Around 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
Up to 60% of people with thyroid diseases are unaware of their condition.
What is the thyroid?
I like to think of the thyroid as the canary of the body. The canaries were used in mines to determine whether or not the air was contaminated. If the canaries got sick or died, the minors new that there was an issue in the air.
This small gland at the front of the neck produces hormones that affect essential mechanisms like heart rate, body temperature and metabolism. And, like the canary, it is extremely susceptible to toxins.
So, getting well from a thyroid issue can have a lot to do with detoxification of the body.
What are the factors associated with impaired thyroid functioning?
- High stress – high cortisol levels
- Selenium, zinc or iodine deficiency
- Impaired liver function
- Long-term illness
- Heavy chemical exposure
- Poor nutrition
- Old age
Although these are the factors commonly associated with impaired thyroid function, there are still ways to reverse and heal thyroid issues, naturally.
But first, we need to understand a little about the science
To fully understand the significance of the thyroid and how to get well from thyroid issues, I think it’s crucial that understand the science behind the workings of the thyroid.
Typically, when we get our thyroid tested, physicians will focus on our TSH levels. However, even though TSH tells the thyroid to produce hormones, it’s not produced by the thyroid.
TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid gland to release the actual thyroid hormones – T3 and T4.
The production of TSH is caused by another hormone, which comes from the hypothalamus.
So, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and thyroid can be thought of as a triad – and one that needs to remain in balance for proper thyroid functioning.
And, TSH can be thought of as the centre of this triad, and an excellent way to monitor the overall health of the thyroid.
What is a healthy TSH level?
Until recently, it was thought that anywhere between 0.5 and 5.5 was a healthy TSH level. However, TSH levels are now considered to be suspect if they are above 2.0.
If you have TSH levels above 2.0, then you may be at risk of developing underactive thyroid tendencies.
The thyroid hormones: T3 & T4
Beyond the TSH levels, we can also look at our T3 and T4 levels as a more accurate read of thyroid activity.
If you have high TSH and low T3 & T4 levels, you have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) whereas if you have low TSH and high T3 & T4 levels, you have hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).
T4 is the more inactive hormone, which lives mainly inside the thyroid gland. Only about 0.5% of T4 is active in the bloodstream – this is known as Free T4.
T3 is far more active, and about 5% of T3 is active in the bloodstream.
All of our T4 can be converted into T3, and this happens in the liver and kidneys. So, the conversion of T4 to T3 has a lot to do with our nutrition and lifestyle choices.
So, what nutrients are necessary for healthy thyroid functioning?
As we mentioned previously, factors associated with thyroid issues include mineral deficiencies, stress and high cortisol levels, chemical exposure and old age.
All of the above either deplete the body of minerals or increase the amount of oxidative stress in the body. So, it is vital that we are getting enough vitamins & minerals in the body for proper thyroid functioning.
I recommend the following
- Selenium – found in whole grains and proteins, especially brazil nuts
- Zinc – found in whole grains, red meat, nuts
- Iodine – found in fish and grains
- B Vitamins – found in dark leafy greens, whole grains and legumes
- Vitamin C – fresh fruits and vegetables like oranges, peppers and broccoli are an excellent source of vitamin C
- Vitamin E – vegetable oils are a great source of vitamin E along with nuts, seeds and leafy greens!
- Carotenoids – found in lots of fruits and vegetables including beets, broccoli, collard greens and sweet potato
- Vitamin D – ensure that you are getting out in the sun with bare skin for a significant period while knowing your skin type!
As I have mentioned, the thyroid plays a huge role in numerous essential functions within the body. And, having an awareness of your thyroid health is of enormous importance to understanding and promoting your overall wellbeing.
I recommend getting your thyroid tested every five years.
What you know
- Thyroid functioning is part of a balancing act between the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the thyroid gland
- You should get your thyroid tested every five years
- A suspect TSH level is anything above 2.0
- Vitamins & minerals are an essential part of a healthy thyroid functioning
For further information on how to manage thyroid issues and for recommendations of specific supplements and dietary changes, listen to my talk on Thyroid Health.
I put aside a bit of time each month to help individuals with their questions and concerns. If you have questions or require additional information, don’t hesitate to contact my office for a free, fifteen-minute consultation.
You should also check out the following Dr Sandy audio downloads: