The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of the neck, along the front of the windpipe. The thyroid’s job is to secrete several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. These hormones influence metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature.
This gland is a part of the collection of glands within the endocrine system. To understand the functions of the thyroid gland, it is essential to discuss the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things. In addition to the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females), and testicles (in males) all make up the endocrine system. Each gland of the endocrine system stores hormones released into the bloodstream and transferred into the body’s cells.
Thyroid and Your Immune System
The immune system’s main function is to protect the body from infection and destroy pathogens that get into the system. It does this by creating antibodies. This process creates symptoms that we are all familiar with, like fever, fatigue, and inflammation. If there is an issue with the thyroid, the immune system misdirects its efforts and sends antibodies when they are not needed. When the thyroid becomes the focus of an unnecessary attack, one of two things can happen; inflammation results in chronic damage that impairs the thyroids’ ability to function properly. The accidental antibodies stimulate the thyroid to produce too many thyroid hormones.
Thyroid Is not Functioning.
Your thyroid gland tells your body how fast it works. When it is not functioning properly, your body’s systems don’t work right either. An overactive thyroid makes your systems work too fast and is called hyperthyroidism. An underactive thyroid makes your systems work too slowly and is called hypothyroidism.
At first, you might not notice the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms usually begin slowly. But, over time, a faster metabolism can cause symptoms such as:
- Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food (most but not all people lose weight)
- Eating more than usual.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased sweating
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly, often over several years. At first, you may feel tired and sluggish. Later, you may develop other signs and symptoms of a slowed-down metabolism, including:
- Feeling cold when other people do not
- Muscle weakness
- Joint or muscle pain
- Feeling very tired
- Pale, dry skin
- Slow heart rate
- A puffy face
- A hoarse voice
Diagnosing Thyroid Issues
Blood tests and radioactive iodine uptake tests are most commonly used to test for thyroid dysfunction.
You swallow a liquid or capsule with a small radioactive iodine dose (radioiodine). The radioiodine collects in your thyroid because your thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. High levels of radioiodine mean that your thyroid makes too much of the thyroid hormone. Low levels mean that your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone. Doctors may also scan an image of your thyroid after taking the radioiodine dose to determine the iodine uptake pattern.
If you decide to get yourself tested for thyroid issues, be sure to request the following:
– Free T4
– Free T3
– Reverse T3
– Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
– Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)
Supporting a Healthy Thyroid
Here are some suggestions to support your Thyroid
Reduce Stress – Cortisol, the main hormone produced in response to stress, can suppress pituitary function and keep the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released. Make an effort to relax and support your nervous system with yoga or meditation practices that encourage breath work and mindfulness.
The body requires sleep for overall health and healing. However, thyroid conditions can impact sleep patterns, which lead to adverse health effects. Adults need from 7 to 9 hours each night, and keep in mind if you miss a few hours, you can’t ‘catch up’ later on.
Physical activity is excellent for assisting in hormone production! If you’re experiencing a sluggish metabolism, aim for at least 30 minutes a day of low-intensity exercise such as yoga, swimming, and jogging are all excellent options.
Eliminate Sugar and Alcohol
Refined sugar and carbohydrates, as well as alcohol, can wreak havoc on your body and your thyroid. These foods cause inflammation, weight gain, and blood sugar issues.
Eat the right foods
A diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, iodine, zinc, thiamine, B12, and vitamin D, can help heal your thyroid and reduce inflammation. Fill your plate with dark leafy greens, quality fats, and plant-based protein sources. A handful of brazil nuts can contain more than your daily recommended value of selenium which kickstarts the production of active thyroid hormones. One egg contains about 20% of your daily recommended value of selenium and 15% of your daily recommended value of iodine. Garlic is thyroid-friendly because it supports blood-sugar metabolism and can fight inflammation. Lentils are also an excellent source of plant-based protein, and they also provide iron to the body.
If you have questions or show symptoms you would like to discuss, schedule an appointment with our office.