Thyroid Health

The thyroid and its function

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ situated in front of your windpipe. It acts as the master regulator of your metabolism. In other words, it determines how quickly you burn though the calories contained in the foods you eat and how much energy you have. It regulates your body temperature, your heart rate, your brain, gut, and muscle function, it influences the health of your bones. It actually affects every single cell in your body as all the cells have thyroid hormone receptors.

Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by the organs within the endocrine system. The two hormones secreted by the thyroid are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 is biologically active, which means that it binds to the receptors (special slots) on the surface of the target cells and triggers a specific reaction. T4 is converted to T3 outside of the thyroid, mostly in the liver.

The synthesis of T3 and T4 is regulated by a hormone called TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) secreted by a special gland in your brain (the pituitary gland). When T3 and T4 concentrations in the blood are low, TSH production is increased and when T3 and T4 concentrations are high, TSH production is decreased. It’s like a seesaw.

Thyroid dysfunction – causes and symptoms

When the thyroid is unable to produce enough hormones, we say it becomes under-active and when it makes too much, we say it’s over-active. Thyroid dysfunction is increasingly common, especially in women, and the reasons for thyroid disease include nutrient deficiencies, exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, and high levels of stress. Abnormal levels of other hormones, such as oestrogen and insulin also disrupt thyroid function.

Under-active thyroid can manifests as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold
  • Decreased sweating
  • Puffy face
  • Dry skin
  • Hair thinning, loss
  • Loss of outer part of eyebrows
  • Muscle weakness
  • Aches and pains
  • Brian fog
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Low mood
  • Low motivation
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Needing more sleep
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • Fertility issues

Over-active thyroid can manifests as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Increased appetite
  • Feeling hot
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Enlarged thyroid (goiter)
  • Bulging eyes
  • Skin darkening, especially around the eyes
  • Thin, brittle hair
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shakiness
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia
  • Menstrual cycle changes

Immune system dysfunction (autoimmunity) stands behind the vast majority of thyroid disease cases in the western world. The autoimmune thyroid disease that causes the thyroid to become under-active is called Hashimoto’s Disease while the autoimmune thyroid disease that causes the thyroid to become over-active is called Grave’s Disease. In both cases, the thyroid becomes the target for an immune system attack. Since over 70% of the immune system resides in your gut, the health of the gut is critical in autoimmune thyroid conditions.

Testing and treatment

Both Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms and the blood markers commonly tested (TSH) can wax and wane. Antibody testing, which is not standard in the mainstream model of care, is the best way to confirm or rule out thyroid autoimmunity.

Caught early, autoimmunity can be managed with diet and lifestyle alone. However, if a significant part of the thyroid has been damaged by the immune system, thyroid hormone replacement therapy becomes necessary. It’s crucial to realise that although hormone replace drugs restore normal levels of thyroid hormones, they do not address the underlying autoimmunity, which needs to be managed with diet and lifestyle strategies.

As mentioned above, the liver, the gut, the immune system, blood sugar balance and sex hormone balance are critical parts of the picture and in order to impact thyroid health the function of the whole body need to be evaluated.

A comprehensive thyroid function test, alongside other necessary functional tests and a thorough personal and family health history evaluation serve as the foundation for a tailor-made diet and lifestyle plan that addresses your unique needs.

A holistic systems approach ensures that all of your root cause are identified and eliminated. The ongoing support and health coaching keep you on track to recovery and empower you to make the transformational changes you need to make to support your thyroid and reach your optimal health.

Contact a member of our team today to arrange a free call with our thyroid health specialist.