The Thyroid Gland – Why It’s #1, Mother Gland of the BodyJanuary 1, 2022
The Thyroid Gland AKA The Mother Gland of the Body
While most people know something about the thyroid gland, very few know how many symptoms are actually associated with an under active gland, or hypothyroid picture. They don’t know when it’s time to ask their Physician to investigate it further, and even worse, a lot of people associate hypothyroid symptoms with “just getting older” and disregard it all together.
Thyroid Gland – The Mother Gland
I like to refer to it as the “mother gland” as it is upstream of, and the starting point of most hormonal conditions. This means when the thyroid gland stops working optimally, it will in turn, start to affect all the hormones down stream of it, and lead to a much more symptomatic picture, especially for those in the peri-menopause/menopause age range.
Symptoms of an Under-Active Thyroid Gland
The symptoms of an under-active thyroid gland are wide and varied; look at this list in detail and see where you stand – if you are checking more than 1 of the boxes, it may be time to investigate your thyroid health a little further.
- Weight gain – or weight that is difficult to lose, despite diet and exercise
- Myxedema – which looks like an overall puffiness to the face and body
- Hair loss, dry skin, thin brittle nails
- Brain fog
- Cold intolerance
- Menstrual irregularities
- Delayed reflexes (tripping or dropping things)
- Lack of stamina/endurance
How The Thyroid Gland Works
Now let’s talk about how the thyroid works and the hormones involved. A better understanding will allow you to investigate it further and understand where the dysfunction might lie. TSH is a hormone released from the pituitary gland, a small gland located in the brain, it stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and that’s exactly what it does. It either signals the thyroid gland to make more or less hormones T3 and T4.
T4 is converted to T3, which is the active hormone that the thyroid gland produces. T3 binds to the nucleus of the cells turning genes on and off, it binds cell membranes and influences vessel growth, new cell growth and directly stimulates the mitochondrial function and growth, which is the energy centre for every cell in the body – think of it as the furnace in your house.
Optimal Thyroid Gland Function
For optimal thyroid hormone production iodine, tyrosine, selenium and iron are required for the formation of T4 and the conversion to the active T3 form. Generally, we should be able to get these micronutrients through diet, however poor diet choices (processed foods), and a lifetime of crash diets can impact these levels in your body and may lead to an under-active thyroid.
Causes of Under-active (Hypothyroid) Thyroid Gland
In addition to lack of micronutrients, some additional causes of hypothyroid are congenital, inherited, hypothalamic injury/ablation, medications (lithium and Amniodarone) and environmental toxins. The environmental toxins that can inhibit or interfere with your thyroid gland include persistent environmental pollutants, flame retardants, phthalates, pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals. These environmental toxins can directly inhibit TSH signalling, T3 binding and production, iodine metabolism, the enzymes necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3, transport proteins and lastly cellular receptors and uptake mechanisms.
Treating Hypothyroidism or Under-active Thyroid
Naturopathic treatments for hypothyroid conditions include lifestyle modifications, nutrition, botanicals, glandulars and prescription medications. While lifestyle modifications and nutrition should be the foundation of treatment and should not be ignored, you will typically only see a ½ point difference on labs, and additional layers of treatment may be necessary. Today we will discuss what at-home measures you can start taking now to improve your thyroid function.
At-Home Thyroid Gland Treatments
Let’s start with lifestyle modifications and what areas we can reduce toxic exposures that may be impacting our thyroid health.
Buying organic foods, and drinking filtered water will greatly reduce environmental toxins, also checking your cleaning supplies and opting for natural replacements whenever you can. Additional sources of toxins that should be considered are pest and weed control, air fresheners and candles, personal care products (make-up, shampoos and lotions), plastic water-bottles, food wrapped in plastic or cooked in plastic (heating up leftovers in Tupperware), new furniture, new carpets, and mattresses (flame retardants). Take a look through your home and your daily habits and see if there are areas you can improve by making simple changes.
Your diet should be filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables, clean sources of protein and organic whenever possible. Over-consumption of processed foods will not give us the micronutrients required for optimal thyroid function. Additional supplementation of tyrosine, iodine and selenium may also be necessary, and deficiencies can be seen on labs. Specific dosing is required for increasing levels of these micronutrients to an optimal range and over-dosing of micronutrients can lead to additional symptoms and should not be done without a proper lab evaluation and guidance of a physician.
Exercise and Thyroid Gland Health
When it comes to exercise and the thyroid gland, more is not always better, especially during the healing phase. Exercise should be focused on moving the lymphatic system, sweating and circulation – hiking, walking, yoga and bicycling are great options. Over strenuous exercise or steady-state cardio can both negatively impact the thyroid gland, i.e. long-distance running, cross fit, boot camps and P90X should be eliminated from your routine until thyroid health is restored.
Lab Testing for Thyroid Gland Function
Proper lab testing should be done to further investigate thyroid function, and prior to the discussion of medication and supplementation dosing. Once proper thyroid function is restored (through nutrients, lifestyle modifications, supplementation or medication) people will typically start to feel better within a few weeks, and a lot of symptoms will resolve in a short time-frame; weight loss and puffiness will take an additional 3-4 months to notice. An important thing to keep in mind is that Thyroid medication is not a magic weight loss pill, it will typically result in a 5 pounds weight loss, however a thyroid that is working optimally will decrease sugar cravings and improve energy for better workouts and smarter food choices.
Make wellness your priority,
Dr. Annie Savage
Dr. Megan Maycher
Your holistic health advocates &
Founders of Bay Wellness Centre
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