements available in the market; depending on your needs, your doctor can recommend a suitable supplement to complement your treatment.
Here are a few thyroid supplements for your consideration:
Thyroid Support Complex by Pure Encapsulations: This dietary supplement is a gluten-free, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic product. For many people with thyroid issues, avoiding gluten can be a huge game changer. Pure Encapsulations Thyroid Complex is a comprehensive formula with vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts in a vegetarian capsule. It aims to support healthy thyroid and thyroid hormone function. The formulation provides critical nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients have been associated with maintaining healthy thyroid cell metabolism and triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormone function. Besides these nutrients, the supplement also supplies iodine and l-tyrosine'; these two essential nutrients aid the production of thyroid hormones. A huge plus about this dietary supplement is that it also provides natural extracts of herbs and plants that support healthy thyroid function. The coleus extract contains forskolin, which has been shown to promote adenylate cyclase activity, supporting thyroid hormone metabolism. Herbs, ashwagandha, and guggul help to sustain healthy thyroid function. Another advantage of Pure Encapsulations Thyroid Support formulation is the antioxidant support from vitamins A, C, mineral selenium, and plant extracts of curcumin and guggul. These antioxidants fight free radicals that affect enzymes involved in the conversion of T4 to the more active T3 hormone. The recommended dosage is to take two capsules daily with meals. The supplement is available as 60 count and 120 count bottles.
ThyroForce by Energetix: The supplement provides 140 mg of bovine thyroid glandular powder in capsule form. This dietary supplement is based on glandular therapy, which uses animal tissues to mimic the effect of the human tissues for enhanced function. Bovine thyroid glandular is natural and is sourced from the dried thyroid glands of cattle. The glands are freeze-dried and powdered in a concentrated formula that aids in healing human thyroid deficiencies.
Thyroid 65 by Priority One: Priority One Thyroid 65 is an animal-based thyroid source for supporting your thyroid glands. The product is based on glandular therapy, pioneered by Dr. John Bastyr. The supplement is a whole gland bovine thyroid, sourced from New Zealand. The supplement is available as four strengths – Thyroid 32.5, Thyroid 65, Thyroid 130, and Thyroid 300 mg of bovine thyroid.
Your thyroids are crucial to your well-being; ignoring thyroid problems can lead to many health issues leading to severe complications. If you think you may have a thyroid issue, consult with your doctor immediately. Proper diagnosis and treatment protocols help treat thyroid-related health issues. In addition to this, it helps to have a broader picture of food, lifestyle, and your thyroid. Your healthcare provider can recommend ways to improve your thyroid health via diet and supplements.