Small in stature but vital in importance, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate numerous biochemical processes including metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, the nervous system, respiration, body weight, menstrual cycles and muscle strength just to name a few. While the thyroid produces body cell-dependent hormones — well known T3 (tri-iodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) and the lesser known T2 (di-iodothyronine) — it is itself dependent on the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to signal the release of these hormones to maintain homeostasis. This highly efficient, yet highly sensitive network of communication, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, ideally doles out just the right amount of hormones to keep the body running smoothly.
When thyroid hormones are in balance, the body functions like a well-oiled machine. However, when the thyroid cannot properly regulate hormone production, the body cannot be in homeostasis and overall wellbeing is threatened. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), thyroid disease is more common than both heart disease and diabetes. While it is estimated that 30 million Americans — the majority of them women — suffer from thyroid health issues, as many as 10 million remain undiagnosed. A wide range of symptoms, such as atypical depression, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and dysmenorrhea, can mask a thyroid imbalance. Fatigue, insomnia, mood imbalances and unexplained weight gain or loss may all be symptomatic of a thyroid dysregulation.
When the thyroid is underactive and hormone production is insufficient, hypothyroidism, a condition often linked to iodine insufficiency, can result. Because many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and can overlap with other disorders, a diagnosis of thyroid fatigue can be overlooked. Hypothyroidism slows metabolism, resulting in symptoms such as sensitivity to cold, weight gain, and overall fatigue, which may more often than not be attributed to other causes, delaying diagnosis and treatment sometimes for years. When an over-stimulated thyroid produces excess hormones, putting the body into overdrive and speeding up bodily processes, it can cause hyperthyroidism with physical symptoms that include rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to heat, hyperactivity, anxiety, weight loss, insomnia and dysmenorrhea.
Abnormal thyroid function can also result in thyroiditis, an inflammatory condition that can render the thyroid incapable of producing enough hormones to maintain normal metabolism and energy production. One cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system slowly and methodically destroys the thyroid gland. Graves’ disease, another autoimmune disorder with a strong genetic link, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. If you are experiencing symptoms relating to thyroid hormone dysregulation, see your healthcare provider for an exam and diagnostic tests.
Physical activity and nutritional factors play key roles in supporting proper thyroid function. Eating for chronic disease prevention, by emphasizing vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats and high fiber foods, can help prevent or manage not only thyroid disease but other chronic diseases associated with thyroid disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. While exercise is good for everyone’s overall health, for those with thyroid disorders physical activity may help with weight gain, fatigue, depression and sleep disturbances. Regular exercise is believed to support healthy thyroid hormone production and increase the sensitivity of bodily tissues to thyroid hormones. Adequate sleep gives the body a chance to rest, regenerate and restore and helps to reduce the effects of physiological stress.
Dietary nutrients that support thyroid hormone function include:
Iodine – Essential to thyroid function, most Americans get a sufficient amount of iodine from the use of iodized salt, along with fish, dairy and grains. As both deficiency and excess of iodine carry risks, supplementation is best undertaken under the watchful eye of a healthcare provider.
Vitamin D – Deficiency in vitamin D is linked to both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. As many people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, be sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D through sensible sunlight exposure, vitamin D-rich foods such as mushrooms and fatty fish, and supplementation.
Selenium – The thyroid gland typically has a high concentration of selenium, which has been shown to be integral to thyroid function, immune health, fertility and cognitive function. Selenium-rich foods include shellfish and brazil nuts.
Vitamin B12 – Studies have shown that those who have thyroid disease are often deficient in vitamin B12. Necessary for nutrient metabolism, red blood cell formation and healthy nerve cell function, B12 can be found in fatty fish, organ meats and dairy.
As some supplements, such as chromium picolinate, calcium and fiber, can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications, always check with your healthcare provider before embarking on any supplemental program.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality products designed to support healthy thyroid function:
Thyrosol® by Metagenics – This targeted nutritional formula provides specific vitamins, minerals and herbs that support healthy thyroid function, promote healthy thyroid hormone levels and support the enhanced conversion of thyroid hormones that control energy usage. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO formulation.
Iodoral® 12.5 mg by Optimox Corporation – Iodoral® provides high potency elemental iodine/potassium iodine in support of optimal thyroid function. This product is meant to be used under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
Thyrocsin by Thorne Research – Thyrocsin provides supportive nutrients along with an adaptogen in support of healthy thyroid function and the conversion of thyroid hormones in bodily tissues. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation. This product is contraindicated for those taking MAO inhibitor antidepressant medication.
Thyroid Synergy™ by Designs for Health – This product supplies nutritional, botanical and adaptogenic support for enhancement of thyroid hormone production and peripheral thyroid hormone conversion. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula.
Iodine Plus by Nutritional Frontiers – Iodine Plus provides a synergistic blend of iodine, L-tyrosine and selenium in support of proper thyroid function, hormone production and maintenance. Gluten, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation. Consult your healthcare provider before taking this product if you are taking medications or have hyperthyroidism.
Could You Have a Thyroid Problem? http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/diagnosing-thyroid-problems-women
Thyroid Gland Overview. http://www.endocrineweb.com/endocrinology/overview-thyroid
How does the thyroid work? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
Thyroid Gland, How it Functions, Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid-nodules/thyroid-gland-controls-bodys-metabolism-how-it-works-symptoms-hyperthyroi
About Your Thyroid. http://www.thyroidawareness.com/about-your-thyroid
Thyroid Disease and Diet – Nutrition Plays a Part in Maintaining Thyroid Health. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/070112p40.shtml